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8 Signs of Wild Animals in Your Yard

By Chris Williams on April 28, 2016.

Lately when I’ve been working at the back of our yard, I’ve been noticing some strange-looking poop that must be from some wild animal. That’s not a problem, but I’ve also seen what might be a burrow behind the shed. I think it might be a raccoon. How can I tell whether it’s nesting there or just passing through? F. K., Swampscott, MA

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Bureau of Wildlife offers this list of wildlife signs:

  1. Droppings – Also known as “poop” or feces or scat, droppings are usually found along an animal’s runway or travel routes, or near a nest entrance. Fresh droppings are shiny and soft while old droppings are dry and hard and crumble easily. The size and shape of droppings is a good way to identify the animal.
  2. Urine – There may be discoloration on building materials, especially in attics. This can be from the presence of raccoons, flying squirrels, or a large bat colony. Rodent urine glows blue-white under ultraviolet light.
  3. Burrows – Some animals (woodchucks, rats, chipmunks) dig their own burrows, while others (raccoons and skunks) use the burrows of other animals. The location of the burrow, its size, type, and the number of entrances, and objects found near the burrow can help a professional identify the occupant.
  4. Odors – When up close, you may be able to smell the droppings, fermenting urine, or body oils of nearby wildlife. A wildlife professional can even tell the difference between the odor of a mouse and that of a rat. Each animal den smells different. Skunks and woodchucks have their own distinctive scent.
  5. Sounds – Animals, especially young animals in the nest, make various sounds that are distinctive for the animal. Squeaks, growls, cries, hisses, chitters, and screeches are all common. In addition, you may hear sounds of gnawing, clawing, scampering, or climbing if animals are inside a building.
  6. Food – Some animals such as squirrels will hoard food in or near their nest site. Pile of acorns, pinecones, or seeds indicate a food cache. Or, you may find the remains of an animal’s meal near its den that can help identify the animal. For example, if you find prey remains such as rabbit fur, you might be dealing with a fox. If there’s no signs of prey, the animal may be an herbivore such as a woodchuck.
  7. Runways and Rub Marks – When an animal is established in an area, it will establish trails or runways between its den and food sources. Look for smooth paths next to walls or fences, or under bushes. If the animal’s runway is along a building wall, you may see dark, oily smudge marks from its fur where it touches surfaces as it moves along.
  8. Tracks and Claw Marks – Footprints, tail marks, and wing prints may be found in dusty surfaces, sand, soft soil, or snow. There are many online guides to help identify animal tracks. Or, you may find claw or gnawing marks on tree trunks or building edges.

Let Colonial’s Wildlife Specialists Handle the Problem

If you’ve seen at least a couple of these signs and have seen them over a period of time, you probably are playing host to a wild animal. Give Colonial a call. We are licensed and certified to humanely trap and remove nuisance wildlife. Let one of our specialists evaluate your problem.

Photo Credit : By Carsten Volkwein – Bild selbst erstellt  CC BY-SA 2.5,

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