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Contact information
For information on urban wildlife, contact: your local wildlife biologist.

If you are experiencing problems with bears or birds please contact:
USDA Wildlife Services
In northern Wisconsin:
800-228-1368 (in state) or
715-369-5221
In southern Wisconsin:
800-433-0663 (in state) or
920-324-4514

Urban Wildlife

Urban and suburban areas can be havens for many wildlife species that a person may not typically see there. Such species are black bear, coyotes and peregrine falcons. These and other species are an important part of urban ecosystems but can pose challenges when in close proximity to humans.


Wildlife and winter

Winter can be hard on wildlife, but wild animals have developed a variety of ways to cope with low temperatures and deep snow. Learn more about the effects of winter on Wisconsin's wildlife [PDF] and what you can do to help.

Living with urban wildlife

As human populations expand, there is an increasing likelihood of encountering wildlife even in the most urban areas. Urban settings typically offer accessible food, water and shelter that create thriving wildlife. Some wildlife species such as deer, cottontail rabbits, Canada geese and raccoons have adapted to people and are often seen in urban environments. Other species such as coyotes, red foxes and skunks are common in urban areas but are rarely seen.

Wildlife watching is a popular activity and seeing wildlife can be an exciting experience. However, whether in your yard at home, at a Wildlife Area or at a State Park, keep in mind the below recommendations. It is important to keep wildlife wild and watch them at a distance.

Feeding wildlife: what you need to know

do not feed wildlife sign
  • Feeding wildlife can negatively impact[PDF] individual animals, populations and ecosystems.
  • Feeding of wild animals other than birds and small mammals under certain conditions is prohibited.
  • Wild animals have many nutritional requirements that are not easily met by human-provided food.
  • An animal's best bet for a healthy, well-rounded diet is for them to forage for natural food.
  • Some foods are not good for wildlife. For instance, poor quality diets of corn and hay in winter may kill some deer [PDF], chocolate can kill members of the dog family like coyotes and foxes and bread provides little nutrition for ducks, geese and other birds.
  • Feeding causes wild animals to become accustomed to people which can pose a human health and safety risk and endanger the animal.
  • Congregating wildlife in one area by feeding allows for diseases to spread more easily and may bring carnivores into close proximity to people.

Managing wildlife encounters around your home

black bear at culvert
Black bear going into a culvert ©John Prechel

  • Remove all sources of food from your yard, especially pet food and treats.
  • Encircle the bottom of your porch with fencing to prevent animals from denning underneath.
  • If you have birdfeeders, periodically clean up any spilled birdseed and hang bird feeders at least 8 feet off the ground to prevent access by deer, elk and bear.
  • Enclose common access points used by bats [exit DNR] to enter homes.
  • Screen window wells, chimneys, stove pipes and any vents with wire mesh or commercially made grates.
  • Hazing techniques [exit DNR] can be used to scare away nuisance coyotes. When used consistantly, hazing can decrease the chances of the nuisance coyote returning to the hazing location. Call the DNR hotline or local municipalities with questions and concerns.

Landscaping for wildlife

Having wildlife in your yard can be an enjoyable experience. It is a great way to learn about animal behavior and can be a fun family activity to identify and learn about Wisconsin wildlife. Learn how to landscape to promote wildlife.

coyote and geese in neighborhood park
Radio-collared urban coyote ©Cook County, IL Coyote Project

Urban wildlife research

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are studying the Madison metro area's urban coyotes and foxes to better understand their ecology and behavior. You can submit sightings, learn about the project, and volunteer by visiting the UW Urban Canid Project [Exit DNR].

Orphaned or sick and injured wildlife

Just because you see a young animal not attended by its mother doesn't mean it is abandoned. Wildlife's best chance of survival and being successful is to leave them in the wild. Learn about Keeping Wildlife Wild. If you find a sick or injured wild animal, contact your local licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Urban swans

Mute swans [PDF] are an invasive species that can threaten Wisconsin's native swans, such as the trumpeter swan. Report mute swans immediately to your local wildlife biologist and don't encourage them through feeding so we can allow our native swans to thrive. For nuisance or aggressive swans, please contact USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services at 1-800-433-0663 (in southern Wisconsin) or 1-800-228-1368 (in northern Wisconsin). Learn more about swans in Wisconsin.

Last revised: Tuesday October 11 2016