Living with Wildlife

Calling Nevada home means living among beautifully diverse habitats, where wildlife can be found right in our own backyards. As our community expands, it’s important for us to find ways to live responsibly alongside our wild neighbors!

How to be a good neighbor to

Our Wildlife

Let’s do our part to live responsibly alongside our wild neighbors – after all, this is their home too! Here are a few things to keep in mind when encountering wildlife!

Urban Wildlife

A popular motive for choosing our homes is often centered around landscaped vegetation, proximity to bodies of water and living on the edge of natural surroundings. These same qualities are the reason many animals choose their homes too. Ready access to food, water and shelter will attract the wildlife many of us enjoy seeing in our backyards, in addition to the wildlife that we may consider to be less desirable neighbors.

Gaining a better understanding of the wildlife that you encounter is key to learning how you can live alongside them. The resources below will help your next backyard encounter be enjoyable for you and for our wildlife.

Mammals
Birds
Reptiles

Bats

Bats can be found throughout Nevada and even in our backyards! They can take advantage of all we have to offer including our houses as places to roost and our porch lights which attract lots of delicious insects. While this may sometimes be intimidating, bats provide some pretty amazing benefits to humans.

Bears

Black bears have been in Nevada long before we lived here. Because we live and recreate in their homes, it’s up to us to BE RESPONSIBLE in bear country!

Show species

Rabbits, rodents and other small mammals

A high presence of rabbits, rodents and other small mammals on your property is tantamount to ringing the dinner bell for predators like coyotes, foxes and bobcats. A great way to limit habitat for small mammals on your property is by keeping vegetation trimmed where they may seek shade or a place to hide, promptly removing ripe and fallen fruit from the garden, regularly removing birdseed from under feeders and sealing potential entryways around your home.

Coyotes

Coyotes are amazing, resilient animals that have found a way to live happily near humans. While they are able to create their homes near us, sometimes this is unwanted. There are ways that we can help keep our coyotes WILD while living next to them and taking advantage of the benefits they have to offer us!

Show species

Fox – Red Fox, Grey Fox, Kit Fox

Foxes tend to avoid people, but occasionally you may spot them making use of our urban parks, golf courses and developed areas where resources are readily available. Foxes can be an excellent (and free!) rodent control service, but sometimes they overstay their welcome. By following a few simple steps in our neighborhood, we can appreciate their role in nature without it becoming a burden on our property.

Mountain Lions

Mountain lions occupy areas with rocky terrain throughout Nevada, especially where mule deer live. Like most wild cats, they are solitary and tend to avoid areas with human disturbance. Occasionally they will be spotted passing through the outskirts of urban areas where food is readily available. With a better understanding of mountain lions and their habitat, you can coexist with these magnificent animals.

Raccoons

Raccoons can often be found around our cities, using the drainage systems as little highways and using some of the resources we readily give to them (whether we mean to or not). Learning what attracts raccoons into a neighborhood and how to live with them in our neighborhoods is an important step in being good neighbors!

Show species

Skunks

Ever have a stinky situation in your neighborhood? Skunks live throughout the United States and Nevada. Whether you have had the stinky situation come up or you just want to know more about living with these well protected animals, learning more about them is a great way to become better neighbors!

Show species

Mule Deer

Have you ever spotted a deer in your neighborhood? In Nevada, if you live in deer country you likely have! Deer can be attracted to many different resources in our front and backyards. Learning how to live with deer in the neighborhood is super important especially when you have them visiting your home.

Show species

Raptors – Eagles, Hawks, Falcons, Owls

Raptors are a group of birds that hunt and eat live prey and carrion. Owls, eagles, hawks, and falcons are some of the raptors that can be found in Nevada. You may get lucky to have a raptor living in your neighborhood. With that there are some things you can do to keep your pets and our raptors safe.

Waterfowl

Waterfowl are birds that are often found in or around water. Ducks, geese and swans are some of the waterfowl you can find in Nevada. Waterfowl are a common bird in urban ponds and streams. They can become a nuisance in certain situations, but there are some easy solutions.

Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers are a neat group of birds well known for their ability to bore into wood with their beaks in search of insects to eat. Sometimes the woodpeckers in our neighborhoods find that our houses may be a good source of insects or a place to nest, luckily there are solutions to protect your property.

Songbirds

The majority of species of birds found in Nevada are songbirds. These are the species you’re most likely to see in your backyard especially if you have bird feeders. It is essential to make sure we’re taking the proper steps to keep our songbirds safe.

Desert Tortoise

Coming across a desert tortoise in the wild is an amazing and rare opportunity. These dwellers of the Mojave Desert have remained in the conservation spotlight with efforts aimed at population recovery and habitat protection. Learn about ways that we can protect the desert tortoise if we come across one in the wild and what we should do if we find one in our neighborhood.

Show species

Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes can be found throughout Nevada and play an important role in the ecosystem. They are effective predators on many rodents including those that carry hantavirus, plague and salmonella. They are also the only native snakes that can be harmful to humans and pets. Some preventative measures can be taken to prevent problems with rattlesnakes in our yards and on the trails.

Gopher Snake

Our southwestern rattlesnakes have an imposter which you may be more likely to see due to its daytime active behavior. The Great Basin Gopher Snake is the nonvenomous counterpart to our rattlesnakes with similar body coloring but a less robust body. Commonly referred to as a bull snake, the gopher snake can inflate its body, flatten its slender head into a triangular shape and hiss or quickly move its pointed tail against rocks or dry plants to mimic a rattle! This behavior is referred to as batesian mimicry, where a harmless animal mimics a harmful one to ward off predators.

Gila Monster

Have you seen this elusive animal? Gila monsters are the masters of ‘hide and (never) seek’ spending most of their lives in burrows out of sight. If you see a Gila monster, let NDOW know and help contribute to our ongoing research of this species. As with any venomous reptile, respect their space and remain cautious out on the trails.

Show species

Frequently Asked Wildlife Questions

Mammals
Birds
Reptiles
I found a young animal that is alone, what should I do?

The best thing you can do for any wildlife is leave it alone. Oftentimes, young wildlife will be left alone by their parents for hours at a time. Jackrabbits for instance will leave their young and only come back to nurse them. Other than that, they are alone. This is completely natural! Remember, an animal’s best chance is with its natural parents!

I found an animal/tracks/scat in my backyard, but I don’t know what it is… can you help?

We have a ton of different mammals that will spend their time in our backyards! If you are able to get a picture of them, feel free to send them to ndowinfo@ndow.org. We will take a look and try to get you an ID. Please note, depending on the quality of the photo we might not be able to give an exact ID, but we will try our best!

I’m concerned about the wildlife in my neighborhood, what can be done?

The answer to this really depends on the animal you are concerned with. Check out the species cards above for more specific information! If there is an animal that isn’t on there that you have questions on, please reach out to us!

What is hazing?

Hazing is an incredibly important tool that we all have in our tool belts! Hazing means getting “mean” to animals that might be in our neighborhoods or backyards. This is important because we do not want animals like coyotes and bobcats to become too comfortable in our neighborhoods. When they do, they can increase their comfortability around humans and tend to increase unwanted behaviors. You can haze an animal by appearing large (stand tall with arms overhead), yelling at the animal and tossing items in the direction of the animal (not intending to hit them). This helps to maintain boundaries with our wildlife which is good for us, but better for them!

I have a pet rabbit or other domestic pet that I no longer want. Can I drop it off at my local park so it has access to food and water to survive on its own?

No, releasing pets into the wild is not kind to them or our native species.  When you release a domestic animal into the wild they are forced to fight for survival without any training. They don’t know where the food, water or shelter is and don’t know how to defend themselves against predators. This means that, most often, they are immediately killed by other animals. They can also impact our native wildlife by spreading diseases that they might not be prepared to fight. If you can no longer take care of your pet, avoid the cruel consequences of pet dumping and rehome them. Visit dontletitloose.com for resources on the animal shelters, agencies and pet stores near you.

I found a bird that is on the ground and can’t fly! What should I do?

During spring and summer months you will often find young birds on the ground. If the bird has feathers, it is likely a fledgling. Fledglings will spend a lot of time on the ground and they might not be able to fly just yet. This is natural and an extremely important period in the bird’s life, it’s when they learn how to be a bird. You can help them out by giving them plenty of space and keeping pets inside or contained so they can’t get access to the bird.

I have a cat, is it ok to let it outside?

On an average year, it is estimated that free-ranging domestic cats kill over 1 billion birds and 6 billion mammals in the U.S. These are staggering numbers. Keeping your cat inside helps to limit the impacts domestic cats have on our wildlife. But that doesn’t mean you have to keep your cat inside. Taking them out on a leash where you can monitor their behavior or creating a “catio” on your property are both great options! Not only can you protect our wildlife this way, you can also protect your cats!

I want to feed birds, what should I do?

Ultimately, animals do not need our help and we do not need to provide food for them. If you want to feed birds, check out our blog post about songbirds. It details ways you can feed birds safely!

I found an injured bird, what should I do?

Sometimes birds get sick or get injured. Collisions with windows are not uncommon. If you see a bird that appears to be sick or injured, observe its behavior for a few minutes, note the exact location, and contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or NDOW. NDOW staff can help determine if the bird is injured. Do not attempt to feed or provide water to an injured bird. If you think the bird is sick and you have a bird feeder up, remove your bird feeder and clean it thoroughly. Check out our information specific to the kind of bird you have to see what else might be going on.

A bird keeps swooping down at me when I walk by. What’s happening?!

Northern Mockingbirds and several species of raptors are the more common culprits known to ‘dive bomb’ intruders that get too close to their nesting site. This behavior typically consists of swift, lunging movements toward the intruder. Direct contact is rarely made, but the movements by these birds can be persistent and startling. When possible, keep yourself and your pets away from the nesting area until the young are ready to fly (three to four weeks after eggs hatch) and the parents are no longer so protective. If you must walk past the nest, wave your arms slowly overhead to keep the birds at a distance, or consider carrying an umbrella.

I have a pet that I no longer want, can I release it?

No, releasing pets into the wild is not kind to them or our native species. When you release a domestic animal into the wild they are forced to fight for survival without any training. They don’t know where the food, water or shelter is and don’t know how to defend themselves against predators, which means that, most often, they are immediately killed by other animals. They can also impact our native wildlife by spreading diseases that they might not be prepared to fight. If you can no longer take care of your pet, avoid the cruel consequences of pet dumping and rehome them. Visit dontletitloose.com for resources on the animal shelters, agencies, and pet stores near you.

I found a snake in my yard, is it harmful?

The only snakes in Nevada that are venomous and harmful to pets and humans are rattlesnakes. Statewide we have 6 species of rattlesnakes. They have triangular shaped heads and, typically, a rattle at the end of their tail (though these can break off). If the snake does not have a triangular shaped head it is likely a snake that is not harmful. In general, the best rule of thumb is if you can’t identify it with certainty leave it alone! If you have a picture of a snake and you would like it identified feel free to send the image to ndowinfo@ndow.org. Please note, depending on the quality of the photo we might not be able to give an exact ID but we will try our best!

Wildlife Conflict

Haven’t found your answers in our blogs? Feel free to reach out to us! Take a look at our contacts to make sure you get directly to the right individual. When in doubt, please reach out to your regional office.

If this is a wildlife emergency, please contact 911 or our dispatch at 775-688-1331.

Jessica Wolff

Conservation Educator
Conservation Education – Western Region
jwolff@ndow.org
(775) 688-1501

Lauren MacLeod

Conservation Educator
Conservation Education – Southern Region
lauren.macleod@ndow.org
(702) 668-3551

bear hotline:
775-688-BEAR

LIVING WITH WILDLIFE DISEASES

The health of our wildlife is a major priority. That includes doing what we can to limit the spread of wildlife diseases. Learn about what you can do to make sure your backyard neighbors are staying healthy.

Diseases in Waterfowl

Waterfowl tend to congregate in large numbers. This means disease outbreaks can be devastating sometimes leading to deaths of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of birds.

Diseases in Rabbits

Rabbits are a very common backyard visitor, and a very common pet. Disease between wild rabbits and pet rabbits can often spread back and forth.

Diseases in Backyard Birds

There are several diseases that can affect backyard birds in Nevada, many are made worse by offering feed and water.

Diseases in Reptiles and Amphibians

When thinking of wildlife diseases you may not first think of reptiles and amphibians, but just like our other backyard wildlife, these animals are susceptible to disease outbreaks.

CONTRIBUTE TO COMMUNITY SCIENCE

Finding wildlife in your backyard and in your neighborhood doesn’t have to be a negative experience. In fact, it can become a really cool way for you to contribute to science as a community scientist! Community scientists are any person that contributes to a community science project. No training, no schooling, and no math required. Check out the opportunities below:

The application iNaturalist is a great way to submit community science observations that scientists at NDOW and beyond can use for years to come. Submitting observations is very easy!

  1. Snap a photo of anything living; plants, insects, birds, spiders, you name it!
  2. Log on to iNaturalist.org and create an account or download the iNaturalist mobile account.
  3. Upload your photo to iNaturalist
  4. See what other experts say about your observation!

Learn more about this application here: https://www.inaturalist.org/

Help us learn more about the reptiles in Nevada! If you see a lizard, tortoise, or snake while out and about we want to know! Send your observations and photos to reptiles@ndow.org. This information improves NDOW’s understanding of these species & will not impact land access.

Learn More About Living with Wildlife

Check out the many urban wildlife resources we have to offer to help you with any questions you may have about wildlife in your backyard.