Wildlife in Duck

While enjoying the beautiful town of Duck you might spot a few wild residents along our trails and boardwalk – or even in your yard!  Most of these species bring delight to both residents and visitors, while others are not as welcome.  Coyotes, raccoons, opossums, foxes, and rodents are all found in our area and can be unwanted visitors to your property.  A few simple tips can help keep yards and pets safe and wild neighbors healthy.  See the subjects below to help you learn how to safely share our habitat.

Use this checklist to help keep unwanted animal visitors from your yard.
  • Food and Water Sources
    • Minimize pet food or treats left outside your home.  Feed your pets inside or remove food when they are finished eating.
    • Look around your yard for water sources.  This may include pet water bowls low to the ground or unused items collecting rainwater.
    • Inspect your bird feeders and clean fallen seed as often as possible.  Small animals that eat the seed on the ground could attract larger mammals.
      • If wildlife damage is an issue, the bird feeder may need to be removed for a short while.
    • Keep your grill and surrounding area clean after cooking so animals aren't attracted by food residue.
    • Dispose of food waste in trash cans with lids that can be securely closed.
  • Landscaping & Home Repair
    • Regularly inspect your home and close up any holes that you may have below your house, deck, or shed or in your attic. Animals could use these areas for shelter or dens/nests.
    • Landscaping vegetation choices can help deter deer from eating your plants.  See the resources tab for a list of plants that are not as desirable for deer.
    • Avoid allowing large brush piles to remain in your yard for long periods. Animals may use these for cover or nesting.
  • Fencing
    • Fences can deter unwanted wildlife.  A 6-foot fence is recommended for coyotes.
    • A solid fence or one that blocks the view can keep wildlife from seeing food sources, small pets, or shelter areas.
    • Be sure all gates are closed.
  • Pets
    • Keep an eye on pets while they are outside. Keep them inside at night.
    • Pet waste can attract undesirable wildlife.  Clean up after your pet as soon as possible.
Interactions with wildlife take many forms.  Because we all have different reactions to wildlife, consistent definitions when reporting interactions are key.  Using these terms when reporting unwelcome wildlife helps wildlife biologists determine the best course of action to recommend.

Human-Wildlife Conflict Definitions The following definitions are helpful for categorizing human-wildlife conflicts and are most applicable for canid species (foxes, coyotes, dogs):
  • Coexistence: Humans and wildlife exist together. Humans take an active role in helping wildlife in their community stay wild by learning about wildlife ecology and behavior and discouraging reliance on human activity.  Humans can increase the chance of coexistence by implementing the actions in the home and yard checklist.
  • Observation: The act of noticing signs of wildlife, such as tracks, scat, or vocalizations, but without visual observation. When observing a wildlife species, no action is necessary other than to simply note the observation.
  • Sighting: A visual observation of wildlife. A sighting may occur at any time of the day or night. Note the sighting and take action to learn appropriate methods of discouraging the species if it is unwanted.  There is no need to report a sighting to authorities.  Use the home and yard checklist to eliminate items that might attract the animals.
  • Encounter: A direct meeting between human and wildlife with no physical contact and without incident. When encountering an unwanted wildlife species, you should know and exercise proper hazing techniques and pet management - pets should be kept on a leash.  Hazing is a method that makes use of deterrents to move an animal out of an area or discourages an undesirable behavior or activity. These techniques are explained under "Protect Yourself and Your Pet." Do not turn your back; face the animal and carefully back away slowly.
  • Incident: A conflict between a human and wildlife where the wildlife exhibits any of the following behaviors: growling, baring teeth, lunging, or making physical contact with the person. If an incident occurs, you should exercise hazing techniques and pet management.  Do not turn your back; face the animal and carefully back away slowly.  Do not engage the animal.  If you feel threatened call 911 immediately. Gather information about the incident and report the circumstances to the appropriate authorities. If a human is bitten, notify the Dare County Health Department immediately: 252-475-5003. For non-emergency incidents, please call Dare County's non-emergency dispatch: 252-473-3444. Wildlife Resources Commission contacts are located in the "Additional Resources" tab.
Tips for avoiding dangerous interactions with wildlife. Generally, wildlife species are reclusive and avoid human contact.  However, wild animals who have adapted to urban and suburban environments may realize there are few real threats and approach people or feel safe visiting yards even when people are present. These animals have become habituated (lost their fear of humans), likely due to the ready availability of food in our neighborhoods. Trash, pet food and treats, grilling residue, and accessible water sources can attract unwanted visitors. Bold behavior by wild animals should not be tolerated or enticed.  Instead, the animals should be given the message that their behavior is no longer safe for them. Hazing is a method that makes use of deterrents to move an animal out of an area or discourages an undesirable behavior or activity. Hazing can help maintain a wild animal's fear of humans and deter them from neighborhood spaces such as backyards, parks, and beaches. Hazing is most effective when all attractants have been removed. The lure of free food can outweigh a natural fear of humans.

Methods of Hazing:  Using a variety of different hazing tools is best because animals can become used to individual items, sounds, and actions. Variety makes it harder for them to ignore hazing methods.
  • Yell and wave your arms if a coyote, fox, or other animal approaches.
  • Use noisemakers (e.g. your voice, whistles, air horns, bells, soda cans filled with pennies, pots and pans banged together - get creative).
  • Use projectiles (e.g. sticks, small rocks, cans, tennis balls, rubber balls), but do not attempt to injure the animal.  An injured animal can be unpredictable.
  • Try other repellents (e.g. hoses, water guns with vinegar water, spray bottles with vinegar water, pepper spray, bear repellent, or walking sticks).
  • The simplest method of hazing is to be loud and large!
Protecting Your Pets
  • Dog-Walking Tool There are several tools for repelling wild animals that you can carry with you while walking your dog. Walking sticks are a simple and useful tool. Of course, remember that you should always walk your dog on a leash. If you see a wild animal, either pick up your dog (if possible) or place him or her behind you before hazing the animal. Refer to the hazing methods described above.
  • In Your Yard Keeping pets and pet food inside is the best way to keep wild animals out of your yard.  Do not leave your pet outside unattended.  If you do encounter wild animals, all of the hazing methods described above can be used in your yard. First, try the “Go Away!” method (yell and wave your arms). You can also squirt the wild animal with your garden hose or a squirt gun or bang pots and pans together.
Prior to implementing hazing techniques, removing attractants from your yard can keep unwanted animal species from visiting. Refer to the home and yard checklist provided above.
A list of helpful links about wildlife in our area.
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Excellent resource for pest control.
  • Dare County Non-Emergency Dispatch: 252-473-3444
  • Dare County Health Department: 252-475-5003
  • Dare County Animal Control: 252-475-5620