Coexisting with Smaller Wildlife

Wildlife In My Yard: Coexisting with smaller animals, avoiding & addressing potential conflicts.

Montclair Township’s Relationship with Wildlife - Conflict and Habitat Management

Montclair Township follows a policy of humane coexistence with wildlife. Co-existing means allowing animals to live their natural lives out as safely as possible, and addressing any wildlife-human conflicts with humane, innovative, and non-lethal approaches.  Many residents moved to Montclair to live in a more verdant, nature-surrounded suburb. This choice means we can expect to encounter wild creatures who also call our town, and sometimes our yards, “home”.  Learning to accept, appreciate and co-exist with our wild neighbors is necessary.

Montclair Township is also part of the Humane Society of the United States’ Wild Neighbors Program and follows their protocols. The program goal is to reduce and resolve wildlife-human conflicts humanely.  While wildlife-human conflicts are infrequent in Montclair, residents can solve wildlife issues by proactively implementing  prevention, exclusion, and distraction strategies. However, learning to live with our beautiful wildlife neighbors, without disturbing their lives, is the ideal goal. Learning to share your yard with wildlife is the most compassionate thing to do. 

 Montclair Animal Control is your go-to first call for information on local wildlife, and to resolve any issues that may arise. Montclair Animal Control Officers are available 24/7 by calling 862-621-9113. 

 Please note: Trapping and relocating wildlife, including birds’ nests or killing wildlife is ILLEGAL, ineffective, cruel, and goes against the values of our township. Illegal infractions should be reported and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. 

 The main point that we try to consistently relay to our residents in any situation where wildlife is on their property is "exclusion". If there are no safe, quiet places for wildlife to hide around their property, then the wildlife will move along.” – Montclair Animal Control Supervisor Michele Shiber. 

 The most common complaints to Montclair Animal Control are not always deer or rabbits, but groundhogs, raccoons and skunks. The information here focuses on these smaller animals who call our Township home.



We can employ tools and landscape strategies to minimize or eliminate wildlife conflicts in our gardens and yards, while respecting our suburban community as their home as well. While deer are easier to deter, deterring smaller animals humanely is also possible. In fact many of the issues that we attribute to deer can be attributed to our smaller wildlife friends. 

Suggested Reading On Topic:

        “The Wild-Friendly Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature” by Tammi Hartung 

        “The Humane Gardener” by Nancy Lawson

Gardening guru Tammi Hartung advocates co-existence and strategies for vegetable gardens:

       The simplest level of co-existence is avoiding harm in order to foster wildlife as a contributing partner to the gardening experience.

A Montclair resident shares: A kind and humane approach would be learning to share the planet with them or just persuading them to find another home in your neighborhood.

       The next level of co-existence is to determine not only what wildlife is present, but the relationships among plants and animals.

       Implement a strategy that benefits both wildlife and the plant ecosystem.

        Plant a surplus of plants and share some. Some animals are grazers who will browse for a while and move on. Squirrels store food for the off-season. Planting Oaks and Black Walnut trees, for instance, will reduce squirrels' need to eat your vegetable garden.

        Distract them with decoy plants. For example, plant parsley as a decoy for deer and rabbits away from a vegetable garden. Sunflowers will distract omnivorous birds like blue jays and finches from eating raspberries and strawberries.

A Montclair resident writes:I don’t have deer in the yard but rabbits, raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels and even a groundhog visiting the garden. My theory is the diversity of native plants in the yard (over 120 different species) that have created a natural barrier. The yard is a true oasis for wildlife and pollinators but they are not setting territory in the yard.”

        Add aromatic plants: Steer wildlife away by inter-planting the garden with things they don’t like. For example, deer are less likely to forage around lavender, sage, chives, agastache and mint among other species; rodents around peppermint and thyme. (Many of these are also native pollinator loving plants)

        Natural repellents: Short of a physical barrier like a fence, this is the best way for discouraging. Spray a garlic-water mixture around the plants that you want to protect. Spray hot chili pepper in your garden soil to deter squirrels and chipmunks - they despise the burning sensation on their feet. (ground black pepper works almost as well).

Don’t forget temporary or permanent fencing as the best solution, typically. For animals who do not dig, like rabbits, installing a fence from the ground up a few feet will typically suffice. For diggers like groundhogs and squirrels, ensure you install a fence parallel to the ground as well as vertically. 

To deter rabbits and groundhogs, a Montclair resident suggests:You just need to stake the corners and use poles to keep it on the ground so they can’t get under. Try MTB 20GA Galvanized Hexagonal Poultry Netting Chicken Wire 12 inches x 150 feet x 2 inches Mesh.

-          Arlai 45cm/1.48 Ft Garden Stakes, Plastic Coated Steel Plant Stakes Sturdy Tomato Stakes, Pack of 25.

-          Eco-Friendly 2-FT Fiberglass Garden Stakes, Tomato Stakes, Plant Stakes (Pack of 20), 0.25-Inch Diameter

Use poles in the corners to shape the wire, and then thread poles through the wire in short sections to keep it low to the ground- or they will just come under.”

Other tools and strategies

In addition to the proven strategies shared above, following are additional ideas shared by the experts -  the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), our own Animal Control Officers, and local residents. These have been found to work in the Montclair Township area.


The Humane Society of the United States explains: Chipmunks don’t usually damage property, but they may injure ornamental plants when they harvest fruits and nuts. Occasionally chipmunks dig up and eat spring flowering bulbs and burrow in flower beds or under sidewalks and porches. But there are no documented cases of a chipmunk burrow causing structural damage.

       Put a temporary mesh fence around your garden; close all holes and cover the top.

       See Humane Society of the United State’s recommendation on chipmunks



Residents should NOT trap and transfer groundhogs, even by hiring a service, nor consider killing them. There are ways to deter them, if letting them live on your property is impossible. However, with some clever planting, they should leave most of your plants alone.

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS): Woodchucks can be harried from burrows by harassment assaulting the animal's senses, or by disturbing the burrow system. However, there is only a small window of time in the year when this can be done humanely, so timing is crucial. Read more HSUS recommendations on groundhogs.

Advice from Montclair residents:

       “This worked well for my garden and garbage. Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer Motion-Activated Sprinkler with Day & Night Detection Modes, Black”

       “When we put in a vegetable garden, a gardening guru friend said that when we put up the chicken wire fence, to lay the bottom edge out flat on the ground 12” and staple it down. The critters will be standing on it when they try to dig down, and they’re not smart enough to back up another few inches and start digging. It seriously worked! That fat groundhog was in the yard all summer and never got into the vegetable garden!”

       “Live and let live. As someone else mentioned, there may be young groundhogs in the burrow, and removing or chasing away the adults would condemn the youngsters to a cruel death. If there are pups they will leave the burrow in a month or two to find their homes elsewhere. I had a groundhog family living under my sunroom last spring into the summer, and once the kids were old enough to leave the nest, they all left and I haven't seen them since.”


Adult wild rabbits eat clover, grass and other plants, as well as twigs and even bark, if other food sources are scarce. Gardeners may find that rabbits nibble their flower and vegetable plants in spring and summer and the bark of fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs in the fall and winter.

A Montclair resident shares: “Fox pee is really good for repelling rabbits.”

See Humane Society of the United State’s recommendation


HSUS explains: Smart and resourceful, raccoons often get into trouble when they take advantage of the enticing foods we offer in our yards and gardens.

Advice from Montclair residents:

        “I had this same issue and upgraded our garbage cans with these clips from Home Depot! No issues since.”

       “Try sprinkling cayenne pepper on the cans & around the area of the cans. It helped when I had raccoons coming onto my porch at night.”

       “We clip bungee cords around the cans to keep the lids from being opened by animals lacking opposable thumbs. It has completely stopped our garbage can visitors problem”

       See Humane Society of the United State’s recommendation


Skunks, easily identifiable by their characteristic black and white striping, are infamous for producing a foul odor when frightened. Although a skunk’s spray is known mostly for its robust smell, it can also cause intense discomfort if it gets into a person or animal’s eyes. Fortunately, these mild-mannered creatures rarely use this potent defense, and provide quite a few benefits to the areas they inhabit. In cases where eviction is necessary, a few mild harassment and deterrence techniques can help you humanely remove skunks while escaping smell-free.

       Advice from Montclair residents:

        “Apart from the smell and bad interactions with your dog, skunks are great to have in or near your property this time of year. They eat ticks and mosquitoes as well as other insects. They like to come out at dusk and at night most of the time. We have some skunks in our neighborhood and I often see them at night. I stay clear and let them do their thing.”

        “Apparently skunks hate orange peels. We threw some peels around the hole it had dug and it went away in no time!”

       See Montclair Township Animal Control’s recommendation on skunks

       See Humane Society of the United State’s recommendation


HSUS: Squirrels' adaptable nature means they’re adept at finding the easiest, best sources of food and shelter, even if that food is your bird feeder and that shelter is your attic.

Luckily we live in an acorn-rich town due to our noble oak trees. That means more squirrels, which is a great thing for our local fox families, but not so great for our vegetable gardens.


       Put a temporary mesh fence around your garden and cover the top. It is better to use an aluminum type of fence as squirrels can eat through netting.

       Other Humane Society of the United States recommendations