Linda WhitmanNot everyone embraces wildlife. As the daughter of a land management forester, I spent my early years in the forests of North Florida, where we once, to my mother’s dismay, briefly had an opossum as a pet. I am much like the main character from the movie “Elf,” bending to offer a hug to the urban raccoon who had no interest in such close contact. I’ve even learned to embrace our native snakes.

I also am aware of the potential hazards presented when wild animals and the sprawling residential landscape collide. In Coconut Creek, we are fortunate to enjoy many preserves and parks. We have the unique opportunity to see nature in all its glory with a short bike ride or walk. Our homes and businesses also are a short distance for wildlife to traverse.

During the past year, the city has promoted backyard wildlife habitats under the guidance of the National Wildlife Foundation. Florida is predisposed to wildlife interaction because there is no winter forcing birds to migrate or animals to worry about hibernation. Of course, migration and hibernation still naturally occur in South Florida, but we have animals to enjoy year-round. When most of us consider sharing our yards with our animal friends, we think about birds and butterflies—maybe a squirrel. A few of us want other furry and scaly things to visit, too. For those who prefer keeping some animals away, keep the following ideas in mind:

Wild animals need a number of things to survive: food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young.

Keep your garbage cans tightly sealed or in your garage.

Do not leave cat food outside. Raccoons love cat food.

Make sure the vents in the eave of your home are raccoon-proof. If your vents are merely screens covering an opening, raccoons can easily open the screen and make your attic or crawl space their new home.

Plant shrubs and trees on the perimeter of your yard that are more attractive than your garbage. You’ll get to enjoy the wildlife without dealing with it in your home.

Do not use poison or crawl into your attic to remove nests. Mama raccoons do not look favorably upon intruders.

Lastly, if an animal has taken up residence in your home, call a professional. Find a company that will relocate the animals.

Remember, it’s not their fault we have encroached into their habitat, and we must use humane means to remove them. If you are new to Florida, perhaps you can take this opportunity to learn about our diverse fauna. A little prevention and patience will allow you to enjoy nature with your morning coffee or tea.

For information on living with wildlife, take a look at the National Wildlife Foundation website at nwf.org.