Wildlife Found in Arlington County
Many wildlife species are native to Virginia and have adapted well to the urban/suburban environment of Arlington. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington seeks to help residents coexist safely with native wildlife. A great resource for learning more about wildlife and how to prevent conflicts with people is the Humane Society of the United States’s (HSUS) Wild Neighbors.
Bats hibernate in winter, and their young are born April-July. They cannot gnaw or dig, relying instead on existing openings to enter buildings. Actual damage is minor, mainly stains and odor from feces and urine. Ammonia will drive them out of the attic. If a bat is flying inside the house, don’t panic. Try to isolate it in one room and call the League for assistance. Do not touch it. Remember, bats eat insects, not people.
Birds nest in eaves, vents and attics and frequently fly down chimneys. The main complaint against them is the mess and smell caused by their droppings. Sparrows, starlings and pigeons are common problems. Ammonia is not effective because birds have a poor sense of smell, so you’ll have to screen off vents and other openings. If a bird has nested in or on your house, deck, balcony, etc., do not disturb it. It is a federal crime to remove songbird nests or babies. You must wait until the babies have flown away before you move the nest. Find out more about baby birds.
Coyotes have been spotted in nearby counties. Coyotes are nocturnal predators and may occasionally be seen during daylight hours, especially near dawn and dusk. They typically weigh between 25 and 40 pounds and have long, thick fur that is often blond/reddish-brown or tan/grayish-black with a small white spot on the center of the chest. They have long, bushy, black-tipped tails; pointed ears; and a long slender snout. You should not approach a coyote as it may feel cornered or restricted which may, in turn, provoke an attack. Take steps to make sure your home is not inviting to these animals by not leaving pet food outside and securing trash receptacle lids. Exercise precautions such as closing pet doors and keeping all pet food inside. Please do not leave your pets outside unattended and don’t let cats roam free. If you encounter a coyote, make loud noises to scare it off but do not run and do not approach the animal. More information about coyotes from HSUS.
Deer (White-tailed) are common throughout Virginia including urban areas. They subsist on acorns, fruits and crops are taken in the fall, and browse evergreen vegetation in winter. They feed in fields (or yards) and openings and retreat to forest for cover. Deer can pose a danger to people if they enter roadways. The Humane Society of the United States has a wealth of information on what to do about deer.
Foxes, both gray and red, are primarily nocturnal, but healthy foxes may be spotted during daylight hours as long as they feel safe and are close enough to safety. They may also pursue prey, such as squirrels, who are out during daylight hours. As with coyotes, you should not approach a fox as it may feel cornered or restricted which may, in turn, provoke an attack. Take steps to make sure your home is not inviting to foxes or any other predators by not leaving pet food outside and securing trash receptacle lids. Exercise precautions such as closing pet doors and keeping all pet food inside. Please do not leave your pets outside unattended and don’t let cats roam free. If you encounter a fox during the day, it does not mean that it is suffering from rabies as people often believe.
Opossums are usually nocturnal, shy and inoffensive. They may occasionally raid trash cans, but overall damage is generally slight. They are often mistaken for large rats. They have two litters a year. They live in abandoned burrows rather than digging their own, so eliminating brush piles, dilapidated structures and holes under concrete slabs will make your yard uninviting. Ammonia-soaked rags will keep them out of crawl spaces, but you may have to screen them off as well.
Eastern cottontail rabbits are prevalent in many parts of Arlington County. It’s short, white tail lends it the name cottontail. They are perhaps the most heavily preyed upon game species in Virginia. In most years, 80% or more of adult cottontails are killed by predators. Cottontails feed mainly on grasses, clovers, weeds, and vegetables in gardens. Most young are born between March and July, and they are independent by two-three weeks. Read more about what to do about wild rabbits in your yard.
Raccoons are opportunists and very adaptable, known as raiders of trash and fishponds. They may nest in attics and uncapped chimneys. Their young are born in April/May. Though they are primarily nocturnal, it is not unusual for them to roam around during the day looking for food or sunning themselves. Don’t panic; this does not mean that they have rabies. Leave them alone. If one appears sick (staggering, walking in circles, falling, biting itself, salivating heavily) or you find a dead raccoon in your yard, call the League immediately. Learn more about raccoons.
Snakes seen in your garden are usually harmless, so there is no need to panic. The copperhead is the only poisonous snake in Arlington and is not common. More common are garter snakes, black snakes, rat snakes, corn snakes, and brown snakes, all of which are helpful in controlling rodent populations. If you see a snake in the basement, don’t kill it (it’s illegal). Try to move it gently out an open door with a broom or, if it is coiled, place a heavy container over it to confine it until we can pick it up. (Unfortunately, many people will kill a snake first, then call us to find out what to do.) Then you must find the snake’s access point (usually cracks in the foundation) and patch it.
Squirrels frequently nest in attics and chimneys and do damage by gnawing wood or wires inside the house. They can have two litters a year in April/May and July/August. Use ammonia to drive them out of the house, but please make sure baby squirrels have been moved before repairing holes.
If wildlife has set up a den or nest in your yard, please review our tips on preventing wildlife from moving in.