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Publication #FOR182

Forest Management in the Interface: Wildlife1

Jim Parkhurst and Martha Monroe2


Wildlife provides aesthetic, economic, social, spiritual, ecological, and educational benefits to interface residents and visitors. Approximately 87 million people participate in wildlife-associated activities each year, and from those 87 million people, roughly $108 billion is spent to support their activities (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce 2002).

Purchases of equipment (e.g., binoculars for bird viewing, fishing gear for fishing, safety clothing for hunting, etc.) and land for wildlife-associated activities represent 1.1 percent of the gross domestic product (Faulkner et al. 1998; U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce 2002; Duryea and Hermansen 2002). In 2001, 66.1 million people participated in some type of wildlife-watching activity such as observing, photographing, or feeding. Of those, 75 percent live in metropolitan areas (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce 2002). Bird watching, compared to other wildlife-watching activities, attracted the most participants in 2001 (46 million people). Roughly 88 percent of them observed wild birds within a mile of their homes (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce 2002).

Figure 1. 

While a typical wildland-urban interface backyard may provide diverse habitat and species, that habitat and species diversity is distinctly different from the original forest.


Virginia Tech

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Managing wildlife in interface forests presents unique challenges for landowners and natural resource professionals. The effects from urbanization of contiguous rural forests, especially fragmentation and development, significantly change wildlife habitat. Fragmentation degrades and, in some cases, destroys critical wildlife habitat (Duryea and Hermansen 2002; Cordell and Macie 2002). Wildlife management in the interface is also complex because wildlife can be both an important amenity and a nuisance to human communities. Striking a balance between the needs and wants of interface landowners and what is required to sustain wildlife populations becomes critical. People have conflicts with wildlife, but they also might have conflicting wildlife management objectives (Duryea and Hermansen 2002). This section highlights key issues and provides background information on potential conflicts.

A recent report on the Southern Forest Resource Assessment addressed the question, “What are the likely effects of expanding human populations, urbanization, and infrastructure on wildlife and their habitats?” (Wear and Greis 2002). Following are some key results:

      • Non-native plants and animals have had a documented influence on forest wildlife and wildlife habitat. Non-native species threaten the survival of some sensitive wildlife species.

      • Approximately 42 percent of species that are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act are at risk because of competition with or predation by non-native species.

      • Urban and agricultural land uses have interrupted the continuity of southern forests and created forest islands. Wildlife species differ in their response to the resulting fragmentation.

      • Urbanization excludes some sensitive forest wildlife species but increases the presence of other more tolerant species. Urban habitats vary in their ability to support a diversity of forest wildlife.

      • For species with area sensitivities—those that require forest interior, those that require specialized habitats, and those intolerant of human disturbance—special management considerations will be needed as urbanization increases in areas of the South.

      • Roadsides and power-line corridors facilitate the spread of non-native invasive plants and animals. Many non-natives have been slower to gain a foothold in predominately intact forested landscapes.

Human-Wildlife Conflicts

Several species of wildlife, such as white-tailed deer, thrive in fragmented habitats where winter food is often more abundant than in surrounding forests. In many interface areas, wildlife populations have grown so rapidly that managers must control them. Wildlife can be vectors for diseases such as Lyme disease (by way of white-tailed deer and deer mice) and West Nile virus (by way of birds). They can also lead to car accidents, property damage, and other human-wildlife conflicts. Groundhogs and armadillos burrow in people's yards, white-tailed deer and rabbits consume ornamental shrubbery, woodpeckers damage trees, and raccoons and opossums scavenge for human trash and pet food. Population control strategies for species like white-tailed deer include permitting hunting in neighborhood areas, extending hunting seasons, and implementing capture programs and contraception programs. Such management programs can generate controversy and concern from the public and further complicate management decisions.

Species Diversity

Figure 2 shows species frequency distribution by state. At any one location only a small fraction of these species will be seen. For many rare and endangered species, habitat loss is the single greatest threat to survival (Duryea and Hermansen 2002). Unfortunately, urbanization decreases the contiguous forest area on which many of these species depend, while increasing forest edges upon which other species depend, creating difficult and conflicting management challenges. For example, studies have found that urbanization decreases the number of bird species while increasing the total number of individual birds, thus favoring dominance by a few species. Forest insectivores, neotropical migrants, and forest interior specialist populations tend to decline with urbanization (Dowd 1992; Graham 2002). For mammals, interface forests also tend to support more habitat generalists rather than specialists, as well as high populations of non-native species.

Figure 2. 

Total number of species, by taxonomic grouping, by state within the South.


Source: Nature serve 2000

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Managing Nuisance Wildlife

Human-wildlife conflicts often arise in interface forests due to several factors: (1) the availability of a relatively predator-free environment, (2) an abundant and diverse food resource (including that directly provided by humans), and (3) available cover and space. The highly altered habitats characteristic of the interface provide an abundance of niches that often are occupied by species that display the greatest resilience and adaptability to existence in human-modified systems (Conover 2002).

Successful management of interface wildlife must start with the realization that regardless of what is driving habitat change, the modifications will prove beneficial for some species and detrimental to others. Although management activities may aim to promote or enhance a particular species or group of species, they likely will benefit other species as well, many of which become labeled as “nuisances” or “problem species.” Careful planning can help mitigate conflicts. Because wildlife may roam across large areas comprised of many individually owned parcels, management efforts are most successful when implemented on a community or regional level (Decker, Brown, and Siemer 2001).

Techniques for managing nuisance wildlife are many and varied (Cummings 1999).


Damage by birds or rabbits to ornamental shrubs or garden plants can be reduced fairly inexpensively by simply placing netting over the plant(s) to keep the pests away. On the other hand, fencing out deer from a lawn or garden can be costly. Materials needed for exclusion will depend upon the species causing the problem. Large mammals can be excluded with woven wire fences, electric fences, and plastic fences.

Habitat Modification

Habitat modification can provide lasting and cost-effective relief from damage by limiting access to one or more of the requirements for life—food, water, or shelter. Rodent- or bat-proofing buildings by sealing cracks and holes prevents these animals from gaining access to suitable habitats. Storing seed and pet food in tightly closed containers, controlling weeds and garden debris around homes and buildings, and storing firewood and building supplies on racks or pallets above ground level can limit or remove the animals' sources of food, water, or shelter. However, habitat modification, while limiting nuisance wildlife, may also limit desirable species such as songbirds as well.


Objectionable-tasting coatings or odor repellents may deter wildlife from feeding on plants. Other repellents such as sticky, tacky substances placed on or near windows, trees, or buildings may deter many birds and small mammals. Unfortunately, most wildlife soon discover that repellents are not actually harmful and may soon become accustomed to the smell, taste, or feel of these deterrents. In order to be effective, repellents applied outdoors must to be reapplied due to rain or heavy dew or applied often to new plant growth.

Toxic Baits and Pesticides

Toxic baits and pesticides can harm pets, humans, and animals other than the targeted pest. Experience and training are required to protect safety and get the desired effect. Please consult a licensed expert.

Glue Boards and Traps

Glue boards trap small mammals and snakes. Applying vegetable oil to the caught animal will dissolve the glue, allowing for release of the animal. Using traps can be very effective in reducing actual population numbers of certain species. However, trapping is often not a viable solution for landowners because it is illegal to trap many species without a permit nor is it legal to release trapped animals on public or private land without permission.

Scare Tactics

Bells, whistles, horns, clappers, sonic emitters, audio tapes, and other sound devices may be quite successful in the short term in repelling an animal from an area. Other objects such as effigies, lights, reflectors, and windmills rely on visual stimulation to scare a problem animal away. Often nuisance animals become accustomed to these tactics and will return if exposed to these devices daily.

The Wildlife Damage Management network provides pointers, training, and listserv discussions for dealing with nuisance wildlife problems. The Humane Society of the United States provides specific recommendations for dealing with everything from bears and beavers to snakes and squirrels.

Attracting Wildlife

Many interface landowners want to attract moderate numbers of certain types of wildlife. There are some general guidelines for attracting wildlife: (1) Minimize habitat reduction by concentrating buildings and roads on one part of the property; (2) Develop or enhance a wide range of habitats, from early successional forest to late successional forest; and (3) Provide opportunities for food, water, and cover. Most mast- and fruit-bearing shrubs and trees attract wildlife. Trees in the white oak family are preferred over trees in the red oak family because they produce acorns every year rather than every other year and contain lower tannins and phenols. Table 1 reviews the top ten tips for successfully attracting wildlife (Hostetler et al. 2003).

Many species have unique habitat needs, others can prosper in many conditions. The common crow and mourning dove, for example, prosper along edges, whereas some neotropical migratory birds require interior forests. Table 2 reviews the habitat needs of many popular bird species. Those that are tolerant to interface conditions are more likely to prosper in edge forests and diverse conditions characteristic of fragmented interface landscapes. Those species that are intolerant either depend upon food sources that are unavailable in interface forests or are susceptible to predators common in interface forests.

Suggested Readings

Homes for Birds ( by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1988.

Nuisance Wildlife (, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Accessed July 2015.

What to Do About Wildlife (, by The Humane Society of the United States. Accessed July 2015.

Wild Neighbors (, by John Hadidian, with Margaret Baird, Maggie Brasted, Lauren Nolfo-Clements, Dave Pauli, and Laura Simon, 2007.

Your Backyard Woods and Wildlife, by University of Florida, 2012. For sale at the UF/IFAS Extension Bookstore (


Canterbury, G. E., T. E. Martin, D.R. Petit, L. J. Petit, and D. F. Bradford. 2000. "Bird communities and habitat as ecological indicators of forest condition in regional monitoring." Conservation Biology 14: 544–558

Conover, M. R. 2002. Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts: The Science of Wildlife Damage Management. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press LLC, Lewis Publishers.

Cordell, H. K. and E. Macie. 2002. "Population and demographic trends." In Human Influences on Forest Ecosystems: The Southern Wildland- Urban Interface Assessment (Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-55). Eds. E. Macie and L. A. Hermansen, 11-34. Asheville, NC: USDA, Forest Service, Southern Research Station.

Cummings, C. J. 1999. Wildlife Control (HGIC 2362). Clemson, SC: The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, (accessed May 4, 2005).

Decker, D. J., T. L. Brown, and W. F. Siemer, eds. 2001. Human Dimensions of Wildlife Management in North America. Bethesda, MD: The Wildlife Society.

Dowd, C. 1992. "Effect of development on bird species composition of two urban forested wetlands in Staten Island, New York." Journal of Field Ornithology 63(4): 455–461.

Duryea, M. L. and L. A. Hermansen. 2002. "Challenges to forest resource management." In Human Influences on Forest Ecosystems: The Southern Wildland-Urban Interface Assessment. Eds. E. Macie and L. A. Hermansen, 93-110. Asheville, NC: USDA, Forest Service, Southern Research Station.

Faulkner, G., J. Gober, J. Hyland, K. Muehlenfeld, S. Nix, P. Waldrop, and D. Weldon 1998. "Forests of the South. Montgomery, AL: Southern Group of State Foresters." (accessed August 5, 2005).

Graham, K. L. 2002. "TERRA-3: Human influences on forest wildlife habitat." In The Southern Forest Resource Assessment (Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-53). Eds. D. Wear and J. Greis, 63-90. Asheville, NC: USDA, Forest Service, Southern Research Station, (accessed August 5, 2005).

Hostetler, M. E., G. Klowden, S. W. Miller, and K. N. Youngentob. 2003. Landscaping Backyards for Wildlife: Top Ten Tips for Success. (Circular 1429). Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

NatureServe. 2000. "NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life. Arlington, VA: Association for Biodiversity Information." (accessed August 23, 2005).

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. 2002. "2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation." 2-6, 37-51, (accessed March 25, 2008).

Wear, D. and J. Greis. 2002. The Southern Forest Resource Assessment: Summary Report (Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-54). Asheville, NC: USDA, Forest Service, Southern Research Station, (accessed April 4, 2005).


Table 1. 

Landscaping Backyards: Top Ten Tips for Sucess

1. Limit amount of lawn—Grass alone does not provide adequate cover, food, and water for wildlife.

2. Increase vertical layering—Layering provides cover and diversifies habitat, though it can increase fire risk.

3. Leave snags and brush piles—Snags and brush piles provide attractive cover and nest sites away from structures to reduce fire risk.

4. Provide water source—Bird baths or small backyard ponds are a good source of water.

5. Plant native vegetation—Native vegetation, preferably mast-bearing, attracts native wildlife.

6. Put up bird feeders and bird/bat houses—Multiple styles and sizes can encourage a variety of species.

7. Remove invasive exotics—Invasive exotics can potentially alter an ecosystem, making it undesirable for native wildlife.

8. Manage household pets—Cats and dogs harass and kill wildlife. It is best to keep cats indoors and dogs fenced in or tied up.

9. Reduce pesticide use—Pesticide affects the food supply (grubs, insects, etc.) and exposes animals to hazardous contaminants.

10. Expand scale of habitat—Often a particular species needs habitat larger than what a single yard can offer. If landowners manage their yards similarly, wildlife may be more inclined to find the combined habitat desirable

Source: Hostetler et al. 2003.

Table 2. 

Some Southeastern Forest Bird Species and Their Sensitivities to Interface Development.


Common name

Scientific name






Pine warbler

Dendroica pinus


Red-eyed vireo

Vireo olivaceus


Red-bellied woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus


Wood thrush

Hylocichla mustelina



Seiurus aurocapollus


Hooded warbler

Wilsonia citrina


Acadian flycather

Empidonax virescens


Scarlet tanager

Piranga olivacea


Northern parula

Parula americana


Black-and-white warbler

Mniotilta varia


Hairy woodpecker

Picoides villosus


Pileated woodpecker

Dryocopus pileatus


Yellow-throated warbler

Dendroica dominica


Prothonotary warbler

Protonotaria citera


Kentucky warbler

Oporornis formosus


Louisiana waterthrush

Seiutus motacilla


Shrubland (early-successional clearcuts)

Indigo bunting

Passerina cyanea


Yellow-breasted chat

Icteria virens


Common yellow-throat

Geothlypis trichas


White-eyed vireo

Vireo griseus


Prairie warbler

Dendroica discolor


Field sparrow

Spizella pusilla


Gray catbird

Dumetella carolinensis


Forest-edge (fragmented landscapes)

Brown-headed cowbird

Molothru ater


Northern mockingbird

Mimus polyglottos


Chipping sparrow

Spizella passenrine


American robin

Turdus migratorius


Eastern bluebird

Sialia sialis


Common grackle

Quisalus quiscula


Eastern kingbird

Tyrannus tyrannus


Red-headed woodpecker

Melanerpes ererythrocephalus

Somewhat tolerant

Orchard oriole

Icterus spurious


House finch

Carpodacus mexicanus


Habitat generalist


Cardinalis cardinalis


Carolina wren

Thryothorus ludovicianus


Tufted titmouse

Baeolophus bicolor


Blue-gray gnatcatcher

Polioptila caerulea


Carolina chickadee

Poecile carolinensis


Blue jay

Cyanocitta cristata


Great crested flycatcher

Myiarchus crinitus

Somewhat tolerant

Summer tanager

Piranga rubra


Downy woodpecoer

Picoides pubescens


Yellow-billed cuckoo

Cooccyzus americanus


Eastern wood pewee

Contopus virens


Mourning dove

Zenalda macroura


Common crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos


Northen bobwhite

Colinus virginianus


Brown thrasher

Toxostoma rufum


Northern flicker

Colaptes auratus


American goldfinch

Carduelisl tristis


Red-shoulderd hawk

Buteo lineatus


Yellow-thorated vireo

Vireo flavifrons


Ruby-throated hummingbird

Archilochus colubris


Eastern Phoebe

Sayornis phoebe


Eastern screech-owl

Otus asio


Common nighthawk

Chordeiles minor


White-breasted nuthatch

Sitta carolinesis


Source: Canterbury et al. 2000.



This document is FOR182, one of a series of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 2008. Revised January 2009. Reviewed July 2015. Visit the EDIS website at


Jim Parkhurst, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Martha Monroe, professor, School of Forest Resources and Conservation; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.