Observing wildlife in your own backyard can be thrilling. But it's far less thrilling when you have that wildlife living in your chimney, under your rafters, in your basement or between your walls. When you're stuck sharing your house with noisy or destructive tenants, it's time to call someone to help evict them without harming them.

It can be hard to select a wildlife removal company, especially if you've never looked into it before. But by asking a handful of questions and knowing what to look for, you'll be able to find the most humane and effective company in your area.

The first thing to know is that removing wildlife may be more complicated than you think. Most people's first thought is to live-trap the animal and release it somewhere else. Unfortunately, this isn't a solution with a happy ending. Animals released in new places often don't last long. They run into competition with whatever creature has already laid claim to the area, or they aren't able to thrive in the new habitat. That's why many states have an outright ban on relocating wildlife. So if you're looking to DIY the situation with a Have-A-Heart trap and a short road trip, you might want to reconsider and give a humane wildlife removal company a call instead. Not only will they take care of the current problem, but they'll make sure it doesn't happen again by making improvements to your home to keep wildlife outside.

A first step for finding a humane wildlife removal company is to get recommendations through your local animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society or wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers.

The Skunk Whisperer, a humane wildlife removal company in Oklahoma, provides a list of questions to ask when calling prospective companies. These include details like how they structure their fees, the repercussions of wildlife in the area based on their methods of removal, the kinds of products they use, if they do cleanup and repair work that prevents the situation from happening again, and if they work with wildlife rehabilitators. Reviewing these questions and having them on hand when calling will be a big help.

When selecting a company, find out how long they have been practicing humane wildlife removal, and double check that they have insurance coverage. It also helps if they are members of organizations that support animal welfare, such as the Humane Society.

When talking with the wildlife removal operator, ask about the life cycle of the species that's taken up residence in your home. The operator should know everything about birthing seasons and the reproductive cycle (to make sure there are not babies that may be left behind when the parents are removed), the general behavior of the species, and other facts. You want someone who is highly knowledgeable about the wildlife they're dealing with.

Because relocating is not usually a humane option, ask about passive removal techniques (such as setting up one-way doors for the animals to leave but not re-enter), and on-site relocation methods. This allows the animal to stay within its own territory but outside of your home, and is the safest option for whatever animal has moved in and needs to move out. Make sure that the company knows how to handle setting up a temporary den for infants if there are any to remove, so that the mother can relocate them after the family is safely out of your home.

This video from the Humane Society shows what a humane wildlife company looks like on the job, including setting up one-way doors and ensuring that the home is improved so that wildlife won't get back in.

Tips for keeping wildlife out of your home:

The Human Wildlife Services notes, "Nearly 80 percent of the calls we get are due to preventable access via a vent or opening resulting from poor building practices or lack of maintenance." That's why they not only offer services for getting an animal out of your home, but also constructing solutions to keep them from ever getting back in. There are many things you can do around your home to minimize the chances that a wild critter moves in.

  • Remove food sources such as birdseed from your yard and feed your pets indoors. Secure the lids on garbage cans and compost bins.
  • Check for possible entrances to your house, such as unsecured grates or screens that lead to crawlspaces or air vents.
  • Check that windows are sealed, the chimney is capped, and there are no cracks between doors that mice or other rodents can fit through.
  • Trim tree limbs away from your home so animals can't move from the trees to your rooftop.
  • Trim shrubs away from the walls around your home so they don't hide potential entry points.
  • Be sure to check that nothing is living in your house and using the entry point before you seal it up.

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.