Wild animals in the city

In nature
Wild animals in Milan are progressively increasing. In our city they find food, protection, places to breed, milder winter temperatures than in the countryside. Let's learn to know them, to appreciate their beauty and the company they can give us.

In homes
For some time in the homes of Milanese people, alongside dogs and cats, we have found other non-domestic animals: birds, fish, turtles, rabbits, ferrets, prairie dogs, etc. Having an animal at home is a choice - not an obligation - which must be made consciously, taking on the commitment to care for the animal for its entire life and being certain that you have all the information necessary to manage it in the most correct way, respecting his well-being. When these two requirements are missing,  it happens too often that the animal is abandoned in front to the onset of difficulties that are both unexpected and predictable.

First rules of conduct:

  • we do not leave food waste in the streets. With waste, crows and pigeons increase excessively
  • we don't feed wild animals: we harm their health and change their behavior
  • we learn to observe and learn about the species that populate Milan's parks and gardens
  • we respect not only the birds but also their nests
  • we never abandon an animal: it commits a crime and condemns it to almost certain death.

On this page we offer you an overview of the most widespread wild species in the urban context and the real and presumed problems that arise in the presence of man.

The native species are those that have "always" been present in Italy, alien species, also called exotic or alien, derive from subjects introduced into Italy in recent times by man, voluntarily or casually.

Particularly problematic are the invasive alien species, that is, those that expand strongly in the environment in which they were introduced due to the absence of natural enemies and which can cause damage.

In Milan there are no dangerous wild animals. Some animals might seem vaguely dangerous, but knowing their behavior is enough to eliminate any danger.

For example, some citizens have experienced a hostile attitude from crows towards their dogs, but it is not aggression. Others feel fear towards nutria, likening them to large aggressive mice. Nothing could be further from the truth: they are very docile herbivorous animals.

Wasps, bumblebees and bees are not dangerous, but should not be approached without precautions. Hornets are more dangerous due to their greater aggressiveness and the greater quantity of poison they inject with their sting. However, all these insects can cause allergic reactions in some people which must be treated promptly.

The dog and cat have been modified over the centuries by man to live in our homes. Wild animals have never undergone this process and therefore they are not suitable for living in our homes. They suffer and, in many cases, are difficult to manage.

The rabbit and aquatic turtle are often considered perfect for children and for the apartment. Nothing could be more wrong. The clear proof is that often, after the first months of enthusiasm, they are abandoned because they are difficult to manage.

An important rule to follow before bringing home a new "friend", even more so if it belongs to a species uncommon for our domestic habitat, is to let us advise you from experts interested in animal welfare and not in their trade. The habits and needs of the animals we choose could prove incompatible with apartment life; their size could grow unexpectedly (see water turtles). The length of their life must also be taken into consideration, as it will require an equally long commitment on our part.

A recent Community law calls for the eradication of the most invasive species, an intervention however practically impossible when, as in the species treated in the manual, the subjects are now present in large numbers.

However, citizens must contribute to the control of these species by not offering food to these animals (gray squirrel, ringed parakeet) and not releasing them into the environment (marsh turtles).

Three species of swifts or Apodids nest in Milan: common swift, pale swift and great swift. They are among the birds best adapted to urban environments and every year, between mid-March and April, they return to nest in our city after spending the winter months flying non-stop in their African wintering areas.

Unlike species that nest in vegetation and rebuild their home every spring, swifts nest inside cavities, cracks, niches, post holes, tiles and shutter boxes of historic and modern buildings and reuse them over the years.

This is why, in the case of interventions which - for design reasons - must occlude spaces that host swiftlet nests, an equal number of artificial nests will have to be placed as compensation. For further information on the preparation and development of building projects that meet this need, we recommend consulting the relevant instructions the application of the regulation.

Netting nests is not just a good practice, but a provision of Municipal animal protection regulation. It is also strengthened by a national law, which protects these birds and their eggs.

Where are the colonies in Milan?
An updated list, with the positioning of the buildings, can be consulted on a google map

We must always inform ourselves about the life needs of any animal we purchase, adopt or receive as a gift, to respect its needs and ours.

The water turtles, sold newborn and easy to manage, grow very quickly, sometimes making their maintenance difficult, especially in an apartment. Today turtles of the Trachemys genus (American pond turtle, also called red-eared or yellow-eared) are by law included among invasive species because they have been released into the wild by many citizens, mistakenly thinking of giving them a better life (often instead die), and now damage our natural ecosystems
(For further information, see below in Attachments the "Manual wild animals in the city", and the document). 

But what to do when you have great difficulty in continuing to keep the water turtle at home?

Certainly not abandon it in nature!

Evaluate all possible solutions, for yourself or between friends and relatives, in order to give continuity to the care you are providing, guaranteeing adequate life prospects.

If this is really impossible for you, contact the Municipality of Milan via email (SBQV.GaranteAnimali@comune.milano.it), indicating your name and surname, motivation, a clear photograph of the animal, dimensions and where you keep it.

Updated: 29/03/2023