Have you been hearing the patter of little feet? Are your walls emitting scratching noises? What about some peeping sounds? You may be experiencing “close encounters” of the wildlife kind. With almost 80 percent of the U.S. population living in urban or suburban areas, the average person is likely to encounter wildlife in their backyard or even in or around their house. Most people do not mind, and even enjoy having wildlife in their backyards; however, conflicts between wildlife and people do happen.
While prevention is the best solution to almost any wildlife conflict there are some simple, effective, and humane strategies to resolve common conflicts with your wild neighbors.
Click for specific wildlife solutions:
Early in the spring is the best time to “encounter-proof” your house. It is important to do this before the wild creatures begin to have babies so you do not trap either the mothers or their young. Follow the links above for information specific to your problem areas. When it is time for one of your wild neighbors to find a new home, the following suggestions are simple and humane ways to handle the situation.
Although many people do not mind, and even enjoy, wildlife in their backyards, wildlife can sometimes make themselves a little too “at home.” Here are some helpful hints on how to get critters to move on.If you know where the animal is nesting, place an ammonia soaked rag in or near the area where the animal is entering and exiting. Soak rags every day to keep them smelling strong or place them in a cup to maintain their dampness. Ammonia mimics predator urine which can be intimidating especially for small mammals. You should not use ammonia or other scent deterrents for birds, they will be ineffective.
Play a radio by their home. Talk radio stations tend to work the best because it makes the animal feel as though there are people around when they may otherwise not be. Animals like it quiet especially when they have young, so this a a great way to get them to move on. Keep in mind the species you are dealing with as to the times you should have the radio on; is the animal primarily nocturnal or are they daytime animals?
Place a portable light near or shining into their home. Animals prefer the cover of darkness when they are hiding or nesting. This technique is most effective for primarily nocturnal animals.
Unless they have young in a nest, animals will only stay in one place for a period of time if they feel comfortable doing so. Consider unique ways to make their world seem different. For example, for animals that spend time on the ground place whirly-gigs, yard flags or pinwheels near areas you would like them to avoid. For animals spending time in trees, tie strips of Mylar or streamers in the branches that will flap and flutter in the breeze and startle the animal.
Any other obstacles, detours or annoyances that you can incorporate into your landscape, especially those that limit the access animals have to the things they want, will help to convince them that they need to find a new territory.
If the animal is in your attic, shed, or other enclosed space you can also use, as a last resort, a one-way-door. Before deciding on this option you must be sure that there are no young present or that the young are old enough to escape on their own to prevent from being trapped inside. To install, cut a piece of hardware mesh larger than the hole with a hole cut into its center matching what is underneath. Cut another piece slightly larger than the hole and attach it to the outside with wire loops on half the door. This will allow any animal within that space to squeeze out the flap as though it were a doggy door, but if it is tight enough they will be unable to push their way back in when they return.
Remember that these methods always work best if used simultaneously with each other.
Other than specific problem areas and solutions, there are some general areas of access and attraction for mammals and birds. Remember, the goal is always to keep these solutions safe and harmless for you, your pets, and the wildlife.Brush, debris, and trees that are close to a house are strong attractions for wildlife to gain entry to your house or to set up nests in your yard. Trim branches that offer squirrels and raccoons a launching pad to the house. Put debris and brush piles as far from your house as possible.
Food sources are a huge attraction. If you feed your pets outside, remove the food and dishes after your pet has eaten. Keep garbage cans in the garage and keep the garage door/s closed at all times. If you must keep garbage cans outside, fasten the lids securely with chain or bungee cords and douse them periodically with ammonia (a good deterrent for all wildlife). Compost piles make tasty grazing for many different kinds of wildlife. Screen the perimeter or place screening over the pile of compost.
Any mammal or bird can take up residence in an attic, but most likely you find squirrels, raccoons, birds, and possibly bats. Bats are able to get through extremely small apertures such as louvered vents, loose screening, roof peaks, dormer windows, or areas where flashing has pulled away from rooflines or siding. All of these areas can offer openings for wildlife occupancy.Solutions: Screening over louvers, vents, and other openings can be a big deterrent. Also, caulking compound and expanding foam insulation will fill the very small cracks. Remember, bat are great insect controllers so put up a bat house.
Dryer vents are particularly attractive to small mammals like chipmunks or to small birds. Often they will climb in and get trapped.Solution: Cover the opening of the vent with wire mesh hardware cloth.
Raccoons, opossums, and even birds can build nests for young in boats that have been stored for the winter. Tarpaulins can blow off. It only takes a small opening for wildlife to move in and set up a nursery.Solutions: Check boats regularly, especially those boats in storage, before they are moved to a garage or driveway. If a mother has had young in the boat and the boat has been outside, it is better to put the family safe in the wild rather than move them in the boat.
Birds, raccoons, squirrels and bats can nest in chimney areas. Birds often can get in, but can not get out.Solutions: Inexpensive screen or hardware netting can be used to cover or cap off top of a chimney. The best solution is a chimney cap. They are readily available at home supply stores. Please remember to remove all nest debris from the chimney before capping to prevent a possible fire hazard. Companies that clean chimneys will also install caps.
The space under raised porches and decks is an attractive spot for various animals to take up residence.Solution: The best way to keep animals out is to cover any openings with mesh hardware cloth or wood slating. To prevent digging animals from breaching your barrier, bury the barrier a foot into the ground.
Raccoons, squirrels, and songbirds love to set up house in your overhangs.Solution: Keep your soffits and facia in good repair. Watch for trees or overhanging branches that might provide the initial access. Wrap your trees near the house with sheet metal about five feet off the ground. To keep birds from nesting under your overhangs hang strips of shinny paper or caution tape to keep them from setting up house.
Uncovered window wells can be a danger for animals that may fall in and be unable to get out.Solution: Cover your window wells with either commercial plastic covers or with hardware cloth or homemade grates. If an animal has fallen into your window well provide a ramp like a board so the animal can climb out.
Often birds mistake windows for open areas to fly through. The result is often a traumatic collision.Solution: Purchase from window clings that come in a variety of fun shapes and colors. They simply stick to your window and break up the clear, reflective surface. Also a fine plastic mesh can be purchased at many birding supply stores that can be stapled to the outside of the window to soften a potential collision.
Birds will often build nests in a variety of places including in your front porch flower basket or on top of your mail box. Any flat surface of your home is a potential spot for the nest building process to take place.Solution: The best prevention is to change the surface from flat to elevated. A 45 degree angle or more works best. Simply attach a piece of hardware cloth or sheet metal to the potential site.
My Garden is Gone
Deer, rabbits, and woodchucks often see our yards as tasty buffet lines. So what do you do? Start by playing detective. When browsing, deer leave plants with ragged, torn ends, while rabbits and woodchuck leave clean angular cuts.
Fencing is the most effective solution. For deer the fence must be at least six feet high with openings no greater than four inches wide. For rabbits and woodchucks wire supported by a post every six feet is sufficient. The fence should be two feet high and be either buried under the soil six to eight inches or be firmly staked to the ground.
Incorporating plants into your garden, particularly around the garden edge, that have evolved mechanisms to deter browsing are also a good option. Black-eyed Susan, Daffodil, Iris, Chives, Hyacinth, Sage, Thyme, Lavender, Maple, Juniper, Blue Spruce and Holly are all good choices.
There are a variety of home-made and commercial repellents such as that are successful at preventing browsing. Rockland’s Hinder is especially formulated for deer and is available at hardware stores and nurseries. Repellents work by either giving off an offensive odor or by making plants unpalatable. Use them when browsing first appears.
Visual deterrents such as lights on a timed systems or Mylar tape strung on bushes and trees can be effective on deterring all three species from tasting your plants. However, to maintain their effectiveness combine them with other hazing techniques.
Some easy-to-prepare deterrent solutions that are safe for plants and animals are effective for all kinds of wildlife:1 whole Spanish onion
1 jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 ounzes chopped garlic
2 qts water
Chop onion and jalepeno. Add cayenne and garlic; boil in water 20 minutes. Cool and strain through cheesecloth. Use solution in garden sprayer on foundations, garden perimeters, garages, and garbage cans. More than one application may be necessary.
Another safe and easy way to deter deer and other wildlife is to soak strips of sheeting or old rags in hot pepper solution and tying the soaked strips to trees, shrubs, and bushes that wildlife find tasty.
Problems with Waterfowl
Golf courses, parks, and private lawns have three things in common, they are popular people places, they have lush green grass, and lots of waterfowl! While we may enjoy a day at the park watching the ducks and geese we don’t enjoy the mess they leave behind.
Geese and many ducks require large areas of short vegetation and love grass shoots and open shorelines making your yard or beach a favorite place to nest and feed. Make your space less desirable by letting grass grow longer, by planting wildflowers, adding rocks or shoreline bushes, and turning pond aerators off early in the fall to discourage over wintering.
Fences made of string or chicken wire placed one to two feet off the ground is an effective deterrent for ducks and geese. Mylar tape attached to wooden stakes placed three 3 inches apart is also effective. Make sure the slates are at least twenty-five inches in height. If waterfowl has taken a liking to your swimming pool leave the pool toys to float on the water as a scare devises. Fences and scare devises are most effective if used early in the spring before nesting season.
For geese a commercial repellent called Rejex-it is available. The product contains a biodegradable food ingredient called methyl anthranilate. It makes vegetationunpalatable for geese.
To Trap or Not to Trap
Live trapping and relocating can be used to move an animal, however chances of survival are not very good once the animal is relocated. Here is a few pointers to keep in mind before deciding to trap and relocate an animal:Never relocate an animal during spring since they often have babies that are dependant on them for survival.
In the cold winter months relocated animals face harsh weather conditions and scare resources. Survival of winter relocated animals is very low.
Permission is needed by a landowner before an animal can be released on the land even in the case of state, county, or national forest or park land.
Traps should be checked a few times a day. Leaving an animal in a trap for an extended period of time is inhumane.
Following some or all of these suggestions can offer protection for our homes and environs as well as for wildlife. We all need to work in a safe way to “avoid encounters of the wildlife kind” and prevention is the key. Remember, we are supposed to be smarter than they are!
Call the Wildlife In Need Center at (262) 965-3090 with any questions or particular problems or check out www.wildneighbors.org for more helpful information.