Wildlife Control at Home
Control Wildlife Damage Around the Home
With Common Sense Control Methods
Whether you are a home gardener, enjoy landscaping
around your home or just own your own home, there are times when certain species
of wildlife can become a nuisance or a pest and cause damage to
plants and even economic losses. Wildlife damage problems can occur throughout
the year, but the fall and winter months are times when food supplies and cover
may become more limited for many wildlife species, causing them to find your
home or landscape an attractive place to call home. Solving wildlife damage
problems may seem out of your control - but most often, you have more control
over the problem than you think. It might not be easy - but if you think through
the problem and put forth some effort - you can often cut your losses and maybe
even eliminate them.
Many different species of wildlife can become a
nuisance and cause problems under certain conditions. Raccoons, skunks, snakes,
woodchucks and other rodents such as moles, house mice, and tree squirrels can
often cause problems. In addition, whitetail deer populations have increased to
the point in many urban environments where they are becoming a nuisance by
browsing on landscape plantings. Other problem wildlife can include starlings,
pigeons, sparrows, or the nuisance woodpecker damaging the wood siding on your
home, just to name a few.
Think Through the
People experiencing a problem caused by critters
usually want an easy, quick solution and often ask "Is there something I can
spray to get rid of this pest?" It is never quite that easy. Preventing and
controlling wildlife damage requires a thought process and often includes using
integrated pest management techniques. A successful wildlife damage program
often makes use of a combination of control options and usually begins with an
accurate assessment of the damage and identification of the desired outcome.
Wildlife damage management is the opposite of managing property to attract
wildlife. To manage for wildlife, you must make sure that animals have
sufficient food, water, and cover throughout the year. If you have unwanted
animals around your home, it is a sure bet that there is food, water and cover
in the area. The solution is to remove at least one of these elements - and if
you can remove two, it’s even better.
Try this sequence in thinking through a wildlife
- Identify the wildlife species causing the problem.
This is the most important step. Correctly identifying the species of wildlife
causing damage may seem simple, but it can be challenging under certain
circumstances. Learn about the life history and habitat requirements for the
wildlife species that may be a potential problem in your area.
- Are there cultural techniques which you could use to
modify the habitat and reduce the chances of having a wild life damage problem?
For instance, there may be certain plants which could be used in your home
landscape that might not be an attractive food source for deer. Would more
frequent mowing or herbicide use reduce the amount of weedy cover needed for a
build up of rodent populations?
- Is there some way you can keep the animal causing
damage from getting into the site?
- If you can’t build them out, can you repel them from
the area? Sometimes you can use chemical, home-made, visual or sound repellents
to solve and control a problem.
- If you can’t put up an effective barrier or repel
the animals from the problem site, the last step may involve removing from the
area the animals that are causing the damage. It may be necessary to trap,
shoot, use gas cartridges in dens, or use poison baits to control a wildlife
damage problem. Of course, when considering these alternatives for controlling
most wildlife species you should check with a Conservation Agent or local animal
damage control agent to get approval. Often these persons will also provide some
- Remember that no entire species of wild animal is a
nuisance or pest all the time. The trick is to deal only with the animal(s)
causing damage, not try to eradicate the entire population.
- A final consideration: Is it worth the effort? It
takes quite a bit of time and money to solve and control a wildlife damage
problem. Can you tolerate some damage or losses caused by wildlife? Remember the
aesthetic benefits derived from viewing wildlife and the importance of managing
habitats for those wildlife species you wish to attract to your property. Ask
yourself if the economic loss is greater than the control cost. If it is, then
it is worthwhile to develop and implement a wildlife damage control program.
Living With Wildlife
Wild animals contribute to our enjoyment of nature
and outdoor recreation, but they can also damage property, agriculture, and
natural resources and threaten human health and safety. Equipped with the right
information and tools, most homeowners can solve their own problems and learn to
live with wildlife. For example, trimming trees and shrubbery are ways of
changing a habitat to make it less attractive to unwanted flocks of birds or
The following information may assist in keeping
that curious raccoon out of the garbage can, that persistent rabbit or deer out
of the garden, that goose or duck out of the backyard pool, that woodpecker off
the siding, and that swooping bat out of the attic. Caution should always be
taken to avoid overly aggressive animals.
Squirrels and Other
To keep these animals from becoming a permanent
part of the family home and yard, screens, vents, and fan openings; keep doors
and windows in good repair; tighten eaves; replace rotten boards; cap the
chimney; trim overhanging trees; remove bird feeders or use squirrel-proof
feeders; and remove acorns and other nuts from the yard. Chipmunks can be
deterred by removing denning habitat, which includes logs, rock walls, and
These animals, also known as groundhogs, sometimes
burrow near buildings, browse in gardens, and damage fruit trees and ornamental
shrubs. Fencing can help reduce woodchuck damage. The lower edge of the fence
should be buried at least 10 inches in the ground to prevent burrowing. The
fence should be 3 to 4 feet high, with a surrounding electric hot-shot wire
placed 4 to 5 inches off the ground.
Opossums and Skunks
Opossums and skunks become a problem to homeowners
by raiding garbage cans and bird feeders; eating pet foods; and living under
porches, low decks, open sheds, and any other areas that provide shelter. Skunks
also dig holes in lawns, golf courses, and gardens. Both animals sometimes kill
poultry and eat eggs. To keep opossums and skunks from denning under buildings,
seal off all foundation openings with wire mesh, sheet metal, or concrete.
Chicken coops can be protected by sealing all ground-level openings into the
buildings and by closing the doors at night. Foraging in garbage cans may be
eliminated by providing tight?-fitting lids and straps.
Bats prefer to avoid human contact; however, they
are known to establish roosts in attics and abandoned buildings. Building and
attic roosts can be eliminated by sealing entry and exit holes (after the bats
have left) with such materials as 1/4-inch hardware cloth, caulking, or wire
mesh. If a bat makes its way into the house, you can usually encourage it to
leave after dark by turning on lights and opening windows and doors.
Rabbits can be kept out of the garden or away from
ornamental plants and small trees by using products containing repellents such
as Hinder or by placing a 2-foot poultry fence around the area. It is important
to bury the fence at least 6 inches beneath the surface of the ground. For
information about taste repellents, check your local garden or farm center.
Before using any chemical repellents, read the label carefully and check with
your State pesticide regulatory agency for application guidelines.
Raccoons are attracted to easy food sources, like
garden produce, garbage, and pet food. To help prevent scavenging, use metal
trash cans that are fastened to a pole or to another solid object. A strap or
latch that secures the lid of the garbage can is also helpful. To keep raccoons
out of the garden, use two strands of electric livestock fence. The strands
should be placed 4 and 8 inches respectively off the ground and surround the
entire garden. Exercise caution when implementing this exclusionary method in
Raccoons will also readily inhabit attics,
chimneys, and sheds. Use metal flashing and 1-inch-mesh hardware cloth to block
The best way to keep snakes out of your house and
yard is to seal cracks and openings around doors, windows, water pipes, attics,
and foundations. Removing logs, woodpiles, and high grass and controlling
insects and rodents are also helpful. Remove nonpoisonous snakes from inside
buildings by placing piles of damp burlap bags in areas where snakes have been
seen. After the snakes have curled up beneath the bags, remove the bags and
snakes from the building. To remove dangerous snakes, call a professional pest
These birds damage buildings by drilling holes into
wooden siding, eaves, or trim boards, especially those made of cedar or redwood.
If the pecking creates a suitable cavity, the bird may use it for nesting.
Effective methods of excluding woodpeckers include placing lightweight mesh
nylon or plastic netting on the wooden siding beneath the eaves, covering pecked
areas with metal sheathing, and using visual repellents like "eye-spot"
Deer feed on row crops, vegetables, fruit trees,
nursery stock, stacked hay, and ornamental plants and trees. Deer can be
discouraged by removing supplemental food sources and by using scare devices and
repellents. The only sure way to eliminate deer damage is to fence the deer out.
A wire-mesh fence is effective if it is solidly constructed and at least 8 feet
high. Electric fencing also helps reduce damage.
Coyotes and Foxes
These animals may carry rabies and sometimes prey
on domestic pets, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, young pigs, and lambs.
Coyotes also kill calves, goats, and deer. Net-wire and electric fencing will
help exclude foxes and coyotes; however, because they are good climbers, a roof
of net wire on livestock pens may also be necessary. For more information about
fencing, contact your local county extension office.
The protection of livestock and poultry is most
important during the spring denning period. Foxes and coyotes will often den
close to farm buildings, under haystacks, or inside hog lots or small pastures
used for lambing. Shed lambing and farrowing in protected enclosures can be
useful in preventing predation on young livestock. Additionally, noise- and
light-making devices, such as the Electronic Guard, may keep these predators
away. Guarding dogs are also useful in preventing predation on sheep.
Regrettably, dispersal methods are not effective in all situations, so other
methods, including trapping or snaring, may have to be used.
Mountain Lions and
As bear and lion habitats continue to decrease,
interactions between these animals and humans continue to increase. Bears are
noted for destroying cornfields and trees, scavenging in garbage cans,
demolishing the interiors of cabins and campers, and killing livestock. Lions
are serious predators of sheep, goats, domestic pets, large livestock, poultry,
bighorn sheep, and deer. Typical bear and lion predation on sheep leaves 10 or
more killed in a single attack, and both species are known to attack
Prevention is the best method of controlling bear
and lion damage. Heavy woven and electric fencing can effectively deter bears
and lions from attacking livestock and damaging property. Loud music, barking
dogs, exploder cannons, fireworks, gunfire, nightlights, scarecrows, and changes
in the position of objects in the depredation area often provide temporary
relief. The best way to protect pets is to keep them inside an enclosed kennel
or shelter. Using guarding dogs, removing garbage and dead carcasses, and
placing crops and beehives at considerable distances away from timber and brush
may reduce damage by bears. Mountain lions also prefer to hunt where escape
cover is close by; removal of brush and trees within a quarter of a mile of
buildings and livestock may reduce lion predation.
Professional relocation of damaging mountain lions
and bears is sometimes necessary. For more information about State laws and
regulations concerning relocation or lethal control of mountain lions and bears,
contact your State wildlife agency.
Remember, think through your problem before
attempting to invest in a control program. What is the easiest, cheapest, most
practical way to control the problem? What will be the least hazardous to pets,
people, and non-target wildlife? Are you losing enough money to justify a
control expense? Your goal should be to reduce damage to a level you can live