Wildlife Control at Home
Control Wildlife Damage Around the Home With Common Sense
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
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 Problem
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 damage
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 assistance.
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
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 even
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
Squirrels and Other Rodents
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 stones.
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
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 urban areas. Raccoons will also readily
inhabit attics, chimneys, and sheds. Use metal flashing and
1-inch-mesh hardware cloth to block entrances.
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 control company.
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 Bears
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,
nightlight's, 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 with.