Wild animals contribute to our enjoyment of nature and outdoor recreation, but they can also damage property and threaten human health and safety.
And in the U.P. wildlife is no rare sight. Larger animals like deer and raccoons are well known for scavenging gardens and garbage cans during the summer, while small rodents like mice and voles tend to enter homes in fall and winter. As beautiful as animals can be in their own habitats, no one wants to share their yards and homes with wild animals.
The good news is most homeowners can take steps to reduce the number of pests in or near their home before calling a pest control specialist. For example, trimming trees and shrubbery are ways of changing a habitat to make it less attractive to unwanted flocks of birds or even snakes.
Here are some ways to make your property less inviting to various wildlife:
Squirrels and Other Rodents
To keep squirrels, mice, and other rodents from making their home in your house and yard:
- use screens on 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
- remove acorns and other nuts from the yard
Chipmunks can be deterred by removing denning habitat, which includes logs, rock walls, and stones.
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.
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.
Rabbits can be kept out of the garden and away from ornamental plants and small trees by using products containing repellents 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 farm and garden center.
Deer are considered one of the worst garden pests by most homeowners in the Upper Peninsula. They 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.
As annoying as pests can be, it’s important to understand that this is their home, too. While it is possible to reduce, and in some cases eliminate certain pest problems, you may have a hard time trying to rid your garden of every rabbit or deer. Think through your problem before attempting to invest in a pest 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? Your friends and neighbors may be having the exact same problems – what works for them?
You can find the original version of this article, written by Nick Gromicko, on the InterNACHI website here.