Despite ever shrinking green space, the animals that share the Earth with us are trying to survive. Our homes, offices and shopping centers were developed on what was once forest and fields. Chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, possums, skunks, raccoons, ground hogs and deer are not the invaders. We are. Please remember this when these displaced animals forage for food on your property or try to find places to bear and rear their young.
With education and raised awareness, more and more people are choosing the enlightened and compassionate way to protect their homes and gardens from unwanted animal visitors. There are many humane alternatives to killing. Simple commonsense and prevention are the best forms of animal control.
Raccoons and possum are attracted by garbage. Keep all leftover food inside until the night before trash pick-up. Seal organic garbage in plastic bags (a good way to reuse sandwich or storage bags) and refrigerate or, better yet, freeze it. The less your garbage smells, the less likely it will attract an animal. Use trashcans, with locking lids, where allowed. Otherwise, use heavy-duty, tightly tied trash bags.
With so few places left to burrow or nest, raccoons, possums, skunks and ground hogs will look for safe haven wherever they can find it. They will seek out the weak spots around your home. Neglect invites these animals. A well maintained home does not.
Install lattice under porches and decks to block animals from nesting. Another option is stainless steel screening that can be sunk into the ground around the inhabited area. A one-way gate is installed that allows the animal to leave, but will not allow it to return. Only install this form of prevention when there are no babies in the nest.
Keep your garage or shed door tightly closed and repair broken boards at the bottom of cracks in the foundation.
Seal all openings under the roofline and cap your chimney. Do not do this if an animal has already entered. Wait until the animal has left to look for food. And be certain that there are no babies left behind. Do not use mothballs or ammonia to flush the animal out. You will kill the babies. A radio tuned to a talk show will sometimes disturb the mother enough to cause her to move out with her babies.
Your garden, whether it is a flower garden or you grow vegetables, will tempt any animal that forages for vegetation. There are a variety of repellants commercially available that claim to keep animals away. These range in cost and effectiveness. And there are recipes for homemade, foul smelling deterrents all over the Internet. The same commercial products used to repel cats and dogs often deter raccoons.
Another option is a mechanical device. Motion-activated sprinklers can be purchased that shoot a stream of water at an intruder, like a remote squirt gun. Loud or annoying sounds can also be set to go off like a security alarm, whenever movement is detected.
Polypropylene netting is sold to cover plants and keep deer and rabbits from eating them, but this netting can put other wildlife at risk. Small birds, toads and other animals could become trapped in the mesh. The netting is also very difficult to work with and expensive in large quantities.
By far the most effective “critter control” is fencing. A low voltage, electrified fence can be effective for all animals, but this option can be expensive. Chicken wire has served the purpose for years. A picket fence may be charming, but deer can jump those of average height. Decorative metal fencing looks good and should keep out all but the most intrepid deer. A low-tech method is simply a nylon string, stretched across your garden perimeter, chest-high. A deer will back off when it feels the tension.
Deer can be the most destructive of all the animals that come into your garden to forage. In addition to the measures above, you could simply plant as many deer resistant plants as possible. The following is a list of plants that deer will “rarely” damage or “seldom severely” damage. Ask your nursery expert or search online. You can find photos of beautiful plants that won’t tempt the creatures in your garden.