Wildlife Friends and Foes

Wildlife Friends and Foes

Living in the Pocono Mountains is a dream come true for many of us, young and old, new to the area, or born here. The area is rich with beautiful views, forests, streams, and wildlife. Deer, rabbits, birds, bears, and others are abundant in our region like few others. As appreciative as I am of the creatures with which I share my yard, I also understand how difficult a few individuals can be. Wildlife can become a nuisance and even a danger under certain circumstances and the beginning of Spring brings the majority of problems for homeowners and wildlife. A little understanding can go a long way in preventing some problems while resolving others, allowing for an improved relationship with wildlife.

First, remember that the animals were here before we were. They do not understand, nor need to understand our concept of “property”. Animals live where all their needs are met including access, food, water, shelter, and privacy. Examples of some of these places can include inside your chimney, attic, garage, or under your deck or shed. Animals should never be allowed entry to chimneys, garages or attics. Some can present a danger to wiring (and cause a fire), or damage the home, as well as serving as a possible vector of disease to humans. Creatures living under a deck or shed may be acceptable, in which case, no action needs to be taken.

Preventing wildlife entry into a home

The first line of defense against wildlife home invasion is to inspect the outside of the house each and every year, preferably in the autumn. Every gap or hole that can be found in roof, soffets, eaves, and foundation should be filled. Look for signs, such as teeth or claw marks to determine if entry has been made. Any cracks or small holes should be filled to prevent animals from enlarging them to gain entry. If the residence has an attic, go inside during a bright sunny day and cover any windows with very dark paper or towels. Look for any spots where you can see light and seal these with expanding foam or steel wool. Do this ONLY if the residence is not currently inhabited by bats or other wildlife. Be sure the dryer vent has a cover that opens only when the dryer is in use. The chimney should have a secure-fitting metal cap, which can be purchased at any hardware store.

If animals are not currently living under the deck or shed, and are not welcome, dig a trench around the shed or deck and staple wire fencing to the deck down to the ground. Bend the fencing to make an “L” shape outward from the ground away from the deck so that digging creatures cannot enter, and cover this with soil.

Be sure all trees have been trimmed back away from the house to prevent squirrels and raccoons from climbing onto the roof and gaining entry.

Removing animals from a home

It was stated before that all animals need food, water, shelter, and privacy/safety. Removing any of these should make the place they have chosen less comfortable and they should leave. My favorite means of removing wildlife is to reduce their perception of privacy. Light and sound make an area uncomfortable for animals. Simply turning a light on and placing a radio (preferably set on a hard rock or rap station) in an attic or under a crawl space will deter most creatures and make them find more suitable quarters. Be sure if you are sticking your arms under a crawlspace with a light or radio that the creature is not in residence at that moment. How do we be sure no one is home? Simply find the spot where the creature has gained entry and sprinkle some flour around the area. Check the spot frequently and when you see tracks leading out, but not back in, the critter is probably out getting dinner. Use a flashlight to check the area first, and then place the radio and/or light under the crawlspace or shed. The volume need not be loud enough for you to hear or to cause your neighbors to call the police! If placing the radio or light in the attic, you need not check to see if anyone is there. Simply make enough noise while entering the attic that the creature hides or leaves from the sudden noise, then set the devices.

Food is another reason animals enter houses. Keep all garbage in sealed garbage cans. If you have a garage, this is where cans should be kept until trash day. Leaving garbage outside the house only lures raccoons, bears and opossums to the yard.

One more idea that seems to drive unwanted creatures from attics, crawlspaces, and gardens is predator urine. Placing just a TINY amount of fox or coyote urine (available at Gemplers.com or local sporting good stores) in a jar lid with a cotton ball will fool the squirrel, groundhog, rabbit or raccoon into thinking a predator is near, and they may skedaddle. Not expensive, but don’t inhale too deeply. This stuff is POTENT.

Live trapping is a commonly performed method of wildlife removal. Humane traps can be purchased or rented from many hardware stores. The positive side of live-trapping is that the animal is captured alive, but if taken far away from its home, it may perish in its new location from competition with “the locals”. If live trapping, please catch the animal, seal the spot where entry was made, and release the creature outside your home.

Also, be sure you are not leaving behind babies that will perish without their mother.

On our side

Wildlife can be beneficial to have on one’s property. My opinion is- anything that eats bugs or mice is okay by me. Bats can eat their own weight in mosquitoes each and every night. That’s a wonderful thing considering that mosquitoes can harbor illnesses such as West Nile Virus. Skunks can decimate populations of grubs destroying your lawn, and one of their favorite foods is the Yellow Jacket. Entire nests of these ground-dwelling pain inflictors can be dug up and consumed by a hungry skunk, much in the way I dig into a fresh pint of Ben and Jerry’s.

Raccoons, opossums, hawks and owls make short work of the mice you are feeding at your bird feeder while you sleep. Snakes also reduce rodent populations, and venomous snakes are not common in the Poconos.

*Note: I will be offering a course called “Preventing and Reducing Conflict with Wildlife for the Pocono Homeowner” on March 5th, 12th and 19th at Monroe Career and Technical Institute. If you’d like to participate, call 570-629-2001 ext 1125 and ask about class 0908.

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