I got a call this week from a couple that had just built their home in the country and loved seeing the deer each morning but were upset about the deer eating their newly planted azaleas. Then there was the gentleman that lives in Crown Colony who was frustrated about the armadillo that was tearing up his wife’s flower beds. And, more recently, my friend Joe was also concerned about an armadillo that had taken up residence under the slab of his house.
Now, deer frequently eat the leaves and stems of azaleas. Armadillos feed on the earthworms we prize so highly in our flower beds. Those same armadillo burrows into the ground for shelter, and (in the armadillo’s opinion) underneath your home’s slab is a great location. Our carefully planned, irrigated, and tended landscapes are often a magnet to critters seeking food, water, and shelter.
There is an often-used term in academic circles called the “Urban Wildlife Interface” that chronicles the, often problematic, interactions between resident and wildlife, even when these urban residents don’t live outside a city. You name the animal and I’m sure the interaction has occurred and then occurred much further inside a “city” than some would expect.
I would fail to list all the wildlife that can affect your home and landscape. I often suggest that homeowners purchase a game camera at their local outdoor store and set it up outside. You’ll find out what is getting into your garbage, digging in your flower beds, or simply running across the yard late at night.
It was a simple game camera that let my parents discover what was emptying their bird feeder which was hanging off an eave outside the kitchen window. The culprit was a raccoon that jumped onto the roof from a tree trunk on the opposite end of the house, made his way across the entire roof, shimmied down the hanging feeder, then gorged himself before dropping to the ground and scampering away.
Management of wildlife to limit negative interactions can be accomplished with a number of methods. Start by using plants in your landscaping that are not desired by deer. A simple internet search will give you plenty of options. Use “deer proof landscaping” in your online search and you’ll find lots of suggestions.
Another tactic against nuisance wildlife is exclusion. Fences without gaps at the bottom and with gates that latch correctly will be a tremendous deterrent. Bats cannot get into attics that are properly sealed up. Trash cans with lids securely on will deter small animals getting in them. While deer can easily jump a typical fence height, hogs can often be kept out with a well-maintained field-fence or, if the budget allows, welded wire hog panels.
Learn what repellants work best in your area. While there is some debate about the effectiveness of repellants, consider trying spicy seasonings or oils that are irritating or offensive to the targeted pest. Products frequently contain castor oil, and many folks use cayenne pepper as well. These may work for a time, but re-application is often necessary as rain or irrigation can wash them away.
Know how to use a box trap for small animals such as raccoons, opossums, armadillos, and others. Get your own or share with neighbors. Living in our part of the world, we are close to national forest land where releasing wildlife makes perfect sense. If you don’t have a place to take them to or simply wish to dispatch them, be sure to follow your state’s game laws for nuisance wildlife.
My parents borrowed a neighbor’s box trap and baited it with marshmallows to catch that varmint. It only took two attempts and they had trapped their very own raccoon. That same neighbor who lent them the trap took it away. I’m not sure what became of that raccoon, but it was never seen in the neighborhood again.
Mom and dad kept checking the game camera and saw the neighbors’ cats and dogs, as well as one cool picture of a fox. But what they never saw again was a roof-climbing, bird-feeder shimmying racoon.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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