When you think about sharing your home, people and pets come to mind. However, we also share our outdoor spaces with a variety of wildlife, including raccoons, armadillos, opossums, moles, voles, squirrels and chipmunks. Occasionally this wildlife interrupts our enjoyment of human habitats — spilling trash cans, clashing with pets, and even damaging our lawns. Here are some easy tips to minimize critter conflict.
Remove Pet Food
Raccoons, opossums, squirrels and many other animals are highly attracted to pet food. If you feed pets outdoors, offer food once or twice a day and remove any leftover food as soon as they finish. Squirrels are persistent and have been known to chew through heavy plastic bins, so if you store food outside, choose metal containers with tightly fitting lids.
Secure the Trash
Food waste in trash cans also invites unwanted wildlife visits. Raccoons can be particularly difficult to discourage and incredibly ingenious at finding ways into the trash, especially once they’ve enjoyed a meal in a particular location.
Purchase a locking mechanism online or from a home improvement store to keep can lids secure. And if your cans routinely get knocked over, you may need to strap them to a fence or pole to keep them upright.
Spruce Up the Landscape
Small critters love to nest under shrubbery, burrow in heavy mulch and take up residence in tall grass or brush piles. To discourage them, trim the branches of shrubs up several inches from the ground, keep grass mowed and promptly remove brush piles. Also, avoid over-mulching, especially near the house or at the base of plants
Remove Unintended Habitats
To an animal, empty flower pots, rarely used vehicles, stacked wood, spaces under decks or sheds and even downspouts or dryer vents all look like safe havens. Move unused or rarely used items into the shed or garage, enclose areas under decks and sheds with lattice or wire mesh, and cover downspouts, dryer vents and foundation vents with screening.
Don’t Assume the Worst
Just because you see wildlife in your yard, doesn’t mean you have a problem. Opossums, for example, rarely cause damage and can even be beneficial. America’s only marsupial, they are typically non-aggressive and rarely spread disease. In fact, opossums actually prevent disease by eating ticks, roaches, rats, mice, and snakes—even venomous species.
Armadillos may cause damage by digging in lawns, but they also eat pests they find there, like fire ants, termites, grubs, roaches and scorpions. Unless the digging in your lawn is extensive, you may want to make peace with these armored critters.
Hire a Pro
If you’ve taken all the right steps to discourage unwanted wildlife and still encounter problems, don’t resort to traps or poison. Trapping can be dangerous and is illegal in many places. Poison can be consumed accidentally by pets. Also, birds of prey, cats and other animals can be killed by eating poisoned rodents.
Instead, call animal control or a wildlife removal company. A quick Internet search will connect you to professionals who will safely remove the unwanted wildlife from your property.