Pro­tect­ing your land­scape from wildlife dam­age

The Progress-Index - At Home - - News - BY MELINDA MY­ERS

They’re cute, they’re furry and they love to eat – your land­scape that is. If you are bat­tling with rab­bits, deer, ground­hogs or other wildlife, don’t give up. And if you are lucky enough to be wildlife­free at the mo­ment, be vig­i­lant and pre­pared to pre­vent dam­age be­fore th­ese beau­ti­ful crea­tures move into your land­scape to dine.

Any­one who has bat­tled wildlife knows the frus­tra­tion and dif­fi­culty in­volved in con­trol­ling them. Your best de­fense is a fence. A four foot high fence an­chored tightly to the ground will keep out rab­bits. Five foot high fences around small gar­den ar­eas will usu­ally keep out deer. They seem to avoid th­ese small con­fined spa­ces. The larger the area the more likely deer will en­ter. Wood­chucks are more dif­fi­cult. They will dig un­der or climb over the fence. You must place the fence at least 12” be­low the soil sur­face with 4 to 5 feet above the ground. Make sure gates are also se­cured from an­i­mals.

Some com­mu­ni­ties al­low elec­tric fences that pro­vide a slight shock to help keep deer out of the land­scape. An­other op­tion is the wire­less deer fence. The sys­tem uses plas­tic posts with wire tips charged by AA bat­ter­ies. The plas­tic tip is filled with a deer at­trac­tant. When the deer nuz­zles the tip it gets a light shock, en­cour­ag­ing it to move on to other feed­ing grounds.

Scare tac­tics have been used for many years. Mo­tion sen­si­tive sprin­klers, blow up owls, clang­ing pans and rub­ber snakes strate­gi­cally placed around a gar­den may help scare away un­wanted crit­ters. Un­for­tu­nately ur­ban an­i­mals are used to noise and may not be alarmed. Move and al­ter­nate the var­i­ous scare tac­tics for more ef­fec­tive con­trol. The an­i­mals won’t be afraid of an owl that hasn’t moved in two weeks.

Home­made and com­mer­cial re­pel­lents can also be used. Make sure they are safe to use on food crops if treat­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles. You’ll have the best re­sults if ap­plied be­fore the an­i­mals start feed­ing. It is eas­ier to pre­vent dam­age than break old feed­ing pat­terns. Look for nat­u­ral prod­ucts like those found in Messina Wildlife’s An­i­mal Stop­per line. They are made of herbs and smell good, so they re­pel an­i­mals with­out re­pelling you and your guests.

Live trap­ping can be in­hu­mane and should be a last op­tion. Ba­bies can be sep­a­rated from their par­ents, an­i­mals can be re­leased in un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, and trapped an­i­mals can suf­fer from heat and a lack of food and wa­ter. Plus, once you catch the an­i­mal, you need to find a place to re­lease it. The nearby parks, farms and forests al­ready have too many of their own an­i­mals and there­fore they don’t want yours.

The key to suc­cess is va­ri­ety, per­sis­tence, and adapt­abil­ity. Watch for an­i­mal tracks, drop­pings and other signs that in­di­cate wildlife have moved into your area. Ap­ply re­pel­lents and in­stall scare tac­tics and fenc­ing be­fore the an­i­mals be­gin feed­ing. Try a com­bina- tion of tac­tics, con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tor for dam­age and make changes as needed. And when you feel dis­cour­aged, re­mem­ber that gar­den­ers have been bat­tling an­i­mals in the gar­den long be­fore us.

Gar­den­ing ex­pert, TV/ra­dio host, author & colum­nist Melinda My­ers has more than 30 years of hor­ti­cul­ture ex­pe­ri­ence and has writ­ten over 20 gar­den­ing books, in­clud­ing Can’t Miss Small Space Gar­den­ing. She hosts the na­tion­ally syn­di­cated Melinda’s Gar­den Mo­ment TV and ra­dio seg­ments and is a colum­nist and con­tribut­ing edi­tor for Birds & Blooms mag­a­zine. My­ers’ web site, www.melin­damy­ers.com, fea­tures gar­den­ing videos, gar­den­ing tips, podcasts, and more.

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If you are bat­tling with rab­bits, don’t give up. A four foot high fence an­chored tightly to the ground will keep out rab­bits.

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