Sharing Our World with Wildlife
In Stafford we share our environment with an abundance of wildlife, catching glimpses of opossums, turtles, deer, birds, even snakes. Watching the progress of just-hatched robins or a fox and her kits play in the sun is exciting and educational. There’s no need to fear wildlife. If you don’t bother them, they generally won’t bother you.
Wild animals seem to be very bold these days, but this is because their territories are shrinking. Wooded areas where wildlife resides are being destroyed to make way for human expansion. As a result, animals are being forced out into the open to search for food and lodging.
The goal is to offer you effective ways to coexist harmoniously with our non-human neighbors. Understanding wild creatures’ habits and behavior will go a long way in reducing conflict between animals and humans.
(See also, the Virginia DWR website for additional information)
How to Prevent Wildlife from Moving In
Animals have territories, and they make regular rounds looking for an easy meal and ready-made housing. Their territories often include your yard, fishpond, house, garage, and shed. Conflicts between people and wildlife can usually be resolved without harm to either.
An Ounce of Prevention
Prevention and exclusionary tactics are the cheapest, most practical and most long-lasting solutions. By making your environment as unattractive to wildlife as possible, they will quickly move on. Take these preventative steps before you have a problem.
No free lunch.
Don’t feed wild animals. They will come to rely on you instead of their own wits for food and will return regularly for handouts, along with all their friends and family. Wild animals are not pets; even babies can be dangerous if you get too close to them. Wild mammals can carry rabies which can be passed to you or your pet through bites or saliva.
Don’t feed pets outdoors. Food left outside is an invitation to other animals and insects. Food left out for stray cats will also attract other animals, so we advise against it. If you need help with a stray cat, call animal control.
Don’t feed the birds. They are lovely to look at, but birdseed attracts squirrels, rats and other hungry animals as well. Birds really only need our help during harsh, icy winters, but if you do maintain your feeder all year round, take steps to make sure only birds have access to it.
Install the feeder on top of a tall metal pole away from tree branches, fences or roofs. It should also have a large, saucer-type structure directly under it to prevent seed from spilling on the ground.
Place trash-filled bags inside metal or plastic garbage cans and secure the lids tightly with rope, chains or bungee cords. Keep the cans inside a shed or anchor them so they can’t be knocked over. Ammonia-soaked rags or a generous sprinkling of cayenne pepper inside the can will also make it unappetizing to wildlife.
Play “Keep Away”
You know how awful ammonia smells. Well, animals hate that smell as much as we do. Household ammonia is a very effective tool for keeping critters away. Soak rags in ammonia and place them around the edges of your yard or garden, under your deck, porch, crawl space or wherever animals have been giving you trouble. Small dishes filled with ammonia and gravel can be sunk in the ground around fishponds for an aesthetic solution to raccoon raids. Refresh the ammonia every few days until you are sure the animals have moved on. Mothballs may also work.
Cayenne pepper is good for keeping animals out of gardens and garbage cans. It irritates animal noses, mouths and paws, sending the message that they are not welcome. Check with a plant nursery for other non-toxic commercial repellents.
Noise-makers like wind chimes or pie plates strung together can help keep birds and animals out of gardens. (Your neighbors may object, so you may not be able to use this method.) Scarecrows and inflatable owls sometimes work as well.
Patch Things Up
Making preventative repairs will keep wildlife from becoming boarders in your home.
Using 1/4″ hardware cloth, screen all exterior access to buildings, including attic fans, dryer vents, ventilation grates, window wells, crawl spaces and areas around soffits and rain gutters. Check the foundation and eaves for cracks or holes; openings larger than 1/4″ should be blocked or screened because there are some animals such as mice or snakes that can actually squeeze through them.
Cap your chimney, but before you do listen carefully for any scratching or chirping to make sure the chimney is empty. If you think the chimney might be occupied, see the eviction section for tips on removing unwanted tenants.
Replace or board up broken windows.
Prune tree branches away from roofs. This makes it difficult for squirrels and raccoons to reach your attic. Trimming vegetation away from foundations can prevent mice and other small creatures from making homes in the bushes.
Evicting Wildlife from Your Home
Here are some tips on evicting unwelcome residents. Before taking action, however, make sure that baby birds are able to fly and young mammals are old enough to be relocated by the mother. Your intention should be evacuation, not extermination.
For safety’s sake, don’t try to remove an animal with your hands. The tips below are usually very effective, but if you don’t have success with them, call us for advice or to ask about borrowing a humane trap.
In the attic
Ammonia works wonders. 1/3 of a cup in a shallow pan coupled with a loud radio and/or bright lights will prompt your furry guests to leave. If there are babies, give mom a few days to move them out, then find and seal the openings to keep new tenants from moving in.
Birds don’t have a good sense of smell but are very sensitive to noise. A loud radio will make nesting at your house very unpleasant.
In the chimney
Don’t try to smoke out a bird or animal in your chimney. The smoke may kill it. Instead place a pan of ammonia in the fireplace and open the damper 1/2″. The fumes will force mammals out.
We do not have the equipment to get an animal out of the chimney, so you will need to contact a chimney sweep if the ammonia does not force the animal out. After the animal is gone, have a cap installed on your chimney.
In the fireplace
If an animal is visible in your fireplace, it may be unable to retreat through the chimney. Call the League; an animal control officer can remove the animal from your fireplace.
You may help a bird to escape on its own by drawing window blinds, closing interior doors and opening a single door to the outside. The bird will be drawn to the light. If this doesn’t work, call the League, and we will help remove the bird.
In the house
If a critter is loose inside the house, don’t panic. Try to isolate it in one room, being careful not to come into contact with it, and call the League for assistance. An animal control officer will respond.
Virginia Black Bear Information: