Outdoor Pest Questions: Animal Control

Q. How do you keep deer off plants and vegetables?

A. You can build a fence with two strands of fishing line using rebar for the posts. One strand can be about 10 or 12 inches high with the other being about 2 1/2 feet high. This will deter the deer. Sure, they can jump over a six-foot fence, but when they are walking or grazing and hit this barrier they are stopped. You can also use Millers Hot Pepper concentrate with Vapor guard. It is a surefire way to keep the deer off your plants. Do not mistake this hot pepper with the well-known Hot pepper wax that is a very good bug repellant for flowers and food plants.

Q. My yard is full of mole trails. The dirt is so soft it is like walking in quicksand. I do not want to use traps, shoot them, or beat them to death with the shovel (these strategies being advice previously given to me). Is there any simple way to rid my yard of these pests?

A. They are probably feeding on grubs and insects in your lawn and garden. If you have grubs now, you had them in the late summer or early fall, so the moles stayed around all winter burrowing their tracts under the snow. If you can eliminate the bugs, they will move on to 'greener' pastures. If you know someone that has ferrets, have that person leash up a ferret and let it go exploring down the hole. Make sure that the harness is secure. Moles are natural prey to ferrets so they fear the very scent of the ferrets. If you have ever been around ferrets, you will know that they have a powerful unique scent about them. Once the ferret goes down the hole, the mole will not return to the area. Ferret feces and urine will generally have the same effect but it is nowhere near as much fun as watching the ferret antics.

Another tactic would be to go to your local beauty or barbershop for a haircut and save your cut hair. Take a good fistful of the cut hair and shove it down the hole. The mole will not return to that hole.

Q. After the snow has melted, I'm starting to notice a lot of the damage that was done to my lawn from moles last year. How can I get rid of the moles this time?

A. Moles tunnel in the yard and leave mounds and ridges which make the yard look unsightly. When walking across the grass, you will feel the ridges beneath your feet. Moles are insectivores. Eliminating their food source, usually grubs, with an insecticide is often effective. The Dept. of Agriculture recommends trapping.

Q. I have a family of skunks under my porch. I've tried calling animal control, but they refuse to deal with it. I'm planning on trapping them, but once I trap them, what do I do? I would rather release them than kill them.

A. Call the sheriff's department and tell them you have a family of skunks under your house and are concerned about rabies. Skunks are the number one vectors of rabies in the U.S. They will most likely call out animal control for you. If they try to refer you to animal control, then I would tell them that they have ignored you already. If that doesn't work, try your county commissioner for help.

Q. I live in South Florida, and about two weeks ago, I saw a coral snake on the concrete by my door. Neighbors warned me earlier about it, but I didn't believe it until I almost stepped on it. From here, it only gets better: A couple of days ago there was a baby coral snake around the same spot. I'm very concerned, because I have two little kids. I've tried to call pest control companies and found only two that'll deal with snakes. One of them told me there is no guarantee at all. How can I get rid of them?

A. The coral snake's diet consists of small snakes, lizards and amphibians. Keeping grass cut and eliminating debris around the home is helpful in keeping snakes at bay. There are no chemicals or sprays to keep snakes away. But, if you treat along the perimeter and on the foundation of the home on a regular basis to eliminate insects, you will be eliminating the food source for pests that feed on insects. And, of course, you will eliminate the food source for coral snakes because the lizards and amphibians will move on to where food is plentiful.

Although the coral snake is poisonous, it is not so dangerous. It is not brave; it would much rather hurry off and go unnoticed, as you have witnessed. They also can't really bite. They have no useful fangs. Their mouth does not open far enough, either. If it were to administer its venom, it would have to bite in a spot that was tender and small, like the webs of the fingers. Even then, it would have to work its mouth back and forth and chew to get any venom in. They don't view humans as prey. Contact any serpentariums, or antivenom labs to see if they will live trap the snakes. As toxic snakes go, the Coral is a pretty low-key snake; however, with small children and the type of toxin this snake has, I would want them gone ASAP.

There are snake traps that are like covered flypaper, that sticks to the snakes until you can dispatch them. Is it legal to own the coral where you live? I was just thinking of advertising for a Snake Collector to come and get them. The reason the company cannot make a sure catch is because they use the same snake traps you can buy, and snakes are not stupid. Yet, the young ones may be a bit easier to catch.

Q. I found a salamander in my windowsill. Is he harmless living there? I have two 1-2" round holes where he enters and exits, but I don't know if this little guy is a pest or to just leave him be. Should I plant him a couple of hosts and keep him as a sill pet for the kids to watch?

A. Salamanders typically do not enter buildings because they have an ongoing moisture problem. They need moisture to survive; however, they may occasionally be found in a damp basement. All cracks, crevices, and holes in your structure should be sealed to prevent insect pests and their predators.

Salamanders are mostly nocturnal, but will come out on cloudy and/or rainy days. They hide where they have moist conditions. Salamanders are harmless. The best control measure is to modify their environment so that more dry conditions exist. Keep gutters and downspouts clear so that water drains away from foundation. Soil around foundation should be sloped to carry away water. There should be no debris that would trap moisture that attracts salamanders.

Lizards, however, will seek shelter inside structures, especially when it turns very hot or cold. They have many predators, so hiding is one of the things they do. They are generally harmless, but they will bite if threatened. The only poisonous lizards are the Gila monster and the beaded lizard, both of which live in the desserts of Mexico and Arizona.

Q. I have a chipmunk infestation. They dig tunnels in my front landscaping and under my front porch. They eventually end up drowning and floating in my garden pond and if I don't notice them, it starts to stink. What can I do to get rid of them?

A. Chipmunk infestations can be difficult to remove. Chipmunks are cute, but they can create havoc in the landscape. They dig up flowers and bulbs and eat garden veggies and fruit. They can chew through wires, cables, and pipes. Tunneling under patios, driveways, and sidewalks can lead to cracks and destruction. They carry fleas and ticks, which get on pets, and they carry disease. Tunneling around foundations can lead to structural damage and breakdown of termiticide barrier. Tunnels attract snakes, which feed on chipmunks.

Baits tend not to be effective. Pouring solutions down holes tends to send chipmunks to another area of the yard. Mothballs are for moths, not chipmunks. And, dogs and cats tend to not make a major dent in the population. Some folks report success with coyote urine and commercial repellents. Frequent reapplication and persistence are required for success. The use of poisons is not recommended because of concerns about non-target animals.

Trapping is therefore the recommended, most effective method of chipmunk control. Peanut butter mixed with birdseed makes for a great bait. Set live traps near holes. Live chipmunks must be relocated far from the home. There are battery-operated, electronic traps that can be baited in the same way as live traps. Chipmunks are electrocuted and can be disposed of.

With patience, persistence, and a combination of repellents and trapping, chipmunks can be controlled. Continued use of repellents tends to keep chipmunks from re-infestating the lawn.

Q. Last summer we noticed an increasing amount of rabbits eating our garden and our flowers around the house. How do I get rid of them?

A. You can use rabbit fences. Dig a trench about 6" deep and 8" wide around your garden. Pound 2" stakes on inside of trench. Bend the bottom 6" of chicken wire out along the ground inside trench to form a letter "L". Attach the wire to stakes and fill the trench.

Electric fences are also an option. Install stakes around perimeter of garden. Attach insulators to stakes. You will run 2 rows of wires. The bottom wire will be outside of stake about 2" above ground. The top wire will be about 4" above ground. Fence can be charged from electric fence charger for garden.

Remove dense, heavy vegetative cover, brush piles, weed patches, junk dumps and stone piles in or adjacent to the landscape. This will tend to reduce hiding places.

There are rabbit repellents available at lawn and garden centers that can be applied before damage occurs and after rain and heavy dew. Another option is trapping and relocating. Trapping tends to be more effective in winter when the garden is not available for rabbits to eat. Corncobs, oats, dried apples, or rabbit droppings are good baits. Traps are sold at garden centers, hardware stores, or in gardening catalogs. Place the traps in areas where rabbits have been feeding or resting close to cover. If the trap fails to catch any rabbits within a week, move the trap to a different location.

Q. My wife and I enjoy feeding the birds that frequent our yard. However, we put out the feed to attract the smaller birds, like finches and sparrows, but they are taken over by starlings and grackles, usually chasing the small birds away. Is there something I can do to let the small birds feed but disallow the larger birds?

A. You need a variety of feeders and foods to attract a diversity of birds and to make sure that small birds have a place, too. Small hanging feeders tend to be best for little birds like chickadees, finches, and nuthatches. Feeders close to the ground are great for juncos and sparrows. Large mounted feeders attract larger birds like cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, grosbeaks, as well as smaller birds too.

Q. How can I discourage wild ducks from setting up housekeeping in and beside my swimming pool?

A. Ducks can sometimes be driven off if you persistently harass them by making loud noises like clapping or banging on pots and pans. If there is a nest in the area, then this will not be effective. Purchase Mylar streamers, available at most party stores. Place three-foot high stakes in the ground at each corner of the pool, and then stretch the Mylar from stake to stake across the pool to form an "X." The flashing and movement of the streamers normally frightens birds away. The pool can be kept covered with a net or solar cover when not being used. Birds quickly learn that plastic owls or snakes or other animals are fake predators.

Q. I just bought a house, which has a pond in the front. I have not had time yet for pond maintenance, but I have noticed gazillions of tadpoles swimming around in it. Before I end up with frogs up to my eyeballs, I need quick advice on how to get rid of the tadpoles.

A. Simply add some goldfish. If you do not add some goldfish, predators will take most, or they will develop and hop away anyway.

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