In the case of unwanted wildlife, it is best to speak to someone with the Wildlife Center of Texas before intervention since they often can provide solutions that don’t require separating babies from their mother or trapping animals for relocation. 713-861-WILD (713-861-9453)
Prevention is easier than remediation
Nature abhors a vacuum. Trap and relocate 100 raccoons and 102 will move back in. Territory attractive to wildlife will not be left vacant for long. Trap a species to the point that it drops below a critical level and the females will have more litters per year. In addition the litter size becomes larger. Obviously trapping and relocation will not work in the long run, so what are we supposed to do?
The Goal – Manage the wildlife in such a way that conflict is minimized. The most effective methods are habitat modification and exclusion. Live trapping should only be used as the last resort. Define the problem to find the solution, usually the problem is not the animal per se, but a specific behavior that leaves it persona non grata.
Live trapping is not the best option for the control of problem wildlife – Especially raccoons.
Live-trapping and relocation is often a death sentence
•Resident male will often kill to protect territory
•Relocated animals suffer or die before they find food and shelter
•Cars often kill animals trying to return to their territory
•Will often spread disease to new population
To minimize impact of live trapping
•Suspend live trapping during the fall and winter when food and adequate shelter is harder to find
•Traps must be frequently checked, up to 5 times a day. If trapped female is lactating – release immediately
•Use exclusion techniques to prevent re-entry and release nearby
•Do not put major roads or highways between the released animal and “home”
Make area less attractive, remove places to hide, keep grass neatly trimmed, rake leaves. Remove rock piles, brush, clutter and trash. Trim low lying limbs of bushes and remove decorative grasses. Screen off culverts, but remember clear frequently to prevent flooding.
Remove as many sources of food and water as possible.
Do not feed domestic animals outdoors and do not feed the wildlife – including the birds. Keep trash and feed bins tightly sealed.
To prevent digging, treat grass with nematodes, a microscopic worm which eats larvae. Prevent hole digging with welded hardware cloth by staking it in place over the area, cover with mulch or allow grass to grow though, it’s safe to mow over.
To prevent digging under structures and fences, bury hardware cloth to a depth of 6 – 24 inches. Use several strands of electric fencing to protect gardens or other sensitive areas. To deter roosting use bird spikes on ledges or slippery angled sheet-metal.
Limit access to buildings. Inspect for and repair any exterior holes that permit wildlife access into the building. Check the roof for lifted shingles and flashing. To prevent an animal from gaining access to the roof, prune trees so they don’t over hang the building. Pay special attention to landscaping near the building, crepe myrtle or a lattice of climbing vine can provide an excellent ladder.
Encourage the presence of the target animal’s predator or animals that aggressively compete for the same prey or food source. For example provide landing perches (consider a 2 by 2 or a 2 by 4 wrapped in fibrous rope) in open areas at a height of 6 – 10 feet to encourage raptors. Or erect a bat box to compete for food. Unfortunately bats are very picky about size, color, orientation, height and distance to nearby trees, so contact Bat Conservation for assistance www.batcon.org.
The idea is to make the current location as inhospitable as possible. Audio and visual repellents only work for the short-term. Use flour, baby powder or corn starch to determine what animal is using the area and to see when it is gone. Once you are sure the animal is gone – seal the entrance. In the case of raccoons that means welded wire hardware cloth secured with screws – not nails. Squirrels and other rodents need an area much larger than the original hole be covered to prevent gnawing another hole nearby.
Let the visitors know that it is time to move with your presence, go into the attic or other hiding area and frequently stomp and make noise. Play loud radio music – hard rock works best, but be prepared for a raccoon to change the channel or dismantle it.
Invade their space with strobe, emergency lights or the disco ball left over from the 70’s. Attach emergency or trouble light to a 2 x 4 and slide into den. Some animals are more bothered by vibration such as a leaf blower or vacuum cleaner.
Use irritants judiciously and exercise caution because these chemicals can be toxic to you AND the wildlife. Contact can skin burns. Both vapor and liquid can damage mucus membranes and just the vapor can damage the lungs of infant wildlife.
Mothballs and ammonia soaked cotton balls or rags – good for trash cans or bury small jars of ammonia near den or problem area, Cayenne pepper, finely ground black pepper and commercially available dog and cat repellents, Ropel is often a good choice. Sporting goods stores that carry hunting equipment will carry predator urine. Use very sparingly as it is very potent.
Each animal will have its own level of sensitivity to light, noise and irritants, keep trying until you find the right one, and then be prepared to swap to something else as the original animal becomes accustomed to the circumstances or someone new wanders in.
Wildlife Friendly Gardening
Minimize the use of insecticides. You will have to be willing to accept increased insect damage before nature kicks in to restore balance. If absolutely necessary, spray only the affected areas of each plant. This is very hard to remember when bag-worms swarm your trees. However, birds and wasps feed on them. While the webs and denuded branches are ugly, healthy trees will not suffer permanent damage. If you really, really hate bag-worms, consider that wasps use the worms as a living food source for their larvae. Well, living until the eggs hatch and begin to feed. Ladybugs love to gobble aphids. Live ladybugs will be available for purchase at garden centers in the spring.
Mulch flowerbeds to hold water and inhibit weeds; consider using a pre-emergent, which stops the germination of seeds, instead of herbicide. Try to limit the amount of fertilizer placed on the lawn; it washes into the creeks and causes algae blooms. Algae blooms rob the water of oxygen, causing fish kills. Instead of frequent lawn fertilization, purchase a mulching blade for your lawnmower. A mulching blade will cut the grass fine enough to avoid the “snow drifts of dry brown cuttings.” The cuttings contain exactly the correct nutrients your lawn needs to be healthy – don’t bag and dispose of that free fertilizer.
Resist cutting down dead trees in your back yard. We’re not asking you to ruin your landscaping with an eyesore, but because a rehabber wouldn’t let her husband cut down a small dead pine tree, they were treated to a family of woodpeckers. It was early spring and she was hoping a house wren would take up residence. Instead, she had frequent close encounters with a pair of redheaded woodpeckers. Attracted by the bugs, the woodpeckers decided that the birdhouse on the dead pine would make a wonderful home. They proceeded to enlarge the opening and moved right in. Because woodpeckers cannot perch like other birds – the gymnastics necessary to grab a peanut from the bird feeder is quite a show, second only to a squirrel trying to beat a “squirrel-proof” bird feeder.
Provide bat houses to encourage bats to take up residence. They will make a huge dent in the mosquito and moth populations. What? You like the moths – well the small ones preferred by bats wreck serious damage in the caterpillar stage (can you say bag worms?).
Unfortunately, you can’t slap up a house and expect to get bats. They are very particular about just about every aspect of their homes. Bat Conservation International has devoted themselves to finding out what makes one house desirable or not. They can be found on the web at: www.Batcon.org