Protecting Landscapes from Wildlife Damage

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Gardening expert Melinda Myers provides strategies to keep critters at bay.

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Scare tactics, repellents and fencing can all help keep critters at bay.

They’re cute, they’re furry and they love to eat – landscapes that is. Anyone who has battled wildlife knows the frustration and difficulty involved in controlling them, but fortunately there is hope. “When battling with rabbits, deer, groundhogs or other wildlife, don't give up,” says gardening expert Melinda Myers. “And if you are lucky enough to be wildlife-free at the moment, be vigilant and prepared to prevent damage before these beautiful creatures move into your landscape to dine.” Myers suggests the following strategies for keeping animals away.

The 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 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. Be sure to 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 are another option and 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. For best results apply repellents to plantings 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 people.

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 the animal is caught, there needs to be a place to release it. The nearby parks, farms and forests already have too many of their own animals and don't want more.

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

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Diana Paul
Melinda Myers LLC
(414) 771-1888
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