Are You Running a Wildlife Motel?

by Lauren E. Masellas, Animal Control Officer

Tis the season…for our local wildlife to find a “winter rental” before the snow flies. Now if you can’t get enough of those adorable skunks, raccoons, opossums and the like – yeah, more power to ya! But, if like most people, you prefer to enjoy the local wildlife from a distance, then it is time to close up the areas of your home that make great winter retreats for them.

I can tell you from experience that all the trapping in the world is not going to keep these critters out from under your house, shed, porch, wherever! If you are providing them food, water and/or shelter…they WILL come! Take a few minutes to look around your property. Do you have unsecured trash bins, toys, buckets, old tires that fill with water when it rains? Are there gaps between the ground and the shed, ramp, deck, steps, foundation, etc.? If so, you might as well put an open for business sign in front of your wildlife motel!

So here are some tips to avoid those pesky freeloaders from moving in:

  • Remove as many food sources as possible.
  • Bungee cords to hold trash can lids secure, or a secure structure to put them in is usually sufficient.
  • You may need to remove bird/squirrel feeders for a while, or be very diligent about cleaning up dropped seed.
  • Never leave cat food/dog food or water bowls outside overnight.
  • Pick up the yard, especially anything that holds water or is large enough for critters to hide in.

Most importantly, seal the entries to under sheds, decks and the like. This does take a bit of labor but will save you a lot of grief in the end. You will need a roll of chicken wire, 2 foot wide should work in most cases, a shovel and a staple gun. First dig a shallow flat trench about 6” wide and 4-6 inches deep around the structure you’re enclosing (the sandier the soil, the deeper it will need to be). Then bend the chicken wire to form a right angle 6” by 18”. Staple or secure by other means the long side to the structure so that the short side lays flat in the trench. You may need to pin the chicken wire down with U shaped pieces of heavier wire (metal coat hanger wire works great). Back fill the trench with soil and pack well. Do one side at a time making sure to overlap and wire tie the corners and any other seams in the wire. A Caution: Make sure nothing is living there before sealing it off! Leave a section open, stuff balled up newspaper in the opening for a few days. If it remains undisturbed, go ahead and seal it off. If not, you’ve already got guests and may have to install a one way door first. This is simply a piece of wood, hinged over the opening so that it will swing outward but not inward.  

For places where is not possible to use wire, wildlife deterrents can be used. These vary depending on what you’re trying to keep out and have to be replaced periodically. Used kitty litter makes a great organic and free deterrent against most animals. If you own your property, try walking your dog around the perimeter when he has to do his business. No scientific backup for this one but it always worked for me! If all else fails, wildlife deterrent products may be purchased at most farm supply stores. I’m not a fan of these as many of them rely on the destruction of predator species to obtain the necessary ingredients.

For more information on wildlife conflicts or wildlife questions, visit www.yorkcenterforwildlife.org Have a safe and pest free year!