Protecting From Wildlife

Protecting From Wildlife

Part of Ep. 804 More Landscaping for Birds

Join Wildlife Extension Specialist Scott Craven as he explains how to attract desirable wildlife into your backyard and how to keep the pests away.

Premiere date: Dec 30, 2000

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
If you're successful at attracting birds to your landscape, that means you've created a very healthy environment. And that means more than just birds are going to show up in your backyard. Some critters are desirable, some not. We're in the backyard of Wildlife Extension Specialist, Scott Craven. And Scott, I noticed this in your yard earlier. Now, it's not a garter snake. I would welcome a garter snake in my garden. Am I holding something that we want in our yards or not?

Scott:
It's a bull snake. It's certainly something desirable in the yard.

Shelley:
Good.

Scott:
Most snakes, there's just nothing in this particular area to be afraid of, as far as snakes are concerned.

Shelley:
Thanks.

Scott:
They're beneficial in terms of what they eat and what they do. And someone's response to finding a snake like this would be one, I hope, of curiosity; what is it; what's it doing there. Learn a little bit about it and don't harm it. There's no need to at all.

Shelley:
There's other critters. In fact, we have a hole down here. This is a more destructive critter we're talking about.

Scott:
Yes, this is the hole or burrow of a 13-line ground squirrel. And our snake that I just put away would certainly love to get in there and consume that ground squirrel. And I'd love to have him do it, too. But in this case, you see the animal is moving a lot of dirt. It just moved in here a couple days ago. There's a few sunflower hulls. It's making routine trips to the bird feeder. But in some places, in a rough garden for example, all that dirt would smother the plants. Enough dirt moved out would cause the rocks to collapse. They're just a real problem. So, this is something that you'd want to deal with and remove the animal.

Shelley:
What's the best way to deal with it?

Scott:
The best way, and probably the easiest way, is simply with a standard animal live trap. Some of these are made right here in Wisconsin. It's absolutely essential to be pro-active in animal problems. In other words, in any of these animal problems: birds, mammals or anything else, are much easier to prevent from happening than they are to stop once they've started. And the best example, probably, is with say, deer, and a fence. Everybody should have a fence around their garden. Again, just like the live trap, I think the fence solves a multitude of problems. It keeps some animals out. It may keep some things in, and it delineates where the garden begins and ends and you can use it for trellising. It's a very useful tool.

Shelley:
So, not just for deer.

Scott:
No. And I think there are a lot of misconceptions about fences, too. This one's only five feet high.

Shelley:
Too short for deer, then, right?

Scott:
Perfectly adequate. The deer are here outside this fence every night. But in three years gardening in this spot, I've not had a deer penetrate the fence yet.

Shelley:
I thought they had to be eight to 14 feet, or they'd jump right over it.

Scott:
Standard deer-proof fences to prevent jumping are that high. But in this case, the smaller the area, the lower the fence can be and still be effective. Deer will always try and go through a fence or under it if they can. A short fence like this in a small area seems to work just fine.

Shelley:
I wonder if that's why I'm not having deer problems. My garden is a quarter the size of this and I have a low wooden picket fence. I've lined it with chicken wire because of a rabbit problem, but I've never had any deer. Is it because it's so small they don't what to jump it?

Scott:
It's probably small enough that they don't care to go in. And if there's enough food for them outside, then they're not that highly motivated.

Shelley:
Now, we can't all have fences. Are there other options?

Scott:
There are lots of other options. For example, there are many types of repellents available, chemical repellents, that either taste bad or smell bad, depending on the brand and what it's designed to do. But generally speaking, the effectiveness of these things varies a lot, depending on how many deer there are, how hungry they are and the time of year, the weather...

Shelley:
And the landscape.

Scott:
A whole host of other things. So, they have a place as a stop-gap technique. But I don't think anyone could rely on repellents solely and expect to save their garden.

Shelley:
And I know I haven't had to replace the fence in 12 years. I don't know if I could say the same for repellents.

Scott:
No, they have to be re-applied regularly. There are other things that people hear about, too, like a lunch bag filled with human hair.

Shelley:
Soap.

Scott:
A bar of soap hanging like this from a shrub or a rose bush. But when they've been rigorously tested, that's good for maybe 30 inches of protection.

Shelley:
Now, up to now, we've talked about ground squirrels and deer. Other animals that we need to worry about?

Scott:
Well, the birds, themselves, that we've worked so hard now to attract with your feeders and landscaping, some of them can be problematic, too. The biggest problems are probably woodpeckers. So, if you have wood siding and trees around the house, then you can have serious woodpecker problems. And of course, they're popular to attract with suet feeders. And they're very pretty. So, you have to take steps and be very vigilant about a woodpecker problem and be prepared to go after them with scare tactics or removal if necessary as soon as you see them. There are other birds: house finches nesting in hanging baskets, a robin nesting in a light fixture by the front door that's annoying, swallow nests under the eaves, birds attacking the reflections in windows in spring, lots of things like that. But generally, it can be either tolerated, or with the application of a little bit of shiny Mylar flagging like this to wave in the breeze or pinwheels or other scare tactics can solve those problems.

Shelley:
As long as you have a good breeze. You said you had a bird nesting in a rather uncomfortable spot this year.

Scott:
Well, this year over on the house, there was a robin under the deck and there was a bird under the deck nesting in my canoe.

Shelley:
So, have you done a lot of canoeing this year?

Scott:
So, I've done no canoeing until the birds fledged just a few days ago. But there are other things, too. Even in the garden context some birds can be a problem. If you've got berries, robins are a nightmare. Cherry trees, a lot of birds will go after the cherries. But this simple little material, it's actually quite-- If you look at a single layer, it's quite thin. It's very durable. It lasts for a long time. If you've got bird problems, you can screen off areas of a house, underneath a deck, you can cover a cherry tree, you can cover a whole berry patch with this plastic bird netting. It's very effective.

Shelley:
I understand doing that for cherries. Why would birds want to get into the house?

Scott:
In terms of say, let's say in a garage that's open all the time. The swallows are coming in and nesting in the joists, the roof supports. You can just staple a layer of this up under there and completely eliminate that. This is good stuff.

Shelley:
So, really, we can pest proof our house, pest proof our garden ahead of time.

Scott:
Be pro-active and make sure that you anticipate the problems and make sure they just don't have a chance to get started.

Shelley:
Thanks, Scott. And remember, plan ahead. Maybe there's some other critters you don't mind sharing your back yard with.

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