Keeping the Critters Out of Your Garden and Home

Controlling Four-Legged Pests

A Squirrel in the Garden
Pauline Lewis / Getty Images

It’s no news that animal waste causes E. coli and other diseases -- we all remember the fresh spinach fiasco of the fall of 2006. There are plenty of diseases associated with pest animals and their droppings. In addition to diseases, pest animals can cause nightmares for otherwise-happy property owners and gardeners.

Nature’s wild critters can be highly destructive, annoying, and cost you thousands of dollars in repairs.

Furthermore, droppings are messy and give a low-class image.

  • Deer forage your foliage
  • Raccoons ravage your garbage
  • Armadillos tear up your lawn
  • Squirrels chew their way into your house damaging soffits and electrical wires
  • Dogs and cats destroy gardens and healthy grass
  • Skunks stink up your whole yard

To solve the problem, there are a number of less-than-ideal solutions. Messy, dangerous chemicals pose unacceptable risks for most homeowners, considering pets and children. Lethal methods wouldn’t even keep new pests away – not to mention what the neighbors might say. And sealing off the entire area would be impractical, inconvenient and potentially very costly. Trapping is a lot of effort, and again, it would be perpetual labor as trapping does nothing to prevent new pests.

To end pest critter problems there are several non-lethal, non-chemical, non-barrier solutions. The choices are there for homeowners to consider.

Think permanence when you consider the repellent choice, as most homeowners don’t have the time or inclination to monitor the pest situation. Remember that pest animals are on your property for a reason. If they’re happy, comfortable and well-fed, they won’t want to go elsewhere. Make the area undesirable and unappealing (via sound, odor, taste, visually or physically).

Sound deterrents

Choose an ultrasonic or sonic (or a combination unit that does both), preferably a device that has built-in change involved, for example, one that varies in frequency, duration, and sequence – as opposed to one that just repeats and repeats. This will greatly aid your long-term endeavors.

Visual devices

Most small critters that would be prey to an owl would be scared by a visual device with owl-like properties. But, as with sound deterrents, change is important. A regular plastic owl will never be seen as a threat since it never moves. To work long-term, a repeller must involve movement. One option is a large orange sphere that has holograms on front and back. It appears to move when the creature looks at it from different angles. In addition to the eyes moving, it’s mounted on a spring that causes the entire predator to move and bounce in the wind.

Another visual option is iridescent reflective foil strips. You simply cut off strips and attach them to fence posts, trees or rooftops to scare the animals away. As the strips blow in the wind, they catch sunlight, producing constantly changing colors and patterns. And the tape itself produces a metallic rattle, unnerving pests via sound too.

Physical barriers

Netting is a good choice to guard a particular area. If you’re concerned about access, create “access panels” using Velcro. Spiked needles (think “barbed wire for pest animals”) prevent, let’s say, a squirrel from accessing a tree, air conditioner, roof perimeter, flagpole, etc. There’s also a motion-activated Scarecrow water sprinkler that “sprays” intruders as soon as it senses them.

Taste aversions

Red pepper spray is popular for discouraging deer, squirrels, and rabbits from eating particular greens. Consider one with a time release formula, to make the most of your effort and time. Castor-oil formulas are great for moles, as the worms get coated with castor oil, the moles can’t keep their food down and seek out other food sources.

Odor aversions

Predator urine is a popular organic solution.

A powder formula is better than a liquid formula, as it won’t evaporate, sink into the ground or wash away as easily.

If the pest animals have been returning for many years, or if they are particularly stubborn, consider a combination of methods to give the impression that your property is not a fun, relaxing, inviting place to stay.