Rules of Engagement

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

Most people enjoy having wildlife around and are willing to tolerate some inconvenience, possibly even some property damage, for that privilege.

Occasionally, however, people reach a point when their tolerance is exhausted. They might be frustrated by squirrels in the attic, woodpeckers hammering on siding, moles in the lawn, deer eating shrubbery, coyotes killing livestock, beavers flooding fields, or river otters eating catfish in their ponds.

Even folks with considerable tolerance are sometimes frustrated by the determined persistence of critters. Beavers, for example, will rebuild a dam as many times as you can tear it out. It's easy to become disenchanted with deer that have damaged or destroyed landscaping in which you've invested blood, sweat and money. You might even start to resent those playful otters after they've eaten the catfish you planned to share with family and friends.

Long before you get ready to take action against the critters causing damage, it helps to know some "rules of engagement."

The first rule is to "do your best to avoid engagement." Keeping your buildings and fences in good repair, for example, will keep squirrels from nesting in your attic, skunks from crawling under your house and foxes and coyotes from attacking your pigs or poultry.

It's also a good idea to keep garbage containers tightly closed and secure. If necessary, build a wildlife-proof bin holder. If you feed pets or livestock outside, don't leave extra food out that might attract other critters. Feed your pets only as much they can eat at one time, then remove any extra food.

The second rule is "good fences make good critters." Where practical, keep wildlife from places you don't want them. Install chimney caps to keep raccoons, squirrels and bats from entering houses. Build strong poultry pens with netting on top to prevent foxes, raccoons, owls and hawks from getting to chickens and ducks. Netting will also deter woodpeckers from hammering on your house, robins from picking your fruit and deer from feasting on your flowers or shrubs.

The third rule is "identify the perpetrator." Counteroffensives will only be effective when you know exactly which species is causing a problem. For example, determine whether the mounds in your yard are made by moles or pocket gophers. Find out if the noises in the attic are from bats, squirrels or raccoons. Are the burrows under the patio made by skunks or groundhogs? Is it squirrels,

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