Dealing with nuisance wildlife is no easy task

Wildlife has a knack for showing up in places it isn’t supposed to be and for doing things around homes that makes a person’s blood boil.

Many of our furred friends raid gardens, burrow under sheds or sidewalks, steal expensive fish from backyard ponds, often litter lawns with unwanted deposits and some may even take up residence in an attic or chimney. So what’s a homeowner to do when faced with one or more of these invaders?

Almost all people agree that wildlife is worth watching, but when deer strip a person’s expensive ornamental shrubbery or when a bear demolishes a $100 bird feeder or when the pitter patter of little chipmunk or squirrel feet in the attic keeps you up all night, it’s a different story.

Once a wild critter decides it likes what you’re offering, it’s time to take action. But it’s going to cost in terms of time and/or money. Homeowners can often deal with a nuisance animal but they need to be armed with the proper information and equipment to get the job done. However, trying to resolve a problem blindly can result in more headaches, more expenses and the embarrassment of being outwitted by an animal that will become even more difficult to catch because of the education you’ve provided.

One of the most common wildlife problems people face is garden raiding. The culprits are usually rabbits, groundhogs and deer. Last summer, just as I was about to pick some green beans in my garden, I discovered they had all been eaten by what I deduced was a rabbit. Not only did he eat all my beans, but two days later I discovered he ate all the bean plants as well. I’m certain I’m not the only one who has suffered this problem, but there are things we can do to fight back.

Some inexpensive solutions include hanging pie tins or spraying peppery liquid on the plants, but animals quickly adjust to these tactics. I’ve resorted to putting up a fence around my little garden, but an animal can still dig under a fence and some can even climb over it. If this should happen, consider setting a live trap to apprehend your nighttime raider.

Live traps come in a variety of sizes and consist of a cage with a closing-door design. These traps are ideal for residential areas, because if you catch the neighbor’s cat by mistake, all you have to do is open the door and release it. Troublesome rabbits or squirrels can be relocated to another area far from the plants we want to protect. However, when setting one of these traps, be aware that it has the potential for catching something other than what you expect – namely a skunk or raccoon.

Every year, DEC officials receive calls from people who set live traps and catch a skunk by mistake. The problem, of course, is what to do with the skunk once it’s in the trap because it’s liable to spray anyone who comes near it. Questions like “how can it be released?” or “who will help me?” are the ones most frequently asked. Skunks, as well as raccoons, are a rabies vector species so they can’t be relocated like other wildlife.

According to the folks who make live traps for animals, the best thing to do when facing skunk removal is to hold a large towel or sheet in front of you, down to your toes, as you walk toward the trap. Approach a trapped skunk calmly, humming softly as you near the trap in order to avoid startling the animal and then drop the towel or sheet over the cage once you reach it. Skunks don’t like to spray if they can’t see their target. Handle the trap gently, and move with it slowly. Skunks spray only when they are startled or as their final defense against a threatening person or animal. Before spraying, a skunk will stomp its two front feet, raise its tail, and turn its rear toward you. Keep an eye out for these warning signs to prevent being sprayed.

Homeowners who set a trap and catch a live skunk have a choice of killing the animal or releasing it. If it is killed, it must be cremated or buried if it was taken during the closed hunting or trapping season. A live-trapped skunk cannot legally be transported and released to a different property; it must be released on the property on which it was trapped.

Setting a trap to deal with a nuisance wildlife problem is the easy part; dealing with what happens after the trap door closes can be more than what most homeowners bargain for. When faced with having to deal with nuisance wildlife, it may be better to let a professional handle it.

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