Documents: Special Interest: Wildlife Gardening:

Wildlife in the Garden
by Nancy Pollard
June 5, 2011

Unless they are decorative and made of plastic or cement, wildlife in the garden can present a challenge, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

“Often we plant gardens to attract birds and butterflies. However, other wildlife may be annoying,” said Nancy Pollard. “Rabbits nip off tender shoots or girdle the bark of young trees; squirrels eat food intended for birds and nip off buds and branches; skunks dig in the yard, raid garbage and leave a memorable musk when frightened.”

Uninvited wildlife is attracted by food, water and shelter. Bird feeders, trash cans with lids easy to remove and pet food left outside overnight offer a smorgasbord that unintentionally invites wildlife. Here are some tips for living with wildlife. More can be found on the University of Illinois Extension “Living with Wildlife” website .

“Animals, like humans, are creatures of habit,” she said. Upon observing landscape harm, take steps immediately before their habits become firmly ingrained. “Discouraging damaging habits usually requires multiple strategies,” she added.

In a small garden, you can exclude rabbits with a fence with wire mesh holes 1 inch or smaller; or ¼-inch by ¼-inch square openings for wire mesh cylinders for protecting young tree trunks. The smaller size openings also protect against mice. Purchase a 4-foot-wide mesh roll. Bend the bottom 6 inches outward. Trench the soil, and bury the wire mesh 6 inches deep to prevent rabbits from burrowing under the fence. This allows for 3 feet of fence above ground. Gates provide entry points for rabbits as well as people.

“For squirrels, wildlife experts recommend a 2-foot-wide metal collar 6 feet off the ground for isolated trees and poles,” Pollard said. “Attach the metal collar with wires fastened together with springs to allow for tree trunk growth. Squirrels can jump 8 feet so this only works on isolated trees. Trim back trees to prevent access to roofs and attics. If you have room, provide corn for the squirrels away from the bird feeders to distract them from the feeders. Enjoy their antics.”

Skunks range over 80 to 1,800 acres so their path may wander through your backyard. Their smelly spray can reach 10n to 20 feet. Before spraying its musk, a skunk signals its intent by stamping its front feet and raising its tail. If you have skunks in the yard, keep handy the recipe and ingredients for skunk-odor removal. It can be used for washing skin, clothes, dogs and other sprayed items. The peroxide in the solution may lighten the fur of pets.

“Here’s a skunk-odor removal recipe,” she said. “Mix 1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution, ¼ cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon liquid soap. Do not add water.”

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