Wildlife Resources

Help for Gardeners

For many of us, spring and summer are the seasons to pursue a passion: digging in the dirt, sowing seeds, and tending our gardens. For many wild animals, spring and summer are times to enjoy something else: the sweetness of a fresh tomato or the seeds of a sunflower. While some folks welcome wildlife into their yards, some gardeners are naturally perturbed when hungry critters view their plantings as all-you-can-eat buffets.

If you’d rather not share your harvest, don’t despair: MSPCA has humane, cost-effective suggestions for keeping the wild neighbors away. 

Visit our new Intruder Excluder - An interactive house that will help you identify the intruder sharing your garden and provide you with humane, long-term solutions.

Or read on to find tips for coping with some common garden nibblers...

First, determine what types of animals are coming around.  Watch for tracks, and use a reference such as A Field Guide to Animal Tracks (Houghton Mifflin) or go to our Intruder Excluder to identify them. Next, devise a species-specific plan by following the suggestions below:

Woodchucks:  Using novel stimuli to harass and frighten away unwanted groundhogs will often do the trick. Tactics like using scarecrows, balloons, and pinwheels or putting a beach ball within the area they are disturbing and letting it blow in the wind can deter them. Visiting your garden often and mowing long grasses can also help. Specific plants can be protected by sprinkling them with Epsom salts, with a re-application after every rain, or covering them with fabric or gallon jugs with the bottoms removed. You can also try placing rags soaked in ammonia on posts placed at intervals around the perimeter of the garden. The odor is enough to deter most unwanted visitors. The rags must be re-soaked when the smell of ammonia fades.  Note that ammonia fumes can harm animals' lungs, so don't use it too close to animals, especially where there might be babies.

For a more permanent solution, erect a three-to four foot high wire fence around the garden, leaving it loose and flexible to prevent them from climbing it.  Since woodchucks are excellent burrowers, also bury the fence about a foot underground and, if possible, bend it in an L-shape so that burrowing animals will encounter the fence when digging down and forward toward the garden. If the animals are persistent, a single strand of low-voltage electric fencing in front of the fence four to five inches high will help.

Chipmunks and Squirrels:  Spring flowers and growing buds are often eaten by chipmunks and squirrels as the weather warms, and in the summer they often eat fruits and berries. Bulbs can be protected by soaking them in certain repellents before planting, or by planting them below wire or plastic screening. Spraying repellents on ornamental plants can also help deter inquisitive squirrels and chipmunks.  Wrapping ripening fruit trees with netting and using various squirrel-proof bird feeders can also keep them away.  Most bird supply centers sell these types of feeders. 

Raccoons: The same fencing mentioned for woodchucks also usually works to deter raccoons. Another tactic is to use radios, lights, and sprinklers in the late afternoon and evening, when these critters are likely to raid your garden.

Birds: Use netting made of high-tensile woven wire when the fruits of your labor are ripening.  If you're looking for an easier, but higher maintenance solution, you can use simple cheesecloth over your bushes.

Rabbits: Many varieties of fencing effectively exclude rabbits, including those made of chicken wire and, tree protectors. Repellents with the active ingredients thiram or capsaicin (hot cayenne pepper extract) can be applied to plants that are not intended for human consumption.

Moles: Bury hardware cloth 8-­10 inches deep around your garden, ideally in an L-shape, to deter tunneling moles. Castor oil-based repellents also dissuade moles.

Also, for all wildlife species entering your garden, think about what you might be doing to inadvertently attract them. Certain plants naturally attract some animal species.  Nurseries can often recommend the best plants for your situation and suggest repellants.  Click here to go to our links and resources page to find vendors that sell repellants.

Remember, no one solution is 100 percent effective, and a tolerant attitude goes a long way whenever dealing with wildlife.  Try planting extra vegetables, fruits, and edible flowers so there's enough to share!