Home & Yard

As the human population of Massachusetts increases, many rural areas are being developed to accommodate this growth. Consequently, habitats once solely occupied by wildlife are now becoming habitats for humans, too. As a result, encounters with wildlife around your home and yard may be more common. Click below to learn more about these specific home and yard concerns.

Garden & Lawn Concerns Trash Concerns
Finding Solutions Through a Private Company Intruder Excluder

GARDEN AND LAWN CONCERNS

For many of us, spring and summer are the seasons to pursue a passion: digging in the dirt, sowing seeds, and tending our lawns and 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 are naturally perturbed when hungry critters view their lawns and 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 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 or go to our Animal Information page to identify them. Next, devise a species-specific plan by following the suggestions below:

Woodchucks:  Using novel stimuli will often encourage unwanted groundhogs to leave your lawn and garden. Tactics like using scarecrows, or putting balloons, and pinwheels or a beach ball within the area they are disturbing 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. Because the ammonia fumes can harm animals’ lungs, don’t use it within two feet of where the animals may come into contact.

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 one to two feet 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, placement of electric hot shot wire (low-voltage electric fencing) four to six inches above ground and at the top of the fence will prevent them from climbing up and over the fence.

Learn more about Woodchucks.

Chipmunks and Squirrels:  Spring flowers and growing buds are often eaten by chipmunks and squirrels as the weather warms, and in the summer they will eat fruits and berries. Bulbs can be protected by soaking them in certain repellents before planting, by planting them below wire or plastic screening, or by surrounding the area with a plant-free gravel border. 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.

Learn more about Chipmunks and Squirrels.

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. Planting taller varieties of corn with squash plants surrounding them will also deter the raccoons because they don’t like walking on prickly squash vines.

Learn more about Raccoons

Birds: A common tactic is to play audio recordings of predators or birds in distress. You might also try 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.

Learn about different types of Birds.

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

Learn more about Rabbits.

Moles: Bury hardware cloth at least a foot deep around your garden, ideally in an L-shape, to deter tunneling moles. Castor oil-based repellents also dissuade moles without causing any harm. Improving soil drainage or flooding their tunnels with water is effective, because moles don’t like moist areas.

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.

Visit our links and resources page to find humane vendors to address garden and lawn conflicts.

Remember, no one solution is 100% 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!  

TRASH CONCERNS

One person’s trash can be an animal’s downfall. Consider how your trash, if not disposed of properly, can negatively impact wildlife, and the easy steps you can take to keep animals safe.

Knowing the dangers trash pose to wildlife may help save an animal’s life.

Danger: How you can prevent it:
Animals attempting to eat the residue off of containers can swallow packaging material, which can lead to fatal blockages.
An animal can get its head stuck inside certain plastic and glass containers, as well as become trapped inside plastic bags, leading to suffocation or overheating.
  • Put container lids back on tightly. If the lids have been misplaced, crush the containers.
  • Recycle all plastic bags at your local grocery store. Don’t put plastic bags in the trash.
Items like six-pack beverage rings and fishing line can get stuck around an animal’s nose, mouth and neck, blocking off means of breathing, eating, drinking and self-defense.
  • Cut up all six-pack beverage holders and other similar packaging so that there are no closed rings.
  • Cut fishing line into small pieces or tie it into a secure bundle so that it cannot be unwound.
Broken glass and sharp edges on cans can cut an animal’s paws and mouth.
  • Use a can opener that opens cans beneath the lip of the lids, leaving only smooth edges on the cans and lids. Completely separate lids from cans.
  • Take care when placing glass bottles and containers into bins so that they do not break.
Excess trash invites animals who seek food and shelter.
  • Switch to brands that have less packaging and buy food in bulk to avoid creating excess trash.
  • Spread the word! Teach your kids, friends, and family to do the same!

FINDING SOLUTIONS THROUGH A PRIVATE COMPANY

The MSPCA can offer you advice and solutions that will help you solve your conflicts with wildlife in a humane, long-term, and cost-effective manner. For help with specific species, view our Animal InformationIntruder Excluder, and Humane Vendors pages. If you have questions about any of the recommendations anywhere on this site, please contact our Advocacy Department.

If you choose to go to an outside company for help, the following information may be useful.

What is a Problem Animal Control Agent (PAC)?

In Massachusetts, Problem Animal Control agents (PACs) can be called to address conflicts with wildlife. PACs are often individuals or private companies that charge a fee for their services and fall under the category of “pest control”.

The burden falls upon homeowners to make sure the person or company they hire will solve their wildlife conflict in a long-term and humane manner. While some PACs are highly professional, others are not. Keep in mind when hiring an outside party to assist you that it is illegal to relocate wildlife in Massachusetts, meaning that animals that are live-trapped on your property must be either released on your property, or killed. If a PAC agent tells you the animal will be released in another location- that is simply not the case.

Also, it’s important to know that the removal of an animal, without proper exclusion and follow-up work, will just open up habitat for another animal to call home. This means that your problem will reoccur until the proper exclusion and follow-up work are completed.

How can you feel comfortable choosing a private company to resolve wildlife conflicts? The following checklist may help you to determine if a particular PAC is right for you:

  • Does the PAC agent listen to the description of the problem and ask relevant questions without first launching into a discussion of fees and responsibilities?
  • Does the person appear to care about their work, the animals involved, and the concern of the homeowner? Are they willing to come to the scene, examine the problem, and give an estimate in writing?
  • Do they appear to be professional in approach and willingness to discuss the problem and in their manner of giving advice?
  • Does the person appear knowledgeable and take the time to explain not only what the source of the problem is but its causes and potential solutions?
  • Are they licensed by the state and bonded against any incidental damage that might be caused?
  • Do they try to scare the homeowner with talk about wildlife disease or dangerous animals?
  • Are the procedures to be used simply and concisely explained, with clear indication as to whether anything could harm the animal?
  • Do they have more than one recommendation to resolve the problem, especially recommendations that involve non-lethal solutions?
  • Does the recommendation include fixing the problem so that it does not recur? (This includes a discussion of needed structural repairs or changes such as chimney caps, alteration of human habits, or exclusion to prevent animals from getting into areas where they are not wanted.)
  • Is the work guaranteed for at least a year?
  • Do they offer a written contract that protects both parties and stipulates that non-lethal methods will be used before any lethal methods are considered, and that the homeowner will be advised and consulted if lethal control is necessary?

View a list of vendors, including PACs, on our resources page.

INTRUDER EXCLUDER

The following are a few tips to prevent conflicts with wildlife around your home and yard:

    • Enjoy wild animals from a distance. Never handle or attempt to pet or feed wildlife. Do not keep wildlife as pets.
    • Secure trash and recycling bins and containers. Visit Trash Concerns for more information.
    • Regularly clean outdoor grills
    • Clean up spilled seed from bird feeders to avoid attracting other wildlife
    • Keep your home in good repair
    • Secure chimneys with a chimney cover  and cover dryer vents
    • If you think a wild animal may be sick or injured, contact your local Animal Control Officer, Police Department, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, or wildlife rehabilitator immediately.
    • Visit our interactive house that will allow you to choose the location of your home or yard affected by the intruder, identify the intruder, and find a humane, long-term solution.

Intruder Excluder