Living With Wildlife
Build good relations with your wild neighbors.
In the Eastern Sierra, we are fortunate to live close to the beauty and wildness of nature, and wild birds, mammals and reptiles share our neighborhoods with us. But every year, gardeners lament the damage done to their vegetables by some species of small mammals and birds. Many automatically turn to poisons and lethal traps.
In the Garden
Be aware that there are animal control solutions for the garden that are humane, non-lethal, more effective than their synthetic alternatives, simple and inexpensive.
Remember that in creating your backyard garden, you also create an attractive habitat for many small animals by providing food (in the form of vegetables, fruits and insects), water, cover from predators, and shelter (places to burrow and raise young). If you can, use good habitat management practices when starting your garden. These will make your garden less attractive and accessible to unwelcome visitors. Then, if animal problems do arise, you can progress to successful non-lethal practices such as exclusion, scare devices and repellents.
Wildcare Eastern Sierra encourages and counsels people to prevent or minimize conflicts that can develop when wildlife visits the garden.
Helpline: (760) 872-1487
- Determine which species are eating from or digging in the garden.
- Use habitat management practices to create less than favorable conditions for foraging and burrowing animals.
- If possible, place exclusion infrastructure (buried hardware cloth, fences) prior to planting.
- Choose and employ techniques for specific problem species – exclusion, repellents, scare devices.
- Encourage natural predators, especially owls and hawks.
- Live trap only as a last resort.
Outwitting the Squirrels In Your Garden
Hang moth ball stockings.
Fill old nylon stockings with 8 to 10 mothballs and hang them near feeding stations. Just add more mothballs to keep the scent strong. Gardeners who do this report the smell keeps the squirrels away, but birds don't seem to mind it.
Surprise squirrels with Slinkys.
Try this trick for just about four dollars—affix one end of a Slinky to the top of the feeder pole and allow the rest to hang so that the pole runs up through the Slinky. Squirrels will try to jump on the pole but grab the flexible toy instead, finding themselves back on the ground.
Use a pipe pole.
The same pipe used for plumbing can be an effective deterrent for squirrels. Using the pipe as a post on which a bird feeder is mounted prevents the creatures from getting any traction—they just slide down.
Switch to safflower.
A growing number of backyard birders have switched from sunflower seeds to safflower seeds in their bird feeders. It's popular with cardinals, house finches, chickadees, nuthatches and mourning doves, but the safflower doesn't appeal to squirrels.
If you can't beat 'em, feed 'em.
Tried everything else? Some homeowners find that intentionally feeding squirrels on the ground, a distance away from bird feeders, keeps them out of bird feeders. It's cheap, plus some birds—like pine siskins—are actually attracted to the feeding area on the ground.