PREPARE NOW FOR WILDLIFE DAMAGE PROBLEMS IN YARDS AND GARDENS
March 29, 2018
Spring has arrived – and with warm weather and new gardens wildlife will again inflict damage on lawns, landscape, and gardens. There are several simple and inexpensive things that homeowners can do to deter wildlife and prevent wildlife problems. Common problems that we see this time of year include deer damage to flowers, armadillo damage to flower beds and yards, and several different species inflicting damage on gardens. Of course, this is only a partial list.
Some simple steps that homeowners can take will reduce damage. One of the easiest and most effective solutions will be to install a sturdy fence around your garden. This may not be feasible with foundation plants or entire yards. However, a flower bed or garden can easily be protected from wildlife. Gardens tend to be separate from or located away from the house. They can easily be enclosed in a rabbit proof fence of 18-inch chicken wire. Deer are a greater challenge but I have seen many examples of attractive garden fences that can deter deer.
A deer fence can be as simple as 2 or 3 strands of wire attached to a 110-volt AC household current or a solar charger. These fences are inexpensive and readily available at most garden centers. The charger (AC or solar) are more expensive but can last for many years. There are many designs for fences on websites and the Warnell School Publication library as several suggestions. A more permanent, taller fence can be installed around a garden using pressure treated posts, wood, and heavier fencing. Gates and decorations can be added to improve the “curb-appeal” of the fence. Many homeowners have heard that a deer can jump an 8-foot fence. While this is technically true, in general there is little motivation for a deer to jump a 5 or 6 foot fence. And a shorter fence is less expensive and more attractive in a homeowner situation.
Deer (and rabbit) repellents are readily available at home and garden centers. Most work by rendering the target plant unpalatable to deer or the odor is offensive to deer. Most common repellents consist of readily available ingredients like sewage sludge, rotten eggs, cinnamon oil, hot sauce, garlic oils, pepper and similar products. This products are generally safe but do not apply anything with rotten or putrescent eggs to garden plants or fruits meant for human consumption.
The important things to remember is that you must apply the repellent before the deer learn to visit your yard or garden. It will be nearly impossible to change their behavior once they start feeding on your landscape. Also, all of the commercially available repellents wash off with rain or irrigation and breakdown in sunlight. So it is critically important that you re-apply the product every 10 days or more often after rain or as suggest on the package label.
In the past 50 years, the range of the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) in the south has been rapidly expanding. As their range expands, armadillos increasingly come into conflict with suburban landowners. When foraging, armadillos often uproot ornamental plants. Their rooting also destroys gardens, lawns, and flower beds. Their burrowing can damage tree roots and building foundations. Most armadillo damage is a result of their feeding habits. Armadillos dig shallow holes, 1-3 inches deep and 3-5 inches long, as they search for soil invertebrates.
There are no effective repellents or baits for armadillo - although many are sold on the internet. Our research suggests that they are not effective at luring armadillos into traps. Trapping should consist of a double door wooden box trap. Metal wire cage traps may work as well. The trap should be constructed with “wings” – fencing, boards, logs or anything that will funnel the armadillo into the trap. Armadillos are not protected in Georgia so can dispatch them with a firearm – unless local ordinances prohibit the discharge of a weapon in your city or county. Never attempt to drown or gas a captured animal. Do not relocate them to another property. Research suggests they will not survive. Also, you may be trespassing or you may be violating other laws.
Visit the Warnell School Outreach website (https://www.warnell.uga.edu/outreach) for additional information or contact your local UGA County Extension Agent (http://extension.uga.edu/county-offices.html) or attend one of our Master Naturalist or Master Gardener classes to learn about wildlife, natural history, gardening, landscaping or other interesting and important topics.