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wildlife frequently asked questions

This is one of many common questions we receive every year. However, to some extent, each situation is unique and different. Often, you will need to take the information provided here and adapt it to your individual situation. Feel free to call the Wildlife Staff for more specific advice. We have 24-hour voicemail and will return your call as quickly as possible.

1. There’s an animal living under my deck/porch/shed. How can I get rid of it?

To truly solve this situation, you must construct some physical barrier instead of live trapping, scaring, or killing the animal. In general, evict the animal and then construct a barrier the animal cannot physically bypass -- like a wall built of latticework or wire fencing extending into the ground. If it’s an opossum or raccoon, extend the wall or barrier 8 –10 inches into the ground. If it’s more of a “digger” like a groundhog or even skunk, extend it at least 2 feet underground and preferably with a 90-degree bent bottom jutting out underground away from your structure. Wildlife is unpredictable, so the more elaborate your barrier, the better your chance of keeping the animal out.

Try not to do anything during the season when the animal may have babies. The problem is made worse if someone removes a mom but leaves the babies, who will soon start starving.

Live-trapping is NOT a good solution as it only addresses this animal and does nothing to prevent the next animal that comes by from moving in and starting the whole process over again. Live -trapping will become a constant necessity. Building a barrier under the porch is a lot less work in the long run and should permanently solve the problem.

Scare tactics such as bad smells or scary sights or sounds also usually do not work (at least alone) as the only method of control. Wildlife has an enormous capacity to adapt to negative stimulus as soon as they figure out that it poses no threat to them. For example, songbirds are often seen sitting on the plastic owls that are meant to scare them away. Scare tactics may be used initially to evict the animal, but you must then immediately erect a physical barrier to prevent the animal from going back under the structure.

 In the initial attempt to evict the animal, you should try to change the things that it likes about the situation; usually, dark, quiet, dry and “non-smelly.” Install floodlights to illuminate under the structure. Place a radio tuned to a 24-hour talk radio show. Let a hose drizzle to make the area swampy. Place human-smelling or stinky items under the structure. Doing as many of these things as you can will increase the chances of making the animal dislike the area enough to leave, so that you can then erect the physical barrier.

Use extreme caution with mothballs as they are filled with naphthalene or dichlorobenzene, which are extremely toxic substances. Be aware that animals may even kick or push mothballs away from where you placed them, so you have no control over who/what may ingest them including your pets, your neighbors’ pets, or even neighborhood children.

Always, feel free to call the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s Wildlife Staff at (440) 871-2900, ext 204 for more information.

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