Natural “Pest Mammal” Control Methods

garden_rabbitWhile rabbits, gophers, skunks, voles, and raccoons may look cute and cuddly, they can all ruin your prized lawn, flower and vegetable gardens. Rabbits and raccoons will invade your vegetable gardens while gophers tunnel under your lawn, causing small mounds of dirt to appear all over your yard. Skunks dig around for grubs and end up making a mess out of your lawn while voles make meals out of vegetable gardens, bark from fruit trees, and also create tunnels under your lawn. Rather than using chemical methods to deter these animals, which can leak into the ground and subsequently contaminate soil and drinking water, use natural methods to keep these critters out of your yard and away from your garden.

Deter rabbits from enjoying your vegetable garden by planting catnip and garlic around garden and property borders, as both are repulsive to rabbits. Foxglove and monkshood are two more plants that bunnies steer clear of as they are poisonous to these rodents as well as for deer (and humans). Another option is to plant aromatic herbs such as lavender around your garden borders as the purple plant is also repellent to rabbits. Those with cats will probably find they don’t have many rabbit problems; however, if the cat always stays indoors, use urine-soaked litter around your property to keep rabbits away.

Gophers are another warm fuzzy that can wreak havoc on your lawn with their burrowing ways. Since one gopher can create several dirt mounds a day, it is essential to use natural deterrents as soon as you see evidence of gophers in your yard. While exclusion methods may be used, such as installing underground fencing, less dramatic natural gopher control options include purchasing predator urine from your local nursery or hunting supply store. Gopher predators include coyotes, dogs, cats, owls, and snakes. Sprinkle coyote urine or urine-soaked kitty litter around your property and near gopher mounds to deter them. Install owl nesting boxes around your property to encourage these predators to hang around as well. Other natural options include trapping the animals for humane release elsewhere and taking steps to make your lawn and garden less gopher-friendly. Remove weedy areas near your gardens and property if possible to make the area inhospitable to gophers.

Keep those masked mammals out of your gardens and away from your trash cans by first ensuring that all garbage cans are properly sealed. Raccoons will eat just about anything, and love to make messes out of improperly closed garbage cans. Place piles of cayenne peppers around garden areas and anywhere raccoons appear to frequent as these hot peppers are repellent to raccoons. Place old rags in old bowls and soak them with ammonia to keep raccoons at bay, although avoid placing ammonia bowls on your lawn or in your garden as it can burn grass and plants. Rather, keep them around garbage cans to discourage raccoons. Also, remember to cap your chimney if applicable to avoid trapped-raccoon-in-chimney situations.

Prevent skunks from hanging around your property by sprinkling cayenne pepper powder around known skunk dens. As with raccoons, skunks are not fond of this variety of hot pepper. Keep trash cans secure, and put a lid or cap on compost piles, which are attractive to these black and white creatures. Remove dog and cat food dishes that are left outdoors, as pet foods are also enjoyed by skunks. Use fencing to keep skunks away as they are not climbers, and make your property less inviting to skunks by keeping wood piles off the ground. The ammonia-soaked rag method also works for skunks.

Voles, also called meadow mice, can cause lawn destruction thanks to their burrowing methods. They also like to chow down on landscape plants such as dichondra and lilies as well as the bark of fruit trees. Other food favorites include beets, lettuce, sweet potatoes, spinach, turnips, carrots and other vegetable garden staples. Control your yard’s vole population by removing all dense vegetative cover, weeds and heavy mulch, all of which make attractive vole habitats. Keep voles from accessing your gardens by erecting fencing that is at least 12 inches high and features a mesh size of ¼ inch or smaller. Protect vines, trees, and ornamentals by wrapping sheet metal, plastic, or hardware cloth into cylinder shapes around trunks.

Use these and other natural methods of deterring “pest” animals from your property to avoid harming the environment, yourself, and the animal(s).


Kent Page McGroarty is a freelance writer who has written extensively about green living for Demand Media sites among others, as well as for her own blog, A Natural Day. She has a B.A. in English from Saint Joseph’s University and specializes in green living and home and garden topics.

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