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San Diego Humane Society

How to Stop Wildlife from Moving In

Here are some tips to help wildlife not turn into pests.

What wildlife like:

  • Trash and Debris: For many wild creatures, our trash is their culinary treasure, so secure all garbage cans. Clean up brush/wood piles, clutter and other debris that make perfect nesting and denning areas.
  • Housing: Many animals will readily take up residence in a building if access is available, block all holes with wood or wire mesh.
  • Fruit: Keep fruit trees picked and don't leave rotted fruit on the ground.
  • Water: If possible, eliminate outdoor sources of water.
  • Pets: Our pets’ food can be a tempting food source for wildlife. Avoid feeding pets outside (or remove food dishes promptly if you do) and lock pet doors nightly.
    Pet waste is another common pet-related cause of unwanted wildlife encounters, so clear your yard of it on a daily basis.
  • Rodents: Rats may not only be attracted to your yard, but a rodent infestation can draw even more hungry creatures to your home, since they are a food source. Solve rodent problems as quickly as possible.

What they don’t:

  • Chili Powder: Capsaicin makes chili powder taste “spicy.” It is also a nontoxic irritant that affects all mammals and when used regularly will deter raccoons, skunks and opossums. Sprinkle it anywhere wild animals are frequenting, including in and around trash, around a garden or wherever animals are digging. As capsaicin only affects mammals, it’s also safe to mix into birdseed to stop other animals from using it as a food source.
  • Ammonia or Vinegar: One of the chemicals found in urine, ammonia is offensive to skunks, raccoons, opossums and other “nuisance” creatures. Vinegar is another deterrent. Place soaked rags or spray directly onto areas wildlife finds attractive. Reapply daily for best results and only use outdoors.
  • Fans, Radios, Lights and Balloons: Strange sounds, lights and moving items can frighten animals into avoiding your residence. Place an oscillating fan (you can attach strings to the outside for extra movement), a helium balloon, lighting or a portable radio in a problem area.

Specific Tips to Deter Rodents and Squirrels

  • Prune overhanging tree limbs, shrubs, and vines that may provide access to attics and other areas. Also cover telephone and electric wires near the house with long plastic tubing.
  • Rodents and squirrels are excitable and can cause severe damage if trapped inside a home. Quickly and quietly open a door or window and leave the room.
  • A rodent or squirrel may fall in a chimney while climbing on the roof. Secure a heavy rope from the top of the chimney and drop it down to the fireplace. After the animal has exited, remove the rope and properly cap the chimney.

 Specific Tips to Deter Skunks

  • Do not feed skunks. They can easily become dependent on human food sources.
  • A persistent, faint skunk odor around a hole leading under a foundation or deck indicates a skunk may be present. To find out, cover the hole with loose dirt; if a skunk is in residence, it will dig out during the night. Allow three days for this test; if dirt remains undisturbed, then close the opening with masonry, boards, or hardware cloth.
  • Start a nontoxic insect-control program (especially for grubs) to discourage digging.
  • Fences are effective as long as they are buried at least 1 1/2 feet in the ground.
  • Blow-up or plastic great horned owls may be strategically placed and periodically moved to deter skunks.
  • Trapping and relocation of skunks is not a recommended or viable alternative. Wild animals are territorial and like species will simply take over the area vacated by the relocated or dead animal.
What if you and/or your pet are sprayed by a skunk?

If a person or an animal surprises a skunk in a situation where neither can retreat, the skunk will spray in self-defense.

Skunk spray in human eyes is extremely irritating and can cause temporary blindness, but no permanent damage. Flush eyes liberally with cold water to ease irritation. Wash skin with carbolic soap and water, tomato juice or vinegar. You may be able to save clothing by washing repeatedly in vinegar water and/or hanging it outside for a month or so before dry-cleaning. For the worst sprays, however, it may be best to discard or burn the clothing.

When your pet is sprayed, the quicker you take action, the more completely you can remove the odor. Wash your pet with diluted vinegar to counteract the chemical makeup of the skunk spray. Skunk Off and similar preparations containing neutroleum alpha, available from some pet stores, are effective.

Skunk Smell Remedy: 1 quart 3% peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon liquid hand soap. Mix all three ingredients together. Shampoo animal thoroughly keeping out of eyes, nose and mouth. Soak 5 minutes. Rinse well.

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