Wildlife Problems

Wildlife Problems

Our mountain community offers diverse wildlife to enjoy. As we encroach on their homes, we need to understand how to deal with problems we may cause the animal wildlife. See below for information on common wildlife problems and how to solve them. Note that all wildlife are protected by local, state, and federal regulations. It is unlawful to keep indigenous animals as pets.

Information on Squirrels, Raccoons, and Skunks.

SQUIRRELS

Most weigh between 15 and 25 ounces, and are 7 to 12 inches in length. Their home range is 1 to 7 acres, and their life span is 1 to 3 years. Squirrels have 2 litters per year, one in the spring (February to April depending upon temperatures) and one in the fall (July to September). Squirrels eat tree nuts, plant seeds, fruit, flowers, bulbs, mushrooms, tree bark and some animal matter.

We have several varieties locally. When squirrels cause problems, the methods used to solve them must be specific to the problem. Several methods must be combined and used continuously over a period of at least two weeks.

Public Health Issues

It is important not to handle squirrels. Squirrels can be a host to a number of parasites and be carriers of bubonic plague. However, bubonic plague is more commonly carried by rock squirrels and prairie dogs. Take responsibility for your family’s health by preventing contact with wildlife and keeping your family’s tetanus vaccinations up to date. Rodent bites are not tested by the health department. The main concern is preventing infection from bites and scratches.

Problems and Solutions

Any habitat altering methods must be employed consistently for 2 weeks and monitored closely. If you are not consistent, they will become more aggressive and persistent. The best method to prevent problems with squirrels is to alter their habitat.
Persistence and multiple controls work best.
Any method must be used a minimum of 2 weeks.
Make sure squirrels are the culprits. If damage is done at night, another animal is causing the problem.
What attracts squirrels to a residence?
birdseed
water
pet food
shelter
flowers
deciduous trees
bulbs
plant seeds
berries
fruits
What deters squirrels from a residence?
rags soaked in ammonia
socks filled with mothballs
cayenne pepper squirrel repellent (Click Here for the recipe)
Squirrel Nest in the Attic

Females often enter buildings to build a nest. They only need an opening with a diameter of 1 1/2 inches. They invariably find an entrance high on a structure and exploit an existing hole or enlarge one by gnawing it. A homeowner’s first sign of squirrel presence is usually the sound of scampering in the attic.
Thoroughly inspect inside & outside of attic to find opening.
Try to locate presence of babies.
If no young are present, try to frighten the adult out by banging rafters and wait until all have left, usually during the day.
If young are present, it is best to wait until they are able to leave by themselves (usually only 6-8 wks).
Seal up the opening & any weak spots with 1/2 inch wire or sheet metal. Extend metal 6 inches beyond opening to prevent gnawing by squirrels.
You may want to apply the squirrel repellent mixture (see above) around the covered opening. The mixture may stain, but it is effective.
If there are 2 or 3 adults in the attic, there are probably no babies. The male sticks around to mate and then splits to find another mate. If only 1 adult is in the attic, babies are likely.
Squirrels in the Chimney

It is assumed that the squirrel is trapped in the chimney unless there is clear evidence that the squirrel can climb in & out on its own. Such evidence would be watching squirrels exit the chimney & nesting materials or babies inside the chimney. DO NOT try to smoke a squirrel out of the chimney. Dead animals create a stench in the house which will be far worse than a live squirrel in the chimney.

If the squirrel is not trapped inside the chimney proceed with the following steps:

1. Thoroughly inspect inside and outside of chimney to find the opening.
2. Try to locate presence of babies.
3. If no young are present, try to frighten the adult out by banging pots inside the fireplace and waiting until all have left, usually during the day.
4. Open the flue a little bit & place a bowl of ammonia near it, allowing the smell to rise up.
5. If young are present it is best to wait until they are able to leave by themselves (usually only 6-8 weeks).
6. Seal up the opening and any weak spots with 1/2 inch wire or sheet metal. Extend metal 6 inches beyond opening to prevent gnawing by squirrels.
7. You may want to apply the squirrel repellent mixture around the covered opening. The mixture may stain, but it is effective.
8. You also need to cap the chimney.

If the squirrel is trapped inside the chimney proceed with the following steps:

1. Tie a 1/2 inch thick rope to the top of the chimney & lower it down through the chimney. Make sure the rope reaches the flue damper.
2. Place a bowl of ammonia on top of an overturned bucket in the firebox.
3. Open flue slightly to allow smell to rise up.
4. The squirrel will climb up the rope and escape.
5. Remove rope & bowl of ammonia.
6. Screen chimney with 1/2 inch mesh hardware wire or a commercially made cap.

Squirrel Loose in the House

Most squirrels that have entered the house have done so by accident. They want to leave just as much as you want them to. If the exact location is known, close all the interior doors to limit its movement and open any windows or exterior doors to the room with the squirrel. If left alone, the squirrel will find the opening and will readily jump from a second story building without harming itself.

Squirrels Raiding the Bird Feeder

Squirrels often become nuisances at bird feeders because they are particularly adept at overcoming obstacles when the reward is food. If a feeder is placed more than 8 ft. from a tree or a building and not placed under anything from which a squirrel can jump, or if the feeder is on a pole, a protective squirrel baffle at least 18 – 24 inches wide will help. You can also try to “squirrel proof” your feeder by enclosing it in a wire cage & cutting holes big enough for birds – but not for squirrels. They will work at the wire so impede their progress by making repairs when needed. You can add cayenne pepper to the bird seed. This will deter squirrels and not affect birds.

Hang feeders from a horizontal wire that is protected by loose sleeves of small diameter smooth metal pipe. If the swiveling pipe sections are 28 inches or longer, most squirrels cannot jump across.

Squirrels Damaging Gardens and Trees

Tree bark, fruits, and nuts are important food sources for squirrels. Squirrels can cause damage to vegetation, but they can also be very beneficial as natural tree trimmers. They prune branches & twigs when feeding & making nests which promotes vegetation growth. If you want to keep squirrels away from your plants, try the following ideas:
Plant your bulbs in a coating of cayenne pepper.
Spray squirrel repellent directly on the plants.
Place a 2 foot band of sheet metal, forming a cone with the large opening downwards, around the trunk approximately 6 ft. off the ground. For this method to be effective, the tree needs to be at least 10 ft. from other trees.
Trapping and Relocating Squirrels

We discourage the use of live traps to relocate squirrels. Relocating individual squirrels away from their home range without altering the habitat is merely a short term solution. Relocating animals will cause more long term problems for the homeowner by actually increasing the local population. By removing existing squirrels you invite others to come in and compete for the new resources created by the available territory, resulting in more squirrels than you had before in a relatively short period of time.

Due to increased resources, litter size tends to increase as well. Since squirrels can breed twice a year, the results of trapping can be noticed relatively quickly. If a squirrel is removed from a habitat, other types of animals requiring the same resources as squirrels (for example rats & mice) may increase to take advantage of the increased food/resource availability.

RACCOONS

Most weight between 15 to 60 lbs. and are 2-3 feet in length from the nose to the tip of the tail. They are black or pale brown and all have a ringed tail and a face mask. Raccoons give birth to 1 litter between March and June. There are anywhere from 1 to 7 young, and they will be weaned at 2 months. Raccoons eat fruits, vegetables, pet food, nuts, fish, birds, mice, corn, grapes, and insects.

Raccoons are not vicious or aggressive. They are defensive. They are highly intelligent with great manual dexterity and strength. Raccoons decrease their activity during the winter, but do not exhibit hibernation. They prefer woodlands, but can also thrive on grasslands with water sources and shelter. Dens are made in tree cavities, chimneys, attics, storm sewers, crawl spaces under buildings, etc.

Public Health Issues

Do not handle raccoons! They can be carriers of rabies and canine/feline distemper. Raccoons may have a roundworm that can infect humans who accidentally ingest or inhale eggs that are passed through raccoon feces. They may also be hosts for leptospirosis and giardiasis. Take responsibility for your family’s and pet’s health by preventing contact with wildlife and keeping their vaccinations up to date.

What Attracts Raccoons to a Residence?

water
pet food
shelter
gardens
compost
garbage
BBQ grills
fruit
To avoid attracting raccoons:

Feed pets inside or remove food after a meal
Keep BBQ grills clean and stored in garage/shed
Keep garbage in metal sealable containers
Be sure no animals are currently present, and then block any openings under buildings
What deters raccoons from a residence?

Rags soaked in ammonia
Socks filled with mothballs
Cayenne pepper
Bright lights & loud radios
Electric fencing
Mammal repellent (Click Here for the recipe)
Thick border of talcum powder or lime
Raccoons in the Attic

Inspect attic to determine where access is occurring. If the raccoon is present, encourage it to leave by increasing activity, turning on/off lights and radios. In small attics, place ammonia rags at night to encourage them to leave. In large attics, make a tight ball with rags and thoroughly soak them in a closed container for hours. The fumes have to be very strong. If young are present, it is best to wait a few weeks until they are old enough to leave by themselves. Once raccoon has left, seal area permanently with hardware cloth. Inspect outside area for tree limbs providing access to your roof. Trim any limbs hanging over/near your house.

Raccoons in the House

They can cause damage when frightened. Quietly open doors and windows allowing the animal to escape to the outdoors. Close any doors providing access to other parts of the house. Wait until raccoon leaves.

Raccoons in the Chimney

It is assumed that the raccoon is trapped in the chimney unless there is clear evidence that it can climb in & out on its own. Such evidence would be direct observation, nesting materials, or babies in the chimney. Do Not try to smoke a raccoon out of the chimney. Dead animals create a stench in the house which will be far worse than a live raccoon in the chimney.

If the raccoon is not trapped inside the chimney proceed with the following steps at dusk:

1. Thoroughly inspect inside and outside of chimney to find the opening.
2. Try to locate presence of babies.
3. If no young are present, at dusk try to frighten the adult out by banging pots inside the fireplace and wait until all have left.
4. Open the flue slightly, and place a bowl of ammonia on top of an overturned bucket in the firebox. They are more likely to leave during the night.
5. If young are present it is best to wait until they are able to leave by themselves (usually only 6-8 weeks).
6. Seal up the opening and any weak spots with 1/2 inch wire or sheet metal. Extend metal 6 inches beyond opening.
7. You may want to apply the mammal repellent mixture around the covered opening. The mixture may stain, but it is effective.
8. You also need to cap the chimney after raccoons have left.

If the raccoon is trapped inside the chimney proceed with the following steps at dusk:

1. Tie a 1/2 inch thick rope to the top of the chimney & lower it down through the chimney. Make sure the rope reaches the flue damper.
2. Place a bowl of ammonia on top of an overturned bucket in the firebox.
3. Open flue slightly to allow smell to rise up.
4. The raccoon will climb up the rope and escape.
5. Remove rope & bowl of ammonia.
6. Screen chimney with 1/2 inch mesh hardware wire or a commercially made cap.

Raccoons in the Garage

The best solution is to store garbage in a garage or shed. This will quickly encourage them to give up their visits. If the garbage needs to be stored outside, secure the lids with rubber tie downs and/or place weights on the lids to prevent a successful meal. As a last resort, put an inch of ammonia in the bottom of the bin or tie rags soaked in ammonia around the cans. Keep dumpsters closed and the area surrounding the dumpsters clean.

Raccoons in Ponds

Raccoons are very attracted to water. Excluding them from these areas will provide the only success. Use an electric fence, high voltage, low amperage (Fido Shock is safe for dogs and wildlife, available at Petsmart). For small ponds, build a wooden frame to cover the area. Cover with 1 x 2, welded wire. Secure it to the ground.

Raccoons in Gardens

Excluding raccoons from your garden is your only hope. But you can also try the following:

1. Use an electric fence, high voltage, low amperage (Fido Shock is safe for dogs & wildlife, available at Petsmart). Three strands: lowest strand 6″, highest strand 2 1/2 ft. above ground.
2. Spread a wide border of lime around your garden.
3. Plant cucumbers among your other plants. (They hate cucumbers!)
4. When fruit and vegetables first appear, spray the mammal repellent on them. Wash before human consumption.

Raccoons and Domestic Animals

Pets such as dogs and cats should not be let out unsupervised and preferably need to be kept on a leash and controlled. When rabbits or other small animals are housed outdoors, proper protection is absolutely necessary. If possible, pets should be brought into the house or a secure outbuilding at night to avoid any chance of raccoon attacks.

The only permanent means of coping with troublesome raccoons is to exclude them from the areas in which they are not welcomed. Capping chimneys and securing garbage can lids can convince raccoons to look elsewhere for a meal or den site.

Trapping and Relocating Raccoons

We discourage the use of live traps to relocate raccoons. Relocating individual raccoons away from their home range without altering the habitat is merely a short term solution. Relocating animals will cause more long term problems for the homeowner by actually increasing the local population. By removing existing raccoons you invite others to come in and compete for the new resources created by the available territory, resulting in more raccoons than you had before in a relatively short period of time.

Due to increased resources, litter size tends to increase as well. If a raccoon is removed from a habitat, other types of animals requiring the same resources as raccoons (for example, skunks) may increase to take advantage of the increased food/resource availability.

SKUNKS

There are three species of skunks in our area: striped, spotted and hognosed. The most common is the striped skunk. They are always black and white with bushy tails. Skunks are primarily nocturnal (active at night).

Skunks eat mice, eggs, lizards, frogs, birds, beetles, earthworms, garbage, acorns, and fruit, but they especially love sunflowers and bird seed. They are 20 to 30 inches long and weight 6 to 10 lbs. They live in hollow logs, wood or rock piles, and under buildings. Skunks breed in late April to early June and usually give birth to 1 to 7 young. Their home range is 30 to 40 acres and always near water. Their defense mechanism is a spray, which can reach up to 15 feet.

Skunks don’t like their own smell, and they spray only in self-defense. They are not aggressive, and they don’t spray where they live. They put their tail straight up to look bigger for self-defense. When they are ready to spray, they put their tail completely over their face. When skunks are ready to spray, they aim for their enemy’s eyes. The spray burns in the eye and temporarily blinds.

We have several varieties locally. When skunks cause problems, the methods used to solve them must be specific to the problem. Several methods must be combined and used continuously over a period of at least two weeks. Skunks are not dangerous, they usually won’t live where a dog resides, and they don’t live where their food source is located.

Benefits of Skunks

Skunks eat home and farm pests such as mice, rats, moles, aphids, grubs, beetles, yellow jackets, grasshoppers, cutworms, cockroaches, scorpions, black widow spiders, snakes, etc. An estimated 70% of a skunk’s diet consists of insects considered harmful to humans. They also eat decomposing fruit fallen from trees.

Public Health Issues

It is important not to handle skunks. Although it is not very common in our area, they can be carriers of rabies and distemper. If you are bitten, scrub the wound with soap and water for at least 20 minutes. Seek medical attention immediately. Skunks can spray 15 feet with extreme accuracy. If a person or pet gets the spray in the eyes it is very irritating, but no permanent damage will occur.

Take responsibility for your family’s and pets’ health by preventing contact with wildlife and keeping your pets’ vaccinations up to date.

What Attracts Skunks to a Residence?

Skunk control should focus on prevention. The best method to reduce skunk visits is to alter their habitat in a way that eliminates the resources currently available to them. The following items will attract skunks.

bird seed
pet food
piles of brush
gardens
compost
garbage
BBQ grills
fruit fallen from trees
lumber or rocks
openings under houses, decks, or sheds
To avoid attracting skunks:

Feed pets inside or remove food after a meal
Keep BBQ grills clean and stored in garage/shed
Keep garbage in metal sealable containers
Be sure no animals are currently present, and then block any openings under buildings
Pick up any fruit in your orchard/yard
What deters skunks from a residence?

Strong human scent on old worn clothes
Rags soaked in ammonia
Socks filled with mothballs
Mammal repellent for surfaces being chewed (Click Here for the recipe)
Skunk Odors

If approached by an intruder and unable to flee, a skunk will usually fluff its fur, shake its tail, stamp the ground with its front feet, growl, stand on its hind legs, turn its head and spit to scare the potential attacker. If those techniques do not work, it will lift up its tail and spray.

Odor Removal from House

Air the house out thoroughly. Use fans under the house if necessary (where odor usually originates). Spraying acidic solutions such as diluted vinegar can help counteract skunk spray, which is alkaline. Use chlorine bleach, ammonia, and commercial products containing neutroleum alpha to clean odor from inanimate objects. Massengill douche and a few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball also works.

Odor Removal from Humans

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 clean clothes by washing in vinegar and/or hanging them outside for a month before dry cleaning and/or wash with: Scope or Oxyfresh mouthwash. You might be better off discarding them.

Odor Removal from Pets

Wash pets immediately with one or more of the following.

Home Remedy:

1 quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup of Baking Soda
1 teaspoon of Liquid Soap
Wash while mixture is bubbling, rinse off with tap water.

Commercial products such as:

Skunk Kleen, Skunk Odor Remover, Nature’s Miracle (available at pet shops)
Oxyfresh products
Scope mouthwash
Vanilla extract
Rinse pets well with tap water.

Skunks under Buildings

Check for activity by covering entrances with loose dirt. If a skunk is present, it will easily dig its way out removing the dirt. If the dirt remains undisturbed for 2 or 3 nights, and it’s not winter, the hole may be permanently closed with masonry, boards or hardware cloth. You can sprinkle flour around the opening. This way you can determine: 1. if the animal is a skunk, and 2. if the animal went inside or outside by the direction of the tracks. You may need to repeat sprinkling the flour for a few days.

You can try to speed up the skunk eviction by placing the following items into the burrow: Clothes with strong human scent (unwashed socks, shirts, etc.), Rags soaked thoroughly in ammonia, and Socks filled with mothballs (keep out of reach of children).

It is advisable to attach repellent materials with twine or wires to sticks so that they can be retrieved when the skunk has departed. It is also advisable to place the ammonia rags on a plastic surface (dish) to prevent the nitrogen in the ammonia from penetrating into the ground.

To prevent skunks from digging under a structure, dig a trench 1 1/2 feet deep and 6 inches wide along the exterior wall. Place wire mesh vertically so that it extends 1 1/2 feet down and bend the bottom 6 inches outward at an angle. Backfill the trench with dirt or cement once the wire is positioned.

Skunks in Window Wells or Dumpsters

They need a way to escape. The best approach is to place a rough board in the well/dumpster at no more than a 45 degree angle to allow skunks to climb out. As you quietly approach the window or dumpster, try to stay out of the skunk’s sight. If the skunk exhibits any defensive behavior like foot stomping or tail raising, you should retreat. Another way to get the board in the well/dumpster is to dangle it from a string attached to a long pole. You will need to wait overnight, since they are more likely to move when it is dark.

Skunks in the Chicken Coop

The only solution to poultry predation by skunks is to securely enclose poultry, especially at night. Repair all openings in coop or fencing. Fencing should extend 1 1/2 feet underground to prevent skunks and other animals from digging under. Skunks are poor climbers but excellent diggers.

Trapping and Relocating Skunks

We discourage the use of live traps to relocate skunks. The Colorado Division of Wildlife will not allow any relocation or rehabilitation of striped skunks. Relocating individual skunks away from their home range without altering the habitat, is merely a short term solution. Relocating animals will cause more long term problems for the homeowner by actually increasing the local population. By removing existing skunks, you invite others to come in and compete for the new resources created by the available territory, resulting in more skunks than you had before in a relatively short period of time.

Due to increased resources, liter size tends to increase as well. If a skunk is removed from a habitat, other types of animals requiring the same resources as skunks (for example, raccoons) may increase to take advantage of the increased food/resource availability.