Peaceful coexistence with wildlife is possible

by Siegrid Stern

Original published in the Oakland Press, Pontiac, Michigan

Rain Forest Splendor

Brilliant Winter Color
in the Landscape

Wildlife Habitat




     The population boom has change the living conditions for our wildlife forever. We invaded
their habitat, and they are forced to live among us. This causes headaches for people who want perfect landscaping or a vegetable garden. But we can coexist peacefully.

Dining al fresco
My opinion is, so what if the deer are nibbling on my dogwood berries. In the process, they are giving my bushes a much needed pruning. Sure, they love to munch on their favorite flowers for dessert, but what animal wouldn't?

     One day I watched in horror as a groundhog devoured my roses. I once planted a few flats of impatiens in chipmunk territory and the next day, the territorial Mr. Chipmunk felt his privacy had been invaded and dug up every one of them!
Who do you think eats the foliage of your bulbs right down to the soil line? The squirrel! Forget about planting an unprotected vegetable garden. Mr. Cottontail surely will get his share along with nibbling some of your favorite herbaceous plants right down to the base.

     What about all these tunnels in the grass? Should I try to trap the moles or just consider my lawn aerated? And oh, all these holes in my yard from squirrels burying nuts, chipmunks making a home and skunks digging for grubs! Should I trap them, kill them, douse my yard with pesticides, or just accept them?

     And slugs feasting on my hostas! Come on, all you animals; in the fall you can have whatever the slugs, snails and cutworms didn't get.

Home on the range     
My subdivision has its own deer herd. How unique! They sleep in resident's back yards and are supplied with corn, apples, carrots, sugar beets, salt blocks and fresh water. People treasure the moments they are able to see the deer. For the pleasure they have in watching these beautiful animals, they are willing to put up with what we consider to be their misbehavior.

Damage control
There are commercial scent repellents available at garden stores for those who want to enjoy wildlife in their yards but reduce feeding damage. Fallow instructions as some need to be reapplied after rain and some can be mixed with an anti-transpirant to increase its effectiveness. Also available is a combination anti-transpirant and pest repellent.

     To control moles in my yard, I use a product that is derived from castor oil. Get rid of the grubs to make your lawn less attractive to moles and skunks.
A periodic dusting of diatomaceous earth keeps my hostas in perfect condition all summer long.

Some homemade repellents include:

  • used cat litter sprinkled around plants.
  • egg spray, garlic spray, pepper spray, Tabasco sauce spray or human hair hung in mesh bags from tree branches.
  • for deer repellent, hang bars of strong scented deodorant soap in their wrappers on wires 30 inches above the ground.
  • blood meal sprinkled around plants will deter deer and rabbits and will also supply the soil with nitrogen.

Fence them out
To prevent deer from jumping a fence, it must be 8 to 10 feet tall. A double fence is much better-looking and works just as well. Use two 4-foot fences spaced five feet apart strung with 12-gauge wire with 2- by 4-inch mesh. Deer are unable to jump both fences at once. The fences can be disguised with plantings of vines and shrubs.

     To control rabbits and groundhogs I recommend an ordinary chicken-wire fence buried six inches into the soil and 2 to 4 feet tall with a 1- to 1 1/2-inch mesh. The size of fence depends on which pest you are trying to thwart. For example, for rabbits the fence should be 2 feet tall, for groundhogs - 4 feet tall.
Vulnerable plants can be wrapped or covered with wire mesh. Also, young trees can be protected with a wire cage. Electric charged fences will also work.

Attracting wildlife
     Landscaping for wildlife works, but it is unreasonable to expect animals not to nibble. I noticed that my tulips had been nibbled on a few years ago. I switched to daffodils and sprayed animal repellent on the remaining tulips. The combination worked.

     There are many annuals and herbaceous perennials which are not eaten by wildlife, such as begonias, dahlias, anemones, coreopsis, verbenas, etc.
Plants often eaten by wildlife are impatients, tulips, roses, hostas and crocus.
By planting only berry-producing shrubs and trees with fruit, my whole property became a wildlife habitat. I enjoy a large collection of perennials and groundcovers, but mostly the type which are disliked by wildlife.

Bird patrol
     To help fight my war against insects, I encourage a large population of birds in my yard by supplying them with food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young. They help to rid my yard of a lot of insects, including Japanese beetles and gypsy moth larvae.

Food for thought
     Beginning in October, I supplement their natural diet with individual feeders full of thistle, oilers, sesame seeds and cracked corn. This helps to separate the different species and there is no fighting among them.
Squirrels are kept at bay by feeding them cracked corn and corn on the cob at ground level. The cracked corn is eaten by all wildlife.

     During the winter months I offer a sweet feed (made for horses) that is available at feed stores. The deer absolutely love it and don't bother my plants and shrubs. 
Once you start feeding, don't stop until food is naturally available again in the spring.

As you can see, it is possible to coexist peacefully with wildlife and enjoy it.    




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