Here in New England, you’re likely to see a wild animal or two anytime you step out into your backyard. Some of them we’re always happy to see. Others, not so much. From squirrels and raccoons to some much, much bigger creatures, the key to wildlife control New England is knowing which animals are actually good to have around, and how to discourage the ones that aren’t.
From squirrels and chipmunks to rats and mice, rodents are some of the most common animals in New England backyards. Other than occasionally raiding your bird feeder, squirrels don’t usually cause a nuisance. But rats and mice frequently find their way into homes where they’re quick to start breeding.
- Control tip: Reduce clutter to make your property less attractive to rodents, and seal entry points to your home.
Raccoons are very common, and while they might look cute, they’re anything but friendly. In addition to being some of the most frequent carriers of rabies, they seem to make it their mission in life to get into every trash can they can find.
- Control Tip: Keep outdoor trash cans tightly sealed. Use professional trapping to remove nuisance raccoons as humanely as possible.
Inhabiting wooded areas throughout the Northeast, whitetail deer commonly wander into backyards to graze. For some, they’re a welcome guest; but if you’re a gardener whose plants they find particularly tasty, they might be more of a nuisance.
- Control Tip: Choose landscape plants that deer find unpalatable, and use deer-resistant fencing around gardens. A wide variety of scare devices and natural taste- and odor-based repellents are also available.
Foxes are rarely seen in the daylight. For the most part, they are nocturnal hunters, and if you have foxes around, there’s a good chance they’re actually helping you by keeping rodent populations under control.
- Control Tip: If foxes aren’t causing a problem, let them be. But if you see one in the daytime acting strangely or erratically, contact a professional for removal; it may be rabid.
Gophers, woodchucks, and moles live underground, usually digging burrows in out-of-the-way places well away from human activity. But they do sometimes damage lawns, causing a problem for homeowners trying to keep their yards tidy.
- Control Tip: Poisons are inhumane and barrier devices are often ineffective; professional trapping is usually the best way to get rid of burrowing animals.
Some people just think snakes are creepy, but they are almost always harmless. Rattlesnakes and copperheads exist only as far north as southern Massachusetts—where they are very rare, and protected by law—so you’re not likely to encounter one. Other New England snake species, like garter snakes and rat snakes, mostly stay out of sight, quietly keeping rodent and insect populations in check.
- Control Tip: Leave them be unless snakes find their way into buildings, in which case professional wildlife control is an option.
Black bears usually stay away from humans, but they occasionally wander into populated areas in search of food. If you see bears in your backyard, stay inside—they’ll probably just leave on their own if they don’t find anything to eat.
- Control Tip: Don’t leave any food sources outside. Use bear-resistant trash cans, keep your barbecue grill clean, enclose your compost pile, and keep bird feeders well away from your house.
Sure they’re cute, but rabbits can cause damage too. They love to nibble away at the tender young leaves on shrubs, flowers, and vegetables. If you’ve ever tried to grow strawberries in your backyard, then you know how tasty they are to rabbits.
- Control Tip: Trapping is an effective way to temporarily reduce rabbit numbers on your property, but they reproduce like, well, rabbits, so they’ll probably be back. A 3-foot high fence made of fine mesh will keep rabbits out of your garden, and a number of scare devices and repellents may be effective.
Moose don’t come into backyards very often, but when they do they certainly make an impression. Short of building a 10-foot fence around your property, what can you do?
- Control Tip: Repellents ranging from bags of human hair and soap shavings to dryer softener sheets tied to your trees and shrubs have mixed effectiveness to keep moose from grazing.