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August 22, 2012

Backyard Harmony, Page 3: Taboo Treatments

Some methods that seem innocuous are bad for wildlife

All Animals magazine September/October 2012

  • iStockphoto.com

For gardeners who want neighborhood critters to stop devouring the tomato seedlings but don’t wish them bodily harm, poisons, lethal traps, and glue boards are obvious products to avoid. Here are a few less obviously problematic methods.


Predator pee? Leave it be. Given the amount of the stuff on the market, predator urine—supposedly the byproduct of coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and other animals—probably comes from fur farms, where animals are kept in small cages and commonly killed by gassing, neck breaking, or electrocution. Leave the predator urine on the shelf and let stores that sell it know you don’t approve.

It’s a trap! You might think you’re doing Ms. Groundhog a favor by baiting her into a live trap and releasing her to the beautiful park just a few miles away. But she might have babies stashed nearby who could starve if she can’t find her way back. And odds are heavily stacked against animals who are moved; they don’t know where to find food, shelter, or water, and they could be attacked by predators.

Buyer beware. Usually listed under “Pest Control” in the phone book, many wildlife control operators employ unscrupulous methods such as trap and removal, gassing, and drowning. Be vigilant when hiring a company to solve a wildlife problem: Ask for details about how the problem will be resolved, seek assurance in writing that the company complies with laws and regulations, and check with a local wildlife rehabilitator or humane society for references.

Please pass on the mothballs.  Mothballs are not registered with the EPA for outdoor use as a wildlife deterrent. Besides most likely being ineffective, these white “candies” could be a danger to any children putting them in their mouths, and some people are sensitive to commonly used ingredients in mothballs and moth flakes.

Back away from the ammonia. One often-recommended deterrent is to place ammonia-soaked rags throughout the garden. But ammonia is not registered with the EPA for use as a wildlife deterrent, and it may harm the lungs of wild babies. (Household urine is off the hook; it’s diluted enough to not be of concern.)

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