University of Maryland Extension

FAQ's - Wildlife/Problems

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My house has recently been attacked by woodpeckers and they are damaging the cedar siding. What can I do to discourage this behavior?

The groundhog living in our retaining wall is eating our vegetables. We built a fence, but he climbed it! How can we get him to move?

How can I determine if silver dollar sized holes in my garden are being made by voles or moles? Some of my perennials are not doing too well in this bed.

A deer scrapped a large portion of the trunk on my maple tree in an attempt to break it. The damage goes up the trunk about two feet. Why do they do this?

I see my neighbor spraying deer repellent on his evergreens periodically. Are they effective and how should I go about using them in my own yard?

Occasionally snakes get into my basement.  What can I do to prevent this from happening in the future? I do know that snakes are beneficial, but I would be happier if they remained outdoors.

I have seen evidence of mice activity in my pantry. We live in a new home and did not think they could get in. What should I do to get rid of them?

Should I be concerned about a fox that has been wandering around my neighborhood lately? I wouldn’t exactly say I live in the country.

A robin is flying into the glass of my living room window? It happens during the day and early evening. He flies away when I go outside but then he starts up again and it goes on for at least twenty minutes. Do you have any idea why he would be doing this?

I am considering a permanent deer fence. I understand that deer can jump a 10' fence with a running start. How much of a deterrent would a solid wooden 6 foot fence be? Is there a better choice?

I believe I have bats living in my attic. What do I do?

My house has recently been attacked by woodpeckers and they are damaging the cedar siding. What can I do to discourage this behavior?

It is fairly common for cedar and redwood siding to be attacked by woodpeckers. Woodpeckers make holes in search of insects but some species make holes in sound wood where no insects exist. Woodpeckers communicate with one another by drumming on wood or even metal such as gutters or downspouts. Problem areas should be netted with a light-weight mesh netting or plastic sheeting. Birds do not like to fly up and under netting. If the birds move to a different location the netting should also be moved. Woodpeckers can be very persistent and are not easily driven from their territories. Hanging strips of aluminum foil, shiny Mylar tape, or cloth that flutters in the wind from the eaves may help to frighten the birds away. Harassing the birds using an air horn, squirting water at them from a hose, or using any device that will make a loud noise can also be tried. You need to be persistent. Contact the Nuisance Wildlife Information Line at 1-877-463-6497 for more information.  They can provide advice and resources to help with wildlife problems.

The groundhog living in our retaining wall is eating our vegetables.  We built a fence, but he climbed it!  How can we get him to move?

Groundhogs like to live under porches, concrete slabs, and other places that replicate rock in nature. They are a whiz at climbing and are excellent diggers.  To make your groundhog relocate, soak rags in ammonia and stuff them down the tunnel entrances with a pole or broom handle.  Leave one entrance open for the groundhog’s retreat, then stuff and plug it the next day. Refill the tunnels with rocks and soil. An effective fence needs to be of wire fencing at least 3-4 feet tall and buried 10-12” in the ground. Slanting the fence outward also helps.  Keep the upper fence a little lax so that it makes the groundhog fall. An electric hot-shot wire placed 4 to 5 inches off the ground and the same distance outside the fence will also prevent climbing. Fencing supplies can be purchased at farm supply stores.

How can I determine if the silver dollar sized holes I see in my garden are being made by voles or moles? Some of my perennials are not doing too well in this bed. 

The holes are probably caused by voles. Voles, also called meadow mice, are members of the rodent family. Voles eat a wide variety of plant parts including roots, bulbs, tubers, the bark of trees and shrubs, but not insects like moles do. Voles are active day and night and do not hibernate. They construct many tunnels and surface runways with numerous entrances.  Voles are controlled by cultural means, habitat modification and trapping. During the growing season lawns should be kept mowed; in ornamental beds keep mulch to a minimum; and trap them using mouse traps. Bait traps with peanut butter or small apple slices placed in areas where you notice holes or tunneling. To keep other animals from triggering the traps place a small box upside down over the trap and anchor it with a stone or brick.

A deer scrapped a large portion of the trunk on my maple tree in an attempt to break it. The damage goes up the trunk about two feet. Why do they do this?

Deer "rub" their antlers on tree bark in late summer into fall to remove the velvet from their new antlers. This can cause a lot of damage. They rub against small tree saplings, multi-trunked shrubs and the lower small limbs of trees. They are not trying to break the tree. Once they have scraped off bark, there is nothing you can do to help the trunk repair the damage. Do not use pruning paint. It can slow the tree’s ability to mend the wound. If there are loose dangling shreds of bark, you can clip them off evenly. The best solution is prevention. For young trees that are likely targets, place wire mesh cage around the trunk (not too tight--you don't want the bark to grow into the wire) or the hard plastic tree wraps that expand as the tree grows.

I see my neighbor spraying deer repellent on his evergreens periodically. Are they effective and how should I go about using them in my own yard?

(PDF) Repellents are one tool to help manage deer damage. However, there should be other strategies in place for deer control; like planting (PDF) ornamentals that they tend not to browse and fencing off areas of the yard such as around a vegetable garden. Repellents work best when applied before feeding patterns develop and are useful when deer damage is at low to moderate levels. They should be applied according the product label and on a regular basis for continued effectiveness.  Spray in the fall, at least one time in the winter and very importantly as plants are putting out new growth in the spring. Look on the label to see what it says about the need to apply after rain. Nothing is 100% effective when it comes to preventing deer damage but if used in a timely manner repellents can help reduce the amount of damage to plants.

Occasionally snakes get into my basement.  What can I do to prevent this from happening in the future?  I do know that snakes are beneficial, but I would be happier if they remained outdoors.

Sounds like you need to do some home maintenance. First of all make sure you do not have mice coming indoors, if so you need to control them. Snakes are excellent hunters and will seek out a food source. Next, seal all cracks, holes or crevices where they can enter the home and replace worn weather stripping around doors and windows. Outdoors, check along the top of the basement wall where it meets the siding for any gaps that should be caulked. Clean-up wood and rock piles, cut back weeds near the house and thin out groundcovers to reduce hiding places. 

I have seen evidence of mice activity in my pantry. We live in a new home and did not think they could get in. What should I do to get rid of them?

Sanitation, trapping, and sealing are the three key elements for controlling mice. Begin by cleaning up any spilled food in the area, do not keep pet food out all night, and empty out trash daily. Store grains and opened packages of food in heavy plastic containers with tight fitting lids. Set out mouse-size snap traps baited with a small amount of peanut butter. Place them perpendicular to the wall with the trigger end closest to the wall-board. Seal off openings and gaps in the inside and outside your home. Check behind the refrigerator and stove, around kitchen pipes, in the basement or crawlspace, etc. and caulk or seal off any openings you find. Stuff larger openings with steel wool or cover them with hardware cloth or sheet metal.  Taking these basic measures will help to eliminate your problem.

Should I be concerned about a fox that has been wandering around my neighborhood lately? I wouldn’t exactly say I live in the country.

Foxes have become very urbanized so it is not unusual to see them in a suburban area. There are two species in Maryland, the grey fox and the red fox. Grey foxes tend to be more nocturnal than red foxes and the reason why red foxes are noticed more often. They are not something to be feared and are rather shy, but obviously they should be left alone. Their diet is comprised of both plants and animals and they will prey upon rats, mice, rabbits, insects and squirrels. To discourage them from hanging around your home remove food sources such as unsecured trash cans, and cat or dog food. Also, bird feeders and compost piles could potentially draw a fox because they both attract rodents and small mammals for the fox to feed upon. It is rare to encounter a rabid fox but if you should see one that looks disoriented and is behaving oddly contact your county animal control office.

A robin is flying into the glass of my living room window? It happens during the day and early evening. He flies away when I go outside but then he starts up again and it goes on for at least twenty minutes. Do you have any idea why he would be doing this?

What you describe is a fairly common behavior for territorial bird species like, robins, sparrows and cardinals that nest close to houses. It generally occurs in spring. Both males and females do this as they attempt to thwart possible competitors or birds they view as a threat to their young. They see their reflection in your window and assume it is a bird they need drive away which leads them to fly into the glass. You can prevent this temporarily by covering the outside of the window with bird netting or fabric so their reflection is no longer visible to them. Or hang shiny objects like cd discs or Mylar tape in front of the window. There are also semi-transparent stickers sold to prevent birds from flying into windows. This behavior is exhausting for the bird but is usually not lethal.

I am considering a permanent deer fence. I understand that deer can jump a 10' fence with a running start. How much of a deterrent would a solid wooden 6 foot fence be? Is there a better choice?

A 10 foot fence will keep out any but the most talented deer. A 6-foot fence provides some deterrence, but a determined deer can jump it. They are afraid to jump in small fenced areas. Dogs can be a good deer damage preventer even in cases where the dog is only outdoors during the day and occasionally at night. 

I believe I have bats living in my attic. What do I do?

For the most part bats are very beneficial creatures but for many people having them living in their attic can but an unsettling experience. The MD Department of Natural Resources is an excellent resource as they have the information you need to solve this problem on their website.  

Please send us a question at Ask the Experts if you have a wildlife question you would like answered. Digitial photos can be attached to your question.

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