University of Maryland Extension

October, November, & December Wildlife Tips

eastern gray squirrel on tree stump
Eastern gray squirrel. Photo from USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS, Bugwood.org

(More tips from HGIC)

Occurrences

  • Squirrels are busy gathering nuts of oaks, hickories, and beech for the winter. They eat what they need and store the rest. Gray squirrels bury nuts at many locations. They find their nuts by sense of smell and memory and may end up eating nuts buried by other squirrels.

  • Hummingbirds migrate in response to changes in day length and other environmental cues. Leave your hummingbird feeders up to make food available for late migrants.

  • Black rat snakes may still be hatching in October. These harmless baby snakes are not black at hatching but are a light gray with dark brown rectangular markings down the back. Their length at hatching is around 10 inches.

  • Eastern box turtle hatchlings may be found in the landscape. If you find one consider yourself lucky to have box turtles actually reproducing in your area. Box turtles throughout our area are on a rapid decline, seriously threatened by development and cars. No matter how cute it is, do not keep the baby turtle as a pet. Baby box turtles are very difficult to raise in captivity and often die.

Attracting

  • When planning your wildlife-friendly backyard don’t forget to include native trees and shrubs that produce fall and winter persistent fruits. The fruits are an important food source for migratory birds, winter residents, and other wildlife. The plants also offer nest sites and cover. Some fall fruiting trees and shrubs include dogwood, persimmon, black gum, oaks (acorns), and eastern white pine (seed-bearing cones). (PDF HG 120 Native Plants of Maryland)

  • Some fall fruiting native trees and shrubs with winter persistent fruits include: Eastern red cedar, sumac, American cranberry bush viburnum, Northern bayberry, American holly, and winterberry holly (include male and female plants for cross-pollination). Fruits of these trees and shrubs may remain long after ripening and may not be eaten by birds until frozen and thawed many times. These are important food sources for overwintering birds and early spring arrivals.

  • Rake some leaves into your ornamental beds. The leaves serve as mulch which breaks down into organic matter. The mulch slowly releases nutrients and offers weed control. A layer of leaf litter also provides a valuable hibernating habitat for important predatory insects and other beneficial small animals such as frogs, toads and snakes.

  • Leave the large seedheads of black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and native grasses for birds to feed on over the winter. Plants also offer shelter and provide winter interest in the garden.

  • Clean all nest boxes and feeders. Scrape and remove debris and scrub with hot, soapy water. Rinse and let dry. Some birds that are cavity nesters such as (chickadees and titmice) may use the nest boxes for roosting during the winter. 

  • Don’t put your birdbath away. Birds need fresh water for drinking and bathing throughout the fall season. Clean frequently and keep filled with fresh water.

  • Use your fall trimmings and leaves to build a brush pile in the corner of your yard or near the edge of a wooded area. Brush piles offer winter protection for ground-dwelling birds, small mammals and a hibernaculum for reptiles. 

Nuisance

  • Where voles are a problem try using mouse snap traps baited with apples. Fall is a good time to trap. Voles accept the bait readily after the first hard frost when desirable foods are less plentiful. Reduce populations before the winter when woody plant damage is greatest. (PDF) FS 654 - Reducing Vole Damage to Plants in Landscapes, Orchards and Nurseries.

  • Where deer are feeding on garden and landscape plants, you may need to use several approaches for control. Apply repellents such as “Liquid Fence”, ”Deer-Away”, “Deer-Off”, “Hinder” or “Ro-Pel” to vulnerable plants. If deer pressure is heavy, try rotating repellents. Small deodorant soap bars have been used with some success. Grow plants seldom damaged by deer and consider fencing options. (PDF) FS 655 - Resistance of Woody Ornamentals to Deer Damage.

  • House mice may be more noticeable around and in homes due to the onset of cool weather. Keep turf and weeds mowed closely around your house. Seal all cracks to prevent entry.




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