By Saline Jett,
Master Gardener Trainee
Rabbits and squirrels are in abundance. I’m enjoying a cup of coffee and anticipating the growth of my potted tomato plants.
The dilemma of living with wildlife has intrigued me to continue to research the issue. The University of Illinois has devoted an entire chapter in The Illinois Master Gardener Manual-Edition 2 to living with wildlife. I have read the chapter and realized more studying for me is necessary. There are a few important aspects I would like to address with the general population.
Gardening often attracts many species of animals. Often critters become a nuisance. They pick, pluck, chew and help themselves to our hard work; our initial intent was not to plant a dinner table for them! Wildlife attacking our blossoms and devouring our gardens are only trying to survive. Reading this chapter made me more conscious of the needs of birds, squirrels and even reptiles. Prevention is crucial, but you must ask yourself, “Is control necessary?” Specifically, is property damage occurring to the threat of public health and safety? If the answer is yes, then what kind of control is needed?
Knowing what species and whether the problem is year round or seasonal and determining who is best qualified to handle the problem is also necessary. A licensed nuisance wildlife control expert may be your best resource. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the University of Illinois Extension collaborated and developed a website, Living with Wildlife in Illinois: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/
The chapter in my manual has helped my consciousness of the importance of the many factors which need attention when dealing with any type of wildlife. The real problem may be us. We do not own wildlife. In Illinois all species of wildlife are held in public trust by the state. With this knowledge, I’m treading lightly on this subject of pest management and control. The backyard garden has options:
* Look up the website
* Contact a biologist through IDNR
* The permits and legal issues surrounding pest management and control
Birds are protected federally and are under jurisdiction of the United States Wildlife Service which works with IDNR personnel. The few suggestions provided include:
* Contact (taste) –use on selected plants barring other food sources available. Reading and following product labels is crucial. Many contact repellants are considered a pesticide.
* Area—these are not always effective but may be useful in some situations.
* Home remedies—Such as glass or mothballs may pose a risk to children or pets.
* Frightening devices—usually use visual or auditory stimuli to scare animals from an area. These will be a short-term solution because animals are smart, and as soon as they realize there is not a threat, they will return.
* Toxicants—Very few are legal to use in Illinois. Most are limited to rodents.
* Home remedies—such as antifreeze are illegal and should never be used.
Removal: An animal requires food, water, shelter and space; removing an animal may not prevent another from entering the area. Removing an unwanted animal is not a long-term pest management strategy. Removing an animal requires a permit—even trapping a nuisance animal. The Living with Wildlife in Illinois website has extensive information for dealing with legal and ethical questions. I highly recommend looking there and contacting the appropriate organization for help with the nuisance animal. Permits and licensing are preceded by knowledge. The professionals are the correct people to handle a nuisance animal. They use all their knowledge to protect us as well as nature. I respect those who study and educate and enforce the nature laws. Even when a squirrel is helping himself to my fruit, I trust somewhere along the chain of life I will be left with enough to survive. This year my strawberries were dined on by the blackbirds, but I still had plenty left for my family.
Wildlife—Good Day, The Birds Are Chirping