Raccoons, deer and even skunks may be cute, but you won’t think so if one starts tearing up your lawn, makes your cedar hedge its latest meal, or decides to move in under your garden shed. If you have a problem with a wild animal creating a nuisance on your property, here are several strategies for keeping them away from your house or yard.

Be less welcoming, get fewer visitors
The easiest and most effective way to ensure you aren’t bothered by nuisance animals is not to attract them in the first place. They are looking primarily for shelter and a place to sleep, so you need to make the areas near your home as inhospitable as possible.

Household waste is a favourite target of wild animals. The first dissuasive measure you should take is to equip your garbage cans with lids that lock or are held in place by rubber straps. They should also be firmly anchored to the house somehow, or otherwise difficult to tip over. Also, washing out your garbage cans with bleach or putting mothballs (naphthalene) inside them will have a deterrent effect.

Eliminating all sources of food outside your home also means getting rid of dog, cat and bird food. In addition, to prevent your vegetable garden from becoming an all-you-can-eat buffet, you’ll need to fence it in.

Neighbourhood critters will turn up their noses and look elsewhere if they run into a rigid metal mesh that keeps them from getting underneath your deck or garden shed. To be effective, the mesh must:

  • have 5 cm (2 in.) openings;
  • extend into the ground to a depth of at least 15 cm (6 in.);
  • be folded in an L shape, extending outward to a length of 30 cm (12 in.).

Further access points to watch out for are chimneys, highly prized by birds, bats and rodents. Specially designed caps with grilles to cover the chimney opening are the most appropriate defence. Other classic hiding places for small animals are roof spaces or attics. Trees are the easiest routes they take to get there, so make sure no branches extend to less than 3 m (10 ft) from your roof.

Relevant information on almost 30 wild animals that can potentially cause damage is gathered in a series of files available on the web of the Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife. You’ll also find plenty of other tips—all of them humane—on keeping small animals away from your home and garden in this CAA-Quebec Tips & Tricks article, entitled “Unwelcome garden guests.”

Catching and releasing? Beware of viruses!
Sometimes, “scare” techniques and other deterrent strategies for getting rid of a wild animal or preventing it from causing damages are ineffective, and the animal must be captured.

The operation involves trapping the animal in a cage and releasing it in nature. Cages can be rented or purchased from just about any pest control company, so you can attempt the capture yourself, but it is strongly recommended that you entrust the task to a certified, specialized company.

After successful capture, the animal must not be moved to a location more than a kilometre away from where it was captured, so guard against the spread of a disease or virus that it may be carrying (e.g., rabies), even if it shows no symptoms. In an area that is divided by a watercourse, the animal cannot be set free on the opposite shore.

Remember that it is important to avoid all contact with a wild animal or its saliva. If there is contact, immediately and thoroughly wash the exposed body part using a disinfectant, and rinse with rubbing alcohol. You should also get in touch with Info-Santé (call 811) for an assessment of the potential infection risk.

As a last resort, poisoning or elimination using a lethal trap or a firearm may be considered, as long as you comply with all laws governing wildlife conservation and development, pest control products and pesticides, and environmental quality. Remember also that, unless you are in a serious emergency situation, a wildlife officer must be notified before you undertake any action of this kind.

Source: Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune
Resource: List of regional Quebec Wildlife Protection Department offices