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Publication #WEC326

How to Use Deterrents to Stop Damage Caused by Nuisance Wildlife in Your Yard1

Holly K. Ober and Arlo Kane2

Many of us try to attract particular types of wildlife to our yards so that we can observe them. We often select plants and other materials that we know provide food, cover, and water for those animals we like to watch. However, when unwanted wildlife visit your yard and cause damage, you might need to consider the use of tactics that could deter these unwanted species.

Developing a strategy for deterring species of wildlife that are causing a specific problem is most efficient if you tailor your tactics to the species causing the problem. To learn more about how to develop an effective and efficient strategy for dealing with nuisance wildlife, see EDIS publication WEC323, “Overview of how to stop damage caused by nuisance wildlife in residential landscapes.” For tips on how to identify which species is responsible for many commonly reported forms of damage to residential yards, see EDIS publication WEC324, “How to Identify the Wildlife Species Responsible for Damage in Your Yard.”

When Are Deterrents Warranted?

In this publication we provide information on the use of deterrents to stop damage being caused by nuisance wildlife. If you have determined what species is causing the problem and there is no way for you to modify the habitat to encourage the species to leave, deterrents may be your best option.

It is important to recognize that animals tend to become used to all deterrents after a period of time. Animals also tend to ignore deterrents in those situations where they badly need the resources you are trying to protect (i.e., areas where no other forms of food, water, or cover are present). The trick to effective use of deterrents is to (1) begin using deterrents as soon as possible after the problem starts (or even before, if the problem can be anticipated) so animals do not develop a habit of using the resource, (2) switch hazing tactics regularly so animals do not become habituated to a deterrent that is meant to scare them, and (3) use tactics that appeal to more than one sensory modality so animals are bothered in several ways and remain cautious and confused.

This document will discuss three types of deterrents: physical barriers for small, sensitive areas; hazing or scare tactics for temporary alleviation of wildlife problems; and chemical repellents. We provide recommendations on the best deterrent options for each species (see Table 1).

Physical Barriers

Bird netting

Thin netting can be used to protect individual plants (such as fruit trees and shrubs) by draping the netting over the plants and securing it to the ground with stakes.

Figure 1. 

Flexible netting can protect vulnerable plants from foraging birds.


Credit:

Holly K.Ober.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Three-quarter-inch plastic mesh netting is ideal because it is lightweight, pliable, nearly invisible, and often UV-stabilized. This type of mesh will not deteriorate quickly or lose strength when it is exposed to the sun for long periods. Rope netting can also be used for the same purpose. Many forms of netting are sold in black or green, allowing you to select whichever color is least visible.

Note that when setting netting over plants to protect them from birds, you do not want to use extremely thin netting in which birds could get entrapped. All migratory, non-game birds are protected by law.

Temporary Deer Fencing

Figure 2. 

Flexible deer fencing can create an inexpensive, temporary barrier.


Credit:

Holly K.Ober.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Plastic mesh can be used to temporarily deter deer (Odocoileus virginianus) from ornamental plantings and fruit trees. Polypropylene mesh is available with UV-inhibitors so that it will not deteriorate quickly when exposed to sunlight. Like bird netting, deer fencing can be draped over vulnerable plantings to prevent deer from feeding. Alternatively, this mesh can be attached to vertical or slanted fences or attached to posts with wire or plastic ties and then placed as a barrier around landscape plantings to prevent deer from gaining access.

Seedling Tubing

Figure 3. 

Seedling tubing can protect vulnerable seedings from wildlife damage.


Credit:

Holly K.Ober.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Tough yet flexible UV-inhibited polyethylene and polypropylene mesh tubes can be installed to protect young seedlings from foraging wildlife. Some tubing is made from materials that slowly degrade from sunlight over the course of several years so that once seedlings have grown to a point of establishment the tubing will have disintegrated. For best results, tubes should be installed at the time of planting and should encompass the entire seedling. The tubing works best when cut so that it extends about 1 foot above the seedling: this will enable the tubing to continue to provide protection of future growth. Stakes can be used to provide additional support for the tubing.

Hardware Cloth or Sheet Metal Barriers

Rigid physical barriers can be created to prevent movement of wildlife to certain areas in your yard or garden. If erected so that the fencing slants outward above the ground and is buried 1.5 feet beneath the ground, these barriers can be effective against burrowing animals such as moles, pocket gophers, and armadillos. These barriers can be especially effective if the mesh is bent outward underground. Use small mesh for moles and pocket gophers (i.e., ¼ or ½ inch); slightly larger mesh sizes will work for armadillos (i.e., 1 inch).

Figure 4. 

Hardware cloth can create a vertical or horizontal barrier; sheet metal a vertical barrier.


Credit:

Holly K.Ober.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Hardware cloth can also be used to prevent squirrel access to bulbs underground, while still allowing shoots to grow through the mesh. Bury the ½ inch mesh completely beneath the ground parallel to the surface of the soil and above the bulbs. For maximum effectiveness, the hardware cloth or chicken wire used to prevent access to bulbs should extend at least one foot in each direction beyond the edge of the flower beds being protected.

Missing Figure (FIGURE 5)

Garden Fencing

Figure 5. 

Chicken wire or thicker-gauge mesh can prevent access to valuable plants.


Credit:

Holly K.Ober.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Inexpensive garden fencing (chicken wire) at least 2 feet tall can be used to limit movement of wildlife such as rabbits, opossums, and skunks in your yard and garden. A simple cylinder of hardware cloth encircling a young tree can prevent rabbit access to succulent new growth.

Missing Figure (FIGURE 7)

More durable, thicker-gauge wire mesh can provide long-term relief from larger animals such as deer.

Electric Fencing

A single wire fence 8 inches above the ground can be effective in deterring medium-sized mammals such as raccoons or skunks. Also, a wire mesh fence topped with a single strand of electric wiring can deter small to medium sized mammal pests. Taller single-strands baited with peanut buttercoated foil can provide temporary respite from deer damage. The peanut butter encourages animals to touch their nose to the electric current so they experience the voltage. More permanent fences (high-tensile electric, woven wire, chain link) can provide more lasting protection from persistent deer, but are significantly more expensive and require more regular maintenance. Additional information on excluding deer can be found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw128.

Hazing or Scare Tactics

Eyespot Ballons

Figure 6. 

Eyespot balloons can scare nuisance birds.


Credit:

Holly K.Ober.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Weatherproof, vinyl, inflatable balloons with large eyes can be used to repel pest birds. Holographic eyes are especially helpful in creating an illusion that the eyes are following the birds, like a predator ready to attack. The movement of the eyes combined with the natural movement of the balloon in the wind reduces the likelihood that birds will become accustomed to the product.

Foil or Mylar Tape

Any type of light-weight ribbon material can be used to scare birds and some mammals (such as deer) for a period of time. However, animals will become accustomed to vinyl ribbon fairly quickly because it only appeals to one sense (i.e., it is a visual deterrent). Foil is preferable to vinyl ribbon because it affects multiple senses (i.e., vision and hearing). Holographic or iridescent foil is even better because it will shimmer in the sun, constantly changing reflections, while also making metallic noises when blown by the wind.

Figure 7. 

Mylar foil can deter wildlife through visual and auditory means.


Credit:

Holly K.Ober.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Foil tape can be used several ways. It can be stretched around the perimeter of areas from which deer need to be deterred. Alternatively, short strands can be attached to the top or bottom of other fencing materials to increase the shimmering effect and enhance the noise of the foil fluttering in the wind.

Motion-Sensitive Sprinklers

The surprise of a stream of water aimed directly at an animal can cause it to leave the area you want to protect. Because this tactic could be triggered repeatedly by pets and people during the day, it tends to be more practical for crepuscular and nocturnal offenders, such as skunks, armadillos, and opossums. (“Crepuscular” animals are most active at twilight.) The effectiveness of this tactic may be short-lived, but you may be able to prolong it a bit if you move the sprinkler to new locations regularly.

Noise-Makers and Pyrotechnics

Firecrackers, screamers, horns, bells, whistles, and propane cannons can be used to annoy nuisance wildlife such as raccoons and deer. Alarm call recordings can be used to deter some bird species. However, results are usually temporary because wildlife become accustomed to the sounds once the novelty wears off. Noise-makers are most effective when they are used in combination with other tactics and rotated often.

Dogs

Some wildlife can be deterred by the presence of household pets. Dogs can be especially useful in deterring those wildlife species that are preyed upon by close relatives of dogs (coyotes and wolves). Not only the dog itself but also the smell of its urine and feces may keep some wildlife away.

Chemical Repellents

A wide variety of chemicals is currently available on the market to deter wildlife from foraging on crops and ornamental plantings (see Table 2). These materials vary considerably in cost, effectiveness, and the length of time they remain viable. Most of these deterrents operate through one of several mechanisms: odor aversion, taste aversion, or fear inducement. Odor repellents are materials that smell bad to certain wildlife; taste repellents contain materials that make plants less palatable to some species; and fear-evoking repellents (such as urine from predators) promote instinctual reactions of fear. Most repellents that operate through odor and taste aversion are applied directly to plants and are called “contact repellents.” Materials intended to induce fear are called “area repellents” and are either applied to plants directly or are applied to a larger surrounding area to create an invisible odor barrier. Always follow labels carefully when applying a chemical repellent, especially for contact repellents sprayed directly on plant parts because each repellent is labeled only for use on certain plant species.

Common ingredients in commercially available repellents include capsaisin, naphthalene, predator urine, egg solids, castor oil, garlic, and soap. Products containing capsaicin (an extract from hot peppers) appear to be promising as a topical deterrent for a variety of wildlife species because they operate through both scent and taste aversion. However, animals such as bears like the taste and will lick pepper spray if it is applied to a structure. Additional information on repellents that can be used specifically for nuisance deer can be found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw128.

The effectiveness of any particular chemical repellent depends on numerous factors such as the availability of other food items, the stage of growth of the plants to be protected, the abundance of wildlife in the local vicinity, how much time the wildlife has had to become accustomed to consuming the plant before it was treated, and the frequency of reapplication of the repellent. Highest success is likely when a combination of repellents is used, when application is started before damage has begun, and in areas where abundance of the nuisance wildlife species is fairly low.

Control Methods Not Recommended

Repellent tactics that are ineffective in most outdoor situations and are, therefore, not recommended to include devices that produce vibrations and ultrasonic noise makers. The use of fumigants and tunnel flooding also does not tend to be effective over the long term for evicting animals that burrow or tunnel. Mothballs and other chemical repellents tend to dissipate outside and are much less effective there than in indoor situations where the odor can be concentrated. Another tactic not recommended because of inefficiency and harm to the environment is the application of insecticides to kill all underground invertebrates that could serve as food for vertebrates such as skunks, armadillos, or moles. These toxic chemicals are also harmful to people, pets, and other wildlife.

Additional Sources of Information

Baker, L. A., D. J. Eakes, G. B. Fain, S. S. Ditchkoff, and C. C. Coker. 2010. An overview and cost analysis of deer repellents for homeowners and landowners. Alabama Cooperative Extension Service Publication ANR-137. Available online at http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-1370/ANR-1370.pdf?PHPSESSID=f5ee8fc038a8530dcda8a17e5fe5fd63.

Main, M. B., J. Schaefer, and G. Allen. 2001. Coping with Deer Damage in Florida. University of Florida, IFAS Extension document WEC135. Available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw128.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - Wildlife Damage Management Program. Nuisance Wildlife Repellent Handbook. Available online at http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/assistance/backyard/livingwith_wildlife/repellent_handbook.pdf.

Ober, H. K. and A. Kane. 2012. Overview of How to Stop Damage Caused by Nuisance Wildlife in Your Yard. University of Florida, IFAS Extension document WEC323. Available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw368.

Ober, H. K. and A. Kane. 2012. How to Identify the Wildlife Species Responsible for Damage in Your Yard. University of Florida, IFAS Extension document WEC324. Available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw369.

Ober, H. K. and A. Kane. 2012. How to Modify Habitat to Discourage Nuisance Wildlife in Your Yard. University of Florida, IFAS Extension document WEC325. Available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw370.

Ober, H. K. and A. Kane. 2012. How to Use Traps to Catch Nuisance Wildlife in Your Yard. University of Florida, IFAS Extension document WEC327. Available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw372.

Tregoning, D. and J. Kays. 2004. Using commercial deer repellents to manage deer browsing in the landscape. University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service Fact Sheet FS-810-A. Available online at http://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_docs/articles/FS810-A_UsingCommDeerReps.pdf.

Tables

Table 1. 

Recommended deterrents for dealing with nuisance wildlife.

Wildlife pest

Best deterrent options

Armadillo

- Use sheet metal or wire fencing buried 2 feet under the ground and extending 3 feet above the ground to prevent access

Beaver

- Place wire guards, metal bands, or tar paper around the base of preferred tree species to prevent beavers from girdling them. Replace these periodically with larger guards or bands to permit growth of the trees

- Place drift fencing along the shoreline of waterways to discourage beavers from harming trees in particular areas

- Place electric wire along shorelines of fenced yards

- Apply chemical repellents regularly to individual trees

Birds

- Use plastic netting to prevent access to high-value plants

- Use aluminum flashing, burlap sacks, or plastic sheeting to prevent access to tree trunks favored by sapsuckers

- Use visual scare tactics (eyespot balloons, scarecrows, plastic owls, reflective flagging)

- Use auditory scare tactics (pyrotechnics, propane cannons, recorded alarm calls or distress calls)

- Use taste aversion chemical repellents to deter birds from fruit crops

Deer

- Use plastic mesh to protect individual plants or to create a temporary barrier

- Use 8-foot-tall woven wire fences to prevent access permanently

- Use 5- to 6-foot-tall electric wire baited with peanut butter to prevent access to high-value plants-

-Use 3-strand offset electric wire fence to prevent access to high-value plants

-Use chemical repellents to reduce foraging pressure on ornamentals and crops

Fox

- Use noisemakers near a den site if you need to encourage animals to abandon the den

- Use hardware cloth with 2-inch mesh, galvanized sheet metal, or 3-wire electric fences with wires at 6, 12, and 18 inches to prevent access

Rabbit

- Use 2-foot-tall chicken wire, buried slightly, to prevent access

Raccoon

- Set a single strand of electric fence 6 to 8 inches from the ground, or 2 strands at 2 inches and 7 inches above the ground to protect gardens, freshly laid sod, or small ponds with ornamental fish; turn power on only from dusk till dawn

Skunk

- Spray ripening fruits and vegetables with a mixture of water and hot pepper

- Install motion-sensitive lights to discourage nocturnal prowling

- Use wire fencing with 1 or 2 inch mesh, buried 1.5 to 2 feet deep to prevent access

Squirrel

- Use taste repellents to prevent chewing or debarking of trees

- Bury a sheet of hardware cloth horizontally, several inches below the surface of the soil to protect bulbs

Table 2. 

Commercially available chemical repellents suitable for nuisance mammals found in Florida. Note that products on this list are not endorsed by the University of Florida. (Abbreviations for application materials: G = granular, P = probe, S = spray, W = powder. Abbreviations for active ingredients:

A = ammonia, B = Bitrex, C = capsaicin, D = bloodmeal, E = egg, R = garlic, M = meat or fish by-products, P = peppermint, T = thiram.)

Repellent name

Mode

of action

Material

Active ingredient

Wildlife species intended for

Plants/areas that will be protected

- Bobbex Deer Repellent

- Bobbex-R Animal Repellent

odor, taste

S

E, M, R

- deer

- rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, voles

- ornamentals, flowering shrubs

- all types of plantings, bulbs

Buck Off

taste

S

E

deer, rabbits

flowers, bulbs, non-bearing food crops, hedges, shrubs, trees

Critter Ridder

odor, taste

G

C

squirrels, skunks, raccoons

plants, lawns, garden paths, flower beds

Deer-Away

odor

S

E

deer, rabbits

conifers, non-bearing fruit and citrus trees and ornamental shrubs

Deerbusters Deer & Rabbit Repellent

odor, taste

S

C, E, R

deer, rabbits, squirrels

shrubbery, trees, flowers, bulbs, ornamentals

Deer Off

odor, taste

S

C, E, R

deer, rabbits, squirrels

edible crops, flowers, grass, bulbs, shrubs, seedlings, trees

- Deer Out

- Rabbit and Groundhog Out

- Critter Out

odor, taste

S

P

- deer

- rabbits

- rats, mice, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, chipmunks

- flowers, shrubs, vegetable plants, row crops, trees, vines

- bulbs, flowers, edible fruits, vegetables, forest trees, fruit trees

- garden areas

Deer Pharm

odor

S

R

deer, dogs

flowers, shrubs, vegetables, trees, fruits, berries

Deer Scram

odor (fear)

G

 

deer, rabbit

plants

- Deer Stopper

- Mole and Vole Stopper

- Rabbit Stopper

- Squirrel Stopper

odor, taste

S

E

- deer

- moles, voles, shrews, mice, rats

- rabbits

- squirrels

- shrubs, flowers, edible crops, forest trees, fruit trees, turf

- soil

- shrubs, flowers, edible crops and turf

- bulbs, tree bark, planters, flower beds, bird seed and feeders

Defiant

odor, taste

S

T

deer, rabbits, rodents

trees, vines, nursery stock, shrubs, ornamentals

Hinder

odor

S

A

deer, rabbits

vegetable, fruit, flower, vine and nursery plants and shrubs

- Liquid Fence Deer &

- Rabbit Repellent

Liquid Fence Mole Repellent

odor

S

E, R

- deer, rabbits

- moles

-landscaped garden areas, flowers, shrubs, trees, vines

- lawns, landscaped garden areas, flowers, shrubs and plants

Miller Hot Sauce

odor, taste

S

C

deer, rabbits, voles, squirrels, foxes

ornamentals, fruit and nut trees, bushes, vines, hay bales, crops

No Deer Zone

taste

S

B

deer

conifers, deciduous, nonbearing fruit trees, shrubs, flowers, ornamentals

- Not Tonight Deer

- Hare-less Animal Repellent

odor, taste

S

E

C

- deer

- rabbits

flowers, bushes, vegetable gardens

Plant Pro-Tec Deer & Rabbit Repellent

Plant Pro-Tec Gopher & Mole Repellent

odor

P

R

- deer, rabbits

- gophers, moles

trees, shrubs, flowers, and garden plants

Plantskydd

odor (fear)

W

D

deer, rabbits

broadleaf plants, conifers, deciduous trees

- Repellex Deer and Rabbit

- Repellex Mole, Vole, and Gopher

- Repellex Squirrel

odor, taste

S

C

- deer, rabbits

- moles, voles, gophers

- squirrels

- flowers, ornamentals

- soil

- birdseed, plants, bark, wood

Ropel Animal and Rodent Repellent

taste

S

 

deer, gophers, mice, moles, opossum, rabbits, raccoons, rats, skunks, squirrels

trees, saplings, plants, bulbs, seeds

- Scoot Deer & Rabbit Repellent

- Scoot Mole Repellent

- Scoot Squirrel Repellent

odor, taste

S

C

- deer, rabbits

- moles, voles, gophers,

rabbits, chipmunks, skunks

- squirrels

trees, shrubs, flowers

- Shake-Away Deer Repellent

- Shake-Away Small Critter Repellent

odor, taste

G

R

- deer, raccoons, armadillos

- squirrel, rabbit, skunk, chipmunk, opossum

plants

Spotrete F

taste

S

T

deer, rabbits, rodents

deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, nonbearing vines and orchards

Tree Guard

taste

S

B

deer

conifers and deciduous, non-fruit-bearing trees, shrubs, flowers , ornamental plants

Footnotes

1.

This document is WEC326, one of a series of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date October 2012. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Holly K. Ober, assistant professor/Extension specialist in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation; and Arlo Kane, regional coordinator of the Landowner Assistance Program for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication do not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.