Getting Rid Of Yard Pests: Bats, Mice, Moles, And Geese - Or Should You?

Some creatures are definite hazards and yard pests,and rarely friendly to the environment. Learn which is which, and how to be rid of the pests and attract the desirables.

There is nothing so reminiscent of fall in the air as the honking of a vee-formation of Canadian geese flying overhead on a fall late afternoon. Their beauty and grace, their aerodynamic patterns and haunting honks are a near spiritual experience. Poems have been written elegizing the experience.

But ask some park management people, or even homeowners with ponds, lakes or cornfields on their property how they feel about visiting Canadian geese and you'll hear the truth. In the northeast these large, strong birds are becoming a public and private nuisance. One or two gamboling in your garden or on your lawn may seem quaint, but when residents of a nearby town began feeding the few geese on the park pond, word apparently got out to the rest of the flock, and over the years, the population of Canadian geese gamboling on the banks of the pond has boomeranged.

Now, every spot of lawn and pond banks is covered with goose guano. There is literally not a square foot of green grass, since it has burned out from the waste material. The area smells and looks atrocious, and has gone from being a widely used town park facility to a wasteland for passing Canadian geese. On the banks of reservoirs an overpopulation of Canadian geese has contaminated the water supply. All over the northeast town governments and golf course owners, individuals and farmers have a changed view of Canadian geese. Up in the sky they're lovely; on your patch of land or water, they're problematic, even dangerous.

Experts suggest not feeding geese nor doing anything else to attract and retain them. Dogs and cats in the area will tend to discourage gamboling geese. Hunters in season can also make a dent in their population, if extreme measures are sought.

Mice are a nuisance when cool weather approaches .In their efforts to find warm and cozy surroundings, they come in from the fields and forests and burrow or chew their way into residences, basements, garages and other out buildngs. The primary method of keeping mice out of the home is to caulk around foundation walls, look for openings around sills and windows, entries or breaks in concrete and entrances to basements and block them securely. Experts suggest keeping garage and basement doors closed whenever possible.

Sanitation hygiene is primary. Keep garbage and rubbish thoroughly covered and containers secured. If mice infestation is suspected, place mousetraps baited with peanut butter or cheese in areas close to walls where mouse droppings have been seen. Mice can find their way into incredibly small spaces. They have been found in kitchen cupboard drawers, in walls, around joists, in clothing storage boxes in attics and in heating ducts. If all other measures fail get a cat or two!

In search of food, the common or Eastern Mole, and the Hairy-Tailed Mole burrow in lawns and other area where the soil conditions are right. Their ability to tunnel voraciously makes them the most inveterate and victorious pests known to homeowners in the eastern United States. Insectivores, these mammals' principle diet is grubs, earthworms, beetles, ant and other insect larvae. They eat their weight in food every day, and taunt homeowners by marauding relentlessly through their lawns and gardens, and have been known to destroy golf courses, cemeteries, parks and nurseries when their families move in.

One animal can tunnel at the rate of 12 to 15 feet an hour. The first sign of mole infestation will be a soft spot in the lawn the walker will notice as he stumbles and trips. The second will be little heaps of earth mounded up here and there. Eventually, one mole can create a cross-hatched network of browned-out lawn paths that resemble runways for miniature jets. One day there will be a few short stripes of brown, a week later not a yard-square of perfect, formerly green grass remains unscathed. While moles do not feed on plant material, the disruption of the grass from the digging in its roots kills it, and mice may follow mole burrows and end up destroying bulbs and plant roots.

Although scientists have studied the problem for ages, there is no one particularly successful method of controlling moles. Even professional pest exterminators, who once made valiant attempts to rid lawns of moles, commonly refuse in our area to take on the challenge. So overcoming the mole assault rests with the homeowner.

The best results, though not perfect, in controlling the damage from moles comes from trapping. There are several types of trap available. The harpoon trap is probably the easiest for the novice to use. A spring-operated mechanism is poised above one segment of pathway, with two supports astride the runway. When the trap is activated the harpoon is dropped into the offending animal.

A choker trap is another style. It is set into the runway, with chokerloops encircling the runway to catch unsuspecting critters. The claw type trap works in the same way, and the Victor pluger traps is also supposedly effective although several traps should be placed at once to corner unsuspecting but wily moles.

Folk remedies that supposedly help rid a lawn of moles are placing moth balls or smoke bombs in the runways, using grub control pesticides and placing sticks of fruit flavored gum in selected places underground along the paths. There is no evidence that such remedies actually work, yet they are repeated in every time and place. Careful perusal of the lawn, especially when the lawn has recently been cut, will often reveal new tunnel activity or even the actual working of the mole in progress.

Some small tips for homeowners: keep the lawn cut short to try to discern mole activity. Do not place sod or topsoil over damaged tunnels until you're certain the mole has left the neighborhood. If you can, try to trap moles at the first sign of damage, after the fall rains or in early spring, when you're likely to trap pregnant females, thus avoiding the feeding of a whole new generation of this ubiquitous pest in your yard.

Bats, on the other hand, while they are easily the ugliest of potential household pests, are quite useful little creatures as long as they're not tangling your hair or leaving tons of bat guano on the top floor of your skyscraper and toppling it! Such anecdotes appear to have some truth to them, although verification is difficult to come by.

Debate is hot on the subject. Are batss more friend than foe? Most experts seem to think so, but bat droppings, when a nearby colony has taken over a gable or between roofing tiles, can literally smother a patio or deck that is placed under trees. That is because bats come out at night, often roosting in high tree branches, and their leavings are pretty disgusting, as well as dangerous. Never handle bat droppings. Use plastic gloves to sweep them up and discard carefully as some diseases can be carried in bat excrement.

While bats to not damage wood or chew on wires, as mice do, they are pretty frightening to see. They recently perched by the dozen on one screen of an attic vent. The homeowner tried repeatedly to dislodge them, but they sleep soundly during the day and were not repelled. At night, when they leave their home roosts to go foraging is the best time to seal up areas where bats have invaded.

Since bats eat practically their weight in insects""some say 3,500 insects per night""they can be helpful near the home. They give birth in the spring, suckle their young, as they are flying mammals, and if mosquitoes are a problem nearby, can do a job on the population with a small family of bats. Instructions for building bat houses to attract the odd little creatures can be found online. But most homeowners would prefer to keep bat activity limited to the outdoors, so if you have one or more in your attic or crawl space, try to trap it and remove, or wait until evening, then block up suspect holes around vents or chimneys to prevent the bats' return.

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