Rabbits, Squirrels & Raccoons … Oh My!

Raccoon in the trash - photo by Vicki Jedlicka, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County

You can tell “Spring has Sprung” in our area. Local residents are calling concerned about rabbits munching their landscape plants (and having babies), squirrels nipping off twigs on trees (and having babies), raccoons clawing their way into homes (and having babies).

What Can You Do About Problem Wildlife?

The situation really depends on the animal and the damage it is causing. You’ll never get rid of all the squirrels or rabbits in a neighborhood but there are ways to protect your property from damage. Your best long-term solution may be habitat modification and exclusion. Usually it takes more than one approach to a situation. If you have a raccoon in your attic, you will want to hire a professional.

Do not try to solve a wildlife problem with mothballs! It is illegal to use a pesticide against the label (read the label). Mothballs won’t solve your wildlife problem.

Nebraska Extension has resources available to help on-line. Visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest. If you live outside of Lancaster County, Nebraska, visit here to find your local extension office.

Now here’s some help for problem Rabbits, Squirrels and Raccoons:

Cottontail Rabbit - photo by Soni Cochran, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County

Rabbits: In spring, rabbits love tender perennials. If rabbits are nibbling on your favorite plants, put something around the plants right away. This gives you time to consider solutions and exclusion is most likely your best option anyway. Fencing doesn’t have to be tall: 2 ft rabbit fencing, hardware cloth or chicken wire will work for cottontail rabbits found in our area. Sometimes all you need is a little time for the plants to get big enough and past the tender stage.There are commercial taste repellents available. Repellents need reapplied if it rains. You should also reapply on any new growth. Always read and follow the label of any product you want to use. If the rabbits really want the plant, they won’t care if there is repellent on it. Scaring a rabbit out of your yard? Don’t count on it working and boy, people have tried. Gimmicks? Don’t count on any of these working: ultrasonic devices, human hair, jars of water – I could go on and on.

Do not try to solve a wildlife problem with mothballs! It is illegal to use a pesticide against the label (read the label). Mothballs won’t solve your wildlife problem.

Young Fox Squirrel - photo by Soni Cochran, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County

Squirrels: The nipping off twigs and small branches won’t hurt your tree. Girdling is a different story and could damage a branch or young tree. Again, exclusion is best. If squirrels are using your patio cushions for nest material – bring the cushions inside while you are not using them. There are taste repellents available for squirrels. Keep your home in good repair. If you notice squirrels are nesting in your roof, don’t seal it up without making sure the adults (and any babies) are removed.

Raccoons: Yes, this is the time of year when raccooons are having their young. If you notice siding torn off, claw marks on your downspouts or hear noises in the chimney or attic, contact a pest control professional to help you. These are large animals and again, it is important to remove them all safely before making repairs. Chimneys make great den sites so make sure your chimney has a commercially-made chimney cap.

Trapping and Relocation:

Trapping: Nearly everyone wants their “problem animals” trapped when they call. In most cases I hear about, this is not the best option. If you want your squirrels and rabbits trapped even after we talk about other options, I recommend working with a pest control professional.

If you still want to trap yourself:

  • Contact your wildlife regulatory agency for permits and regulations. In Nebraska, contact Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
  • Check your local municipality for any regulations. In Lincoln, contact the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department.
  • Learn about the animal you want to trap:
    • Could it have young now?
    • What is the best bait?
    • Are you ready to monitor the traps for the safety of the animal and everyone involved.
    • Do you have a tarp over part of the trap and have a rope on one end just in case (think skunk)? It seems like every year I get a call from someone who has tried to trap a opossum and instead, find a skunk in their trap – SURPRISE!

You’ve trapped the animal, now what?

Relocation: If you legally capture or trap wildlife in Nebraska – snake, turtle, opossum, squirrel, rabbit… it doesn’t matter… you can relocate the animal 100 yards from the original capture site and no further. It is the law! Your only other option is euthanasia of trapped animals. This is another reason why I suggest you consider all your options before trapping or hire a professional.

For more information on wildlife, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest or contact your local extension office.

Have a great day!!


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