How Gardeners Can Coexist with Local Wildlife…Or Not
Ah, those cute squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits provide so much entertainment scampering about through their energetic day. That is until you discover your rose bush with girdling gashes near the base of the plant, or your newly planted tulip bulbs dug up with dirt scattered everywhere. Suddenly, wildlife morphs into nuisance animals. Now you need to determine what pest wreaked which havoc.
Identifying the type of damage clues you into who perpetrated the destruction. Also, when the damage occurred – day or night – helps determine the culprit’s identity. Are any of the following scenarios familiar?
- You spent the previous day potting up your annuals in a variety of containers. Looking outside the next morning you see dirt flung in all directions and the transplants lying on the ground, their roots exposed and drying out. A raccoon or skunk searched for grubs overnight in your flowerpots. If the digging occurs during the day, blame a squirrel that stashes food in various hiding places during the summer and fall.
- Your first tomato ripens to perfection today. You checked on it this morning knowing it will be ideal by supper. Out you trot to the garden only to find something ate half of your tomato, leaving a horizontal surface. A chipmunk beat you to it sometime during the day.
- You searched for a specific variety of climbing rose and finally found it online after visiting all the nurseries in your area. You planted it, but now it has been chewed down to an inch tall with a perfect 45-degree cut. A rabbit ate the entire plant, including the thorns. Rabbits favor green growth during the growing season, switching to woody material during the scarcity of winter.
- Something strolled through your yard overnight, leaving jagged cuts on a variety of plants. Most of the damage occurred higher up; however, extensive damage appeared on the hostas. Deer dined on your property last night.
- You spent a lot of effort maintaining a beautiful lawn. Yikes, now raised-turf runways and mounds of fresh, fluffy soil mounded up in unsightly piles appear in several areas. Blame a mole.
- You start noticing lines through the yard produced by compacted soil and thinning grass covering the run. Voles travel back and forth between their home and their food sources, creating the runways.
- You buy a live trap and set it out. You catch the culprit. Now what?
In Illinois, it is illegal to release live animals in state, county or municipal parks, nature preserves or natural areas. Three choices exist to a property owner who traps an animal: release it back onto the same property, euthanize it or relocate it to another property. You must obtain written permission from a landowner to release an animal on private property.
There remains one final and best option if you and the nuisance animal can’t share the same space – contact your county’s Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator.
Ask the Expert
Q. Nasturtiums take so long to germinate in my window boxes. I give up and plant more thinking they aren’t going to make it, ending up with too many when they all finally appear.
A. Soak the seeds overnight in a sealed plastic bag. It softens the outer coat and speeds germination.
Q. Why don’t my bearded irises bloom as well as before?
A. They’re either overcrowded or getting too much shade. Divide and replant them in late summer. If a tree now provides too much shade, move them to a sunnier site.