Seeing wildlife up close can be an exciting and fascinating opportunity, especially right in your backyard. However, once they start feasting on your vegetable garden or landscape plants, your fascination can quickly turn to frustration. There are several methods for deterring wildlife, but scare methods rarely get a close look or credibility as a successful method of damage control.
Choosing the right control method
There are several methods available to deter animals from your yard or garden. Taste, exclusion, trapping, and scaring animals have all been shown to be effective in some capacity, but there are several factors that contribute to the success or failure of the deterrent method: drought conditions, hunger of animal, and the what animal has already been exposed to. A combination of methods is usually a good way to ensure success, but take into account your location, budget, population, and any regulations or laws regarding wildlife in your area before choosing control methods.
Types of scare tactic methods
Scare tactics will use visual, audio, or tactile methods to scare the offending animal.
- Visual: Visual scare techniques will often include the use of mylar, a reflective material that is often used in flags, so the motion and reflective qualities of the tape will frighten the animal from the area. Other visuals include owl dummies and big eye balloons (that also employ mylar)
- Audio: There are now propane or gas powered “cannons”, like the M-4 Single Detonation Cannon that emit loud booms at various intervals. These have been shown to be effective in large areas, like orchards, and the random sounds keep animals from becoming accustomed to them. Motion activated radios can also be used to startle animals, as well has hanging tin pie pans from trees, which will clang together with the wind and reflect with the sun, employing both audio and visual frightening methods. Distress calls or predator sounds are also options, but you have to know exactly which type of bird or animal is causing the damage.
- Tactile: Not exactly the same as using a taste-based deterrent, tactile methods focus on frightening the animal without harming them. New to the game are motion-activated sprinklers. These small devices use a non-harmful jet of water to startle animals when they move past the sprinkler. The ScareCrow Motion Activated Sprinkler, for example, uses infrared sensors and can cover 1,200 square feet, day or night, to keep critters away from your plants.
Using scare techniques in your yard
Animals are highly adaptive and can quickly get used to any deterrent method you use in your yard. Animals even learn to avoid traps or ignore stationary items that might scare them initially but realize the item will not harm them. This makes moving scare tactic items especially important. Moving any motion, auditory, or tactile item every one to two days will stop the animals from becoming used to the locations or interactions with these items. This is extremely crucial in ensuring the success of your efforts. Since all you have to do is buy the items once and then move them, they’re a bit more economical than continually buying and reapplying taste-deterrent problems.
If you want to use only one method, you’ll have to tolerate a bit of wildlife feeding damage, especially if you choose not to use any exclusion methods. Combining deterrent methods will help to boost the effectiveness of each. For example, you could apply taste deterrents to your plants, and place a sprinkler or noisemaker within or around the plants.
Jenny Gagas is a home and garden writer living in Wisconsin who loves to spend as much time outdoors as possible. She mostly writes about gardening, and really enjoys teaching people how to interact with their surroundings in a safe and sustainable way. If she’s not outside, she’s in the kitchen, developing recipes to share with family and friends.