Peter Rabbit and other backyard pests weave a path of destruction through your yard. They eat shrubs and gardens, chew power wires, and gnaw tree roots. Here’s how to tell which critters are doing damage, ways to protect your greens, and landscape changes that will encourage these pests to dine elsewhere.
Calling cards: Ravaged vegetables, beheaded borders and flowers (especially tulips), and gnawed trees, such as red maple, honey locust, and evergreens.
Protection: Install 2-ft.-high fences that extend to the ground or below ($50 for 100 ft. of galvanized poultry fencing). Surround young tree trunks with plastic tree guard cylinders ($10).
Change habitat: Eliminate piles of brush, barricade cozy spots under sheds, and flatten back-lot debris piles where rabbits nest. Ivy, wisteria, and periwinkle will curb the munching, and fragrant herbs like thyme and lavender will turn them away.
Calling cards: Bumps in the night because they nest in your attic; power loss due to frayed wires; missing vegetables and flower bulbs; quickly emptied bird feeders.
Protection: Plug house entry places, such as gaps around utility pipes, broken windows, and uncapped chimneys. Cover wires with plastic pipe that will rotate, causing the squirrel to fall ($2.50 for a 2-ft. section). Sandwich bulbs underground between two layers of wire mesh ($175 for 100 ft. of 24-inch wire mesh).
Change habitat: Trim tree branches 6 to 8 ft. from buildings so squirrels can’t jump onto your roof. Switch to squirrel-proof tilting bird feeders ($25 and up) or domed feeders that close when weight limits are exceeded. Don’t plant oak trees—acorns are squirrel caviar.
Calling cards: Dirt mounds, lawns pocked with ankle-breaking holes, power loss due to damaged underground utilities; weakened trees due to gnawed roots; missing plants.
Protection: Install mesh fencing 18 inches deep with one-half inch or smaller openings (25 sq. ft. for $175). Trapping is the best way to eliminate gophers and moles. Scissor-jaw or choker-loop traps will snag star-nosed and hairy-tailed moles ($15 for two). Gopher traps look like a twisted mess, but they quickly snap and trap ($15 for a pair). Both can be cleaned and reused.
Change habitat: Since they like easy-to-tunnel, well-watered lawns, try compacting soil and cutting down on irrigation. But moles and gophers are so adaptable that habitat changes won’t keep them out, just slow them down.
Calling cards: Flowering plants nibbled to the nubs; leaves torn from plants from ground level to 6 ft.; 2-inch gouges on tree trunks; hoof prints that resemble a broken heart.
Protection: Deer fence at least 8 ft. high; homemade and commercial deer repellents that taste and smell bad; barking dog.
Change habitat: Replace tasty fruit trees with spruce and pine. Swap lilies for ferns and rosemary. Add switch grass and ribbon grass—they’ll avoid these ornamentals. Bonus: Works for bunnies, too.