How To Get Rid Of Voles

I just love these do-it-yourselfers who come in every year, right when the snow’s melted, and ask me “how do I get rid of voles from my yard?”  With all the new housing developments going up, I’m doing great business as the owner of the only yard supply store in the area.  I sell sprinkler systems, mulch, grass seed, and all kinds of traps for the local critters like voles, moles, mice and gophers that tear up the lawns around here.

As soon as the snows melt, people look out their windows and see a roadmap of dead grass in their yards.  If they look closer, they can see little holes spotting the lawn, or they might even catch a glimpse of a vole scampering through the grass.  I’ll admit, they’re cute little suckers, but anyone who spends time and money caring for their lawn doesn’t want all their work ruined by some little mouse-like wild animal making crooked little lines of dead grass all over their property.

Personally, I have to shake my head when someone comes in to ask me how to get rid of voles.  But, they’re happy to pay for the traps I sell them, and I’m a good businessman – won’t ever turn down a sale.  It’s just that voles can have four to six young per litter, and they have been known to have up to 17 litters per year.  So, yeah, I’ll sell a homeowner or landscaper a handful of vole traps, but it’ll only catch a handful of voles.  I’m happy to instruct them how to use them, which bait to use, and I’ll let them know that voles are active day and night, throughout the year.  They’re better off, though, if they call a professional who knows how to get rid of voles and does it all the time.  That’s really the best way to get all of them.

Until then, selling vole traps helps me to pay the lease for my store.

One guy came in with a story the other day about his cat catching a vole in his backyard.  As cats like to do, it brought the vole inside as a special “gift” for his owner.  His six-year-old little girl saw it first and actually picked it up before anyone stopped her.  Turns out the little rodent had a bloated tick on it, and was probably infested with all kinds of other parasites like mites.  It was still alive when his daughter brought it to him, even though the cat had chewed on it a bit.  I have to admit, the image made me gag, but I know it happens.  I actually suggested to him, the best way to get rid of voles is to call in a professional wildlife removal service.  Oh, and tell his daughter not to pick up any wild animals, but I’m sure he’d already told her that.

How To Get Rid Of Rats

Rat staring at a rat trap
Rat, staring at a rat trap.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

The school’s assembly hall was deafening and packed with parents all talking about one thing – how to get rid of the rats in the school.  The elementary school’s principal was beside herself trying to get order to start the meeting.  She’d been dreading this meeting all day, but counted herself lucky that she didn’t have to lead the discussion.  That was going to be up to the school board.

“Please, please, everyone, sit down.  All of your questions and concerns will be answered as soon as we can start,” she repeated over and over again into the microphone.  Eventually, conversations died down enough for her voice to be heard, and parents reluctantly sat.  It was easier to bring order to an assembly of their children, the principal thought to herself.

“Now, I know you’re all concerned about reports of rats in the school . . .” she tried to start, but was quickly interrupted.

“My son saw one in the vent in his classroom!” called out one mother.

“I heard some rats fell from the ceiling in the cafeteria,” one man said.

“. . . and that is what we are here to address tonight,” the principal continued.  “Some reports are false, some have been exaggerated, but it is true that we have found a rat and a littler in our courtyard.  The school board and I are here to dispel rumors, explain the truth, and inform you all what measures are being taken.”

She turned to let one of the school board members take over, but no one volunteered to step up to the podium.  Squaring her shoulders, she turned back to the microphone and explained, “While it is true that some rats were found in our vents a few months ago, you are all aware that held a meeting to discuss how to get rid of rats in the school, and determined the county’s school landscaper and our own ground crew would work over a weekend to exterminate the rats.   It was thought that the rats were all removed, but a recent sighting of a rat with her litter in the courtyard has reopened the issue.”

She was interrupted by many people, all calling out questions or yelling about their children’s safety.  Frankly, she was surprised they’d allowed her to get this far before interrupting her.

“I want to assure all of you that your children’s safety is just as important to me and to the school board as it is to you.  I am well aware of the health risks of rats – the parasites and insects they can carry, the fact they could contaminate food in our cafeteria and they bite.  I don’t want any of your children or our teachers exposed to such risk.  That is why we are taking much greater measures to ensure everyone’s safety and health.  There is no question about how to get rid of the rats, we have hired a professional wildlife removal company to take care of the problem, and the school will be closed this coming Monday to allow them to do their job.”

Having had her say, she still faced a flurry of questions and exclamations, but at least parents were a little calmer now.  She’d done everything she could and, really, they were all on the same page.  No one wanted rats in the school.

How To Get Rid Of Squirrels

A man hunting a squirrel before the infestation comes.(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)
A man hunting a squirrel before the infestation comes.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

As you’re washing dishes, you glimpse out your kitchen window and notice a squirrel tucking leaves under its chin, and wonder why people would want to know how to get rid of squirrels.  You realize he must be making a nest somewhere nearby and think it’s wonderful to live so close to nature.  The squirrel carefully balances its load, scrabbles up a nearby tree, up and out of sight.  Turning off the water, you hear a small thump on the roof and small feet running along your shingles.  It suddenly occurs to you that the squirrel might be living closer to you than you wish.  Just to be on the safe side, you walk outside and squint up at your home.  Your heart drops when you spot a neat little hole chewed right through the soffit.  That cute little squirrel is making a den right in your attic.

But, you choose to ignore it for a while, hoping against hope that the squirrel will find a better place to build its nest and leave your home without a fuss.  You know if you bring it up to your husband, he will be upset and grumble about how he doesn’t know anything about how to get rid of squirrels, how much it will cost to have the squirrels removed and repair the damage to the soffit.  Chewing your lip, you go back to your dishes and try to convince yourself you’re imagining things when you hear soft rustlings coming from the attic.

The kids come home from school, your husband comes home from work, and sounds of laughter, occasional fighting between the children, television and video games fill the air.  Relieved, you think the squirrel has probably left your attic for a more quiet nest outside.

As the evening winds down and you get ready for bed, you choose to remain ignorant to the fact that the squirrel is probably matting down your attic insulation, possibly chewing through electrical wires causing a fire hazard, maybe laying a litter of babies.  You try to push out thoughts that sometimes baby squirrels can fall down into your walls, or shudder at the idea of squirrel droppings littering the space right above your head.  That cute little animal you saw outside your kitchen window this morning has become this evening’s nightmare.

Finally, you determine that enough is enough.  You don’t need to bother your husband.  Tomorrow, you will find out how to get rid of squirrels, or better yet, call for a professional to make sure every single squirrel is removed out of your attic, clean up the mess they left behind, and repair the damage to the soffit.  Better safe than sorry, you think.

How To Get Rid of Skunks

A skunk and her babies playing outside their hole into a home.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

A couple in Maryland want to know how to get rid of skunk smell.  They had planned a weekend getaway in their log cabin.  The cabin was a few hours away from their home, but up in the mountains where they could relax and enjoy some peace and quiet, and get back to nature.  Unfortunately, nature got there first.

After several hours of packing, and then a long drive to the cabin, they finally arrived, only to be chased back outside by a horrible smell.  It was unmistakable.  Skunk.  At the time, they didn’t know if the skunk was still in the property or if it had just gotten in there temporarily to root around for food.  Obviously, though, something had disturbed it and it had let off its noxious spray into the enclosed space.

They weren’t sure how to get rid of a skunk or its odor, so they called wildlife control specialists to come out and take a look the next day.  They spent the night in the car and waited for the professionals to come out to inspect the property before they went inside again.  Skunks can be a carrier of rabies, they can bite or scratch if provoked, and they can certainly spray again.  They did not want to risk any of that.  Let the professionals handle it!

It was eventually determined that the skunk had left, but they still had to deal with the damage and odor.  A search around the outside of the log cabin revealed the skunk had entered through a hole in the foundation.  It was unclear whether it had burrowed through the foundation itself, or if it had merely taken advantage of a hole made by a raccoon or other creature.  It had nested inside the cabin for a while, made free with the couple’s food stores in the kitchen, and had been disturbed enough at some point to spray its noxious odor.

The smell was horrific, even though it wasn’t fresh.  They searched through the cabin and found that most of their belongings stored within had to be thrown away.  The smell had ruined mattresses, clothes, rugs, towels.  They had to get a special cleaning company to come out to clean the cabin and get rid of the smell.  They started tallying up the damage to the structure itself, including the hole through the foundation.  The cost started stacking up.

Unfortunately, their insurance company denied the claim and refused to pay for the damages.  It was hard not to think of the “what if’s.”  What if they had learned how to keep skunks out?  What if they had checked in on the cabin more regularly?  Or, what if they had been home, ignorant to the hole in their foundation, when the skunk had come in?  Things might have been even worse.

How To Get Rid of Raccoons

Raccoon climbing chimney
Raccoon climbing a chimney to get inside a home.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

If you want to know how to get rid of raccoons, I suggest you do NOT do what we did!

Our backyard is absolutely lovely.  It’s spacious, half of it is wooded and, at the back, it abuts a small creek.  We have a shed with a woodpile next to it, a garden area, a lot of green lawn and even enough room to have a swing set with a slide for the kids to play on.  We have a dog, so we keep the dog food outside for him.  In short, it’s an idyllic backyard . . . for us and apparently for raccoons.

It didn’t occur to us we’d have to figure out how to get rid of raccoons when we moved in, but now it’s something I think about all the time.  I worry about our dog outside at night; I worry about my children when they’re outside playing.  What if there is a rabid raccoon?  I worry about my house.  What if they decide to claw a hole and get in?  What if they build a raccoon nest in my attic?

Raccoons are opportunistic and will eat almost anything.  So, our backyard provides a literal smorgasbord for the family of raccoons that live in the woods out behind our house, and I’m afraid they’ll start seeing my home as their home.  The woodpile apparently houses little rodents, which raccoons eat.  Our dog has a big bowl of dog food, which raccoons eat.  Our garden vegetables are just ripening, which raccoons eat.  The birds are nesting and laying their eggs, which raccoons eat.  The creek out back provides a perfect water source for them, and lets them wash their food, as they like to do.

We’ve seen them clawing and tearing at our storage shed, and it’s just a matter of time before they get in.  I dread the day they decide to tear into our home and have babies in our attic.  The holes they make are a pain to repair, but we have to get them repaired or they’ll just let other animals in, like squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rats or snakes.

So, if you want to know how to get rid of raccoons, call a professional to have them removed off of your property and out of your home, and then don’t provide them free board and lodging like we did.

Of course, there is a little bit of entertainment value.  I caught the family of raccoons out back one night, playing on the swing set.  They had climbed to the very top, were jumping up to move the swings, and one of them even slid down the slide.  They had a great time and the kids and I laughed watching them.  They’re really cute, from a distance, but a real nuisance to your home and property.

Feral Cats and Farmers

I’ve learned a lot over the last few months about farmers and feral cats.

I’m a recent homeowner, just bought my first house in a farming community that is slowly turning into a town of new subdivisions.  Many of the farmers are aging, their children have grown up and gone off to pursue careers other than farming, and they’re getting offered prime dollar for their land.  I didn’t know all of this when I bought my home, of course.  I just enjoyed the rural atmosphere that came with my brand new home.

My backyard adjoins an old farm, and the family has sworn they are never going to sell.  I know nothing’s certain, but I feel a little relieved to think the view from my backyard will retain that rural feel.  I’ve gotten to know the family that owns the place, as well as their employees, and I’ve benefitted from their knowledge of the area, gardening tips, and feral cats.

I know that sounds odd, to benefit from someone else’s feral cats.  Most people think feral cats are a nuisance at best and dangerous at worst.  It is true that they can carry disease and parasites, just like any wild animal, or they could infect my pets or fight with them.

Fortunately, though, I have indoor pets, so that’s not a concern for me.  What has been a concern is the vast number of mice, rats, voles and moles in the area.  With new subdivisions going up in former farmers’ fields, we humans are invading the natural habitat of these rodents.  Mice and rats just love new housing developments:  lots of food sources like garbage cans or kitchens, and lots of warm places to sleep, like an attic or inside the walls of a home.  Voles, gophers and moles enjoy the grass and gardens we plant, giving them a luscious food source and soft places to burrow.  And, let’s face it, rodents bring in a lot more disease and parasites than feral cats do, and they bring them right into our homes.

So when I say I benefit from the farmers’ feral cats, I mean it!  Years ago, he actually asked a wildlife trapper to bring him some feral cats, and he paid for them to get spayed or neutered. Then, he let them loose on his property.  Feral cats, as wild animals, are used to fending for themselves, chasing down rodents for food.  They don’t need constant love and attention, they don’t need to come in and out of your home, they just need a safe place to be a feral cat.  I don’t have the rodent problems some of the other new city residents are experiencing, thanks to my farmer’s feral cats.

Now, my farmer friend admitted to me that some of his feral cats have sometimes become prey themselves.  The feral cats compete with other predators for the same food source, and are also a natural food source to other animals such as coyotes.  But, since they have been pretty successful at keeping the rodent population down, many of the other predators have moved on, looking elsewhere for a more abundant food source.

It’s been a win-win for the farmer and his feral cats, and now it is a win for me, too.

Vole Trapping

Aaaah, this family here has no idea they should have someone come out and do vole trapping, and I am going to use them to my advantage!  Here, I’ll sit here with my cute little vole paws, my rounded head, my large ears, and my tiny little nose.  Yep, gets ‘em every time.  I’m so much cuter than a mouse, and I resent anyone who thinks I look anything like those common creatures!  Besides, I normally don’t even go into a human’s precious home.  That’s when they get really mad, when stupid mice get in their homes and run around like they own the place.

No, so much better to live in the wilds of the yard.  Especially this yard, where they let the grass grow long, which is just perfect cover for me to hide from those horrible beastly birds that eat my kind.  This yard has lots of beautiful places that provide cover, like that woodpile over there.  Not to mention that lovely, lovely garden full of tender little roots.  Delicious!

Vole holes are tiny enough that ignorant humans don’t notice them, not like those ugly gopher holes that have dirt thrown everywhere.  And, I’m cute enough that if a human sees me, they just think I’m adorable and leave me alone!  This family thinks I’m so cute that they even GIVE me food instead of doing any kind of vole trapping.  Fantastic!  Like this huge piece of bread here, for instance.  They saved it and tossed it in the yard just for me.  Sure, I’m careful before I grab it and eat, making sure it’s not bait for a vole trap, but it turns out they just want to watch me be all cute.  Well, I’m happy to oblige!

So, I’m assuming my tunnels running throughout their yard are completely okay.  They must not mind that some of the grass is turning brown, because I’ve killed the roots.  They must not mind that I’ve destroyed some of their garden plants.  I know they don’t mind, because they keep inviting me and my friends back with more food.  It’s a perfect situation for any vole to be in.

I’ll just bring some of this bread back to my family.  Some of them have gotten sick, and they’ll love the free food.  My vole uncle has a couple of ticks feeding on him, and I don’t think he’ll last long.  Who knows where those ticks will go to feed when he passes on.  Probably the family dog.  That huge snuffler keeps rooting around our holes, hoping to catch one of us.  Maybe he’ll get lucky one day.

But, until then, I’m just going to enjoy the good life.  Free food while the family dog is penned up inside the house, plenty of good water from the hose, soft dirt to tunnel in, and an excellent vegetable garden.  Gotta love a family who doesn’t believe in vole trapping.

Swallow Trapping

SMAT!  “Oh, man, you gotta be kidding me!”  A small drop of mud spattered across Mark’s shirt as he walked in the door.  It had a tiny twig stuck in it.  “Time to call for swallow trapping, my friend!” he called to Art, the man behind the lunch counter.

“What’re you whining about, now?” laughed Art, “A silly little bird building an innocent little nest?  Yeah, we don’t want to dirty up your pristine clothes!” It was true, Mark painted houses for a living, and was already covered in drywall dust, dried primer and paint of several shades.  You could barely tell where the swallow had dropped the mudball on him, mud that was intended for making its nest right above the door of the tiny diner.  “You want the usual?” Art asked, and disappeared into the back, not even bothering to wait for Mark’s answer.

Mark grabbed up a napkin and wiped at the mess on his chest, as he sat down at the counter.  Soon, he was chewing on a turkey sandwich with a side of Art’s famous greasy fries.  He didn’t have much time to eat, because he had a big job to get done by the end of the day, but he always had time for lunch at Art’s diner.  Around a mouthful of fries, he told his friend, “I’m serious.  You’ve got to trap the swallows or get rid of them somehow.”

“Oh, come on.  You know I don’t have time.  I’ve got a busy diner to run and . . .“

“I’m telling you, I’ve seen it a lot with these houses I paint.  Swallows will stick their mud nests everywhere, and the mud and their bird crap stains the walls or the concrete.  Those suckers will come back year after year, too, if you don’t do something about it now.”

“I’m not sure you can knock the nests down, though,” Mark’s counter-neighbor offered.  “I think they’re protected, aren’t they?”

“Maybe,” said Mark.  “I don’t know what the law says about that.  Just know they’re a darned nuisance.  Pain to clean up after, too.”

“Sure are a nuisance,” said Art.  “They dive-bombed my wife when she opened this morning.  Maybe I should call someone?  ‘Cause I sure don’t have the time to deal with ‘em.”

“I think you definitely should get someone out here for swallow trapping,” Mark said.  “Ever hear of swallow bugs?  Those bugs just drop right off the bird and infest a place.”

Art looked around his diner and shuddered.  The guy next to Mark turned a little green and put down his sandwich.  Mark said quickly, “Oh, I don’t think they hurt humans, but you don’t want them around the place, do you?”  Art had his wife call for a professional swallow trapper that afternoon, just to be on the safe side.

Skunk Trapping

Momma skunk with her babies
A mother skunk with her babies.
(Artwork by Sharon Davis. Contact us for her contact info.)

From my perch up in the tallest tree, I can pretty much see everything that goes on around me on this property, and one of the most interesting things I’ve witnessed over the last few weeks was the owner’s attempt at skunk trapping.

As a bird, I’m not really that opposed to skunks myself.  They can’t really hurt me, as a raven, and if they spray some stupid dog or fox, I just fly away from the smell.  But, I could tell this skunk was really getting on this guy’s nerves over the last few weeks!

First, it made free to dig up in the guy’s vegetable garden as it hunted for bugs to eat.  Destroyed some of the crop and left a horrible mess.  Then, it decided to burrow under the guy’s front porch.  He was afraid he’d be sprayed if he surprised the skunk while walking out to his yard, and even I could see it was going to damage the concrete, making it sink down eventually.  One night, the skunk got hungry and toppled over the garbage can, munching on everything edible it could find.  The owner came out the next morning to find a horrible mess on the lawn.

What really sent the owner into a horrible rage was when the skunk got into the chicken house and ate up some of the eggs.  It even attacked one of the chickens.  At first, the owner thought maybe a fox was to blame, but when he figured out it was a skunk, he reached the end of his rope.

He went out and got himself a skunk trap, set it up in the vegetable garden, and caught that smelly skunk.  Problem was, he had no idea what to do with it after that.  He was so afraid to approach the skunk in the trap.  He tried walking up to it really slowly and quietly, he tried throwing a tarp over it.  I spent a good three or four hours just watching this guy circle the cage, try all kinds of things, work up his nerve just to get scared again.  Highly entertaining!  Truth is, that guy just didn’t know what to do with the wild skunk, and he didn’t know what it could do to him.

He should have called a professional to come out and trap the skunk in the first place.  A wildlife removal specialist already has the skills and experience to get rid of a skunk, and will do it legally.  Eventually, he called in an expert at skunk trapping, who not only got rid of the skunk, but repaired the damage the skunk caused.

Now, I wonder if we can get another wild animal to attack the guy’s house again.  I’ve got to get my entertainment one way or another, and watching him fumble around with wild animals is always good for a laugh!

Raccoon Trapping

“Okay, Martha, you ready for an evening full of fun and raccoon trapping?”  Max was sixty-eight, newly retired, and bored out of his mind with all the free time he’d had on his hands.  He admitted to himself he was probably driving Martha crazy, with all the new projects he’d started and then left unfinished.  He just wasn’t ready for retirement, and Martha wasn’t ready for him to be retired, hanging around the house all day long, banging away at something and then leaving it for another project.

“Sure, Max.”  Martha sighed.

They were both curled up on the couch, lights off and video camera running.  A couple of raccoons had been hanging around their house for a few nights, and they’d even noticed their cats’ food was disappearing each night.  Max was sure the raccoons were coming into the house through the cat door, and decided to try his hand at raccoon trapping himself.

Martha had suggested just getting a lock for the cat door, but Max didn’t want the hassle.  He knew if they got a locking cat door, they’d just end up having to get up throughout the night to let a cat in or out, and he was enjoying his long nights of sleep, after years of waking too early to an alarm clock.

Martha propped her feet up on the coffee table.  Max’s excitement hadn’t quite infected her yet.  As far as she was concerned, raccoon trapping was just another of Max’s projects.

But, before too long, the cat door swung open a little, and a human-like hand, a raccoon paw, came reaching through the opening.  “Shh, shhh, it’s happening!” Max exclaimed, even though Martha hadn’t made a sound.

Max had set up a raccoon trap with the cat food inside of it.  Martha wasn’t so sure that was the best way to go about it, but she’d learned years ago that it was easier just to let Max pursue his own things, and let him come to his own conclusions.

The raccoon paw came through the cat door again, groping around.  Max wondered if it was looking for any sign of a cat, but had no idea why the raccoon didn’t just come through the door all the way yet.  He refocused the video camera and waited to see what would happen next.

What happened next is not what either Max or Martha expected.  That raccoon felt around until its paw landed on the small rug in front of the door.  It grabbed up the rug, tugged it back out of the opening in the cat door, and ran off into the night with its prize.

Both Max and Martha were stunned.  Why would the raccoon want the rug, they wondered.  Martha’s eyes drifted over to the cat food, and she sighed.  Was this effort at raccoon trapping just another failed project, soon to be abandoned, or would Max want to try it again tomorrow night.  She wasn’t sure which she wanted more, but she looked at Max reviewing the video on the camera and realized it didn’t matter.  He was happy.