DEAR JOAN: We hope you can advise us on a problem. We live in the city and have a metal, flat roof garden building that raccoons or opossums are using as a bathroom.
We also have a small wood utility shed — seldom used — that rats now call home. We have trapped some but in a few weeks, more move in. Any suggestions for a permanent fix on either problem, or is there one?
Lou Cobb, Livermore
DEAR LOU: The problem on your shed is likely raccoons. For some reason, they like creating latrines up off the ground.
It doesn’t really matter which one is doing it — either way, the stuff is toxic and you should be careful when removing it.
Wear gloves and a respirator, and bag up the poop for the garbage. To keep them off, try taking some coffee cans — do they even make those anymore? — or some sort of container. Punch several holes in the side of the container and put some rags soaked in amonia inside, then put the lid on. Set these on top of the roof.
As for the rats, people get very determined to kill them, but as you have experienced, there are plenty of others to take their place. You need to find where they are getting into the shed and then patch holes and block entrances.
Because the shed is wooden, it might be more difficult to keep them from chewing their way in. If that’s happening, consider putting siding or even metal flashing on the building to stop the gnawing.
You should also take a look at your yard and remove anything that makes it attractive to critters, including pet food left out over night, water bowls and heavy ground covers, especially ivy. Keeping them out of your yard is the first step to keeping them out of your shed and off your roof.
DEAR JOAN: I so enjoy your column but was quite dismayed today to see the letter from about using bird netting to stop skunks from digging.
I do hope the writer is using the wildlife-friendly netting instead of the standard netting that is available in most hardware stores. That type of netting can be deadly to to our local wildlife: birds, lizards, snakes and even bats can get tangled in the netting and are unable to escape, often injuring themselves.
At Lindsay Wildlife Experience, the aquatic garter snake, Ribbon, was a victim of that kind of netting. Some of his ribs were broken, making it impossible for him to survive in the wild. He serves as an animal ambassador, allowing our exhibit hall interpreters to tell his story so more people are aware of the dangers of standard garden netting.
I am writing as a concerned citizen and not as a representative of Lindsay Wildlife, although I do volunteer there and appreciate the opportunity to tell Ribbon’s story.
Marni Berendsen, Bay Area
DEAR MARNI: I was aware of the dangers of monofilament bird netting, but I didn’t think about it being a concern lying flat on the ground. But you are, of course, correct.
Creatures can become tangled in the netting, and if they are unable to free themselves, they can starve to death. They also can cut their mouths trying to chew through it, and break bones, as was the case with Ribbon, in their attempts at escape.
If you’re planning to use netting to protect trees, gardens or as a cover on lawns to prevent creatures from digging for grubs, look for types certified as wildlife safe.
Thanks for the reminder, Marni .
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