Critters on your lawn mean more work for you!

Whether it's your favorite pet, squirrels, chipmunks or rabbits, when you have some of these critters around, you've got more work to do to keep your lawn looking great.

Prevention and Cure for Animal Damage and Invasion

Dogs

When dogs urinate, especially larger breeds, it will cause the lawn to turn brown from an excessive amount of ammonia present in the urine (ammonia is actually a fertilizer, but in high concentrations, will overdose the grass and kill it). Several remedies (although none are very practical) can be used. Saturate the area with water that is commonly used as a bathroom by the pet. Repair or replace the grass in the effected area. Perennial Ryegrasses and Fescues are the most urine-resistant grasses. The worst is Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermuda. Lastly, train your dog to go in another area where there is an alternative ground cover not so easily effected by the urine.

(For a more detailed explanation, please see our dog problem page)

Cats

Free-roaming neighborhood cats can be either a blessing or a curse depending on your point of view. I always had lots of problems with chipmunks until a neighborhood cat moved in. Cats being natural hunters quickly reduced our chipmunk population.

However, cats are notorious for marking their territories to keep other cats away by spraying bushes, and other landscape materials. This spray can be very unpleasant. If this is what you're experiencing, then you'll definitely want to try to discourage cats from your landscape. Cats don't like the smell of citrus (lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc.). If you can identify entry points the cats use to gain access to your property, place some citrus rinds there. If there are particular areas that they tend to spray, place the rinds there. This will take a little time, but it will work.

If you see cats in your property, you might spray them with a squirt gun or garden hose. This will quickly teach them to go elsewhere, but it will be just plain luck that you happen to be outside, with the hose or squirt gun at the same time they pay a visit.

Gophers

Gophers are definitely a tough customer to control. They also can do considerable damage. They are strictly vegetarians and most of their tunnels are about 12" - 18" below the surface, however, they do have much deeper tunnels that can go down 5' or so. There are some home remedies that have questionable results. One is planting caster bean plants that is supposed to drive them away-I have my doubts though. All of those so-called remedies like the vibrating windmill and ultrasonic devices don't work either. Gophers don't frighten easily. Just imagine how much vibration and noise a lawn mower causes going overhead every week and if you have gophers, you know already that they aren't moving out because you're a noisy neighbor.

(for a more detailed explanation, please click here for our gopher problem page)

Moles/Voles

There are several types of moles in the United States, but two, the Eastern mole and the star nosed mole, are the ones that cause the most damage for homeowners. Moles are about the size of a chipmunk and weight between 3 - 6 ounces. Although their damage seems to come and go, they usually stay in one location year round. As the weather cools, they go deeper in the ground and sometimes hibernate during extreme cold, so their damage is less apparent. In some aspects they are very similar to gophers.

Mole damage is unsightly. Long burrowing tunnels crisscrossing your lawn certainly aren't attractive and when their tunnels approach the surface of the soil, they usually chew through the roots of a lawn causing it to yellow and die.

The reason the little miners are digging their way through your lawn is that they are looking for food and finding it. These critters typically enjoy feasting on insects, with grubs being on the top of the list when grubs are moving toward the surface. If you have grub damage to your lawn then consider treating for them, but don't count on removing the grubs and having the moles move on. Scientists have determined moles eat about 25 to 100 percent of their body weight each day.

Moles enjoy earthworms and so is favorable to earthworms because this soil is also easy for the moles to dig through. This is particularly true in garden areas where the soil is normally very loamy— ideal for worms and ideal to dig in.

Poisons: TALPIRID, developed by Bell Laboratories, Inc., is the first and only mole bait designed, developed and scientifically proven to kill moles. This product must be applied through a trained applicator and is not generally available to the public.

That leaves the only reliable method, which is trapping. The best time for trapping is early spring, about the same time as the forsythia blooms. This is normally before they breed, so getting rid of one mole then, is the same as getting rid of 7. Consult with a nursery for availability of and instructions on using traps.

Squirrels

Squirrels can be a real nuisance, especially if you have more than just one or two hanging around the yard. They have a tendency to dig holes in your lawn and flower beds either hiding food in the fall, or looking for food in the winter and early spring. Unfortunately, there's no easy way of ridding your lawn of the pests, except for eliminating whatever their food source happens to be, which is probably a neighbor that overfeeds or improperly feeds the local bird population.

In early fall, make certain that all possible entry points into your house are tightly secured to prevent them from over-wintering in your home. Squirrels have a tendency to pry open the screen in older gable ventilators. Once inside they can do all sorts of damage including chewing through electrical cables. If you have a squirrel in your attic in the fall, you can count on having a number of baby squirrels in your house come spring.

Skunks

Skunks dig to feed on an abundance of insects living in the top inch or soil of top soil. While they are particularly fond of grubs (who isn't) removing the grubs will just mean they'll have to make a change in their diet. Once skunks have discovered your property, they're usually going to be your neighbor for a long time. There are no effective skunk repellents. The only way of removing them effectively is trapping. Consult with a professional-- skunk trapping is not a do-it-yourself project for many reasons.

Armadillos

Armadillos dig to feed on insects, particularly on grubs. Removing their food supply may cause armadillos to go elsewhere. Trapping and relocation is the most effective way. Fencing to keep these ancient creatures out of your digs is also an option once they've been relocated.