Learn how to communicate to critters that your lawn and garden are off limits.

It only takes one critter to wreak havoc in your yard and—poof!—hours of hard work disappear. Whether it's squirrels digging holes in the lawn, deer gobbling shrubs, or rabbits nibbling vegetables, wildlife can quickly wipe out your landscape's best features. The easiest way to prevent animals from ruining your paradise is by keeping them out of your yard. Use these tips and tricks to identify which critters are visiting your yard—and then outsmart ‘em.

·      Groundhogs. These hungry herbivores devour up to 1.5 pounds of plants daily, including leaves, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. They love to tunnel, and their burrows have round openings with piles of dirt (and, often, buzzing flies) beside them. Other signs of groundhogs include wide teeth marks on plants, fruits, and bark. Tracks show 4-clawed toes on front paws and 5-clawed toes in back.

·      Rabbits. Bunnies may look cute, but they can wipe out a vegetable or flower garden overnight. Signs of their handiwork include piles of pea-size droppings, neat razor-trimmed leaves and stems, and missing plants. If bunnies are bedding down in your mulch, you'll see tufts of fur and slight depressions.

·      Raccoons. Active at night, raccoons frequently visit yards to forage in trash cans or dig up insects in lawn and mulch. Signs that a raccoon is present include torn trash bags (and scattered trash), missing fish in a fountain or pond, and emptied bird feeders.

·      Squirrels. When squirrels are at work, you'll spot small holes in your planting beds and containers, plus half-eaten (or missing) seedheads, fruit, or vegetables. They love to eat from bird feeders, so if you have one, that may be the reason they're targeting your yard.

How to Identify Which Animals Are Ruining Your Yard

·      Deer. Deer love your favorite landscape plants, flowers, and edibles and have appetites that are tough to beat—a single deer can eat up to 10 pounds of food daily. When deer are munching, you’ll see missing buds, half-eaten fruits and vegetables, and torn or ripped leaves. Deer droppings are pellet shaped, and tracks look like upside-down hearts.

How to Keep Animals Out of Your Yard

The best way to give wildlife the boot is by using multiple approaches to make your yard unattractive to them.

·      Repel them. Repellents are one of the easiest ways to ward off animals. These products feature scents that critters find unappealing. For best results with repellents, follow label instructions carefully. Dry granular repellents, such as Tomcat® Repellents Animal Repellent Granules (which repel rabbits, groundhogs, squirrels, and other small animals), offer good rain resistance. If you prefer a liquid spray, try Tomcat® Repellents Deer Repellent Ready-To-Use, which repels deer and rabbits. 

·      Clean up. Your first line of defense against marauding animals is eliminating their hiding places, such as wood piles, brush, and overgrown shrubbery. Open spaces and neatly trimmed beds work particularly well to help discourage rabbits and groundhogs.

·      Remove food. Fill your garden with plants that deer and rabbits dislike, and pick edible produce as soon as it's ripe to avoid luring groundhogs. Gather fallen fruit or nuts before squirrels turn them into a feast. Also, avoid letting pet food sit out overnight—it's a big draw for raccoons.

·      Scare them. Dogs with free run of the yard are one of the most effective wildlife deterrents. Other scare tactics include noisemakers, motion-activated sprinklers or lights, and garden spinners or pinwheels.

·      Exclude them. Erect a barrier to protect your yard—or individual plants—from foraging wildlife. A piece of netting or chicken wire around, or wire cloche over, vulnerable plants can provide effective protection against rabbits, deer, groundhogs, and squirrels. Electric fences around vegetable gardens can exclude most animals, as long as they can't go over or under them. For deer, fences of any kind must be either very high (8 feet or more) or short, doubled, and wide (such as 2 shorter fences spaced 5 feet apart). Use sturdy wire or hardware cloth to close openings beneath garden sheds and decks to keep groundhogs or rabbits from nesting beneath. Be sure to bend the bottom of the wire into an "L" shape and bury it several inches in the ground to keep animals from digging through underneath.

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