New commercial and residential developments often displace prairie dogs, causing them to wander into areas that are inappropriate habitat. If a prairie dog gets into a window well, it usually can be removed with little effort. First, try to get the animal to leave on its own by propping a board in the window well to provide an avenue of escape. If that is unsuccessful, lift the animal with a fishing net or a shovel and release it. It will usually make its way back to the colony from which it came. If a prairie dog appears sick, don't approach it or try to move it. Contact a local animal control officer or pest control company to remove sick prairie dogs. Cover window wells with steel grates or plastic covers to keep wildlife from becoming entrapped. For the safety of pets and wildlife, keep pets away while the prairie dog is in the yard to avoid encounters.
Sometimes relocation sites may be available for nuisance prairie dogs. In most cases, the animals are destroyed if they continue to be a problem. Contact a pest control company to learn about appropriate control measures.
- Screen chimneys and repair attic holes to prevent entry.
- Remove overhanging branches to cut off easy access. You can also place an 18-inch cylinder of sheet metal around the trunks at least 3 feet above the ground.
- Make sure garbage and trash containers have tight-fitting lids and are clasped or tied to keep raccoons from tipping them over.
- Never feed raccoons.
In Colorado, nearly all species of snakes are not only harmless but beneficial to humans because of their appetites for insects and rodents. Along the Front Range, however, there are occasionally problems with prairie rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes have elliptical pupils, Distinctive, heat-sensing pits on each side of their face and rattles on their tail.
If you live where prairie rattlesnakes are found or if you have an aversion to snakes, some simple habitat modification around your property will usually solve the problem. Keep firewood in a covered box.
- Do not landscape with expanses of large rocks, especially in open sunny areas.
- Mow weeds and vegetation, and remove rocks, boards and debris.
- Reduce the rodent population on your property to reduce a major food source for snakes.
- Seal entrances to crawl spaces and basements.
If you encounter a prairie or massasauga rattlesnake (the only poisonous snakes in Colorado), simply back off. The snake senses your presence by your body heat and movement. In Colorado, rattlesnakes may be legally killed if they pose a threat. All other snakes are classified as nongame wildlife and are protected by law.
Keep skunks out of house foundations and basements by burying wire mesh 18 inches underground around these structures, or by using concrete or sheet metal to seal likely access points.
If skunks have taken up residence under a house or other structure, they can—sometimes—be discouraged from staying by placing a nylon stocking stuffed with ammonia-soaked towels under the house. (Be sure to attach a long string to the stocking so you can remove it later). Then cover the ground where you think the skunks are entering with soft soil or, lightly, with flour. When you see tracks leaving the entrance, seal it off with hardware cloth. (Check for tracks after 10 p.m. or first thing in the morning). If no more tracks appear near the inside of the entrance, permanently seal the hole. Caution: Don't use this method if children are playing in the area.
If you decide to trap a skunk, you must destroy the animal because state health laws do not permit relocation of skunks.
- Do not feed squirrels.
- Place bird feeders on a tall pipe so squirrels cannot reach them.
- Screen attic vents on the inside with hardware cloth to keep squirrels out.
- Trim branches hanging over buildings.
- Prevent squirrels from climbing trees by placing 18-inch-long metal cylinders on tree trunks.
If a squirrel is loose in the house, block off the room it's in, provide one way out (open a window or a door) and watch until you see the squirrel leave.
If you discover a squirrel in a fireplace, close the damper immediately. Then, open the doors or screen slightly and use a hand-held fishing net to capture the squirrel. Cover the net opening with a board and take the animal outside for release.
If a squirrel is in a stove fan, disassemble the fan and, as you remove it, hold a fishing net under the hole. Then follow the previous procedure for taking the animal outside. When handling any wild animal, use caution and appropriate protection, such as heavy gloves.
In Colorado, the common flicker is the most abundant woodpecker species. It can be found drumming on wood siding, eaves and shingles of homes. These birds are territorial; drumming marks their territories and attracts mates. Woodpeckers also drill holes for nesting and roosting.
These birds are protected by law. There are a number of techniques you can use to discourage their activities.
- Provide an alternative drumming site. Nail two boards together at just one end (producing resonation) and hang on a secure surface.
- Place lightweight plastic mesh netting at least 3 inches from affected wood areas.
- Nail plywood over the excavated area.
- Hang aluminum foil strips, colored plastic streamers, hawk silhouettes or mirrors near the affected wood.
- Treat wood with sticky/tacky repellent. However, be aware these repellents may stain house siding.
- Use noise-making tactics, such as clapping your hands or banging garbage can lids together.
- Spray the birds gently with water from a garden hose when they start to drill or drum.
- Eliminate any ledges or cracks on which the woodpecker is able to stand while drumming.
- Don't feed birds.
If woodpeckers continue to be a problem, a special permit can be obtained from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to destroy the birds.
For more information on woodpeckers, read the article, Woodpeckers Begin Springtime Drumming.