Back to Back Issues Page
Furry Creatures
August 24, 2015

(Prairie Dock starting to bloom.)

The last full week of August already.

Sadly, we have only been to the beach one time this summer (so far).

I still feel a good month behind in my mind and body.

plant life, angle of the sun, lack of bird sounds, and increased insect sounds, all remind me what time of year it is.

Dealings with Yolanda has indeed taken a toll on Karen and me.

Still, we would do it all over again.

Speaking of which, Yolanda is slowly progressing along.

Her appetite is good, she is very alert.

Growing stronger, and yet more stubborn at times.

The main issue is still the bed wetting.

My Cup plant is still blooming, soon the goldfinches and their offspring will enjoy the seeds.

Another native plant I get to enjoy blooming this year is the "Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum).

A native plant of The Great Lakes Region, west to the Mississippi, east to the Virginias, Carolinas, and Georgia.

South to Mississippi and Alabama.

The plant has a base of large, course leaves about two feet high and wide.

A flower stalk grows eight to ten feet tall with yellow flowers.

It is something different, and I like to have a few different plants that others don't have.

It can also provide a "Wow" factor.

(Juvenile Red Belly Woodpecker.)

The past couple of weeks, I shared with you my thoughts and those of a few readers.

Can you imagine a world without birds?

Many of you garden for wildlife to attract birds, butterflies, and maybe some bees.

Gardening for wildlife also attracts a host of other creatures.

In this case, furry ones.

Wanted or unwanted, they came with the territory,

Kind of like the little brother that insists on hanging around with you all the time.

He may be a pain much of the time, but comes in handy once in a while.


So, you do a bit of research.

You plant flowers, shrubs and a certain tree or two.

You add a birder feeder or six.

Position a birdbath or other water source, and possibly a couple nest boxes (birdhouses).

And then.................................

The unthinkable happens.

Furry creatures are invading your yard.

Your gardens, your habitats.

Created for birds and butterflies are now hosting everything else.

Welcome to the real world.

Squirrels, chipmunks, gophers and rabbits.

Deer come along and munch your prized hosta and other plants.

Opossum, skunks, and raccoons.

Shrews and even voles/field mice.

For me, it is the wretched woodchucks.

Depending where you live, you may even have porcupine, moose, and even bear visiting your little corner of the world.

And then there is the unthinkable.


Nature happens.

Some things we can do little about, while others we can minimize.

Still, in some cases you may embrace the wildlife.

Let's go over a few thing, shall we?

On a daily/nightly basis, I have squirrels, chipmunks, shrews, rabbits and I suppose some mice.

I do have visits from raccoons, deer, opossum, and the ever loathed woodchuck.

For me, deer, rabbits, and woodchucks are the most destructive.

Chipmunks, and Squirrels:

Cute and often destructive.

I have learned to minimize the nuisance factor by using baffles and feeder placement.

Yes, feeder placement and feeder style, and baffles keep squirrels, chipmunks and gophers from feeders.

Other than a few pop up sunflowers, chipmunks have never been a big issue.

Squirrels on the other hand can take over a yard (especially with a woods nearby).

Certain feeders and baffles also are quite effective on raccoons as well.

Close off any openings to your house, garage or outer building, as the little beasties will make themselves at home and cause great amounts of damage between the walls.

That said, the sheer entertainment value alone, is worth having a few of these creatures around.

How many times have you chuckled at the antics of a squirrel, chipmunk, or gopher?

Rabbits, Deer, and Woodchucks:

(Eight day old babies in nest, I'm holding a 12 day old at the bottom of page.)

These critters are more of a challenge than the others (at least for me).

Tree wraps and chicken wire cages keep these beasts away from prized trees and shrubs during the winter.

Bird netting can be effective also.

Liquid concoctions and predator urines can also be used as a detrant.

I haven't used the urine, but have found liquid sprays to work.

'Liquid Fence' is a brand name i use and will recommend as a very effective deterrent for deer and rabbits from making a meal of my young and tender perennials and flowering shrubs.

I suppose it could work on other animals like elk.

Besides hosta, deer love 'tall phlox', asters, anemones, lily buds, etc.

I make sure to incorporate several deer resistant plants and native grasses.

I find that once plants get growing well, rabbits are no longer a real problem for me, and we are very, very blessed with rabbits around here.

Rabbits are prolific reproducers, and will make a nest right in the middle of your yard, or garden.

Woodchucks are my nemesis, Period.

Everything else pales in comparison to the destruction and damage a woodchuck can do.

I trapped three of them, this year so far.

Liquid and granular concoctions don't slow this beast down.

The smell of ammonia is supposed to chase them off so I've read, I don't have time to replace dishes of ammonia everyday.

Maybe Bobcat or coyote urine might work in this instance.

Skunks, Raccoons, and Opossum:

Again, creatures of the night (most of the time).

I have learned this over time.

Most of the time these creatures of the night do very little damage if you take care of business.

Make sure feeders are well located and baffled.

Sometimes carpet tackboard is needed to get the point home on climbers like raccoons and squirrels that raid feeders as well as nest boxes.

Pick up trash and make it difficult for the masked marauders.

Skunks and opossum are mostly gleaners.

Yes, they will scavenge anything considered food. but the assist with keeping messes from building under feeders.

Sometimes there is a poop pile to deal with.

Once in a while there is a little dig in the grass or flower beds.

I'm fine with that, that means one less destructive grub.

(Skunk Dig.)

If you awaken to a lawn that looks like a miniature battlefield, with miniature bob explosions all over, you have worse problems than skunks digging.

You have a major grub issue.

On late summer evenings, I enjoy watching the skunks wonder in.

We have a couple of families right now.

A mom with two kittens and a mom with one kitten.

I don't bother them, and they don't bother me.

If you don't want polecats or other beasts, simply stop feeding the birds.

But where is the fun in that?

Bear, shrews, and other things:

(Short tailed shrew)

I don't live in bear country, but many of you do and you let me know that bird feeders come down when the bears come out.

The smartest thing you can do when living in bear country is to remove food sources.

This means bird feeders, or hang them
where bears can't get at them.

It also means proper disposal of garbage and securing the containers.

Shrews also follow the food.

Now I like shrews.

They are miniature balls of energy, constantly on the hunt for food.

Shrews are predators.

They feed on slugs, bugs, and even baby mice.

When desperate, they will feed on grain and fallen bird food.

Mice/voles are ubiquitous.

You hope to minimize their presence by minimizing food and shelter.

Minimizing food, so many of the above creatures play a huge role in doing this.

Before winter arrives, wrap your shrubs and small trees at the base.

Hardware cloth works well for this, it allows for plants to breathe, but keeps the chewing rodents from killing your plants.

Be sure to shut up any openings/holes, or cracks you find on any of your fixed structures, and keep garage doors shut as much as possible.

These vermin don't hibernate, and are always on the lookout for a place to stay warm and dry.

Sadly, cats are a bigger danger to wildlife than all of these creatures combined.

Only education will help save cats from fates they don't deserve, and education will help save billions of birds and other small animals from a non native predator.

Predators follow the food source (most birds are predators as well).

Many of the animals mentioned above will also feast on bird eggs and baby birds as well.

All of these animals play a role in nature (though I haven't found a good one for woodchucks).

Nature was created for us to enjoy.

Only when man encroaches on wildlife habitats do they become a nuisance.

There are ways to minimize and ways to attract wildlife.

As stewards, it is up to you and me to care for our wildlife.

Expect a few unwanted visitors (toads attract snakes for example).

Some guests you will grow to appreciate and you just might feed them.

Plan and plant to attract and deter.

Gardening For Wildlife isn't simply the birds and the bees.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us."

Billy Graham

How often we confuse the will of God with our own will.

How often we are quick to blame God when things go wrong.

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.
And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.
But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

1 Corinthians 10:13

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

Back to Back Issues Page