Is Mississauga Becoming A Wildlife Kingdom?

With critters ranging from racoons and skunks to rabbit, deer, fox and coyote, there’s more wildlife than ever to contend with in your backyard.

Remember when the biggest menace going was squirrels digging up spring bulbs? Now there are all manner of wild animals roaming the area and that can spell trouble for you and for your yard.

Don’t Encourage Them

The first and best thing you can do is make sure that your home and yard aren’t interesting to animals, as a source of food. In the City of Mississauga, it’s illegal to intentionally feed wildlife but you could be inviting them to your yard and not even realize it.

Whether directly, by leaving garbage in unsecured containers, or indirectly by not limiting access to plants that interest them, once they’ve arrived, they’re hard to get rid of. If your garden is a ready source of food for wild animals, they’ll get into the habit of visiting and lose some of their natural ability to forage.

Eliminating odours that attract them is a good start. Spray wash your garbage cans and recycling bins every once in a while, to get rid of too many lingering odours. Make sure your compost container is well secured as well, with a solid lid, as the odours from these may attract some animals like raccoon.

A few other tips?

  • Clean BBQ grills after use.
  • Keep wood piles away from your house, as they are perfect homes for small rodents.
  • Don’t use bird feeders that spill.
  • Don’t feed your dogs or cats outside: their food will attract other animals too.

If you’ve got a grub problem in your garden, deal with it using a non-toxic, environmentally friendly pesticide as well as regular mulching of your garden—grubs tend to prefer compact earth, so aerating properly will also help reduce the grub population. Racoons and skunks LOVE grubs and will dig up half your garden to get to them!

Make Sure Your Structures Don’t Create Homes For Them

A deck with open gaps make excellent hiding spots for animals like rabbits and skunks to take up residence and procreate. Not only will you have wildlife living in your yard, but their numbers will grow! Same goes with front porches or outbuildings like sheds, that aren’t in good repair. If there is a way for an animal to find a way in to crawl spaces under your deck, they can build themselves a tidy little nest, safe from other predators.

TIP: Make sure there aren’t already animals inside before you block off all exits. You don’t want to block them IN.

Fence Off Food Sources

If you’ve got a veggie patch in your garden, make sure you fence it off. If deer aren’t common where you are, a few feet of fencing will keep out most bunnies and groundhogs, though some may burrow UNDER the fence, so make sure it goes down half a foot too. They can get through chicken wire fencing, so use something more sturdy. You can, however, cover young plants with chicken wire to keep them safe. For fruit bearing bushes, netting can work to keep the birds off before you get a chance to harvest.

Container gardening is one way to help keep nibblers away. You might still need some other form of protection for your plants—like chicken wire—particularly when they are young and at their most nutritious for animals to feast on.

If you want to keep deer out of your garden and you don’t have a fence, thorny bushes and a well placed wind chime can help, as they don’t care for those and are skittish.

No fence will stop raccoons, unfortunately, so before you go to a lot of effort building one, make sure you have tracked down what animals are infiltrating your garden. The one thing that does repel raccoons is ammonia. If you soak rags in ammonia, put them in containers with holes in the top) and leave these where the raccoons are hanging out, they’ll go find a better smelling area to play in!

Mulch Between Plants

Adding a good amount of mulch around your plants is good for moisture retention and temperature regulation but it also helps to discourage digging, particularly by cats or rodents of all types. River rocks and other stones can also help in this regard.

Pick Plants That Aren’t Tasty

You can minimize your garden being used as an open air grocery if you choose at least some plants that animals are less interested in. Like what?

  • Ornamental grasses
  • Holly bushes
  • Lily of the valley
  • Ferns
  • Bee balm
  • Daffodils — if squirrels like your tulip bulbs, try daffodils. Squirrels avoid them so you can protect an area of plants by surrounding these with a row of daffodils.
  • Rabbits and deer don’t care for strong smelling herbs like rosemary and sage, so planting those with your other flowers and vegetables can help repel the notorious nibblers.
  • Rabbits and chipmunks also don’t like the strong smell of onion or garlic, so planting some of these will also help.
  • Smaller rodents avoid things like lavender and mint, as well as marigold flowers.

Soak Them!

No creature likes to be doused with water while feeding, so a motion activated sprinkler system might be just the ticket to make your garden unpalatable. If they get sprayed a couple of times, they might find your neighbour’s dry yard far more interesting.

However you protect your garden from the wee beasts out there, just remember to be humane in your choices and, if all else fails, get some help from animal / pest control professionals.

Raccoons, Rabbits And Pets In Your Garden…Oh My!

If it’s like Wild Kingdom in your garden, you can take steps to protect your green space, and the animals who use it!

A beautiful garden filled with lovely plants and flowers is basically an open invitation to the animal world to pay you a visit. That might be a daunting thought but you can create an inviting outdoor space that is safe for the animals you love and less interesting for those that you don’t.

What’s Dangerous To Your Pets

There are a variety of plants and flowers that are toxic for pets so if you plan to have them as part of your garden plan, you might want to consider keeping them in raised beds or away from bed borders, or install some cute picket or lattice fencing, to minimize the chances of your pet coming into contact with them.

Here’s a short but by no means complete list of common plants that can harm your pets:

  • Lily of the valley—they contain cardiac glycosides, which are used in human heart medication!
  • Daisey
  • Tulips
  • Holly—Christmas can be a dangerous time of year!
  • Azaleas
  • Birds of Paradise
  • Fall Crocuses—while the Spring crocus might cause an upset stomach if ingested, the Fall version is highly toxic
  • Daffodils
  • Amaryllis
  • Lavender
  • Lilies—cats are in danger with tiger, easter or day lilies, among others. Even a small amount of pollen or a petal or two can cause liver failure.

In addition to plants and flowers, there could be other things in your garden, which could harm Fido. Mulch, for example. Some types of mulch are made from cocoa bean by-products. The result is that they have a chocolate odour that attracts your pets but, as anyone with a dog knows, chocolate is toxic. Dogs don’t have the enzymes necessary in their bodies to process theobromine and caffeine, both of which are found in cocoa bean.

A good alternative mulch is hemp mulch. It’s effective as a mulch in keeping the soil moist, avoiding erosion, keeping weeds down and promoting seed germination BUT it is completely pet friendly!

Other concerns?

  • Fertilizers—any fertilizer that contains blood or bone meal can be both attractive to and dangerous for pets as the iron levels they contain, if ingested in sufficient quantities, could be harmful.
  • Pesticides—pesticides generally can be harmful but you particularly want to watch any that contain organophosphates, as many products produced for the care of roses do. Even small doses of these can seriously harm your pet.
  • Compost—yes, that earthy goodness can be dangerous if consumed by your pet directly from the compost heap or container. Why? One word: mould. As the compost breaks down, some mould does naturally develop. It will eventually break down as well but during the composting process, it can still be active and make your pet quite sick! Keep your compost area fenced off and away from your pets.

It goes without saying that if you do have chemical based products for your lawn and garden around, they need to be out of reach of not only children, but pets too!


Damage By Pets

The most common kind of damage in the garden caused by pets, aside from the digging of holes where you didn’t want them, is patches of burnt lawn, where the animal has urinated and the grass has died.

You can solve these in specific areas of your lawn by either seeding or sodding. How? Check out another of our posts, on this very topic!

If you’re just planning your landscaping, another way to avoid the problem is to work in more hardscaping! Yes, your doggo will love a good patch of lawn, but if you replace some of your planned lawn with stone, brick or flagstone, it’s that much less that you have to worry about patches on!


Damage By Other Animals

As cities expand, we humans are coming into closer contact with a wide range of wild animals and our gardens provide some great feeding grounds!

Raccoons and skunks—These are grub diggers! Your lawn might get dug up in parts as these two animals search for grubs underground. Your best bet for dealing with this issue is to minimize the grub population, utilizing a non-toxic, enviro friendly pesticide designed for that purpose! As for vegetable gardens, covers will stop most of their activities. Either cover individual plants or use netting to protect a larger grouping of plants.

Rabbits—How do you know if rabbits are eating you out of lawn and garden? Check the ends of the greenery that has been eaten. If they are neatly clipped, odds are it’s rabbits! You can also look for tell tale small round droppings. The only real solution for rabbits—and deer, if you’re farther out in the countryside—is fencing. You’ll have to dig down a few inches to avoid them going under and chicken wire won’t do the trick. You’ll need a stronger wire fencing to get the job done!

Squirrels—Squirrels LOVE to dig holes in lawns, as well as dig up and eat bulbs in flower beds. The only protection is a wire mesh cover. But here’s a tip: squirrels don’t like daffodil bulbs, so an investment in a few more of those will mean more flowers next year!

Whether your animal filled yard is by choice or by force, you can live peaceably with four legged creatures by taking the time to plan your landscape and hardscape so that everyone can enjoy the space, safely!