Animals can be adorable and are a constant presence outside, but they can become quite a nuisance and be downright destructive when it comes to your property. While you can’t completely animal-proof the outdoors, you can take measures to keep creatures from taking up residence in your territory and keep them from coming into your house.

How to Deter Raccoons

Raccoons are nocturnal and naturally curious. They are drawn to food sources and can be quite destructive to gardens just before plants are ready to be harvested. They can also tear up your lawn in search of insects, and they’re notorious for getting into garbage. Electric fencing set up around your garden can keep them at bay, and flood lights or sound machines with motion sensors can be used to scare them away. Keep trash cans in a shed or garage if possible, or make sure that they are tightly sealed. Raccoons will sometimes take up residence in wood piles or logs, so keep your yard clear of debris and your firewood neat and covered.

How to Deter Mice

Mice are drawn to sources of warm air, which signify shelter, and the smell of food. They will usually hide during the day and come out at night. If you see one, you can be sure there are many more nearby. To keep them from taking up residence on your property, you need to keep your yard clear of debris. Store any wood or other material at least a foot off the ground to keep it from becoming a source of shelter. Make sure that your trash is sealed tightly. If you have a dog or cat, take their food up once your pet has eaten and seal any leftover food in a container.

How to Deter Squirrels

Squirrels eat plants and can often be found foraging for nuts and acorns during the day. They have no defenses other than running away, so they are naturally skittish and can be scared away easily. However, they can be very determined when they find a source of food, and bird feeders and gardens are often easy targets. To keep them from eating crops you intend for yourself, keep them at bay by using sprays or powders that feature spicy pepper. Cayenne pepper sprinkled in your garden will deter them while leaving your plants unharmed. Wire fencing around your fruits and vegetables will also keep them away; just be sure to bury it deep enough that their efforts to dig beneath prove unsuccessful. Squirrel guards can be purchased for bird feeders and will help to keep them from getting to the seeds within.

How to Deter Rabbits

Rabbits love to live on the edges of wide-open spaces, meaning that suburban neighborhoods near wooded areas are a common place to find them. The damage they cause is always due to their voracious appetite: rabbits eat flowers and vegetables in the spring and summer, and they switch to bark and twigs in the fall and winter. To deter rabbits, first ensure that the damage is actually being done by rabbits—they often like to eat the same things as deer, but the damage they do looks like the plants have been neatly clipped rather than torn and shredded. Rabbits can be kept out of gardens with short wire fences trenched at least six inches into the ground to keep them from digging underneath. Scare devices that make sound or turn lights on in the dark can also help to keep rabbits away from your plants.

How to Deter Deer

Deer are very smart and thus can be particularly hard to ward off once they’ve decided your yard is full of things they want to eat. They will jump fences and ignore warnings if they want to eat something in your yard, and they can destroy your entire yard virtually overnight by trampling and eating your carefully cultivated plants. The best way to keep deer out is to discourage them from coming in the first place; this means planting flowers and shrubs that are unpleasant to deer and properly blocking off your garden plants with wire fencing and netting from the very beginning of the planting season. Deterrent sprays are sold commercially, but their effectiveness varies greatly, as some deer learn to ignore them and even learn to use them as an indicator of where to find food.

How to Deter Moles

Moles are primarily underground creatures that dig a network of tunnels, coming closest to the surface in search of food. You will rarely see a mole, but you will certainly see the results of its digging, as mole tunnels create ridges and mounds in your yard. Mole tunnels can damage the root systems in your sod, creating unsightly strips of dead grass. To keep moles from digging in your yard, you can spread castor oil granules with a spreader—they don’t harm the moles; they just send them elsewhere. Moles like moist environments, so improving the drainage in your yard may also help. You can also trap them above- or belowground with manufactured traps.

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Sources: Better Homes and Gardens; The Humane Society; HGTV; National Geographic; University of Georgia School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

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