April showers bring May flowers…

Along with hungry woodland creatures

hare-996827_1920_r1April can be the most ­magical month as well as the cruelest. Hopes can be raised with several days of warm weather, ­causing flower buds to pop up and finally liven the dreary winter landscape, giving a palpable rush to those with green thumbs ­longing, dare I say “twitching,” to get their hands in the ground.

Of course, that’s ­usually followed by plummeting ­temperatures, heavy rains, and/or winds ripping branches, leaves, and the aforementioned flowers to shreds.

The warm weather not only ­awakens the flowers and leaf buds, but also mama and papa rabbit who quickly find ­pleasure in each other and create a ­warren of offspring which quickly devour everything popping up from the earth.

Or, Bambi and her/his progeny do the same.

Sigh.

Controlling four-legged critters is a season-long chore. While the furry ­creatures look cute, they always look cuter on your neighbor’s property.

Granted, historically they were here before most of us. And as we keep ­building and building, especially in wooded areas, we are only asking for trouble. Once we displace their natural habitat, they start looking for someplace else.

The problem is only compounded by our desire to plant tastier plants than what they may be munching on in the wild. Hostas and tulips come to mind.

There are many products on the ­market to repel animals from your yard, and some do a fairly decent job, though it is helpful to have no sense of smell on your end. They stink. Some are urine-based, while others just plain smell awful. And over time, the smell breaks down, or gets diluted by rain, so you need to reapply. And reapply.

And more than likely, your family, friends and neighbors will be repelled.

Many of the creatures will be repelled, but soon get used to the smell, or hunger sets in and the smell isn’t outweighed by the thought of something tasty in their bellies.

That’s why it’s a good idea, like using pesticides, to rotate your ­products so they don’t get used to the smell.

At one time, Lifebuoy soap was recommended for repelling deer by hanging it from trees or stakes near the desired plants. Supposedly the deer were repelled by the odor. Others claim Irish Spring soap worked.

Hanging bags of human hair in panty hose is also supposed to work. The hair can easily be obtained from a hairdresser or barber, though they may look at you with a sense of “huh?” when you ask for it.

Of course, the key word is ­“supposed.” I’ve yet to find a deer or any animal that reads the literature to know what it’s supposed to do.

Some will mix up sprays of the most potent products from the pantry, including hot pepper sauces and flakes, garlic and just about anything else that could taste bad in a concentrated form, and then cover the plants with the concoction. Typically, they don’t smell as bad as the urine-based products and really just burn the mouth of creature.

The downside is the same as the urine-based products – they breakdown and get washed away, so you have to keep applying them.

David Robson is Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety for the University of Illinois. drobson@illinois.edu

David Robson is Extension Specialist, Pesticide Safety for the University of Illinois. drobson@illinois.edu

And most aren’t clear products, so they leave a film on your flowers and foliage, which sort of defeats the ­purpose.

Which leads us to three final things.

First, a good watch dog will chase deer, squirrels and rabbits. Just make sure the dog doesn’t tear around in the plants. Sometimes a cat will go after the ­squirrels and rabbits, but in the end tends to get tired, clean itself and then take a nap.

Second, install a good tall fence for deer, though a shorter one with six to eight inches buried and horizontal to the ground works for rabbits. You need to get rid of the trees to deter the squirrels.

Finally, there’s the arrow, bullet or shotgun shell propelled with force from a firing instrument. Just make sure it’s legal, and that’s the bigger issue.

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