Wildlife Matters with Dell Cullum

March 2021

Nuisance Wildlife Prevention:

Happy New Year to everyone, and I hope this month finds you all happy, healthy and remaining vigilant during these difficult times. I do want to take the opportunity to personally thank ALL the health care workers, firefighters and paramedics, and of course our police force, for their aid, protection and professionalism during these tumultuous times. While hell is breaking loose throughout cities around the country, our little paradise at the eastern end of Long Island remains basically calm and peaceful,…. until spring. Then, our annual spring/summer transition will set us into a tailspin of our own; however, decades of conditioning makes the change effortless to a true local. It’s the new residents that are in for taste of something new, like the traffic and driving, the crowds, parking, prices, politics, warm and friendly attitudes and most of all, OUR wonderful wildlife.

First of all, may I be the first to actually write the statement (and mean it), IF YOU CAME HERE TO GET CLOSER TO THE COUNTRY, OR CLOSER TO NATURE, GET USE TO, AND LEARN TO LIVE WITH THE WILDLIFE, RATHER THAN LOOK FOR WAYS TO ELIMINATE IT. There is nothing worse than someone who moves to the country, then builds a huge fence around their entire property to keep everything out. It’s not so much the act of “wanting” to keep the animals out that makes this ridiculous, it’s thinking that you can. The same goes for the folks who move here and then post their anger and disgust because they have to share their home with our deer. News Flash: DEAL WITH IT! The deer have been here since this island was first forming. They have met and overcome every obstacle and impact humans have created and continue to do so. If you’re the type that exceeds the speed limits when driving, you WILL hit one, and it WILL be your fault. After all, you have the ability to obey speed limits and have complete control of the vehicle, right? Speed limits on our roads are designed to be able to stop and avoid collisions with deer should they happen to run across a roadway. In short, you can let the deer drive you bananas, but they’re not going anywhere. And the more habitat we continue to take from them, or fence off, the worse the problem will get. Meanwhile, the Town Board of East Hampton does nothing to enforce fencing codes and regulations, or anything to ease the pressure on these animals, which in turn would decrease the animosity, oh yeah, and any potential danger.
And the fun doesn’t stop there folks. If you’re a new homeowner, you’re going to meet more of our furry little four legged locals. Let me go down a short list, and offer you a bit of expert advice along the way:

1) Mice: YOU WILL NEVER ELIMINATE THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF MICE AROUND YOUR HOME, so stop throwing your money away. Any person who comes to your home, installs boxes of rodent poison, then leaves without FINDING the hole(s) that allows the critters to enter your home, has just scammed you with a move I like to call, “The Big Mickey”. You are now paying someone a monthly fee to keep coming back to fill the poison boxes with FOOD!! Sure the food has poison in it. Sure it’ll kill a few mice, but it’ll draw in five, no ten times as many more, and they will produce litters faster than you can kill them. They’ll have those litters in your walls, attic and insulation because the food is nearby. And when the food/poison is gone, the mice will go looking for other sources of munchies around your house while you sleep. At least until the poison dude comes back and fills the boxes. I’ve seen poison create more infestations than eliminations. You want to solve a mouse problem. Seal every hole that goes through your home that you can stick your pinky finger into, particularly around your foundation and where lines go through into homes (gas line, ac lines, etc.). Once you’ve filled those entries, you might want to place a couple of humane live traps or old Victor snap traps on your sill plate in the basement for management. These traps are quick and humane. If you continue to catch mice after a week, then you missed an entry.

2) Rats: Much of the same applies above, however rats tend to stay outside and create large dens underground. Above ground, they leave a mound of dirt with a golfball size hole within. These are smart critters, and they often avoid traps. They den where there is a constant food source, and their favorites are bird seed, garden leftovers and trash. Eliminate food and water sources and they will most likely leave. Of course your neighbors will also have to practice proper guidelines.

3) Chipmunks: These little cuties won’t cause structural damage, but they do seem to enjoy making tunnel entries in driveways. First you’ll fill it in with stones and sand, stamp it down real hard, only to find it open and clean hours later. And if you’re really clever, you’ll put a huge rock on it or park your vehicles tire over the hole, but again, only a short time later a new hole will appear right next to the rock or tire. You’ll say to yourself, “Is this a game?”, and in fact to the chipmunk it just might be, but a game it will almost always win. It all depends on who gives up first. Here’s a tip. Fill the hole with a half handful of pebbles, then a cup of cement, then more pebbles, more cement, you get it. Then cover the surface with a foot push of dirt. You will NOT be trapping a critter inside as their tunnels often have multiple entry/exits. Also, chipmunks love to live and play within tunnels and dens behind stacked rocks and wood. The ONLY safe way to make these areas less accommodating to critters without hurting them (including snakes) is to treat the areas with sulphur. I use a standard sulphur smoke bomb from a novelty store. The smoke penetrates the inner workings and leaves the soil distasteful. The product Mole Maxx (available at local garden stores) works the same way. It’s a granular made of natural ingredients that are distasteful to animals that travel close to the ground (rodents and burrowing animals). It’s broadcasted on lawns and last for 60-90 days. Then, when it rains, the active granular’s release deep into the soil, deterring the tunneling insectivore called the mole.

4) Moles: Moles are not rodents, they are insectivores. They do not eat your plants, those are called Voles, which are basically short tailed outside mice who love to eat your ornamental’s root system. Vole resistant plants are the safe answer here folks, because putting poison OUTSIDE is even more INSANE than using it inside your home, but that’s a topic for another time. How do you get rid of moles safely? Take away their food. They eat the grubs and earthworms that live in your soil. Treat your lawn (organically) to rid it of the foods that moles prefer, and they will skedaddle over to your neighbors,… sorry neighbor.

5) Squirrels (Grey and Flying): Two different squirrels, two entirely different issues in regards to impacting your home and two different methods of trapping, however there is one simple means of prevention that could cover you when dealing with wildlife that can cause structural damage to your home. The raccoon falls under much of my advice here as well, but the raccoon will have some bonus tips included so we’ll get to them shortly. If you’ve already got squirrels living inside your home, you’ll need to hire a trapper (I recommend a humane trapper like myself) to trap and relocate the squatters, then give you the proper advice to keep it from happening again. The key to keeping wildlife from breeching your home’s exterior to gain access to attics, soffits, etc. is keeping them from gaining access to your roof, or gutter line. If they can’t reach your roof, they’re going to your neighbors. Squirrels can jump 16′, but that doesn’t mean they will find that accommodating to do over and over to establish a home. Keep all trees and branches cut back 16′ or more and that eliminates that angle. Flying squirrels are strictly nocturnal and need trees taller than your roof to glide down onto it. Keep your roof maintained, cleaned and inspect as often as you can. Try to avoid large roof venting where screens can be breeched and crown venting that Flying squirrels find easy to bore through the ventilating foam. Chimney caps are a must my friends. They will save you from a variety of critters including both types of squirrels, raccoons, bats and even birds.

6) Raccoons: These masked critters are exceptional at acclimating to whatever is thrown at them. They can survive every type of habitat that exists, withstand both high and low temperatures, both arid and humid conditions, high and low altitude, and is by far one of the most intelligent creatures we have locally. Let me first lay to rest the rumors that have plagued the raccoon for centuries. Raccoons are not by nature aggressive, and certainly know enough to realize that a human is much bigger and stronger. The ONLY time a raccoon would be in a threatening posture toward a human, is if a human cornered a raccoon and became a threat to the raccoon. At that point I suppose a raccoon could, and probably would defend itself in a way that would leave you in a serious state of hurt. If it didn’t, I would be concerned for the raccoon. You see, most animals, including humans would certainly go into a defensive state if a species unlike your own cornered and threatened your life. Personally, I have no problem going on record announcing that if anyone was to corner me, kept me from leaving a situation, and became a threat to my life, I would leave you with a world of hurt as well. There is no difference. My advice, don’t corner a raccoon, or anything, or me. Problem solved. Here is a couple of great tips to follow in regards to our local raccoon population. DO NOT LOOK FOR RACCOON ADVICE OR SOLUTIONS ONLINE. Raccoons behave differently in their setting. Our raccoons on the east end behave entirely different than those up island, and even more so than those in the city. In short, advice from a source in Indiana isn’t going to help you “jack-squat” here at home. There are basically 24 raccoons per square mile here on the east end. During the summer, their diets consist of the gourmet cuisine leftovers we throw out. With endless summer events, parties and dining options, you can imagine that our raccoons are spoiled with a surf and turf style of eating. Throw in the 24/7 sushi bar (aka Montauk Docks and all EH Town Commercial docks and landings) and the north and south shorelines, rich in a variety of raccoon favorites. In other words, they eat like kings and live like rock stars, owning the night and most homes with weak roofing. Although raccoons are nocturnal, it is NOT a reason to panic when you see them during the day. Nursing mothers usually go out and about during the daytime hours as they stay with their young during the night when they feed. We are also drowning in an over abundance of pest control companies, tree services, landscapers, and builders, all stepping over each other toes and knocking heads during the summer. This almost always interferes with a raccoons daytime rest and ultimately displaces them out looking for some peace and quiet. The answer to raccoon proofing your home is keeping them from nesting under your decks and keeping them off your roof. Raccoons don’t jump from tree to roof, but they are great acrobats when they can reach and grab onto something. If you allow a tree to become a ladder to your roof for these critters, they will use it. If they manage to breech your roof through removing shingles or through a gable vent, you once again will want to call a humane trapper. Don’t leave cat food out, don’t use too much bird seed, and don’t use trash cans whose lids cannot be secured 100% to the can. Food, water and shelter is all it takes to make a raccoon feel at home. Give them all three and they will absolutely move in. On the bright side, our raccoons do not carry rabies. They do however get what is called distemper. It is very contagious to other raccoons and other animals, including dogs. It is not however, contagious to humans. It is a fatal disease and there is no cure. If your dog comes in contact with a distempered raccoon, simply check with your vet to make sure their distemper vaccinations are up to date. Some of the signs of a sick raccoon are lethargy, excessive drinking, disorientation, walking in circles, seizures, dragging the rear legs, curled up into a ball, shivering and slow to no response to a human voice. DO NOT APPROACH A DISTEMPERED RACCOON. Call the police or me and arraignments will be made to have the animal put down.

7) Opossums: Folks, take my word for it, you want to leave these critters alone and welcome them to your yard. They are natures natural pest control. They eat lots of rodents and insects, and all while your sleeping. The nocturnal opossums favorite snack is the much hated tick. They eat up to 5000 ticks per season. They are constantly cleaning themselves like a cat, are immune to many common wildlife diseases, are completely non aggressive, and rarely do they invade your home. In fact, they much prefer a leave pile under your deck and would never climb onto your roof to gain access into your attic space. Trust me folks, the opossum is your friend. When they show you their 50 teeth, they are not trying to scare you, they are smiling. So smile back and be kind to opossums.

8) Bats: We’ve got them, and it’s a good thing because we have a lot of mosquitoes as well, and the bats have this amazing ability to consume 1,200 mosquito-sized insects every hour, per bat, up to 8,000 each night. Unfortunately they are a rabies vector species that play host to a variety of other diseases as well. Now, in the normal scope of things you’ll never have a close, concern-able encounter with a bat. You’ll see them flying around your yard eating. You might even get lucky, leave a door open next to a light gathering insects and wake up hours later to find a bat flying around your bedroom ceiling. Most folks panic at this point, but believe me, you can take one of two predictable actions. First, you can slowly walk out of the room, close the door, place a towel to block the space at the door bottom, and call me. Your second option is to freak out, grab a broom and break many items throughout out your home until the animal disappears into a high space where it’ll relax and sleep while you spend the remaining nighttime hours wide awake, wondering when it’ll show itself again. Bats will also roost under facia boards and other structural egresses that resemble bat roosts. Most go nowhere, but the bats still roost and their guano (poop) stains your siding and accumulates on the ground below. Pack these spaces or fill them with foam to eliminate the space to roost behind. To avoid them breeching into your attic space, make sure you address any tears in the screening of attic ventilation like gable, soffit and roof venting. They will also enter holes in the foundation, window well or bilco door areas, even if they have to crawl under a deck to reach a location that allows them access inside. To avoid a health risk, avoid getting bit. To avoid getting bit, do not touch or try to pick up a bat. It’s that simple. Also, install bat houses around your property. It allows you to reap the benefits of bats while giving them a more accommodating location to roost nearby.

9) Canids (Fox and Coyote): Yes, we have them both. The fox have been here for quite awhile, while the coyote is a new species to the east end that ironically is also beginning to make THEIR move to the Hamptons from the city. Foxes are also a rabies vector species, however there have been very few cases over a long period of time here on the east end. They do get mange during the warmer summer months and it often leaves them looking very ill. They lose much of their hair and their skin becomes dry and hard. Ticks are also a menace to fox. You may see one walk across your lawn, but rarely will they be brazen enough to ignore the presence of a human, let alone stand up to one. They love rodents and we have plenty, so don’t worry too much about your cat becoming a meal for a clever fox. It’s not as easy, and mice don’t have razor sharp Wolverine claws and long sharp teeth. Birds of prey are privy to this feline ass-whooping as well and tend to stick to rodents, squirrels and rabbits for a less dangerous and abundant meal choice.

10) Groundhogs (Woodchucks): These burrowing critters are growing in population now that they have acclimated from farm fields to residential properties. You can’t keep these critters off your property unless you have a marmot-hating mutt that can devote its entire day to chasing them. They are also very smart and tricky when it comes to live trapping, but there are other ways to promote their moving on. A tennis ball soaked in ammonia and rolled into a hole can make a den most accommodating, and at the same time it doesn’t hurt the animal, and also gives a nursing mother reason and time to move her young to a new and less irritating location.

11) Birds: Birds are tough because all birds are protected, well almost all of them. Certainly the woodpecker is protected, yet they can drive a homeowner crazy with their constant “drumming” or pecking on a homes exterior. Presently, there is an organic spray available through some of the local pest control companies that apparently does well in keeping the little peckers off your siding, but nothing confirmed. Hawk decoys, motion activated hawk sound device (Yard Sentinel), 10″ metallic pie plates and mylar streamers are the best defense against Woody. Once you persuade them to move on, they rarely return. To further your woodpecker prevention, you can replace pecked on shingles or fill in the old divots with a clear (or shingle colored) silicone.

Turkeys are another bird that can be a handful to a homeowner, but other than a short hunting season, they are protected. My best advice is to avoid giving them “an inch”, because they will certainly “take a mile” each and every time thereafter. Your best line of defense is an immediate one. Double up; make their visit very unaccommodating while at the same time showing them who’s boss. A broom is the only tool you’ll need to persuade even the stubborn stragglers. Not striking them with it of course, but rather swinging it around which freaks them out. If necessary, a gentle sweeping push with the broom lets them know your not the bluffing type.

Well folks, that’s a huge amount of information. It would be wise to rip out these pages of wildlife wisdom and either xerox and spread the word of Dell, or simply tack your copy up close by for easy reference. Either way folks, do yourself a huge favor and really try to understand the burdens our wildlife face before condemning them for thinking your home is just a unique tree. After all, these animals gave up their homes in the trees so you could build your homes where they once lived. Give them a break. If the wildlife is really trying your patience, causing you stress or damage to your home or property, all you need to do is give me a call at 631-377-6555 and together we will solve any issue. My expertise, your cooperation, and everyone wins! You’ll save yourself a season of frustrations and headaches, and maybe even a little doe, ray, me in the end.

WELCOME to all our new residents and to all our visiting guests no matter what the season. Welcome to the beautiful east end, where Wildlife Matters.

~ Dell Cullum

Hampton Wildlife: 631-377-6555 · Wildlife Rescue of East Hampton: 844-SAV-WILD
www.WROEH.org · www.ImaginationNature.com