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News : Now Is Prime Time For Backyard Battles According To Judy Loven of USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services program

Now Is Prime Time For Backyard Battles According To Judy Loven of USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services program
by Curt Slyder Journal and Courier
Volunteer corn, as shown above, is an increasingly common weed in Indiana soybean fields
Voles, seen here, are one of the many backyard pests common this time of year.

A look around gardener Pat Wright's Lafayette yard reveals roses, marigolds, hollyhocks and a host of other flowers, as well as water plants around her pond.

She usually has to contend with insects. "It's better now than it was a month ago," she said. Japanese beetles and other pests caused some problems this summer.

Larger pests were also an issue. "I have chipmunks," she said. "They dig holes in the ground. They'll dig up bulbs, too." But she has a solution. "I trap and release them."

Late summer is known for chipmunks, moles, yellow jackets and a host of other critters that can wreak havoc in, around and under your yard and garden.

What can you do about them? In many cases, experts say, more than you might think.

Late summer and early fall is the time when young animals born in the spring and early summer are being weaned and venturing out on their own, said Judy Loven. She's the state's director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health and Plant Health Inspection Service and Wildlife Services.

Loven is also in charge of the Wildlife Conflicts Information Hotline, a line staffed weekdays to help callers deal with problems they are experiencing with wildlife on their property.

In addition to being a time for young animals being weaned, late summer and early fall is the time many animals are eating more to bulk up before winter when many of them hibernate, she said. Some are also collecting food to store for winter.

"Raccoons are our No. 1 complaint," Loven said. "We also get a lot of chipmunk calls."

Raccoons are very adaptive and can raid trash cans, pet food containers, bird feeders, sweet corn and other outdoor food items, Loven said. When there are dry conditions, "they'll even dig in your yard for insects," she said. "They eat about everything."

Chipmunks "are attractive but destructive," Loven said. They can do a lot of digging and gnawing, including gnawing on outdoor furniture and the bottoms of shed doors.

Repellents for chipmunks and raccoons aren't usually effective because they have such wide diets, Loven said. She suggested using taste repellent on only the items you value the most.

"If everything tastes the same, they're just going to eat it anyway," Loven said.

Kathy Smith of rural Shadeland has a garden with vegetables and flowers.

She's had occasional problems with moles and voles in her yard. Voles resemble mice, but have thicker bodies and shorter tails.

But Smith's biggest problem is insects. "We're typically just about eaten up with insects," she said.

Squash bugs, cucumber beetles and horned worms on her tomatoes cause problems late in the summer.

"We pick off horned worms," Smith said. "We spray everything else."

While trapping, spraying and using repellents may work for a host of pests, it's important not to rely on just one thing, said Brian MacGowan, a Purdue regional wildlife extension specialist.

"An integrated approach of various techniques is generally best," MacGowan said. "That is, do more than one thing listed under each species."

It's also important to be aware of the rules of chemical usage, animal trapping and other methods, MacGowan said.

Be sure to use a chemical according to the directions on the container, he said.

When trapping and releasing, don't take animals across a county line, Loven said. Also make sure you have permission from landowners before releasing an animal on their property.

"Most species of wildlife are protected by law," MacGowan said. "It is the homeowner's responsibility to know the law prior to taking action."