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Did you know that a chipmunk can throw its voice? Or that Wisconsin has a venomous mammal? What about the answer to the question: can porcupines throw their quills?Every Monday on WXPR at 7:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m., the Masked Biologist answers questions just like these about living here in the Northwoods.You can keep track of Wildlife Matters and all of WXPR's local features on the WXPR Local Features podcast, wherever you get your podcasts.

Set Up Wildlife Exclusions In The Fall

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Did you have some hassles with wildlife in or around your home this year? Now is the perfect time of year to take steps to exclude unwelcome guests. That’s the focus of this week’s Wildlife Matters.

Fall is the perfect time of year in more ways than one. Sure, fall is my personal favorite season—comfortable sunny days; cool, crisp nights; hardly any bugs, colorful leaves, all around perfect. But fall is also perfect for addressing wildlife concerns around the home.

If you have problems with bats in your attic or under your siding in your home, this is the perfect time of year to exclude them. Pups are weaned, and they are starting to migrate to their winter quarters, or hibernacula. So, you can legally and safely exclude bats right now. This is trickier than it sounds; bats can squeeze through a crack wide enough for a pencil. In attics and scuttle holes, fall is a great time to seal gaps and cracks because it is not ridiculously hot in there. Go inside on a sunny afternoon and look for areas where you see sunlight. You can fill these cracks with caulk or expanding foam to keep bats out. While you are up there, you might consider scattering some mothballs to keep out unwanted guests. Flying squirrels for example love to go into attics this time of year with a cache of acorns to wait out the winter. Most mammals really despise the chemical smell of mothballs or flakes and will likely find your attic unsuitable.

Summer also finds you dealing with skunks taking up residence under your garage or tool shed, or digging holes in your yard. If not a skunk, maybe a badger or another weasel family member. These critters are usually feeding on grubs that live just below the root zone of your turf grass. The best way to minimize the chance of their return is to put down a grub killer on your lawn before winter. I am not a fan of pesticides, so I don’t tell you to do this lightly. You will not only kill undesirable grubs but will eliminate desirable insect larvae as well. However, skunks can carry rabies and spray their stink, and having your lawn dug up by animals with sharp teeth and claws can be problematic if you have pets, so treating the maintained or manicured lawn at least around your home or cabin will kill the grubs and make it less welcoming to these foragers. Skunks also love compost piles, garbage bins, burn barrels, really anywhere they can find smelly foods so keep your trash picked up and secured in a box or shed.

Give your birdhouses a thorough cleaning, and leave them empty. I have a hinging bottom on mine, which I leave open to keep mice from using them for winter quarters. I will close them in early spring. Take down and clean your birdfeeders, disinfecting them before winter comes and salmonella risk increases. Clean up the bird waste in your yard so you are ready to host our heartier year-round resident birds at your feeding station.

If you see foxes by your driveway, they like to den up and give birth in your culvert. This is a good time to clean it out and put grates on each end to keep animals and debris from impeding your drainage.

In basements and campers, now is the time to start placing whatever you use to discourage mice. I have used dryer sheets, peppermint tea bags, and mothballs successfully. Fill rodent tunnels with heavy debris, rocks and maybe some mothballs or a dash of vinegar to encourage them to move elsewhere.

Many of the challenges that wildlife bring to home ownership in the summer can best be addressed now, as activity is reduced, the young animals are dispersing and not living in or under your buildings. There are lots of helpful tips online, and I am impressed with the amount of deterrents available at our retail stores in Rhinelander. A little extra work now can eliminate an entire season of frustration next spring.

The Masked Biologist is a weekly commentator on WXPR talking about natural resources and wildlife in the Northwoods. He is anonymous so that he can separate his professional life as a biologist from his personal feelings about the natural world.