Here's a crib sheet on controlling a few animal nuisances — ants, woodpeckers, cats, dogs, moles and rabbits — that may have popped up in at your home and garden.

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It’s spring, and that means animals are up and out and moving about. They’re also more likely to intersect our lives and make us critter crabby. Here’s a crib sheet on controlling a few animal nuisances that people complain about:


Those small brown ants scooting around the house usually love sweets or grease.

With the proper bait — sweet bait for the sweet ants, greasy bait for the grease lovers — you’ll attract ants, and that’s a good thing. They will feed on the poison-laced bait and take it back to the nest and feed it to the queen The queen dies, and so does the nest.

Don’t worry — the “poison” in the baits is borax, deadly to ants but not so dangerous to us. But you’ll want to keep ant baits out of the reach of children and pets.

If you’re not sure if you’re seeing sweet- or grease-loving ants, experiment.

Try a sweet bait such as Terro. If it doesn’t attract ants, try a grease bait, such as Drax-FP.

If neither work, you might be dealing with the pharaoh ant and need a hydramethylnon bait, such as Maxforce.


Neighbor cats that use the yard and gardens as a toilet really make people mad. I don’t think most cat owners consider this when they let their pets roam.

Talk with the cat’s owners if you know them. Sometimes, just a friendly request will do the trick. You might want to gently remind them that veterinarians and other animal-care experts say indoor cats are safer for a variety of reasons. Cats don’t need to roam.

Or try a commercial cat repellent available at hardware and garden stores. Because the repellent wears off, you need to reapply it regularly.


Dogs that leave spots of dead grass on the lawn are problems, too.

Dog blight, patches of grass yellowed by dog urine, can be restored. Soak the area with water to dilute what’s in the soil. Use a lawn-repair product available at most garden and hardware stores. Or, do it yourself by soaking the area, scruffing it up and adding dirt and grass seed. Fist-sized patches don’t need to be reseeded; they’ll fill in on their own.


That drum-drum-drumming on the house in spring usually means the woodpecker is proclaiming its territory.

Woodpeckers are protected and may not be killed, but there are ways to try to discourage them, such as using the bird-scare reflecting tape sold at pet and bird stores. Suspend the tape in parallel rows across the woodpecker-damaged areas. Twist the tape several times. The tape reflects sunlight to produce a flashing effect.

Or suspend CDs, pie tins or inflatable Scare Eyes for Birds (available at or at home stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot) from brackets around the house so their movement will keep the birds away.

Some people suggest discouraging drumming by distracting the birds with suet cakes. Place the suet cakes away from the house, 30 feet or more, and then next to the house at the birds’ preferred place to peck, if they have one.


A metal mesh fence 18 inches high and buried at least 3 inches in the ground helps control bunnies, but it can be an eyesore. You also can try a rabbit repellent:

Mix 3 tablespoons each of cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce and mild dishwashing detergent into a gallon of water. Pour into a spray bottle, shake well and spray onto the stems and leaves of plants.

Along a garden perimeter, place blood meal or predator urine, available at garden and sporting-goods stores.

Moles and voles

Castor oil-based repellents have worked for some. Commercial products are available, or make your own. Mix 6 ounces of castor oil and 2 tablespoons of dish soap in 1 gallon of water. Mix 1 ounce of this concentrate per gallon of water and apply to the lawn. If it rains, reapply.

What doesn’t work? Gas bombs, poison peanuts, chewing gum, human hair and devices emitting annoying sounds or electrical impulses.

You know you have voles by the network of brown trails in the lawn in spring. Grass will grow back, but trees and shrubs are damaged by voles that feed on the bark.