Critter Control

Secure homes and other buildings so that there are no openings, such as exhaust or attic vents, to the outside through which birds and animals can enter to nest, roost and sleep, or become trapped. Keep basement doors and screen doors closed at all times, and remove all tree limbs close to your house.

If animals are born in a chimney, do not try to smoke them out. Close off the bottom of the chimney and leave them alone to finish out the cycle. They will move off when they can; then the chimney opening should be secured to prevent wildlife from using it again. Do the same for birds. If squirrels get in the attic and have young, wait until the young are old enough to leave, then seal off any attic openings.

Remove -- repeatedly if necessary -- unwanted nests from porches, balconies, carports, etc., to discourage birds from nesting on your premises. Parents may dive at or scold people and pets, but they rarely hurt either, and the nuisance is short­-lived. Large areas of window glass can be death traps for birds. Inside, use decals, tape, ornaments or closed curtains to break up reflections; outside, hang mobiles, metal pie plates, or strips of material to frighten birds away.

Helpful Hints

  • Use trash cans with lids to hold plastic trash bags. Lids may have to be tied down to prevent raccoons from opening them. Do not leave scraps of food out for your pet dog because this will invite a wildlife problem.
  • When considering the use of pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, read labels and instructions and use them only when needed for specific problems. Do not use toxic chemicals where birds concentrate to eat, drink or roost, or near known nests.
  • Examine trees, dense shrubbery and vines before cutting or pruning to avoid exposing or destroying nests or injuring young. Avoid mowing areas of a lawn or field where ground birds or rabbits are known to be nesting.
  • Garden vegetables and fruits appeal to hungry or curious birds; in most cases they are more helpful (by controlling insects) than harmful. If damage becomes a real problem, try methods to protect the garden or frighten the birds; don't kill them. Rabbit wire around a garden will keep rabbits, turtles and other wildlife out.

Educate Your Children

Educate your children not to handle, remove, disturb or linger around active nests, and not to pick up or handle wildlife.

Birds have little sense of smell. Contrary to the popular belief, babies can be put back into the nest even though they have been touched or handled. Don't replace weak or injured nestlings. If the babies are feathered but not flying well, they did not fall out of the nest but have left it. Don't interfere. The parents are usually nearby. Only "rescue" a baby bird if there is something to rescue it from.

Baby squirrels that are found at the foot of a tree should be left alone and watched to see if the mother comes down to pick them up. Only after several hours, if the mother doesn't come, rescue them.

Birds and animals that find their way into a house are more frightened than you are. Birds are attracted to light. Close the curtains, turn off the lights, and open the door. For animals, open windows and doors and the animal should go out.

Don't Panic. Stay Calm!

If you need help with a specific wildlife problem, contact the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries on its toll-free wildlife conflict helpline: 1-855-571-9003. You can also consult your Internet browser, or the Yellow Pages, for private critter/pest control companies serving Prince William County to help you with your problem.