Live and let live
The Skunk Whisperer shares his tips on how to keep pests away.
One of Ned Bruha’s earliest lessons in wildlife respect involved a chipmunk bite to the face. So it’s pretty obvious that his moniker, The Skunk Whisperer, is more symbolic than literal. In fact, rather than getting up close and personal with unwelcome critters in and around Tulsa homes, he prefers to remain hands-off.
Bruha is vice president of The Skunk Whisperer Inc., a Tulsa-based company with a “don’t trap, don’t kill” (except in extreme cases) approach to removing various species of “problem” wildlife from residences and businesses.
Even the most humane trapping can be harmful to animals when they’re relocated to unfamiliar habitats — where other territorial critters may kill them, Bruha explains. In contrast, some of his proven wildlife-management tricks include finding and blocking the trespassers’ main entry and exit points or tweaking certain architectural features that are attractive to them.
“There’s a solution for practically every situation that makes it so we can coexist with wildlife,” Bruha says.
Bruha realized this at age 7 when his father instructed him to get rid of chipmunks that were desecrating gravesites near their Wisconsin home. Armed with a pellet rifle, Bruha quickly learned that shooting or trapping all of the furry offenders was impossible. When his dad showed him how to bury hardware cloth around graves to create a barrier for the chipmunks, it was a lightbulb moment.
Because Tulsans live side-by-side with many species, Bruha notes that we must respect these animals and not keep them as pets to minimize our “human imprint,” which often has a detrimental effect on wildlife, and to avoid personal danger and possible infestation.
“Our angle is not just for the animals’ sake but for humans’ sake, too,” he says.
Wildlife prevention tips from The Skunk Whisperer, Ned Bruha
Does it sound like your attic is the Interstate 44 expressway for wildlife? Squirrels in your attic? Bats in your belfry? Raccoon family in your chimney? Skunk spraying your dog?
It can happen to anyone. Millions of dollars are spent each year repairing wildlife damage. Newly built and old homes are equally susceptible to wildlife entry.
Wildlife wants three things: food, water and shelter.
If we eliminate just one of them, they will typically move on to greener pastures.
A few types of shelter include: decks, leaf debris (rats and mice love leaves — snakes love rats and mice), your building crawl space, your attic, brush piles and thick underbrush.
Spring has sprung and, along with it, nature has generously replenished cute, fuzzy little creatures, which can potentially turn your lives upside down.
We are at the beginning of different wildlife species’ birthing seasons. Start preventative measures now.
This time of year, as in the fall, a majority of squirrels make dreys (squirrel nests) in trees and attics throughout the United States.
While these are amusing, cute, fuzzy creatures to some, they are rats with fuzzy tails to others.
Be aware that squirrels do not know the difference between chewing the bark off of a tree and chewing the insulation off of your electrical wiring.
Preventive measures should be taken immediately to head off thousands of dollars of potential damage.
Raccoons will soon be having their young (called kits and cubs) in chimneys and attics.
These adorable masked bandits can pop your attic roof vent off like a soda bottle cap, dismantle your roof, remove your chimney cap and be under your couch before you can bat an eye.
Along with their adorable young, they bring lice and their feces carry roundworm.
Skunks are already raising a stink, and their activity is not even in full swing yet.
If you have one under your house, deck or outbuilding, time is of the essence — they are having their young now.
Once their young (called kittens) are born, evicting them becomes a time-consuming task.
Skunks are deadly accurate up to 15 feet with their essence, and it is the strongest, longest-lasting scent known to man.
This is not a pleasant wildlife fact if this smell penetrates your home.
Most Big Brown Bats never left Oklahoma, and most Small Brown Bats are returning to their summer roosts.
If they decided to make your building their home, you may need professional assistance.
Once their babies are born in mid- to late May, it will be late August or early September until they can be evicted without inadvertently killing the young and making a smelly mess.
Opossums will soon create their own posse and invade garbage cans, crawl spaces and attics.
Their prehensile tails and unique hands and feet allow for acrobatic maneuvers that may bring them to your attic or under your deck.
Although their nocturnal, maternal educational program for their young is amusing to watch, you have the power to ensure that this new posse does not invade your castle.
You are enjoying your big back yard when, low and behold, the soil moves. Snake behavior is unpredictable, so treat all snakes as though they are venomous.
What to do
Wildlife management professionals can assist you with evicting unwelcome houseguests of the wildlife type.
You can save time, frustration, headaches, heartaches and a lot of money by doing simple preventive measures yourself by purchasing common items at your local hardware store.
A few tips:
- Be certain that all garbage can lids are tightly closed, and never lay garbage bags on the ground. Your garbage can is an attractive buffet to wildlife.
- Although disheartening to hear, feeding the birds is an invitation for a wildlife invasion. You cannot possibly comprehend how feeding any wildlife can negatively alter your neighborhood eco system drastically.
- Think hard before you feed the hummingbirds. The sweet, nectar smell not only attracts hummingbirds, bees, and wasps, but also skunks, opossums and raccoons.
- Never feed pets outdoors. If you must, bring food in at night. Do not store cat or dog food outdoors.
- Purchase and install a common dryer vent cover if your dryer vents out of a wall.
- Thousands of dollars are spent each year in Oklahoma alone remedying damage caused by wildlife entry through dryer vents.
- The little floppy doors on your existing dryer vent typically are less than adequate.
- This $10 item (and the 10 minutes required to install it) is less expensive than replacing a dryer with a decomposing squirrel, skunk, raccoon or bird in it.
- Keep your garage door closed.
- Do not leave it open for ventilation or for pets to enter and exit.
- Many homes unintentionally introduce wildlife dilemmas by unknowingly trapping wildlife in their garages. Wildlife may find it to be a suitable home, too.
- Do not over-water your lawn. A lawn that is abundant with mole food (earthworms) may be full of dirt mounds quicker than a drier lawn, in some cases.
- Keep your lawn manicured. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.
- Taller grass will encourage snakes and other vermin to call your property theirs.
- Consider having a wildlife management professional inspect your existing home, or your next home.
- Pre-purchase inspections by a wildlife management professional who understands Integrated Pest Management. It can possibly save you thousands of dollars in future damage.
- Eliminate brush and junk piles. Raccoons, opossums, snakes and skunks love this easy shelter.
Before you resort to utilizing your Red Ryder BB gun (you’re going to shoot your eye out!), know that contrary to popular belief, it is illegal to use within the city limits.
Place your traps on the back shelf or donate them to Animal Control because there are very few species in Oklahoma that a homeowner can legally trap on their own.
Trapping is typically a waste of time and money if you still have holes in your building that wildlife can enter.
Wildlife is attracted to certain architectural features, and others will soon return to the scene of the crime, even if you fix their entry point.
Trapping is, at best, a temporary solution because another animal will soon fill the void in that territory and you cannot legally release wildlife in Oklahoma without proper permits.
Mother Nature immediately replenishes territorial attic-and- crawl-space-invading wildlife — but she does not do home repairs.
Put away the mothballs and fox urine, and concentrate your efforts on money-saving preventive maintenance.