They're the only landscape pests that the public sympathizes with. Most landscape managers don't share that sentiment.

Critters, varmints…call them what you like. Furred and feathered pests present some of the most challenging pest-control problems for turf and landscape managers.

Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that the methods used to control vertebrate pests pose special hazards in urban environments. Poison baits and traps, for example, can lure pets as easily as pests, and shooting is simply not an option where homes and businesses are nearby. In any case, laws frequently prohibit harming wildlife. Further, the emotional connection some people have with animals tends to stir controversy when lethal controls are employed.

For these reasons, manufacturers have worked hard to develop non-lethal alternatives for controlling vertebrate pests. Live traps are one option. Decoys such as fake predatory birds are another. And exclusion tactics — perhaps just a simple fence — are sometimes all that's needed. However, chemical repellents and anti-feedants are a primary strategy that managers employ for non-lethal control.

  • Geese. Methyl anthranilate and anthraquinone are the primary anti-feedants for Canadian geese, by far the most difficult avian pest for turf and landscape managers. Other methods have been successfully employed — herding dogs, dead goose decoys and sound cannons, to name a few. But the use of bad tasting antifeedants has been shown to be an effective strategy.

  • Deer and rodents. For deer and rodents, several substances are known to deter feeding through unpleasant odors or tastes. Castor oil is a common ingredient in rodent repellents. Pepper (or capsaicin, derived from peppers), egg solids, the fungicide thiram, bitrex and several other substances also can reduce feeding through the unpleasant tastes or smells they impart.

And, of course, there are poison baits, which may be suitable in some circumstances, particularly more rural settings. Some products that are more commonly used for interior rodent control also have registration for outdoor use where rats and mice may be a problem (around dumpsters, for example).

Deer and rodents can be amazingly persistent. Understand that controlling them is not always an exact science, and that many variables will affect the effectiveness and longevity of controls. Some animals apparently learn to overcome their initial aversion to certain repellents or antifeedants, especially if food becomes scarce. Weather, such as heavy rains, may reduce the potency of repellents. And what worked in one situation may not work in another, sometimes for reasons that aren't clear. So be patient and ready to employ a variety of strategies.

Aside from commercial products, anecdotes abound regarding other substances for repelling animals. Soap, human hair and many other products are frequently mentioned. In research, these materials may show some effectiveness, but tend not to perform as well or as consistently as most commercial products.

Sometimes, the problem isn't with feeding damage. Rather, it may stem from burrowing or some other destructive activity, and the only solution may be removal of the animals. In that case, trapping or lethal controls, if permitted, will be necessary.

Like conventional pest controls, most vertebrate chemical controls, even repellents, have an EPA-approved label, which you must follow. And never forget to check local ordinances and state and federal laws governing wildlife.

Below is a list of chemical controls — mostly repellents and anti-feedants, but also some poison baits. This listing is not a recommendation, and we do not rate efficacy here. You can contact the suppliers with the information shown below for more product information.

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