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PERMACULTURE: Poison-Free Animal Control

By Diane Kennedy, of Finch Frolic Garden Permaculture, for Let’s Talk Plants! August 2022.

Poison-Free Animal Control

Every poisoned rodent will kill another animal. Mange is a disfiguring and painful condition that slowly kills a large percentage of bobcats and coyotes that have eaten poisoned rodents. Hawks and owls die faster. Sticky glue traps are cruel and capture more lizards and birds than mice. Here are ways to go poison (and cruelty)-free and still have a garden.

Diane Kennedy.
Plum tree protected from squirrels.

Squirrels decimate your fruit trees? Surround your fruit trees when the fruit is ripe with a temporary boundary of any material that can’t be seen through such as old sheets, sunshade, tarps, canvas and old plastic. It can be 3’ – 4’ tall, with rocks on the bottom of the fabric so there are no gaps. Squirrels want to see where they are going, and also can’t climb the loose fabric. Also, staking one of those plastic owls on a tall post right next to your fruit tree will help repel both squirrels and some birds. If there are piles of old logs sitting around, these are prime squirrel homes so bury the wood or mulch it.

Birds will be put off by the owl mentioned above. Repurposing old CDs and DVDs by tying them on the branches is far better than buying mylar strips which will pollute as they shred.

Rabbits won’t jump high, so a temporary two foot high wire fence around new plantings will keep the bunnies out. When plants are larger they are more resistant to rabbits.

Surround the root ball of your new plants and trees with wire gopher baskets. Use sturdier hardware cloth for shallow-rooted plants and shrubs, and ½” or ¼” diameter chicken wire around tree roots; older roots can push through the rotting wire. Gophers need to clean their tunnels, so mulching heavily or laying cardboard on the weeds with thick mulch over it (sheet mulching) deters them.

The rats that are a nuisance are imported by humans and nest anywhere; the native rat won’t eat your plants and lives in brush piles in wooded areas so please let them be. Giving imported rats and mice a quick, humane death (it’s not their fault they are here, it’s ours!) is best. Use snap traps, and put them along perimeters where they like to run. Cover the traps with milk crates or something to prevent other animals from being injured in them. Peanut butter, cat or dog food, old cooking oil, and peanuts are all reliable baits. Dead, unpoisoned rats and mice can be left out to attract predators such as hawks, and they will deal with far more rodents than any poison will.

Please never use poison. Our wildlife is disappearing rapidly.


Diane Kennedy has certificates in Permaculture Design, Irrigation, QWEL, and an AA in Landscape Architecture.

She has been designing, consulting, writing and lecturing about permaculture since 2011.

She and her daughter, Miranda, own and operate Finch Frolic Garden Permaculture, a food forest through which they give educational classes. They both volunteer with the Fallbrook Land Conservancy’s Native Plant Restoration Team.


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