Design & DIY

How to get rid of cottage pests in a humane way


This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

If one of the usual suspects—a skunk, raccoon, porcupine, or groundhog—has moved in under the cottage or an outbuilding, you can evict the intruder with a few tactical and humane manoeuvres.

Step 1: Know your nemesis
Skunks, raccoons, and porcupines leave home at dusk. Squirrels and groundhogs prefer daytime. Look for a hole, a smooth patch of dirt, or tracks to identify the animal’s exit. From early March through August, there’s a good chance your squatter is a mother with babies, even if you don’t see the young. Until the family moves on, you can install a partial barrier. Be sure to leave one opening—you don’t want stranded young ones on your conscience.

Step 2: build the wall
Dig a trench all around the building the width and depth of a spade blade. Attach 3/4″ 19-gauge galvanized hardware cloth (not chicken wire) to the building with 1″ fender washers. Extend the mesh to the bottom of the trench and bend it out 90°. Backfill the trench with dirt, not rocks, which actually encourage digging. Extend the mesh at the building’s corners so you have a double layer (see above). Leave the animal’s exit point open—for now. For rocky areas, use a concrete bit to drill holes. Secure the mesh using plastic drywall plugs, screws, and washers.

Step 3: finish the job
One-way doors at the exit are an option, but they can be finicky, and you risk separating animals from each other—and that’s bad karma. Instead, stake out the exit from a distance until you are 100 percent certain that every animal is out. Place the final section of mesh.

Don’t trap and relocate your wildlife guests. If they stay near but not under the cottage, they can maintain their territory and may discourage the next unwanted squatter.