Do Critter Repellents Work?

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Critter repellents are sold for every major nuisance wildlife species. Go ahead and search the net - you'll find squirrel repellents, raccoon repellents, rat repellents, snake repellents, etc. Here are the most common types of repellents sold:

Mothballs: Mothball flakes or granules are the most common ingredient used in the repellent products marketed and sold. Moth ball is naphthalene - a compound that gives off a strong odor. It can cause headaches for people, and cancer. It is toxic to the environment. It is super cheap to make. It absolutely does not deter wildlife from living in an area. I have seen mothballs used by homeowners over 100 times in my career. I once went to a house that had close to 70 pounds of mothballs in the attic, which made the homeowner sick, but didn't cause the squirrels to leave the attic.

Predator Urine: The idea is that coyote urine, or fox urine, or bobcat urine will scare away a smaller animal, like a mouse, rat, squirrel, etc. The theory is nice, and at least predator urine by itself is not toxic (although it is often mixed with mothballs). However, repeated field tests again prove that the urine does not affect the behavior of wild animals.

Sound, Light, or Vibration Machines: Many different types of machines are sold that make high-pitch sounds, strobe bright lights, send out vibrations, etc. Once again, I have been to dozens of houses and properties that have installed these machines, and the animals don't care at all.

You may be wondering why these repellent products and devices fail. It would help if you thought of animals as living things that have to survive, not furry little mysteries. If you sprinkled mothballs and predator urine all around your house, would your pet dog suddenly move out? Hell no. Why? Because it's not going to leave its home! Why would an animal abandon its only home, its only chance of survival, just because of a slightly annoying smell or sound? If a rat or squirrel or raccoon leaves your house or property, it has nowhere else to go. Other animals have staked out all the other territory. If an animal leaves, its chances of survival drop dramatically. No repellent is strong enough to make an animal abandon its home.

The only way to solve a wild animal problem is to either trap and remove the animal, or eliminate whatever is attracting it. If it is getting inside your house, perhaps living in your attic, the most important thing to do is to identify the entry holes it is using, and seal them shut. Be sure you exclude or trap the animal first, you don't want to seal it inside. If you need professional help solving a wildlife problem, consult my list of professionals. You can also read about How much does wildlife removal cost? to get the lowdown on prices.

One of the biggest areas of dealing with pests is trying to make sure that they don’t come into your garden or house in the first place, and critter repellents are specifically designed to do this. Some of these products will be more effective than others, and this will often depend on what sort of infestation is actually found in the area. The majority of critter repellents are those that have some form of predator urine or scent to try and deter the animals. These can either be made with genuine scent or a chemical alternative, but will have to be targeted to an individual animal.

General Pest Repellent
There are some products that are sold online or in stores that promise to deter all pests, but the reality is that the repellents will only be effective in repelling one or maybe two species. This means that even though general pest repellent may combine a number of different scents that would repel individual animals, they are likely to affect each other and make them ineffective.

Identifying What You Want To Repel
One of the most important things to do is to identify the pest that you are particularly worried about, and then to see how effective a repellent will be. For wild animals that do not usually live in urban areas, there are a number of different repellents that can be used, and these will include those that are made with real or artificial scents from their predators. For those who are worried about a number of different pests, then it can be an expensive job to buy a number of different repellents, and apart from making your home quite smelly they still may not do the job. If there are a number of different pests that you are worried about, it may be a better solution to go for more traditional defenses rather than using chemicals or urine laced granules.

Urban Animals
One of the biggest problems that people will find when they are trying to deter pests is that they are looking to deter animals like mice and rats. These animals do not really have one predator that is prevalent, and they have been living around humans for so long that they do not really have any predators. There are plenty of products that claim to be able to deter rodents, but for rats and mice these will generally be ineffective.

Homebrew Repellents
There are many regional and unique concoctions that are said to be repellent to certain animals, and these will often be very specific to the animals of a particular region. Many of the recipes will work along the same lines as the products on the market, working on the theory that the smell will be something that the pests will instinctively want to avoid.

The subject of critter repellents is one that can cause controversy, even among experts in pest removal. Some will be effective, while others will do little more than cause an offensive smell. The most important thing when considering buying an animal repellent is to be logical about the product, and to see if the description actually makes sense. For animals that are not usually native to urban areas, using a product that has fox or bobcat urine will often ensure that some pests will steer clear. The problem appears when people start spending their money on products that promise to repel mice and rats, because these pests are so used to the human environment that they are not genetically programmed to avoid any particular smells from predators, which mean that critter repellents in this instance is likely to be unsuccessful. is written by me, David. I am a professional nuisance wildlife control operator. It is my goal to provide education about safe, responsible & effective solutions to human-wildlife conflicts. I provide a lot of "how-to" info, but in many cases, wildlife removal is complex, dangerous, and subject to local laws. Sometimes I recommend hiring a professional. I have spent over 10 years now training and investigating companies all over the United States, serving over 650 USA cities and towns. I believe my hand-picked list is far better than what you'll find on a standard web search by yourself. For my recommendation of a local critter trapper in your area, click here for my nationwide list of 100's of professional wildlife control experts.

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