How to get rid of coyotes, skunks, raccoons and more


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They wake us up with rowdy snack fests, make a mess of the garden and even have the gall to move in without an invitation. They’re our local wildlife — raccoons, skunks, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes and more.

When a Glendale homeowner discovered a black bear, right, eating Costco meatballs from his garage refrigerator last month, it was another reminder that suburban living still requires coexisting with wildlife. Spring and summer are peak seasons for wild animal families to seek food and shelter.


Experts counsel a three-pronged approach to keep unwanted wildlife at bay. Martine Colette, founder and director of the Wildlife Waystation near Sunland, said the key is vigilance — attention to how your home and garden (and your neighbors’) may be attractive havens for an animal, whether it’s a mouse that can squeeze through a dime-sized hole or a bear that can smell food up to five miles away. Secure those meatballs and follow these three strategies:

1. PREVENTION Start by interrupting the food chain and quickly harvesting ripe or fallen fruit. Colette said rodents that eat the fruit ultimately attract predators such as coyotes, bobcats and foxes.

If you feed pets outside, promptly remove food bowls and spillage, said Brenda Barnette, general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services. Don’t purposefully feed non-domesticated predators such as coyotes, raccoons and foxes: It’s actually illegal in some cities, including L.A.

Don’t encourage animals with invitations to shelter. Cut tree branches or vines that touch the roof or fence and enable access to an attic, chimney or crawl space. Limit garden hiding places by creating a foot of clearance beneath bushes or trees. Similarly, clear brush, wood and junk piles. Keep barbecue grills clean; rats and mice can enter through vents. Animal Services wildlife specialist Gregory Randall suggests keeping pet doors locked from dusk to dawn.

Avoid open compost heaps. Instead, use tightly sealed bins that are above ground or can be lined with 16-gauge wire mesh to prevent burrowing. Place trash cans away from structures, and bind the lids with bungee cords, or store the bins in an enclosure. Deposit smelly refuse in trash bins shortly before pickup.



Discourage visitors from becoming long-term residents; keep a loud whistle, air horn or tin can filled with washers and bolts handy, so you can shoo animals away with a noisemaker. Be persistent, particularly with coyotes, which can be discouraged with noise or the flapping of an umbrella, Randall said. If skunks don’t move on, Barnette suggested blasting a garden hose.

Motion-activated sprinklers, strobe lights or air horns can startle intruders, though you’d better test systems and have patient neighbors.

If animals are digging up potted plants, hang mothball cakes on stakes nearby. But don’t use the cakes if you have children or pets, and don’t use them near soil and home air ducts.


If an animal has taken up residence in your home or yard, don’t trap. It’s a non-solution, Randall said. Other eviction methods have proved more effective, particularly if neighbors cooperate.

Create inhospitable habitats. Treat the den with commercial or homemade repellents, such as hot pepper and onion mixtures. Until you’re sure animals have vacated, cover access points with dirt or wads of newspaper, so if they still happen to be present, they have a fairly easy exit. If animals reenter, repeat the process.


Tie balls of rags with twine and leave a long piece to use as a handle. Soak the balls in ammonia and place them in the den. Retrieve them for reuse using the handle.

Play on most animals’ preference for dark, quiet environments. Attach string to a non-heat-producing fluorescent light and a transistor radio tuned to a talk station. Use a long pole to place both in the animal’s den. Use the string to retrieve the items after the animal has left — or the neighborhood nuisance could end up being you.


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-- Valli Herman

Photo credits, from top: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times; Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles Times.