Dealing With Unwanted Wildlife on Horse Properties

Out-of-control critters can pass along pathogens, damage property and structures, and create unhygienic messes. Find out how to deter unwanted visitors such as birds, raccoons, skunks, and other rodents on your horse farm.
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Dealing With Unwanted Wildlife on Horse Properties
Some critters that come into our barns are simply nuisances, while others, including skunks, can carry diseases such as rabies. | Photo: iStock

Birds and small mammals attracted to barns can cause disease and damage; here’s how to discourage or remove them

One night this past winter around 9 p.m., long after the sun had set, I headed out with my two dogs to do the last of the day’s three feedings at our 12-horse boarding facility. The dogs bounded happily past me out the door and around the corner, status quo, the three of us oblivious to anything out of the norm. As I strolled under the light at the front of our barn, however, I caught sight of the dogs standing over something ahead of me, wagging their tails intently. A handsome young skunk was boldly showing them the backside of his tail. You can probably guess what happened next.

My dogs made a mad dash away from the two-tone visitor and rolled in the snow, desperately trying to rid themselves of his perfume. The skunk, unconcerned, shuffled off, and I began making plans for where the dogs would sleep that night and how I’d get them clean the next morning.

This all goes to say that some wildlife in and around our barns might be desirable, such as barn swallows, each of which consumes around 800 soft-bodied flying insects per day (better than a bug zapper), or barn owls, a family of which can consume up to 3,000 rodents a year. Or, you might just enjoy watching a herd of deer or elk graze in your back pasture

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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

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