Many years ago, our family lived in a small cottage with a crawl space underneath. While the foundation was made of block, there was an access opening that provided entry for routine maintenance like plumbing or electrical repairs. Somehow, the door to that opening was left open for a short period of time. (Probably, a child exploring or a hubby doing some kind of work. But you know what they say about closing gates behind you, right?)
So, after seeing the neighbor’s cat hanging around our back porch one afternoon, I asked hubby to close up the opening, which he did. What happened after that, I never will forget .
Unknown to us, the cat had kittens under our home. When we closed the access door, the mama cat couldn’t return to nurse her kittens who then, sadly, died. That resulted in fleas leaving the kittens’ bodies and migrating up through the hardwood floors into our house. That’s right. We had no pets of our own yet our home was infested with fleas.
I’m sure if you’ve never had an animal take up residence under your shed, deck, or home, you’ve probably heard of someone who has. Those cool dark places are quiet, dry, and for the most part, free from threat. Why wouldn’t a cat (or skunk!) choose to have her babies there.
Truth is, this problem is so prevalent professional wildlife removal companies exist to, well, remove the unwanted animals. But removal alone doesn’t solve your problem. Why? Because unless you make the space uninviting or close up the access, another furry friend will move right in.
The most common animals found living under sheds, gazebos, or decks include groundhogs, possums, skunks, feral cats, raccoons, and rodents. What do they do there, besides have babies? Sleep, go to the bathroom, hoard food, and die. All of which causes unwanted insect pests (like flies and fleas) and odors.
What doesn’t work.
Most homeowners want an easy fix. They will try anything that sounds plausible to deter or get rid of their unwanted guests. Unfortunately, most of these things do not work.
My mother-in-law has a terrible time with snakes under her shed. What does she do? She sprinkles mothballs around the perimeter of the building to repel the snakes. Does it work?
“Mothballs do not work,” said Bryan Nelson, owner of Advantage Wildlife Solutions. “Snakes are attracted to prey,” he continued. “If you remove the rodent issue, you will remove the snake attraction.”
Some folks recommend making the space unattractive to animals by introducing light or water. To add light, they say to remove vegetation from around your building so that sunlight can enter.
“To get enough light under a storage shed to deter animals from living there,” said Nelson, “you would have to raise the building several feet off the ground. However, doing so would make it impractical, especially if you want to drive lawn equipment into it.”
And purposefully wetting the ground under your building might encourage the resident critter to leave but keeping it damp or wet permanently is a bad idea. Damp soil encourages the growth of mold and the breeding of mosquitoes, neither of which you want in your backyard.
Another method which homeowners think is attractive is to skirt the opening with lattice. While this might keep the neighbor’s cat out, a groundhog will chew right through it. If you think backing the lattice with hardware cloth would work, that alone will not keep other animals from burrowing underneath.
So, if all these popular methods don’t work, what is the homeowner to do? Fortunately, there are a few things that do work.
Help! I have animals living under my shed. What do I do?
Before closing up any space, make certain there are no residents to get trapped. Remember my kitten story? The best way to make certain is to go in yourself or hire someone.
Once you are sure all residents have been evicted, the most effective method, according to Nelson, is a physical exclusion, or barrier.
Nelson recommends and uses Dig Defence. This product is a panel of spikes that, when driven into the ground, prevents animals from digging underneath. Above the ground, another barrier like hardware cloth or patio blocks is installed.
If you’re going to hire someone to do the work for you, Nelson said the expense of Dig Defence is no more costly than the labor cost of creating another type of barrier. However, a DIY-er can construct an adequate barrier in an afternoon.
How to construct your own shed barrier to keep animals out.
Another method that works is to create a blockade using heavy-gauge hardware cloth. To do this:
First, dig a trench 2-3 inches deep and 12 inches wide around the perimeter of the building. Measure from the bottom of the shed to the bottom of the ditch and add 1 inch.
- Add this measurement to 12. (For example, if your shed is 8 inches from the ground, plus 1, your measurement is 21.)
- Cut the hardware cloth to this measurement and bend at a 90-degree angle at the 12-inch mark. Lay the 12-inch side of the L shape on the ground in the bottom of the ditch. Staple the other side to the bottom of the shed.
- Using wire rings, fix the seams of the hardware cloth together where you pieced it. This prevents small animals from squeezing through the sections.
- Use landscape spikes to fix the edge of the screening to the ground in the bottom of the trench. This prevents burrowing animals from digging underneath it.
- Cover the wire in the bottom of the trench with the dirt you dug out.
A few variations.
If you are unable to dig a trench, you can lay the wire on the top of the ground and cover with paving blocks.
To hide the screening, you can cover it with lattice, patio blocks, or planters.
After my husband discovered the source of our flea problem and removed it, we had to move out of our home for several days while it was treated with pesticides. Since we had a baby, we also removed his bedding, toys, and clothes. The experience is not one I would want to repeat. And, while having an animal living under our outdoor storage building may not have as negative an impact on our quality of living—oh wait, it could be a skunk!