Irene Shonle, CSU Extension Gilpin County. With the cooler weather of fall, many animals are looking to set up dens and nests for the winter. Mice are moving indoors, juvenile pocket gophers are striking out on their own to establish new burrows, and other rodents, like pack rats, may also be making their unwelcome presence known.
It’s a tough time for both these animals AND for the homeowner that has to deal with them. The more kind-hearted among us may want to deal with the situation by moving the animal to another location, but it is not as kind as it may seem – AND it is probably illegal.
Let’s start with the law first. According to Statute 33-6-107(9) and Reg. 302 (A)(3), only tree squirrels, cottontail rabbits and raccoons can be relocated without a permit, and you must first: notify the Parks and Wildlife in advance, ensure the relocation site is appropriate habitat for the species, ensure permission has been obtained from the landowner or managing agency where the animal will be released, and ensure the relocation must occur within 10 miles of the capture site. If you want to relocate any other species (such as mice, voles, pack rats, etc), you must first obtain a Relocation Permit from CPW.
Even if you follow the law, there can still be many issues with relocating an animal. First, it will immediately attempt to return to its original area, putting it at risk for predation or being hit by a car. Second, if it stays in the new area, it will not know where to find food, water, and shelter. House mice will have a nearly impossible time making it outdoors, since they are adapted to live inside buildings. At best, they will find shelter in someone else’s house, which only kicks the can down the road. Further, if you drop the animal off in a good location, there will probably be others of the same species already occupying the area. The established animals will not welcome the newcomer, causing increased stress and conflict within the resident population, as well as hardship or death for the relocated animal. It’s also possible that diseases could be spread from one population to another. If it’s a resource-poor area, the animal may not survive.
Finally, it may be futile, anyway. Squirrels, raccoons and other wildlife can return from translocations of 5, 10, or even 15 miles. Even if the original animal does not return, if the cause of the problem is not addressed, it will re-occur. Within a short period of time, other individuals of the same or another species will move in.
The most humane solution is to work on actively excluding the problem animals, although it takes more work. Keeping critters out of buildings can be a difficult, long-term process — mice can enter buildings through openings no larger than the size of a dime! Common entry points include utility pipe and wire entries, deteriorating siding, and cracks in home foundations. Metal mesh, cement, or wire mesh scrubbers are the best ways to plug holes, as caulk and rubber are easily chewed through. It’s also possible to stuff galvanized window screen it into larger openings, then finish with caulking or cement, or to fill small openings with expanding-foam insulation. Garden beds can be protected with ¼” hardware cloth, but it requires digging out the soil, putting down the mesh, and returning the soil. Raised garden beds with a hardware cloth bottom are another solution.
The CSU Gilpin County Extension Office is located at the Exhibit Barn, 230 Norton Drive, Black Hawk, CO 80422, 303-582-9106, www.gilpin.extension.colostate.edu. Colorado State University Extension provides unbiased, research-based information about, horticulture, natural resources, and 4-H youth development. Colorado State University Extension is dedicated to serving all people on an equal and nondiscriminatory basis.