Category Archives: Opossums

Protecting Wildlife from Trash


By Roberta C. Barbalace

Many solid waste companies and municipal landfills have the situation well in hand; do you?

Birds, mammals, and reptiles can be injured or killed by the trash we throw away. The magnitude of the problem is growing every day, especially because some types of litter do not readily disintegrate and therefore remain in the environment as a threat for decades. To help protect wildlife and natural habitats, local cleanup campaigns and recycling plans are now being implemented.

For more information about the Trash Knight system, please visit our website at

The Litter Problem

The amount of litter that ends up spoiling the beauty of the natural environment is not surprising considering the amount of waste we produce. Glass bottles, plastic packaging, tin cans, newspaper, cardboard, and other types of garbage litter urban and rural landscapes everywhere. According to Wildlife Fact File, about 160 million tons of trash is thrown away every year in the U.S. or approximately three and a half pounds per person each day. Paper products alone account for over 40 percent of this garbage. Sometimes the wind blows trash from overloaded garbage cans and litters the environment. Naturally litter can last for a long time depending on the disintegration of the garbage. For example aluminum cans do not disintegrate, and some plastics take decades to break down.

How Litter Threatens Wildlife

Litter can be very harmful to wildlife. Discarded fishing lines can trap the legs, wings, or neck of waterfowl such as swans or moorhens. A fishhook may get stuck in a bird’s throat. Water birds suffer lead poisoning when they accidentally swallow small lead fishing weights. Broken glass can cut the feet of foxes, coyotes, or badgers, and unbroken bottles present a hazard to various small animals. Lizards often crawl inside bottles or cans to bask warm interior, to seek protection or search for food; but they may find it difficult to squeeze out again and can die of overheating. Small mammals in search of food often get their heads caught in the openings of jars. Replacing lids on bottles and jars before discarding can help prevent animals from becoming entrapped. Birds, fish, and mammals may be ensnared by plastic six-pack holders. This can be prevented this by cutting up the plastic rings so that they do not become traps.

Animals That Use Litter

Litter may appear to be helpful to wildlife. At night in some urban areas, foxes look for garbage on the streets. Often they feed on chicken bones, pieces of hamburger, and other leftovers from fast-food meals. During the day pigeons take over from foxes, these birds often flap around a food-laden garbage can of peck crumbs on the pavement. Gulls are well-known scavengers. These birds have greatly increased their number by feeding on thrown-away food. Inland, they gather in flocks over garbage dumps, where they eat even the filthiest scraps.

Human food is not necessarily good for wild animals. Deer, for instance, love bread and sweets. These purified grain products may form gummy masses in the stomachs of ruminants and interfere with digestion. Deer may actually die from ingesting too much food with a flour base. Discarded food can also become contaminated with microorganisms that cause food poisoning. More likely, however, the wild animals will become accustomed to free handouts and be unprepared to hunt for themselves if the source of human food is cut off.

How the Waste Industry is Protecting Animals

There was a time when many animals fell victims to discarded trash in municipal dumps. In addition to the waste itself, wildlife was threatened by heavy equipment workers who did not understand how their actions could threaten a fragile ecosystem. Animals were often struck by trucks or crushed by heavy machinery. Some became entrapped in trenches, open pits or pipes. While dumps still exist in some remote locations, most are being replaced by sanitary landfills.

The evolution of sanitary and secure landfills was accompanied by environmental planning that provided protection for wildlife and guaranteed that the land would be reclaimed for future wildlife inhabitants. Some methods of protection seem to be standard procedures at most landfills and many facilities have some pet project designed to provide for the safety and continued survival of some special creature.

Butterfield Station in Phoenix, Arizona serves as a good example of what precautions are normally taken at Waste Management Inc. (WMI) owned and operated landfills. The landfill is securely fenced to exclude many animals. Strict speed limits are enforced to protect animals from being hit. At the close of every day, all refuse is covered with a six inch covering of soil to keep animals from being injured by the debris. All truck beds and other such containers are covered with tarps to keep animals out. Domestic animals are not permitted in the landfill. Any escaped debris is collected from roadways and along the perimeter of the landfill on an on-going basis. Small waste containers are provided with animal proof lids to keep wild animals from getting to the waste. Many Waste Management facilities provide special roll-off containers for small towns and villages to use during community clean-up events.

It is common for landfills to have pet projects to protect individual species that are of particular concern. Kirby Canyon Recycling and Disposal Facility in Morgan Hill, CA with help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, City of San Jose, researchers from Stanford University and consulting biologists have embarked upon a conservation plan to increase and maintain the population of the endangered Bay Checkerspot Butterfly. Approximately two hundred and fifty acres have been set aside for the checkerspot, which was nearing extinction in 1985. The Kirby Canyon Conservation Agreement, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1996, provides for: the setting aside of land; establishment of a trust fund for studies of the butterfly; management of cattle grazing to ensure appropriate balance of plant resources; habitat restoration and enhancement; and ongoing scientific monitoring of the Bay Checkerspot population. In addition, Kirby Canyon has set aside marshland for the preservation of the endangered Red Legged Frog.

Altamont Landfill and Resource Recovery Facility in Livermore, CA has implemented a special program to protect the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox. The protection program includes many projects to protect the San Joaquin Kit Fox. Exclusion zones are placed around dens. Limited disturbance of areas adjacent to construction and storage areas must be maintained. Escape ramps are constructed in all holes or trenches greater than 2 feet deep, and sides must have a slope no greater than 45 degrees. Pipes with a diameter of four inches or greater must be inspected for kit foxes before being buried, capped or moved. Vehicles observe a 20 M.P.H. speed limit except on county, state or federal roads. Staff and visitors are instructed not to harass any Kit Fox or other unidentified fox in the vicinity of the landfill. Feeding of wildlife is not permitted. Off road traffic is prohibited. General precautions that are followed at all landfills are observed at Altamont.

The Kettleman Hills Facility in Kettleman City, CA also has protection programs for the San Joaquin Kit Fox, Giant Kangaroo Rat, the Blunt Nosed Leopard Lizard, the San Joaquin Antelope Squirrel, and two state species of concern, the Burrowing Owls and badgers.

Landfills have made great strides in protecting wildlife. But everybody must become involved in protecting wildlife from household waste. Recycling reduces the litter problem. Improvements in package construction can reduce unnecessary waste and make them less harmful to wildlife. Proper disposal methods can help to keep litter that we accumulate from becoming a death trap to wild animals. If people learn to respect the environment and are aware of the threat trash poses to wildlife, they will be less likely to litter.

What You Can Do!

There are many things that your clubs, science classes and families can do to help protect animals from being injured by trash. Below are some ideas.

  1. Look at the products your family uses. Is there a lot of extra packaging that is not needed? Tell the company by letter, phone or e-mail. They have offices set up to handle such concerns. Don’t buy from companies who refuse to reduce unnecessary packaging.
  2. Check the trash that your family discards. Does your trash get placed in an animal proof container? That will help protect animals. It is still wise to check each item that you discard. What packages could injure animals? Cut up or tie plastic bags and six pack holders into knots to prevent injury to small animals. Remove can tops completely. Seal food in leak proof bags. Put lids on bottles and jars, or plug holes before disposing of them.
  3. Get involved with community cleanup projects such as Earth Day
  4. Better yet, make community clean up a routine. If you see trash in a field or along a road, pick it up (wear gloves or some other hand protection).
  5. Teach others about the need for protecting animals from trash.


Trash & Wildlife

Trash and Animals

Knowing the potential impact of trash on wildlife can save an animal’s life.  Did you know that …

Bird Paw  An animal can experience a fatal blockage if he swallows packaging material while attempting to eat the residue off of it?

  An animal’s head can get stuck inside certain plastic and glass containers causing suffocation or overheating?  In particular, certain yogurt containers that are narrower at the top and wider at the bottom are especially dangerous for animals.

Bird Paw  Six-pack beverage rings can get stuck around an animal’s nose, mouth and neck, blocking off her means of breathing, eating, drinking and self defense?

  Broken glass and sharp edges on cans can cut an animal’s paws and mouth as he attempts to eat food residue off of them?

To help keep animals safe, the MSPCA encourages you to use the following checklist when putting out trash:

checkmark  Rinse all of your recyclables to remove residue and odors.

checkmark  Put lids back on containers tightly. If the lids have been misplaced, crush the containers.

checkmark  Use a can opener that opens cans beneath the lip of the lids, leaving only smooth edges on the cans and lids.  Make sure to completely separate lids from cans.

checkmark  Cut up all six-pack beverage holders and other similar packaging so that there are no closed rings.

checkmark  Use critter-proof trash containers. Click here to be directed to our Trash Knight resources and links page for ordering information.

checkmark  Recycle all plastic bags at your local grocery store. Don’t put plastic bags in the trash.

checkmark  Cut fishing line up into small pieces or tie it into a secure bundle so that it cannot be unwound.

checkmark  Switch to brands that have less packaging and buy food in bulk to avoid creating excess trash.

checkmark  Spread the word!  Teach your kids, friends, and family to do the same!

How to Keep Animals Out of Outdoor Trash

Animals Getting into Your Outdoor Garbage Cans?

Not everyone has a garage or shed in which to store garbage cans until trash day, and when garbage cans are stored outside, inevitably animals looking for food get into them. Lids offer some protection, but even lids don’t always keep out hungry animals. Dogs, which are usually larger and stronger than most trash raiding culprits, knock over cans and scatter garbage all over the ground. Cats create a hole in the trash bag and gingerly pull out what they want, one piece at a time. Wild animals such as raccoons and opossums get into the garbage too, and they find what they want anyway they can.If you are forced to store your garbage cans outside, there are ingenious but easy ways to keep animals out of your trash until garbage day. These methods won’t harm the animals, and trash collectors won’t end up with chemicals or soap all over their hands. Try these ideas if you are having a problem with animals in your outdoor garbage. You won’t have to pick up household garbage from the ground again.

What You Shouldn’t Do

People sometimes pour strong chemicals such as bleach or ammonia on outdoor garbage in an effort to keep dogs, cats, opossums, raccoons, and other animals out of their garbage. These products might temporarily repel animals, but garbage handlers don’t appreciate having ammonia, bleach, and other chemicals on their hands and clothes. There are options other than messy soaps or strong chemicals that work to keep animals out of the garbage.

More importantly, don’t resort to shooting or poisoning animals that look for food in your garbage cans. Every living creature must to eat to survive, and it isn’t the fault of the animal if they are homeless or their owner lets them roam the streets. If you know where a particular animal originates from, contact the owner, and respectfully explain the problem. If politely confronting the animal owner doesn’t work, contact your local dogcatcher. Animals allowed to run the streets are sometimes the unfortunate victims of cars, guns, and poison. You’ll be doing an innocent animal a favor as well as yourself.


If your garbage cans have handles, drive stakes into the ground where they are stored, and run the handles through the stakes. This will prevent animals such as large dogs from knocking the cans over. This along with the following ideas for keeping animals out of outdoor trashcans, might eliminate any further problems with animals getting into trashcans.

Bungee Cords

Bungee cords can be very helpful in keeping lids on trashcans. Connect bungee cords together if necessary, and secure the lids by threading the bungee cords through the handles.

Bungee cords are also helpful in keeping trashcans in an upright position. Connect bungee cords, and wrap them around more than one can. Animals trying to knock the cans over will have a difficult time when they are connected. Alternately, if you have a fence, consider using bungee cords to secure garbage cans to the fence. If an animal can’t knock them over, the lids are less likely to come off, and they’ll be forced to go foraging elsewhere.

Box the Cans

If all else fails and animals are still getting into your outdoor garbage cans, consider building a box to house trashcans. Build the box from strong plywood, and make a lid with hinges and a hasp. You’ll not only hide unsightly trashcans, but you’ll never again have to pick up trash from the ground because of animals getting into the garbage.

For more information about keeping critters out of the trash or to learn more about our Trash Knight garbage system, please visit


Join us at the 26th Annual Fresno Home & Garden Show!

We invite you to explore all of the fantastic possibilities featured at this year’s 26th Annual Fresno Home and Garden Show (March 2, 3, 4, 2012) – California’s premier consumer event. Top professionals from a variety of home-based industries have gathered once again, and many will be offering show specials and drastic discounts. All of this comes just in time to give your home a money-saving Spring makeover. We’ll inspire you – so dust off the cobwebs, put on your walking shoes, and join us at the Valley’s most anticipated Home Show, where fresh ideas abound!


Friday, March 2nd
11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 3rd
10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 4th
10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

General – $8.00 adults, children 12 and under FREE.

Happy Hour Friday – Friday, March 2nd ONLY – From 4 p.m. until 7 p.m., ALL attendees pay just $4.00! (Discount coupons, any and all special offers, Senior’s Day special, etc., cannot be used in conjunction with Happy Hour Friday pricing. Kids 12 and under are still free).

Senior’s Day – Friday, March 2nd ONLY – Seniors 60 and over pay $5.00 (Discount coupons, special offers, etc., cannot be used in conjunction with the Senior’s Day pricing.)

Pet Promotion – Bring in a new pet toy, item or unopened bag of pet food and you will receive HALF OFF regular admission to the show! Items donated will go to the Valley Animal Center of Fresno. (Not to be used in conjunction with any other discount). 

A $2.00 Off Discount Coupon is available on this website. (Option located at the bottom-right corner of the Home and Garden home page). Just click, print and go!

PARKING: $5.00.   Secure parking located off of South Chance Avenue, Kings Canyon Road and Butler Avenue (for directions and driving suggestions, see “Directions to the Fairgrounds…”). 

And, might we suggest…

1) Make a List – Take some time before heading to the fairgrounds and jot down projects you’d like to tackle in 2012. Browse the EXHIBITOR LISTING on this website and decide what companies are of interest (companies are from the 2011 H&G Show. The Exhibitor List will be updated in February of 2012). Also, see what companies are offering Show Specials.

2) Don’t Just Browse – Talk to the merchants. If you are truly interested in a product or service, leave your name and phone number and ask the vendor to follow-up after the show, or pick up one of their brochures. Ask about Show Specials!

3) The Show is BIG – Come early and plan on spending the whole day; take a break at the Food Court. The show is both indoors and outdoors, so wear appropriate clothing, comfortable shoes, and enjoy the day.

4) Pick a Meeting Place – Decide on a pre-determined spot to meet just in case someone in your party gets lost. The Food Court is a good area.

5) Bring Blueprints, Plans, etc. – Sketches, blueprints, floorplans – take them all with you to the show. Many vendors are prepared to take your information and get back to you with estimates, time lines, etc.

6) Prepare to Shop – Many companies have items to purchase right at the event, so  plan to shop.

7Wheelchairs and strollers are not available to rent at the fairgrounds.

8ATMs will be available throughout the fairgrounds.         

9) Download a DISCOUNT COUPON from this website! START SAVING NOW! – OR – purchase a ticket online, beat the crowds, and get a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens!  See our Home Page for details…  (COUPONS NOT AVAILABLE UNTIL FEBRUARY 2012)

How to Keep Possums and Raccoons Off Your Property

Cute? Yes. Annoying? VERY!

Opossums and raccoons are nocturnal wild animals that are easily attracted to garbage and/or food left out on your property. These creatures tend to carry disease and are potentially harmful if they bite or scratch you. The key to ridding yourself of these pests is through simple storage methods and food source removal. The following list denotes some key things you can do to deter these animals. If the problem persists or becomes unmanageable, we recommend seeking the assistance of a professional animal/pest removal service.

Things You’ll Need

  • 30 to 40 lb. weight
  • Rope
  • Peppermint oil
  • Cloth rag
  • Ammonia
  • Make sure to seal Trash Night systems with their appropriate latch and close compost bins at night. If you do not yet own a Trash Knight system, place a 30 to 40 lb. weight on top of the garbage can lid to keep animals from removing it, or tie rope tightly around the lid’s handle to tie down the lid to trash can. We assure you, the Trash Knight is a much easier alternative! Opossums and raccoons sleep during the day and search for food at night, which leaves your garbage cans and compost bins susceptible to being invaded.
  • Pick up fruit and other food sources from your yard. Fruit trees attract these nocturnal rodents, and fallen fruit results in a yard filled with the creatures.

  • Move your pet’s food and water bowl indoors after sunset. Raccoons and opossums will eat and drink your pet’s food and water if it is left outside at night, which increases the risk of passing diseases to your pet.

  • Soak several rags in peppermint oil or ammonia and place the rags around your property. Opossurms and raccoons do not like the pungent odor of the peppermint oil or ammonia, and will stay away from the offending area. Replace the rags after rainfall to maintain the deterrent.


%d bloggers like this: