No practical answer to varmint problem

THE BALTIMORE SUN

CARPENTER ANTS have munched through the brick (or mortar) of our solarium and now are bustling en masse around it.

Chipmunks lounge in our bird feeder and deer have plundered my garden.

It is a summer when, more than usual, the varmints are repeatedly attacking, and winning. Inexplicably, the rabbits, which are plentiful and some nearly as big as cocker spaniels, have almost left the garden alone, so far.

I live less than 100 yards north of Baltimore City, yet deer have chomped my day lillies, Plantagenet hostas (the fragrant white ones), tomato plants and hollyhocks. Deer are herbivores and eat six to eight pounds of plants a day.

They seem to find my plants especially succulent. If only they liked the invasive English ivy that has a death grip around and under at least eight trees nearby, but no such luck.

One would think that living this close to Baltimore City would make us too urban for deer, but that's no longer true. In 1900, there were 2 million deer in the United States; now there are 20 million, according to Wildlife Services, a state information hotline.

In 1900, there were more than 76 million people in the United States; now there are more than 280 million.

There are too many people and too many deer, and we're all struggling for the same habitat. Deer have been seen in Homeland (as well as dead ones hit by cars on Falls Road and Lake Avenue).

We also occasionally see foxes on Roland Avenue.

Recently, a neighbor just north of Roland Park reported that when she went to bring in a second load of groceries, a raccoon was stripping her grocery bag and eating a candy bar. Raccoons are normally nocturnal animals, and to see one in the middle of the day can indicate that they're rabid.

Many say that the long-lasting cool weather and abundant rains of the spring and summer have caused invasions by at least some of the livestock.

The ants, for example, are looking for dry land. One by one we're trying to deal with the interlopers.

The exterminators are coming soon to eradicate the ants since the stuff I got at the hardware store seems to just lure more in from out of doors.

Baltimore County Animal Control has already collected three raccoons. We bought a hanging birdfeeder that chipmunks can't get to.

The deer are another matter. I squirt plants with hot pepper spray and sprinkle hair sweepings from a hairdresser (because they hate the smell of humans) to protect what's left of the deer's favorites.

So far, so good, although it's a fuzzy sight. Garlic spray is said to be effective, too. I refuse to buy coyote urine, another remedy suggested by nursery people and landscapers, and I refuse to net my plants.

Sadly, there's no practical solution to this.

Ann Egerton lives in Baltimore County.

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