Pests & Diseases: Health Risks for Animals Around Plants

Pests & Diseases: Health Risks for Animals Around Plants

Those rabbits, squirrels and other critters that hang around your backyard can do much more damage than just eating your plants, flowers and vegetables. Some of these wild animals can potentially be carrying disease that could threaten your health, as well as that of your family and pets.

Animals are exposed to a wide variety of diseases in the wild. They can easily transmit these diseases to others by coming in contact with the vegetables you eat, by defecating or urinating in your yard, or through biting. What’s more, many animals also carry harmful parasites that can “jump” to pets and humans. Taking appropriate steps to deter these nuisance animals from entering your yard or garden can greatly reduce your exposure to animal pests and diseases.

Do Pest Animals Carry Diseases?

  • Chipmunks - Like their rodent cousins the rat and the mouse, chipmunks can serve as unwitting hosts to ticks, lice and mites, which can easily move from the chipmunk to your cat or dog, and ultimately to you. Did you know that a bite from a tick can lead to Lyme disease? The saliva of chipmunks can also cause other serious infections in humans if bitten.
  • Possums - Opossums (or possums) can carry numerous diseases including tuberculosis, the herpes virus, salmonella and spotted fever. Possums are also known to be reservoirs for a condition called leptospirosis, which is transmitted through their urine and feces. Leptospirosis is an infection that can cause flu-like symptoms in humans and, in severe cases, can lead to meningitis and liver or kidney failure. Like chipmunks, possums are often heavily infested with fleas, mites and ticks.
  • Squirrels - The common tree squirrel tends to pose less of a threat to humans than other forms of wildlife, although they do carry their share of fleas, mites and ticks. Some people like to feed squirrels by hand, although this can lead to a bite that could result in injury or illness.
  • Rabbits - Wild rabbits sometimes carry a disease called tularemia, which is often referred to as “rabbit fever”. Tularemia is a bacterial infection that can cause fever, chills and headaches. Tularemia is typically transmitted through physical contact with the animal or by consuming its undercooked meat.
  • Raccoons - Raccoons often carry a roundworm called baylisascaris that is transmitted through raccoon feces. Symptoms of baylisascaris can range from lethargy to blindness and coma. Raccoons are also known carriers of leptospirosis.

Use Repellents to Keep Pests Away

As an animal control professional for more than 30 years, I’ve tried many different methods to keep nuisance animals out of yards and gardens. A highly effective repellent I recommend for getting rid of rabbits, squirrels and other pests is Havahart® Deer Off®. I really like the fact that unlike chemically based products, Havahart® Deer Off® is made with all-natural ingredients for humane animal repelling. And I also love using it because it is so effective.

The putrescent egg impacts the animal’s sense of smell (although you won’t smell it once the product dries), while the capsaicin provides a burning sensation when the animal tries to nibble on your plants. You can apply it easily by spraying the tops and bottoms of your plant leaves.