Whos Nibbling in Your Garden Solving Conflicts with Woodchucks, Rabbits, and Other Garden Nibblers

Whos Nibbling in Your Garden Solving Conflicts with Woodchucks, Rabbits, and Other Garden Nibblers
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2024-06-04
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Whos Nibbling in
Unit 2 Transcript: Whos Nibbling in Your Garden
Unit 3 Workbook: Whos Nibbling in Your Garden
Unit 4 Recording: Whos Nibbling in Your Garden

Animal welfare and control agencies receive calls from the community due to human-wildlife conflict. In most cases, community members just want wildlife out of their property, particularly their gardens. Unfortunately, approaches to managing wildlife rarely address the root cause of the problem and fail to recognize the ideal outcome when it comes to human-wildlife interactions – which is coexistence. In this session, Nancy Lawson shares strategies to address common wildlife conflicts by understanding both animals and plants within ecosystems.

Nancy is the author of “The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife and Wildscape”. She is also a nature writer, habitat consultant, popular speaker, and founder of The Humane Gardener. Her advocacy and her book have been featured in multiple publications across the US.

Topics raised in this presentation include:

  • HSUS’ First Responder Resources to look into for wildlife management guidelines and best practices.
  • The prevalence of wildlife conflict calls for service due to human concerns over gardens.
  • How fear-based messaging, resist-exclude-destroy strategies, and a lack of understanding about the role of plants in resolving these conflicts fail to address the problems effectively.
  • The goal of coexistence with wildlife and how restoring and maintaining plant habitats can help resolve conflicts with wildlife.
  • The dwindling wildlife numbers due to human settlement and the concept of ecological amnesia.
  • Common misconceptions about deer as it relates to spreading invasive plants, causing accidents, eating the forests, and transmitting Lyme disease.
  • The proactive approach to mitigating wildlife conflict that looks into human’s role in facilitating coexistence by understanding animals and plants.
  • A rundown of the role and benefits of animals in supporting a healthy ecosystem, and how an understanding of this allows humans to anticipate their needs, prevent conflicts with them, and plan interactions with them.
  • Elements to take into account to comprehensively understand animal behaviors and routines.
  • Factors that look into seasons and timing, plant chemistry, diversity of available plants, and preferences of animals that influence whether plants get eaten or not.
  • Characteristics and defense systems that allow plants to spread despite the consumption of animals.
    • Resiliency that allows them to recover constantly.
    • Release of chemical alarms drawing predatory insects to nibblers.
    • Defensive chemicals making them less palatable to consumers.
    • Growing flowers, thorns, and thickened leaves to avert nibblers.
    • Associational defense and resistance where plants employ the help of other plants to create chemical, structural, or tactile defense against herbivores.
  • Practical strategies for humans to successfully co-exist with both animals and plants in the ecosystem through.
    • Using volunteer plants that can be used as a buffer and take the pressure off cultivated plants.
    • Leveraging botanical buffers and deterrents that protect the “tastier” plants from being consumed by herbivores.
    • Using gentle exclusion methods such as caging and fencing younger plants, and using tactile and visual barriers to reroute animals.
    • Removing attractants such as food, bird seed, and mulch that herbivores consume.
  • Considerations when it comes to the exclusion methods to employ to ensure effectiveness while reducing harm to animals.
  • The disadvantages of and suffering brought about by trapping and relocating animals.
  • Shifting from a resist mindset to co-existing when it comes to managing wildlife that comes in conflict with humans and their gardens.

Points raised during the Q&A include:

  • Using human urine as a deterrent.
  • The link between deer overbrowsing, forest degradation, and small animals transmitting disease.
  • Identifying native plants in one’s area.
  • Balancing the desire for natural landscaping with the realities of wildfire season.
  • The criteria for the Wild Neighbors Pledge.
  • Convincing the community that trapping raccoons and skunks is ineffective.
  • Materials to use in garden beds.


Other Webinars with HSUS


Or, Click here to view and register for other upcoming Animal Welfare webinars on the JCH Platform


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “The different plant deterrents to keep mammals from eating the plants they like was very helpful to know.”
  • Concise and well done. Thank you!
  • “As a struggling gardener outside of the legal setting, this webinar was a breath of fresh air. It teaches a lot about how to help your lawn and garden coexist with the native wildlife, and how to benefit pollinators so that they can help your garden in return. I also appreciated being directed to resources that provide information on different mammals, not just grouping them together. It made me want to go home and open up my leafy plants to the nearby bunnies!”
  • “I didn’t know that plants could be used as barriers! Very interesting!”
  • “I love, love, love these webinars. What a great resource for me to educate people, in hopes that I can convince people to co-exist and save animals’ lives, Thank you so much for offering these webinars to help people like me so we can educate others.” – Nicole
  • “I learned a lot of great information to share with residents who call with complaints. I can’t wait to tell callers about volunteer plants, buffer, and bodyguard plants. I’m going to add branches around some of my new plants tonight after work!!”



Founded in 1954, the Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates around the globe fight the big fights to end suffering for all animals. Together with millions of supporters, the HSUS takes on puppy mills, factory farms, trophy hunts, animal testing and other cruel industries, and together with its affiliates, rescues and provides direct care for over 100,000 animals every year. The HSUS works on reforming corporate policy, improving and enforcing laws and elevating public awareness on animal issues.



This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.



This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.



Additional Resources
1 month ago
After the Webinar: Who’s Been Nibbling in Your Garden? Q&A with the Presenters
Webinar Presenters Nancy Lawson and John Griffin answered a number of your questions after their pre […]
1 month ago
“I Love These Webinars!” Kudos from Our Audience
We couldn't agree more with Nicole! John Griffin of The Humane Society of the United States and N […]
1 year ago
Solving Problems with Deer
The ideal deer habitat is forested areas with a mix of open grassy areas and dense vegetation. Deer, […]
1 year ago
Online Course: Building and Winning an Animal Welfare Case
In many jurisdictions, resource limitations mean that all aspects of investigation and courtroom pro […]
4 years ago
Urban Wildlife 101
What used to be woods or fields are being turned into cities to cater to the human population that d […]
4 years ago
Wildlife and Rabies
Much of what most people know about rabies are actually myths. These untruths spawned generalized fe […]