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Herding small Wildlife to Safe Zones while mowing the lawn.

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I have been cutting grass for some of my customers lately. It came to my attention fairly quickly , that many creatures will flee the sound and vibration of a lawn mower.

 Frogs, toads and snakes are quite vulnerable, when a lawn is being mowed. All of these creatures are relatively slow-moving and they hide in tall grass.

 One site where I work, has many tree frogs. They always move away from the mower. I have never seen one further than 20 feet from trees or bushes , so I assume that they are foraging for food in the grass and they shelter in the trees. Because of this, I cut in a manner that causes them to retreat to the treeline.

 When I first start cutting the lawn,  I cut a big strip about 30 feet away from a row of Lombardy poplars, that stretches for about 300 feet. There are also smaller clumps of trees and bushes on the property. I have seen a few frogs there as well.

 Once the first cut has been made, I wait a while and work near the center of the large lawn, where I have never seen any frogs. Half an hour later , I cut more strips , gradually working toward the trees. On the first pass, I may see up to 10 frogs leaping toward the trees. On successive passes , I have only seen a few frogs. All have been jumping in the right direction , away from the machine and toward the safety of the trees.

Snakes look for warm basking areas and most of those found around here are  likely to be near water. Therefore , when there is a pond or stream, I like to make my first cuts parallel to the water but far back from it. Snakes and frogs are able to retreat in a downhill direction, to the safety of the unkept , wet areas. If there are basking rocks, above the watercourse, it's important to start the work above those rocks. Then the lawn is cut continuously downward until the bottom is reached. I don't take a break during an operation like this, because lawn mowing kills slugs and other things that snakes and frogs may want to eat. If I stop, they may think that the danger is over and return to the lawn for a meal.

 Yesterday, the lawnmower killed many slugs in one area. A group of crows witnessed the murder☺, and quickly landed to take advantage of the bounty.

Some creatures may simply hunker down and hide when a lawn is being cut. If the grass is cut higher, there is less chance of them being injured. I have been able to convince some customers to cut higher.
 
I will continue to post other Wildlife protection methods that develop.

If these lawns belonged to me, I would cut only a small area of grass near the house.  Until buying my mower last month, I hadn't cut any grass anywhere for 8 years. My customers are going to have lawns. I cut them as tall as they will go for, using my cordless electric machine, while attempting to move wildlife to safe areas. This is definitely the lesser evil.
 
Please post something, if you have developed methods of herding wildlife to safe zones during lawn cutting. Thank you.
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Todd Parr
Posts: 670
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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My brother and I were talking about this recently. When he mows, he has his wife walk a "first pass" ahead of him as he mows the first few strips. He starts in the middle of the yard and works outward in order to give the little guys time and a place to run to. If you go around the outside edges and work in the way most people do, you herd them inward where they can't escape.

My method was more "extreme". I just stopped mowing completely. I'm lucky to live in the country so I only have a couple neighbors to hate me The drawbacks to it are getting wet when I walk thru the yard, and the millions of wood ticks that love the deep grass. I don't have much to add, but please keep posting if you come up with new methods. I have run over way too many snakes and toads and I'm not willing to do it anymore.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
pollinator
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Location: Palmyra, Virginia
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Dale,
I have a new respect for you, thank you. And a thanks to Todd and your brother for looking out for the little ones.
Whenever my partner is going to mow, I make my rounds before hand looking for everything - dog toys, bones, sticks, small creatures, etc.
I have my pet frogs that are special : Stephan, Stephan Jr., Wellford and Todd. I made my partner grab a snake once and rescue Stephan from sure death. The sad story is, one time my man was using a weed trimmer and accidentally hit Todd Toad (the biggest toad I've ever seen). He sat in one spot for hours. I didn't know what to do to help him. I think he eventually died. My partner didn't believe it. He saw a toad after the "incident" and called him Todd but it wasn't him. I just let him say it was to make him feel better.
(I just realized the coincidence - Todd Parr, Todd Toad, anyway...)
I know how important the little ones are. Their roles in nature are much bigger than their physical existence.
One sure sign of Spring , for me, is hearing the frogs. That brings me out of my Winter blues.
On our gravel road, I drive home at night sometimes, where the neighbors may think I'm drunk, but I'm just trying to dodge the frogs in the road.
An elderly man in our town used to say, "I'm as happy as a frog." I say, "RIP, Lucci. You lived happy."
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Karen Layne wrote:.
On our gravel road, I drive home at night sometimes, where the neighbors may think I'm drunk, but I'm just trying to dodge the frogs in the road.


I do the same We have many more toads than frogs. Anytime it is raining out, I stop and pick the toads up out of the road and bring them home. I have many happy toads living at my house.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I'm very happy about this topic, I'm glad people are concerned about the little critters.
 
s. ayalp
Posts: 11
Location: istanbul - turkey
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Well many critters don't like the smell of the coffee, so coffee grounds herd them away. Bugs hate it.
My routine is: like 3 times a year (beginning of spring, summer and fall), I overseed with various seeds (grass, clover, Trifolium etc) over the over-grown-lawn, and spread coffee grounds casually. Like a day or two later I water them thoroughly. A week later I mow the land and mulch the unwanted-grass with some of grass-clippings. Rest stays where they were fallen. If the weather is wet I fluff the grass clippings, if dry we water them.
Whenever I use coffee grounds I see spiders racing away from the lawn. And even we have quite a persistent group of sparrows, they never inspect the lawn for seeds. Ants also don't like it. They don't carry away the seeds. Oh btw, when there are not many bugs, frogs go away too.
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I am doing everything I can to attract all the things that you say coffee grounds will drive away. I'm glad I know that coffee grounds do that so I make sure I mix them into my compost bins rather than spreading them Thank you for sharing that.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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On the subject of coffee grounds, I have spread coffee as much as three inches thick over the entire garden. Worms and bugs eat them all so that in a few months, there is no evidence of coffee grounds on the surface. Worm populations have climbed enormously but there are also many other bugs. Slugs don't do well with coffee grounds that are dry in the sun. If they try to cross it, they get it stuck to them. Snakes and alligators lizards have chosen this as a breeding location. There are several spots on the hugelkultur mounds, that face south . I spread the coffee extra thick in these spots to provide a hot basking area for the reptiles. They are seen regularly lying on a substrate of almost pure coffee grounds.
 
s. ayalp
Posts: 11
Location: istanbul - turkey
dog greening the desert hugelkultur
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Todd Parr wrote:I am doing everything I can to attract all the things that you say coffee grounds will drive away. I'm glad I know that coffee grounds do that so I make sure I mix them into my compost bins rather than spreading them Thank you for sharing that.


It can only temporarily drive them away though. Like 2 to 3 weeks later grounds loose most of their smell and start to decompose. I think (I might have read it somewhere) the smell jams their communication. Like Dale said, critters love how it affects the land and population doubles maybe triples. Population of worms skyrockets and I never saw so many different species of spiders. I used the grounds to fertilize the lawn, but then realized it keeps all away for 2-3 weeks, and that is what I was asking for. It is a slow release fertilizer so I prefer to spread it all over the garden. In my garden compost is just for bad smelling ingredients, and I use it only for vegetables. I added some photos, grass is due to go to seed (I also overseeded), coffee is damp and no critters around. I spread grounds like it is mob grazed, like arbitrarily.

Speaking of mob grazing, does anyone know what happens to all those little creatures when the pasture is mob grazed? How they run away? I wouldn't want to be one of those toads for sure.
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It doesnt look tidy, but in couple of weeks it will look great
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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s. ayalp wrote:
Speaking of mob grazing, does anyone know what happens to all those little creatures when the pasture is mob grazed? How they run away? I wouldn't want to be one of those toads for sure.


The slow ones get trampled. Trampling is an important feature of mob grazing, according to its proponents. Critters would have gotten trampled by the bison on the prairie, but not nearly as often as they will in a mob grazing system. Bison would come trampling through seasonally, but depending on the paddock shift schedule in a mob grazing regime, little critters might get trampled several times a season.

Here's an article which at least mentions other critters: https://prairieecologist.com/2011/11/28/a-skeptical-look-at-mob-grazing/

This discusses the effect of mob grazing on ground-nesting birds: http://lib.dr.iastate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=16322&context=rtd
 
Dale Hodgins
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This is why I like hedgerows. They provide animal habitat in close proximity to crop land. We don't have anything here that we call hedgerows, but many fields are small and bordered by rocky or steep ground that is unsuitable for other purposes. Most Critters will choose to live in these more natural areas, and go into the croplands to forage. They are open to predation in wide-open spaces, so they are most likely to be seen on the edges of cultivated spaces.

When fields are too large, they are less conducive to being used by wildlife. The only wild creatures that I really want to keep out of my growing areas are deer. They do venture into large fields, probably because they aren't likely to encounter a cougar there and deer are too large to fall victim to aerial attack. Rabbits, mice, squirrels and several others, stick to areas that are near cover. Dogs irritate deer and cause them to move on. A single dog has no chance of capturing and injuring the deer. Some dogs are into ambush, while others just run around yapping. Yappy dogs are perfect for keeping Wildlife safe while protecting crops.
 
Zachary Fellows
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Location: Greenfield, United States
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That's part of the reason I have a no mow policy for my yard. Instead of cultivating a resource needy monoculture of grass I cultivate a variety of plants. This helps provide food and habitat for many beneficial birds, insects, and other creatures. Some of the plants I also eat like violets, dandelions, chicory, nettles, and garlic mustard. By not mowing you also save water since you may not have to water the plants.
 
Dale Hodgins
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This little guy headed the wrong way, so I stopped and caught him. Luckily, they jump quite high  when trying to escape .

Notice the fingers. They have very sticky little fingers which allow them to climb almost any surface. When I was pruning a big magnolia tree last year, I encountered several of the same frogs. They headed to another tree immediately.

I'm working at a place where several bushes are due to be moved with a grader. The noisy males alerted me to the presence of frogs. I was unable to catch them, so I cut down the little bush they occupied , and carried it into the forest. When I work on demolition, I often see mice and rats fleeing the destruction. Little amphibians and reptiles are more vulnerable , since they tend to remain in a small home territory.

A few years ago, I demolished a house which had many swallows nesting in it. A wildlife protection organization , removed the nests.
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