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Q: We have a small cabin in the southern Sierras (Mariposa County, Calif.). My problem is that woodpeckers are pecking holes in the siding of the buildings to store acorns. The building style is board-and-batten and the wood is red cedar. So far, we have been filling the holes with wood putty, but in some places the damage is so bad it looks as though the siding has been shot with a shotgun. What can I do to deter these birds?
– Mark Sandfort; via e-mail

A: Since woodpeckers are protected by the Federal Government as migratory, non-game birds and are further protected by some state laws, permits allowing you do anything drastic (i.e., use toxic repellents or kill them by some other method) will most likely be hard to obtain. From your description of the problem, it seems that the woodpeckers have already done some serious damage, which can happen easily at cabins or homes left vacant for part of the year. Woodpeckers are very territorial, so if they’ve already established themselves, it will be harder to get them to leave. Nonetheless, here are a few deterrents that have worked when set into place early enough.

Covering the damaged areas with metal sheeting and then painting the metal the same color of the cabin may help to prevent further damage because the metal both changes the sound, which the woodpeckers don’t like, and because they can no longer peck through. Other people have had luck with strips of Mylar or tin foil – which woodpeckers dislike because they are shiny. Another thing to try near areas of damage is some type of sticky repellent (the product Tanglefoot is one such example).

If these methods don’t seem to be working, or if you want to be certain nothing happens while you’re gone from the cabin, bird netting is a sure preventative. If you hang it right, it’s barely visible and woodpeckers won’t be able to peck any more holes. Look for ¾-inch mesh, and when hanging it, make sure there are at least three inches between the netting and your cabin.

You can get this netting through an online retailer like Stealthnet, www.wildlifedamagecontrol.net.

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