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How effective are sonic animal deterrents?

Sonic animal deterrents promise to keep away everything from kangaroos and possums to birds and snakes. The devices usually claim to emit a high-pitched sound at a particular frequency, intended to deter an animal from the desired area. You can find them for your car, your home or even the outdoors.

However, do they really work and if so how effective are they? Our MythDefied competition is nearly over, so make sure to enter your answers below for your chance to win.

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The new owners of our house bought The Big Cheese Sonic Pest Repellers for every room in the house. They were told they would also repel possums living in the roof. The instruction book says they protect 37m2 but only in line of sight (not through walls or furniture). It also passes pulses through the electrical wiring of the house. It can take up to 28 days for a full deterrent effect.

As we have been moving our furniture out over the last 3 months, the house is uncluttered, with the fridge & HWS ticking over, so they should be working well.

Does it work as advertised? No. The mice & rats are still chewing on the baits inside the house, and presumably new rodents are taking their place. As for possums, going by the banging and fighting in the roof, the muddy paw prints, the poo, and the neighbour’s description “like chooks all over the backyard” it doesn’t seem to deter them either.

Busted!

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Absolutely Busted! I’m a little surprised these are still around.

For little critters - My device went to the bin.

I had a plug in the wall socket unit ten years ago. It was installed in a modern garage inside a modern house on slab. It glowed in the dark brightly which helped at night to find the way out. After a year it stopped working. Not the light as it still shone bright! But the high pitched whine it emitted from new stopped! I think it was a Bunnings purchase.

I was first amazed at how keen my hearing was to super and sub-sonic frequencies. That I could hear it at all when I first turned it on was however mildly reassuring.

I was concerned that on noticing it’s apparent failure the spiders and roaches might move in. Apart from the six or more fat Asian House Geckos, a couple of full grown huntsman spiders and the odd 4cm long roach all of whom had been there when I first installed the sonic repelling device nothing new had moved in. But then nothing had moved out either and I’m sure there were more geckos than before. Geckos are hard to count and harder to catch! Not much gets past them either.

I’d back a Garage full of Geckos and the odd really big spider over any sonic device base on this experience.

FOR BIGGER CRITTERS - I never used one!
The devices you put on the front of your car “Shoo Roo” I can’t say much about first hand. Second hand from living in central and northern Qld for more than 20 years and driving often (50,000 km or more some years) I never used one.
It might help to note that if they were that effective every truckie out there would have a dozen hanging all around the cab like light bars on a 4WD. Not that I ever noticed?
Of my work mates that had used these devices it’s also true that they had never hit a roo while using one. As real men perhaps they would not admit to anyway. But then neither had I. There is a lot more in how you drive, when you drive and how much you respect the lives of animals.

p.s If you really know the bush then hitting a roo is not good, but it’s the emus and cattle that are the real killers. They are so high off the ground and solid they can come over the bonnet, through the windscreen and into your seat with just one likely outcome. If you must buy such a device it may help to get a cow and emu guarantee up front. Sheep are shorter and apparently generally go under the car.

Factually!
Driver dies after running into cow!
There are more news items on line if you are that way inclined.

The devices apparently make no difference to bird strikes although they may help to keep bats away. Farmers use electric cattle prods and blue healers on cattle and helicopters and lots of other clever things. It would be fine to think that a few simple hand held sonic devices could replace all.

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No doubt there will be some anecdotes about the success or failure of such devices in some particular case but that doesn’t really give us much to go on. To me the first key observation is that the vendors of these devices all rely on favourable anecdotes. Anecdotes are rather poor evidence. If the gadget actually worked well there ought to be some serious test results that show it. I have never seen any such thing.

Secondly, given the huge cost of vermin damage in agriculture and the wider society if they worked you would expect many industries would use them in warehouses, grain silos etc. But they don’t.

Thirdly there have been a number of studies like this and like this that strongly suggest the devices don’t work.

My conclusion is that the gadgets on the market now do not show any evidence of working and until somebody can show they do you should save your money.

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Our observation of the behavior of others and outcomes is possibly much more reliable than the anecdotal evidence the marketers of such dodgy devices rely on.

My ability to count geckos etc is worthy of challenge. That our agricultural industry and others that could benefit from such devices don’t make use of them is as you added more evidence.

It’s incredulous that these devices can still be marketed with claims that are potentially false and misleading without further challenge. There is a similar industry that markets cosmetic products with “scientifically proven” claims. It also survives/flourishes. There should be no surprise then that the sonic based deterrents fill a similar niche market.

There is one significant difference between cosmetic products and the world of animal chasing products that would call for greater action.
For cosmetic products there is potential for harm if they cause adverse medical responses to their use. There are clear protections in law and as demonstrated occasionally the makers and law and customers resort to remedy adverse outcomes. The consequences are generally not life threatening.

Alternately for animal deterrent devices acceptance by a user that the device does in deed work could cause a false sense of security and a lack of general caution. Unwanted pest invasion or worse driving expecting that the large grey shape ahead will suddenly get out of the path of your vehicle can have serious consequences. There is a strong argument that such devices should not be in the market place. Or at least come with a clear and large printed warning that they may not work as intended - “buyer beware” on the package and device.

It may be better to suggest that such devices should not be permitted to be marketed or sold due to environmental concerns. IE Unless there are genuine scientific and legally accepted tests (RSPCA, APVMA etc) the devices do not have any impact or adverse consequences on our wildlife that live in and around our busy roadways they cannot be imported, sold or used.

A trivial legislative update might even lead to a scientific breakthrough demonstrating that the devices have absolutely no affect on native wildlife other than those with credit accounts. I have a receipt to prove the latter.

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These devices work on the premise that it they annoy humans, then they must also annoy animals. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

One has just to look in the natural world where animals, which are supposed to be scared by such devices, live.

Possums will live on top on power line transforms which emit audible and inaudible humms. Birds also live in high noise environments, including those which have high frequencies. An airport or in the grounds of a emergency services facility (using sirens) are such examples.

Possibly some animals would be scared by sonic booms/airblast caused through rapid changes in air pressure, such as detonating explosive or through the release of gas guns, but the effect is short and limited. If these went off all the time, the animals would become conditioned to the noise. Gas guns have some effect if used randomly and sporadically, however, animals seem to have the upper hand the longer they are used…they become conditioned to the airblast.

Now, assume they did annoy animals. This may work for a short time but Animals, like humans become conditioned to the acoustic environment they live. After a short time, their nervous system is able to adjust and in effect, shut out extraneous noises. It is a little bit like someone living beside a busy road or railway line, after a short time they become conditioned to this extraneous noise and often won’t hear it unless someone points it out to them.

Animals are the same and it is best not to waste ones money on such devices. the audible ones are more likely to annoy the consumer who purchased the device rather than the animals it is supposed to repel.

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Anecdotal ‘evidence’ is the best kind :wink:

I’ve had a couple of cheapie Bunnings sourced mouse upsetters plugged in for the last few years - and we haven’t seen a mouse since! Of course it could be the power of positive thinking as well, or karma, or maybe just that I also sealed up some holes they were getting in and that worked (potentially interesting side note - if you have holes in brickwork or cupboards where pipes/etc come through, I’ve found the cheap wire dish scrubber pads make excellent hole fillers and it seems rodents don’t eat stainless steel. You can buy bulk packs of them very cheaply and they shape to the hole well - I’ve used them where dishwasher hoses go through cupboard sides and in tight spaces where I didn’t want to use filler and make a mess).

We’d previously had a lot of mice, but they do come and go with the seasons and local conditions, but it must be the deterrent surely? oh, we also have a cat now, but surely its the sonic deterrent?

Yeah I’m not convinced either. Reckon they’ll be in the bin soon. I can’t hear the things, neither can the cat, or the partners dog as far as we can tell … hence a great deal of scepticism on my part, even though I wanted to try them :slight_smile:

Re the car mounted devices - there’s lots of talk, and one person I knew some time back swore by them until he discovered it was wired incorrectly and not working at all. Dumb luck had been his friend the whole time! even when (apparently) roos had been scampering away from the sonic warning beacon - he could see them reacting, it must be working - so funny.

The bird cannons some vineyards used in years gone by (do they still?) seemed to work for a while, but as I understand it the birds became accustomed to them … unlike the people they annoyed …

I do have devices that emit loud noises and neutralise the problem of rodents and (cross thread warning) could be used as personal alarms - but they exhibit the side effect of high velocity lead residue and have licencing/public use issues :wink:

Lots of good points made in other posts - not the least of which the apparent complete lack of scientific testing/proof they work coupled with a lack of uptake in industry/agriculture, it seems …

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I have a pair of sonic whistles on the bull bar at the front of our vehicle. I has worked perfectly so far.

I attribute this sterling performance to keeping the vehicle well clear of any rampant animal life.

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A factory near me had a problem with pigeons . They were roosting over a car park and crapping , sorry I mean defecating , all over the cars . The company got in touch with a pest control company and for an exorbitant price they installed sonic bird repellers ./

It so happened that my brother and his partner had the company with the pigeon problem as a customer for their security business . He took a photo with his phone of 2 pigeons roosting on one of the sonic devices . I wish I could find it . So funny ./

In the end the company phoned the people who had installed the bird repellers . All they got was " This number is no longer available " They had been scammed .

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My old work tried many different methods to stop pigeons roosting in communication equipment, buildings etc. They had tried numerous different solutions including the fake flying eagles…none worked expect for the anti-roosting spikes.

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I had one connected to a car supplied by my work. Never saw a kangaroo but it annoyed the heck out of my son. He would not go near the car!

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Having parted with my hard-earned for snake removalists over the past few years - to retrieve tiger snakes from the back yard - I’m keen to know if sonic snake repellent devices work. Last summer’s snake was in the compost bin - which was rather a surprise on lifting the lid. Clearly I had done a shoddy job of snake-proofing it with snake mesh and a rodent-proof base.

A couple of weeks later, when emptying food scraps into the compost bin, I heard a strange high pitched sound. I peered over the neighbour’s fence and discovered he had installed sonic snake repellent devices.

It will be interesting to see next summer if we get tiger snake visitors.

Mind you, I don’t have much confidence in sonic repellents, so as extra insurance, will construct a full snake-proof-mesh cage barrier beneath and all the way up the sides of the bin this winter in preparation for the next onslaught!

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We installed a “Birdgard” ultrasonic deterrent to reduce the amount of possum droppings around our front door. It works! There is still plenty of possum poop left on our driveway but none around the front door any more. Turn the device off and the possums return. Maybe anecdotal evidence for the sceptics but proof for us. The only drawback is the noise is very irritating for younger visitors but that’s a small inconvenience - it means greetings and farewells at the front door are brief!

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Surely this has to be snake oil (excuse the pun). Snakes don’t have ears or auditory structures which could hear sonic (ultrasonic sounds)…

Sonic means the frequency of sounds in the high frequency or ultrasonic wavelength spectrum. This is the opposite end of the spectrum to wavelengths which a snake may be able to detect. Vibrations are very low frequencies at the other ends of the sound spectrum.

I’ll eat my hat if they work.

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They don’t work beyond parting you from your money (at which they excel). If they get warm enough from the sun snakes will coil around them to warm up. They are useless for the purpose you bought them for.

There is even a topic about the useless snake repellers on this forum and is a worthwhile read:

@phb your alimentary canal is safe from any need to digest any calligraphy/prose/phrasing/grammar/writing…or hat for that matter :slight_smile:

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We have been having trouble with possums under the house. We have a lot of stuff stored under there and possums keep peeing on everything and knocking smaller boxes down. I bought a Pestill Possum scaring device which we installed and then put two security cameras which were connected in such a way as to record when there was any movement. The events which were recorded of the possum scarer were not very heartening - the possum hardly noticed when the device went off and just shuffled past it.

We have ended up using the security cameras to detect where the possums are getting in and blocking up any holes. The cameras are wifi and can easily be moved around.

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I was in pest animal research and extension with NS Agriculture for forty years. One of my main pest species were rodents. The use of sonic repellers were tested in many situations and the only time we had any effect was line of sight for about 2 metres. During one rather nasty mouse outbreak in Cowra, a very large and impressive sonic repeller was placed in a shed where we knew there were mice. The next morning the only thing left was a heap of chewed plastic and components and a small blinking red light. We were fair and tested many other devices over the years finding most animals would avoid any noise for half a metre and continue their lives with gay abandon. I think my original literature search did not uncover any effective sonic repellers any where in the world.
To follow, the NRMA did a report on the use of sonic kangaroo repellers; both whistle type and electronic with very poor results. I have no faith in any of these products except to make the promotors rich from fleecing people who are desperate to rid a species that will keep coming back regardless of the machine. Keep the house clean has a greater effect.

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We have done exactly that. They will fit through any holes that you can get a small hand through so one needs to ensure that holes are blocked well.

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We have had success deterring stray cats from coming to close to the house and from stopping our own cats from going into areas they’re not allowed. Of course these are restricted areas, like the front porch so maybe that makes a difference, but it has stopped the local stray from spraying all over the front door.

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Thanks for all the great answers and for sharing your experiences. Very interesting to hear from someone with your experience @crofty1080!

Please feel free to keep sharing your perspectives here.

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