A website from UGA Cooperative Extension

Nuisance Wildlife

Seeing all the deer on the road got me thinking about nuisance wildlife and the problems that human and or vehicle interactions with wildlife can cause.  This will be general information. If you need specifics contact your County Agent.

For starters you need to understand that state and federal laws protect nearly all wildlife. These laws regulate which species can be harassed, harvested, trapped, hunted or harmed. Wildlife are generally defined as free-ranging, terrestrial vertebrates. This usually includes snakes, lizards, frogs and toads, and all wild mammals. This definition excludes feral animals like cats.

States usually treat fish separately. There are exceptions, and you should learn the laws if you work with nuisance wildlife. These laws can be found on the Web site of the state agency responsible for wildlife protection. In Georgia, that agency is the Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The second thing to understand is laws about trapping and discharging a firearm.  For these laws you can go to the DNR website or talk to local law enforcement and DNR Conservation Officers.  I don’t know all of the rules but I am pretty sure you aren’t going to be allowed to run around Butler shooting squirrels with your trusty .22.

There are 3 general things that wildlife needs:  food, shelter and water, with water usually being the least limiting.  Remove any of the rest and the problem will usually go away.  We need to start treating the problem and not the symptom.  For example removing snakes from a barn by killing them is not how to handle your problem.  You need to remove the mice and rats and the snakes will go elsewhere.  If you remove the snakes then the real problem will get worse.

Habitat modification is the first line of defense against nuisance wildlife.  Note that it is often difficult or impossible to both create habitat for wildlife you want to encourage and, at the same time, remove habitat to discourage wildlife. The animals cannot tell the difference and you will often both attract wildlife and deal with nuisance species in the same habitat. By following these rules of thumb, however, you can enhance your enjoyment of wildlife around your home.

Learn the habits, preferences and requirements of the offending animal(s) and remove or modify the habitat to make your yard unattractive to wildlife pests.  Without cover to hide in or food to eat, the animal will leave. Remember this simple equation: No cover = no mice = no snakes.

Mow tall grass — many pest species (such as mice) like weedy, unmowed areas. They also attract predators (such as snakes) to this food source.  Remove piles of brush, logs, firewood, rocks, debris and trash and control weeds with herbicides if mowing is not an option.  Be sure to read and carefully follow all label restrictions when working with herbicides.

Cut dead trees and limbs to remove roosting and nesting places for bats, flying squirrels and woodpeckers. This will also remove food (insects) for woodpeckers. Also clean out old birdhouses and discard old nests.

Homeowners can often harass wildlife into leaving an area.  Effectiveness of harassment depends on the diligence of the homeowner.  Think about it like this. Your crazy aunt is not going to leave if you ask her once, but if you ask multiple times, shut off the hot water and turn off the wifi, she may go ahead and leave.

Generally, harassment is not effective because homeowners install the device and forget about it.  Wildlife soon become accustomed or habituated to the object and ignore it.  To be effective, harassment techniques must be applied regularly and must be changed or moved every one to two days. 

An effective example is a motion-activated device that rotates and sprays water at the offending animal.  The offending animal (for example, a rabbit in a garden) receives a shock of water, hears the noise and does not become habituated to the device because the device is motion-activated and sprays a harmless shot of water each time the rabbit enters the motion detection zone.

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