Our office receives many calls from home and land owners frustrated with unwanted animals troubling their homes or yards. Some wildlife may be cute but they can cause significant damage and headaches for homeowners. Whether they’re rooting through your trash, tearing up your garden, or presenting a disease threat to your pets and families, nuisance animals should be encouraged to live where they best belong: the wild.

If you have some animal troubling you, the first question to ask is why is this critter here?  Wildlife, just like every other animal, requires three essential things for survival: food, water, and shelter. You could be unknowingly providing one of these pests with one or more of these basic needs. The challenge is figuring out what is attracting them. Before you panic, spend a lot of money to hire someone or sell your house and move, lets look at the H-E-R-L model. Work through these steps and you may be able to solve most problems yourself. The letters in the H-E-R-L model stand for actions you can take to deal with many nuisance wildlife situations: Habitat modification, Exclusion, Removal or Repellents, and Lethal control.

Habitat Modification or Harassment – Take steps to make a habitat unattractive and discourage wildlife from the area. Learn the habits, preferences and requirements of the offending wildlife and remove or modify the habitat to make your yard unattractive.  Tidy up your landscape: clearing brush piles, keeping grass mowed and removing nesting area will help deter wildlife. Without cover to hide in or food to eat, the animal will leave. Homeowners can often harass wildlife into leaving an area.  Effectiveness of harassment depends on the diligence of the homeowner.  An example of a harassment technique would be to hang a scarecrow in a garden.  Generally, harassment is not effective because homeowners install the device and forget about it.  Wildlife soon become accustomed 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. 

Exclusion – This option includes using fencing or other solid materials to exclude wildlife by creating a physical barrier. Fencing and other exclusion methods are likely the best option for solving nuisance wildlife problems. Also remember to exclude animals from entering dwellings through chimneys, attic vents, windows / doors, dryer vents, and holes where pipes and cables come into the house.  Mice and bats can enter through dime size holes.

Removal or Repellents – Relocating nuisance wildlife is generally discouraged and may be illegal.  Check with local wildlife conservation officers and health department officials before moving any wildlife off your property.  It’s acceptable to remove an animal from your house and release it outside on your property.  However, you must prevent it from re-entering your home or buildings.  Repellents are variable in effectiveness. Many repellents work in some situations and but not others, or work for a time and then lose their effectiveness. Success seems to depend on timing, animal density, hunger and the animal’s prior conditioning. It is better to prevent an animal from browsing your plants than to stop them once they have learned to enjoy the taste.

Lethal Control – These methods may require permits from federal and/or state wildlife agencies, but generally is allowed for homeowners dealing with a small number of pests. Remember that some wildlife, especially birds, are protected. Even if only one woodpecker is causing damage, a federal (and possibly state) permit is required.

If you need more information, contact our office at 706-795-2281 or clh@uga.edu.