A nuisance pest (also referred to as nuisance wildlife) is any animal that interferes with other human activities or that is menacing or destructive; for example, animals that eat our birdseed, dig up gardens or landscaping, populate a place where they are unwanted (like your attic), damage buildings and public parks, or threaten human health and safety by spreading diseases, directly attacking us, or colliding with cars, planes, and trains. Some common nuisance animals include opossums, raccoons, moles and voles, bats, birds, deer, and skunks.
Studies have shown that deer vs car collisions cost Americans $1 billion per year. Birds vs airplanes also cost the same amount of damage annually. Squirrels, beavers, and other similar nuisance pests cause millions of dollars in damage to roadways, bridges, and dams each year. These creatures can also threaten already endangered species.
Wildlife in general search for 3 main things necessary for survival: food, water, and shelter. As human development spreads, interactions with wildlife will become more frequent. Competition for food, water and shelter will increase, making them more daring in their quest for survival. As they become accustomed to the proximity of humans, they will continue to adapt and increase their populations.
So what can you do to help prevent nuisance wildlife? The first step is to identify the pest you are dealing with. Federal and state laws protect most wildlife and regulate which species can be trapped, hunted, harvested, or harmed. In fact, all native birds are federally protected and some non-native species (including the house sparrow, European starling, and domestic pigeon which are all considered nuisance birds) have federal protection, as well. It is illegal to hunt, pursue, take, capture, kill or possess any migratory bird, nest, or egg.
Once you have identified the animal you are dealing with, the next step is to treat the problem, not the symptom. By removing the 3 things wildlife are searching for (food, water, and shelter), they will go elsewhere in their search. If a nuisance pest is eating your dog’s food, don’t just trap or relocate the offending animal. Store the dog food in a lidded container and take the bowls in overnight.
The University of Georgia Wildlife Extension recommends the following steps to prevent nuisance wildlife from taking over your yard.
One of the best ways to prevent wildlife is to make your yard or home undesirable to them. Once you identify the type of animal you are dealing with, do some research and learn their habits and preferences and modify your home or yard to make it more unattractive to them. Remove anything they can use for cover. Keep tall grass mowed short; remove piles of brush, logs, rocks, debris, firewood, trash, bricks, buckets, flower pots, old cars, used tires, and toys. Use an herbicide to get rid of weeds, briars, and vines. Cut away dead trees and limbs as these provide nesting and roosting spots for nuisance birds and bats.
Harassment is another prevention method you can use where you disturb or scare the wildlife away from your property. The effectiveness of harassment depends on the diligence of the homeowner. These methods must be utilized on a regular basis and moved frequently (every few days) otherwise the animals become accustomed to them and they are less effective. Tactile harassment methods include water spray and motion sensored sprinklers; light methods include bright lights, strobes, and lasers; and scare methods include eye balloons, scarecrows, silhouettes on windows, predatory figurines, and pyrotechnics.
Wildlife exclusion refers to utilizing physical barriers to keep wildlife out of your yard or home, usually through fencing or other materials. This is one of the best options for nuisance wildlife. All fencing should be staked or secured firmly to the ground. For large animals such as hogs, dogs, or deer, welded wire, chain link, or wood fencing is preferred. If you have a problem with deer, the fencing should be at least 8 feet tall. Smaller animals like opossums, raccoons, foxes, and squirrels do better with chicken wire, hardware cloth, or electric fence that is at least 2 feet tall and buried 6″ to 12″ into the ground.
Exclusion from your house is also possible. Cap chimneys to prevent raccoons, bats, birds, and squirrels. Keep soffit vents in good repair and screened to prevent insects, birds, and bats. Use hardware cloth or screens that still allow airflow to protect the gabled ends of homes or barns to keep out squirrels, bats, and birds. Keep windows and doors, including those to garages and sheds shut and make sure they have proper sealing and that screens and weather seals are in good repair to prevent snakes, bugs, mice, raccoons, and opossums. Cover dryer vents with a screen and clean them regularly to prevent snakes and mice. You can also seal around them with expanding foam or weather seal. Finally, prevent mice and bats from getting in around electric lines, phone lines, cables, and pipes by sealing them with expanding foam or weather seal.
Removal and Repellents
Removal and relocation of nuisance wildlife is discouraged as it can oftentimes be illegal. You can remove these pests from your home and release them onto your own property but steps must be taken to seal off entry points back into the home to keep them from coming back in. It is illegal to relocate nuisance pests onto someone else’s property. This option is usually deferred to a professional wildlife company who is familiar with trapping and relocation laws in your area.
Repellents can also be utilized to keep out offensive animals. Research shows that most soundwave repellents are not very effective at keeping animals at bay. The most effective repellents are those that use taste, fear, and odor. Different species respond to different repellents so identification of your problem critter is essential. The success of repellents depends on timing, how many of those types of animals are present, how hungry they are, and if they have been conditioned prior to coming onto your property. In general, the most effective methods combine repellents with physical barriers.
Lethal control of nuisance wildlife requires permits from federal and/or state wildlife agencies. While these permits can be given to non-professionals, it is not recommended due to the risk of bites, rabies, and other diseases that can be spread by these animals.
If you have a problem with nuisance wildlife, contact a local pest control company that specializes in wildlife control so they can help properly identify the animal you are dealing with and provide the most up-to-date, safe, and legal exclusion methods for your situation.