To manage wildlife damage effectively, you must have good information on the species involved. Understanding the biology and habitat of the problem animal allows a person to use methods effectively to control or eliminate the unwanted behavior, conflict, or the animal itself.
The following section highlights common problems caused by more than 25 common species of wildlife and methods for dealing with the damage they cause. These fact sheets are comprehensive and meant to serve as a guide for WCOs while in the field. The research-based profiles will help you resolve human–wildlife conflicts.
A high level of skill and knowledge are needed to control wildlife damage effectively and safely. You will need to know the biology, habitats, signs, and damage caused by various species. Animal-handling and control techniques must be learned, practiced, and mastered. If an animal must be killed or euthanized, it should be done as humanely as possible. Do not hesitate to contact other professional WCOs or state wildlife agencies if the damage situation is complex, or if safety issues exist. If you have concerns about your ability to handle a wildlife problem with appropriate care and diligence, do not hesitate to work with other qualified professionals.
Situations involving protected wildlife may require additional permits
Whether the conflict with wildlife is simple or complex, your response should follow the highest ethical standards. Federal, state, and local laws and regulations must be obeyed. Some species are protected by federal law, such as Canada geese, gulls, hawks, robins, and woodpeckers. States protect game and furbearer species, such as white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, wild turkeys, raccoons, and foxes. In addition, species that are endangered and threatened are protected by both federal and state laws. Many states require professional certification for animal removal and transport, and the use of regulated toxicants. Some require a permit for trapping and removal of certain wildlife species, especially game animals and protected species.
As a WCO, chances are you can’t just pack your truck and hit the road when a customer calls with a complaint about one of these species because they either are managed by a state agency or are federally protected. You may need to secure permits—perhaps at both the federal and state levels—before using certain control techniques. The focus of this section is on those species that routinely cause conflicts with people in the US.
Federally protected wildlife
Endangered species (on the national list), threatened species (national list), and migratory birds are all federally protected wildlife.
In most states, WCOs cannot, under any circumstances, handle an endangered or threatened species. No way, no how.
You must take special care to make sure that activities intended to control other species do not accidentally harm an endangered or threatened species. Here’s what to do. First, review the lists of endangered and threatened species to see if any are found where you work. Go to the US Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Online Bulletin (http://www.fws.gov/endangered/species/index.html) and click on your state to see the most up-to-date list. Learn how to identify those species. Then take special precautions, especially if applying pesticides or setting traps.
Migratory birds that most commonly cause conflicts with people include the American crow, Canada geese, gulls, double-crested cormorants, and woodpeckers. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects these birds, their feathers, nests, and eggs. You may not take, possess, or transport a migratory bird without permits from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (50 CFR Depredation Permit).
Bird control methods that require state and federal permits include:
- any attempt to capture, relocate, injure, or kill migratory birds (except for those waterfowl species which may be taken during the hunting season by those with a state hunting license, a federal waterfowl hunting stamp, and HIP registration).
- any attempt to destroy eggs of migratory birds.
- any attempt to destroy nests of migratory birds that currently have eggs or young within them.
On April 15, 2003, the US Fish and Wildlife Service changed its policy regarding the nests of migratory birds to allow for the destruction of nests that lack eggs or young—as long as those nests are not protected by other laws, such as bald eagles, golden eagles, and other endangered and threatened birds.
Although this policy change now makes it possible (in some cases) to destroy an unoccupied nest, make sure you do not violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by accidentally taking eggs or birds. For example, it can be difficult to tell if eggs are in the nest of a ground-nesting or cavity-nesting species, such as a bank swallow.
Legal methods that do not require state or federal depredation permits include harassment, exclusion, habitat modification, and the use of repellents, unless you’re dealing with a bird that currently is nesting or has dependent young, for which you would need a permit. If you have any questions, contact your state wildlife agency. Their staff can offer advice about management strategies and information about necessary permits.