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Do-It-Yourself Nuisance Wildlife Solutions

Bat hanging on wall
TEMPORARY GUEST -- In October and November migrating bats may hang out a couple days as they journey south and re-energize on insects at night. Unless appearing sickly, no action is required - they will leave soon.  (Image courtesy Dave Freeze, Greene County Extension) 

Do-it-yourself solutions are typically the least expensive methods but they require:

  • some learning on your part
  • persistence
  • an investment of time and/or money.

Removing the problem animal is only part of the solution. Construction or carpentry work may be required to exclude animals from buildings, yards and gardens. Repellents and frightening devices offer only temporary solutions, but may buy enough time for flowers to bloom, fruits to ripen, and vegetables to mature.

Neighborhoods, homeowner associations, and communities can collaborate on strategies which are implemented in unison to keep wildlife at bay.

In rural areas, harvesting game species can help reduce locally-abundant populations and problem species.  However, even this solution will not totally eliminate problems.

Before implementing any do-it-yourself solution, be sure you are in compliance with residential, local, county, state and federal ordinances, regulations, and laws. Contact all entities with jurisdiction in your area. Be familiar with the law!

Identifying the culprit is necessary for implementing a successful strategy.  Different species require different approaches, solutions, and remedies. If you don’t know the species, look for evidence:

Tracks – Check for tracks in mud, or make a muddy area with a rake and a bucket of water.  Another option is to spread flour along the pathway where the animal travels.

Scat – Scat (the technical term for feces or poop) can be tricky to identify because food habits can vary between seasons of the year, food availability, and geographic location. 

Burrows and holes – Finding holes in your yard or pasture?  Its diameter, presence or absence of dirt around entry, and location provide clues about the culprit.

Type of damage to garden plants or grasses:

  • Plant damage to roots may be from gophers or voles.

  • Above-ground damage could be voles, cottontails (which can stretch up to 20 inches), white-tailed deer, or even elk in some parts of the state.

  • Cottontails and woodchucks tend to leave neat, sharp-edge cuts while deer leave shredded, jagged edges from ground level to 8 feet high.

  • Box turtles consume tomatoes, leaving bite marks in low-hanging fruits.

  • Entire tomatoes or other fruits may disappear as birds, squirrels, even woodchucks, carry or roll them to their lairs.

  • Songbirds seem to be waiting in the wings to peck a near-ripe fruit or berry.

Type of damage to trees, shrubs or bushes:

  • Holes - The yellow-bellied sapsucker pecks trees, though their pecking often is not harmful unless the tree is girdled.

  • Bark stripping - Shredded bark on small-diameter trees could be from aggressive bucks rubbing their antlers.  Claw-like scrapes on large-diameter trees could be from black bearsGray or fox squirrels are also known to strip bark from trees.

  • Branches or buds - Nipped branches or buds could be from deer, tree squirrels or other creatures. Get a list of deer resistant plants.

  • Insects - Keep in mind that insects may also be the culprit, such as girdling the ends of tree branches.

  • Fruits and nuts – Many wildlife species consume fruits and nuts as part of their natural diet.  Pecan growers continually deal with squirrels.  Songbirds seem to be waiting in the wings to peck a near-ripe apple.

Building or structural damage – Squirrels leave rodent-like tooth markings when chewing or gnawing wood siding or decking.  Wood rats, squirrels and other rodents may gnaw on rubber belts and hoses in automobiles or outdoor furniture.  Woodpeckers leave holes on wood siding or fascia board on homes. 

Odors and smells – Odors from walls or underneath crawl spaces can be from urine, the animal itself, or a decaying animal.  It could also be from a stinkhorn fungus.  Various concoctions are available for reducing skunk odor

Livestock and poultry predation – Skunks, foxes, coyotes, black bears, and black vultures sometimes prey on cattle and poultry.  Physical evidence provides clues whether domestic or wild animals were responsible.  Options for reducing predation include exclusion, guard dogs, animal husbandry practices, and frightening devices. 

Still uncertain of what is causing damage? 

  • Try catching the culprit in the act.  Determine if damage is occurring during daylight or night, and observe during those hours.

  • Remember, it could be a neighborhood dog or cat causing the problem.

  • Consider setting up a wildlife camera available in many outdoor stores.

Armadillo

Armadillos and their Control in Arkansas - FSA9109 (University of Arkansas)

Badger 

American Badger (Missouri Department of Conservation)

Bat

Bats In and Around Your Home - FSA9088 (University of Arkansas Extension)

Bat Conservation International - link to an organization dedicated to the conserving the world's bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet.

Bear, Black

Arkansas Black Bears:  Biology and Habits - FSA9086 (University of Arkansas Extension)

Encountering Black Bears in Arkansas - FSA9087 (University of Arkansas Extension)

Arkansas Black Bears - YouTube video (Arkansas Game and Fish Commission)

Beaver

Beaver Damage Prevention and Control Methods - FSA9085 (University of Arkansas Extension)

Beaver Control Program (Arkansas Natural Resource Commission) 

Beaver Restoration Guidebook: Working with Beaver to Restore Streams, Wetlands, and Floodplains (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Bobcat

Bobcats In Your Backyard  workshop (University of Arizona) 

Living With Wildlife:  Bobcats (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Bobcats. Includes section on preventing conflicts. (Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife)

Cat, Feral House

Nuisance Prevention Tips for Feral (Wild) Cats (Indiana Department of Natural Resources)

Feral Cats and Their Management

Chipmunk

Animal Damage Management - Chipmunks (Purdue Extension)

Coyote

Urban Coyote Research Program (Ohio State University & other partners)

Predator control on beef cattle operations (Mississippi State University)

Deer (whitetail)

Controlling Deer Damage in Missouri (University of Missouri Extension)

Dog, Feral

Feral Dogs (University of Nebraska)

Elk

Elk:  Arkansas’ Largest Wild Mammal - FSA9099 (University of Arkansas Extension)

Fox

Fox Fact Sheet (University of Georgia)

Gopher, Pocket

Managing Iowa Wildlife:  Pocket Gophers (Iowa State University Extension)

Amphibian, reptile, and small mammal associates of Ozark pocket gopher habitat in Izard County (Arkansas State University)

Pocket Gopher Control (UNL Extension video)

Hog, Feral (wild pig, wild boar)

Feral Hog Control in Arkansas (University of Arkansas)

Do-It-Yourself Feral Hog Trapping Strategy (University of Arkansas)

Feral Hog Control in Arkansas

Managing Wild Pigs:  A Technical Guide (USDA/APHIS/Wildlife Services | Berryman Institute)

How to build a corral trap (Video, Texas A&M Extension)

Setting snares for hogs along trails (Video, Hotwoods Hog Master Snare)

Mole

Controlling the Eastern Mole - FSA9095 (University of Arkansas Extension)

Mountain Lion (panther, cougar)

Living With Lions:  Promoting Non-Lethal Predator Control Alternatives (Mountain Lion Foundation)

Did I See a Panther?  (University of Florida IFAS Extension)

Mouse, House

Non-Chemical Rodent Control (University of Florida Cooperative Extension)

IPM for Rats and Mice in Schools - Chapter 12 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Controlling Rodents in Commercial Poultry Facilities (Purdue Extension)

Ultrasonic and Subsonic Devices for Pest Control (New Jersey Ag Experiment Station)

Muskrat

Muskrat Control (Missouri Department of Conservation)

Nutria

Nutria Control Program (Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries)

Opossum

Controlling Raccoon and Opossum Damage (University of Nebraska Extension)

The Opossum:  Its Amazing Story (University of Missouri School of Medicine)

Otter, River

Missouri's River Otters: A Guide to Management and Damage Control (Missouri Department of Conservation)

Rabbit, Cottontail

Rabbit Control (University of Georgia Extension)

Raccoon

Northern Raccoon (University of Florida IFAS Extension)

Controlling Raccoon and Opossum Damage (University of Nebraska Extension)

Rat, Norway

Non-Chemical Rodent Control (University of Florida Cooperative Extension)

IPM for Rats and Mice in Schools - Chapter 12 (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Controlling Rodents in Commercial Poultry Facilities (Purdue Extension)

Ultrasonic and Subsonic Devices for Pest Control (New Jersey Ag Experiment Station)

Rat, Roof

Control of Roof Rats in Fruit Trees (University of Florida Extension)

Controlling Rodents in Commercial Poultry Facilities (Purdue University, Indiana)

Rat, Wood

Woodrats: Urban Wildlife Damage Control (Kansas State University)

Skunk

Dealing With Skunks and Odor Abatement - FSA9101 (University of Arkansas Extension)

Squirrel

Tree Squirrels and Their Control (University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension)

Vole * NOTE: it is illegal to poison wildlife in Arkansas!

Voles  (University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources) DO NOT FOLLOW recommendations for toxicants.

Meadow Mouse (Vole) Control in Tree Fruit Orchards (Pacific Northwest Extension)  DO NOT FOLLOW recommendations for toxicants.

Woodchuck (groundhog)

Animal Damage Management - Woodchucks (Purdue University)

Blackbird 

Controlling Blackbird Damage to Sunflower and Grain Crops in the Northern Great Plains (USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center)

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing:  Biology, Legal Status, Control Materials and Directions for Use (Vertebrate Pest Control Research Advisory Committee)

Controlling Birds on Fruit Crops (Penn State Extension)

Crow

American Crow Damage Management (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

Managing Urban Crow Roosts (PennState Extension)

Eagle

Livestock Depredations by Black Vultures and Golden Eagles (USDA National Wildlife Research Center)

Goose, Canada 

Managing Canada Geese in Urban Environments:  A Technical Guide (Cornell Cooperative Extension | Berryman Institute)

Managing Problems Caused By Urban Canada Geese(Utah State University Extension | Berryman Institute)

Assistance with Waterfowl Damage (USDA APHIS Wildlife Services)

Hawk and Owl

Living with Raptors (Arizona Game and Fish)

Raptor Predation Problems and Solutions (Journal article)

Living with Wildlife:  Owls (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Pigeon

Animal Damage Management:  Pigeons (Purdue Extension)

Controlling Nuisance Pigeons (University of Missouri Extension) DO NOT FOLLOW recommendations for toxicants.

Sparrow, House

House Sparrow Control (Texas Agrilife Extension)

Vulture

Reducing Damage Caused by Vultures (USDA Wildlife Services)

Livestock Depredations by Black Vultures and Golden Eagles (USDA Wildlife Services)

Waterfowl

Assistance with Waterfowl Damage (USDA APHIS Wildlife Services)

Woodpecker

Woodpeckers:  Damage, Prevention and Control (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Animal Damage Management:  Woodpeckers (Purdue Extension)

Alligator 

Living with Alligators:  A Florida Reality (University of Florida IFAS Extension)

Crayfish (crawfish, crawdad)

The Control of Burrowing Crayfish in Ponds (Virginia Cooperative Extension)

Frog and Toad

Herps of Arkansas for Identification (Arkansas Herpetological Society)

Salamander

Herps of Arkansas for Identification (Arkansas Herpetological Society)

Snake

Encountering Native Snakes in Arkansas - FSA9102  (University of Arkansas Extension)

Herps of Arkansas  for Identification and safety recommendations; plus (Arkansas Herpetological Society)

Turtle

Turtle Control in Farm Ponds (Texas A&M Extension)

Living with wildlife and preventing problems can be achieved by following a few rules.

Rule 1:  Do not attract wildlife to your home. 

  • Do not leave pet food outdoors.  Feed only what your pets will eat in a single meal.  Pet food is a major attractant for a variety of species including opossums, raccoons, and skunks.

  • Do not intentionally feed wildlife.  Many people enjoy feeding songbirds, but if they are pecking fruits or roosting around your home, feed only in the winter months or not at all.  Avoid placing corn feeders or other attractants near gardens, ornamental plants, or crop fields.  Don’t feed dangerous wildlife such as alligators inhabiting ponds or streams.

  • Secure lids on garbage cans.  Many animals from opossums and raccoons to neighborhood dogs will knock over trash cans for scraps.  Black bears which eat pet food or raid trash cans may lose their natural fear of people.  Oftentimes these activities occur at night.  Keep garbage cans inside the garage and place on the curb the morning of trash pickup, or purchase a garbage can with a wildlife-proof lid.

Rule 2:  Maintain buildings and structures to keep wildlife from gaining entry.

  • Patch holes in buildings and structures.  Use caulk to fill cracks and crevices.  This not only keeps out critters, but can also save energy costs.

  • Patch entries around pipes and electrical wires where squirrels, mice, lizards and snakes can crawl through.  Mice can squeeze through cracks only ¼ inch wide!

  • Place barriers over chimneys, vents, or other access points. Use metal wire mesh or hardware cloth to keep squirrels, bats, rats, and mice out.

Rule 3: Fence out wildlife where feasible.

  • Place temporary or permanent fencing around gardens and other areas you wish to protect.  A buried fence will keep cottontails, turtles, snakes and other species from slipping under.

  • Electric fencing may be an option in some circumstances, such as keeping raccoons from sweet corn, bears from bee hives, and deer from gardens and ornamentals.  Check local ordinances first to make sure electric fencing is legal.

Rule 4:  Design your yard or farm to minimize wildlife habitat.

  • Woodpiles provide habitat for rodents and snakes.  Stack the majority of your wood away from your home.

  • Brush piles provide escape cover for cottontails and songbirds.  Cottontails have a small home range of an acre or two.  Place brush piles in strategic locations away from gardens or crop fields.

  • Keep yard open, mowed, and raked.  Remove brush and debris to discourage wildlife.

  • Keep fence rows clear of weeds and shrubs.

  • Drain ponds, water gardens or other water structures.

More information about preventing problems contact your local county Extension office.

Is It Legal?

Many people are unaware of regulations governing wildlife species in Arkansas and the agencies responsible for managing and protecting them.  Check with the following applicable entities before implementing any practice, including live trapping and electrical fencing. IT IS ILLEGAL TO KILL WILDLIFE USING TOXICANTS OR POISONS IN ARKANSAS, even if available commercially or recommended in another state. This includes moles and gophers.  Rodenticides may be used to control mice and rats, but poisons or chemicals may not be used to kill any other animal.

Local Homeowners Associations

  • Check your homeowner association’s rules and regulations.  There may be restrictions about electrical fencing, trapping, and other practices.

City Governments

  • Some cities have specific rules and regulations governing wildlife trapping and removal.  Check first before using a live trap, as a permit may be required.

State Government

  • Arkansas Game and Fish Commission allows landowners (or their designees) to use live traps (cage traps) at any time without a Depredation Permit.  Trapping in towns must be in compliance with local ordinances.  Live-trapped wildlife must be released unharmed outside the municipality’s boundaries within 24 hours.  The trap must have the trapper’s name and address, or his vehicle operator’s license number or the current vehicle license number affixed to the trap. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Code Book governs all interactions with wildlife. 
  • The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission inventories threatened and endangered wildlife and their associated habitats in the state.

Federal Government

Nuisance Wildlife Permits

Arkansas Game & Fish Commission allows many nuisance wildlife species (other than migratory birds and endangered species) that are causing damage to personal property to be taken during daylight hours or trapped the entire year.  Currently, English sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, and crows committing damage to agriculture crops and personal property may be taken without a permit. Beaver, coyote, muskrat, nutria, opossum, raccoon, squirrel, striped skunk and non-game wildlife (other than migratory birds and endangered species) that are causing damage to personal property may be taken during daylight hours or trapped the entire year.

For those experiencing economic hardships or human health risks, state and sometimes federal wildlife agencies can issue special permits for removing or taking protected animals.  Oftentimes wildlife must be affecting your livelihood causing substantial economic loss, or a severe health and safety concern.

Depredation Permit issued by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is required to:

  • trap nuisance game animals other than beaver, coyote, muskrat, nutria, opossum, raccoon, squirrel and striped skunk that are causing damage and are taken during daylight hours. 

  • to shoot any wildlife at night.

Wildlife must be handled in a manner consistent with the permit.  Check with your regional Arkansas Game and Fish office to make sure these laws are still in effect before removing any nuisance wildlife.  Agencies have different jurisdiction depending on the wildlife species involved.  Contact the following agencies for information about nuisance wildlife permits.

Migratory birds (including black vultures, cormorants)
USDA APHIS Wildlife Services  (501-835-2318)
Stuttgart office (870–673–1121)
 
Deer Permits

Furbearers at night (coyote, beaver, skunk)

Special Hunt Permits (deer, turkey, alligator, elk, geese)

Endangered species
Conway office (501-513-4470)

 

Publications

  • Bats In and Around Your Home

    Bats are beneficial, but it's not a good idea to have them in your living quarters.  Learn what to do if you find a single bat - or a colony of bats - in your home.

  • Beaver Damage Prevention and Control Methods

    These natural builders are historically important to Arkansas, but their behaviors can cause water damage to roads, croplands, timber, and structures. Alternative methods for reducing or preventing damage are described.

  • Controlling the Eastern Mole

    Moles aerate the soil with their tunneling activities, but these activities can tear up a landscape.  Mole biology is described with tips for setting traps to improve success.

  • Dealing With Skunks and Odor Abatement

    Removing these unwanted visitors can be tricky, but possible without getting sprayed.  If spraying has already occurred, a recipe for a homemade chemical treatment is provided.  (Hint:  tomato juice is not recommended!)

  • Elk:  Arkansas' Largest Wild Mammal

    Elk reintroduction, biology, habitat and management is described.

  • Encountering Black Bears in Arkansas

    Learn about black bear recovery in Arkansas, tell-tale signs if you have one in the area, and what to do if they are in your area or you encounter one.  

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