One of the forestry and wildlife team’s most frequent inquiries involves wildlife damage management around the home. Wildlife damage is the damage and other problems caused by the presence and behavior of wildlife. As Alabama’s population grows, so will the frequency of human-wildlife conflict.
There are five basic techniques for mitigating wildlife damage.
- Exclusion, such as fences, netting, or electric wires. This is often an excellent option, but fences and netting can distract from an otherwise scenic backyard.
- Repellents, such as commercial sprays. These are often water mixed with a small percentage of pepper, and unfortunately usually aren’t effective.
- Scare tactics such as loud noises, pyrotechnics, or decoys. Scare decoys can be effective at first but the wildlife grow immune to them. Loud noises created by propane canons or pyrotechnics can be effective, but neighbors may not like them and they can violate noise ordinances.
- Habit modification such as removing brush and wood piles, trimming trees, or mowing. This can be effective for some species such as snakes, but will not deter others such as squirrels, rabbits, and other mammals that feed in gardens.
- Lethal removal by shooting, trapping, or toxicants. This can be one of the most effective methods, but it brings up several issues.
Issues with Trapping, Toxicants, or Shooting
It is often incorrectly recommended that landowners with wildlife damage issues simply trap the animal alive and then transport it away and release. While this advice is given with good intentions, this practice is illegal for most wildlife in Alabama.
Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Regulation 220-2-.26 states that no person, firm, corporation, partnership, or association, shall transport species of coyote or fox, raccoons, skunk, wild rodents (such as mice, rats, squirrels and chipmunks) or rabbits within the state, along with many other species.
Lethal traps, such as conibears, are non-discriminate and therefore not a good option in areas where pets could also find the trap. Furthermore, conibears with a spread over 5 inches must be set in the water to be legal.
Clients also often ask about toxicants or poisons for managing wildlife problems. Using toxicants to kill wildlife is also illegal.
The last removal option is euthanasia by shooting. The American Veterinary Medical Association lists gunshots as an acceptable method of euthanasia when other methods cannot be used. When properly placed, gunshots cause immediate insensibility and a humane death.
However, many municipalities do not allow the discharge of firearms. Sometimes exempt from these laws are pellet guns and air rifles, but landowners should check their local laws first. Moreover, Alabama has specific laws on removing wildlife that are causing damage.
A property owner or tenant is allowed to take one squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, opossum, beaver, or skunk per incident without permit. However, Alabama Game and Fish Regulation 220-2-.27 allows for permits to take protected wildlife causing crop damage, property damage, or concern for human safety.
The last issue is disposing of the carcass of a euthanized animal. Some cities, such as Birmingham, will pick up carcasses for $5. The vast majority of Alabama does not have this luxury, making carcass disposal difficult, especially for small landowners. The simplest and most common recommendation is to simply bury euthanized animals.
Landowners should also consider if the damage the wildlife is causing is worthy of taking any action in the first place. The current laws leave few options for landowners looking to lethally manage problem wildlife. Often, altering habitat or removing food sources are the best options for nuisance wildlife.
The forestry and wildlife team will continue to offer advice on innovative wildlife damage management technique as Alabama’s population continue to grow.