OSU extension service publishes new guide for dealing with Nuisance Wildlife

January 19, 2006

THE DALLES, Ore. – Skunks, opossum, raccoons, coyotes, deer and elk often are lumped into the unofficial taxonomic family called "nuisance wildlife." Actually, any kind of wildlife that is perceived to be a problem by a human can fit this description, from rattlesnakes to woodpeckers and even beavers.

Most often, however, problems caused by so-called nuisance wildlife can be managed or avoided altogether. When Oregonians find bats in their attic, elk in their tree farms or a rattlesnake in the yard, they often call a local office of the Oregon State University Extension Service or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The vast majority of nuisance wildlife problems can be drastically reduced, experts say, by taking one easy step – eliminate their food source. According to Scott Ziegenhagen, an ODFW biologist, and Brian Tuck, OSU Extension crops and small farms faculty, eliminating any food source usually gets rid of even the most chronic problems with raccoons, skunks and even bear.

The biggest enticements to wildlife are dog and cat food left outside. Feeding pets inside will easily remedy this problem. If you check around, you may even find that someone is intentionally feeding the wildlife.

The next most common food source is unsecured garbage and compost piles. Storing garbage in secure containers or buildings will solve this problem. Master Gardener Program volunteers at local county Extension offices – and some gardening clubs – can provide plans for building secure composters.

The next easiest fix is to block the preferred nesting and resting places for nuisance wildlife. Such places include outbuildings and the space under decks and houses.

If none of these strategies work, you can contract with a private "critter getter" business to trap the animals. If you're more adventurous, you can rent, buy or build your own live trap. First, obtain a permit from the ODFW to trap the animals yourself. You do not need a permit to trap the non-native opossum or fox squirrel. Permits are needed for trapping most other species.

If you suspect a skunk is the problem, use a completely enclosed trap to limit the chance of getting sprayed. If you only have access to an open mesh trap, cover it with a tarp after catching a skunk. A good mixture to get rid of skunk odor is one quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, plus ¼ cup baking soda, plus one teaspoon liquid soap.

Some animals can be relocated, but relocation generally is not the best option. Animals relocated to unfamiliar territory, especially those used to urban sources of food and shelter, usually find wildlands unsuited to their behavioral patterns. Consequently, many relocated animals starve to death, are taken by predators, or are killed when crossing unfamiliar roads. Animals that do survive relocation usually end up as someone else's problem.

Relocated animals also can cause disease outbreaks or further the spread of non-native species such as opossum, fox squirrel and starlings. Non-native animals may not be relocated off-site and should be euthanized humanely.

If you do plan to relocate healthy native animals, you first must check with your local ODFW office for suitable release sites.

A new OSU Extension publication by Ziegenhagen and Tuck, called "Living with Nuisance Wildlife," gives specific information for dealing with deer, elk, coyote, bobcat, bear, cougar, snakes, rodents, beavers, rabbits, hares, birds and injured or abandoned wildlife in Oregon. It also provides names and telephone numbers of agencies that deal with nuisance wildlife.

"Living with Nuisance Wildlife" (EC 1579) is available online or by mail. To download a copy, go to http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/ec/ec1579.pdf.

Or request a printed copy by mail. Enclose your request and a check or money order payable to OSU for $1.50 per copy plus $3 shipping and handling and send it to: Publication Orders, Extension and Station Communications, OSU, 422 Kerr Administration, Corvallis, OR 97331-2119.

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Brian Tuck