Wildlife Pest Control for Your Community

Uncontrolled wildlife can wreak havoc in your community. Here’s what you can do to improve local pest control.

An urgent situation, such as a coyote killing small dogs in the area, should be handled by the police or animal control officers. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Are droppings from a multitude of Canada geese covering the patios in your neighborhood, while uncontrolled deer populations strip gardens bare, and skunks roll up your turf to get at the grubs below? Before reaching for your shotgun, try these simple steps for dealing with nuisance wildlife.

Nuisance or health and safety issue?

First, consider whether your wildlife issue is an immediate health and safety issue or a less serious nuisance problem that doesn’t immediately threaten community members, suggests Paul Curtis, an associate professor and extension wildlife specialist at Cornell University.

“If a coyote is in the area and killing small dogs—as happened recently in New York State—you should call the local police or animal-control officer to deal with the situation,” he says. But if you have a non-urgent problem, like an urban crow roost, you have more time to get local officials to tackle the issue.

Work with local officials

Bring local officials into your wildlife pest-control problem from the very beginning. Start with the lowest level of government and work your way up. For example, if you have rats and you live in a condominium or neighborhood with a homeowners association, contact the board of directors to see what they are willing to do.

If a pest problem is community-wide, the best way to solve it will involve tactics that target the entire community. Some communities contract with private vendors supplying wildlife control services. The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management lists U.S. wildlife-control professionals, along with tips for finding the right contractor.

Don’t assume that you can simply kill an animal that’s bothering you—it may be a federally protected species. Ask town, county, or other local officials whether the animal you’re trying to control falls under the jurisdiction of the local, state, or federal government.

If the animals causing trouble in your neighborhood are federally protected, then your local officials will have to consult with their federal counterparts at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to create animal control plans.

If the animals are not protected, the local government can decide how to deal with them.

Whether or not the animal is federally protected, local officials are in the best position to bring together all interested parties in a community, reducing conflict as animal-control planning progresses.

“People have very strong feelings about wildlife control—especially related to deer and geese. So it’s important to try to work out differences from the beginning,” Curtis says. “In the end, we all have the same goals: to find the best way to coexist with the wildlife around us.”