Greg Bowman

One great thing about living in the country is seeing an abundance of wildlife. At times on our farm, you see a variety of critters so much you can take these natural resources for granted. Most people like the outdoors and will either hike, camp, canoe or hunt and fish, for example, where you can see a wide range of animals. If you will stop and take the time to see what is around you, wildlife can be a very amazing thing.

Many people will even try to improve wildlife habitat on their property or add nesting boxes for birds to make wildlife viewing more frequent on their land. On the flip side, sometimes wildlife can become a nuisance in some situations, such as animals other than the birds eating the birdseed from a feeder or animals raiding the vegetable garden or fruit orchard. Our article today will share information from a UGA publication by Dr. Mike Mengak, UGA Wildlife Specialist, on how to handle situations where wildlife and humans have conflicts.

For starters, we need to discuss legality issues. You need to remember that state and federal laws protect basically all wildlife. These laws set standards or regulations on which animal species can be harassed, harvested, trapped, hunted or harmed.

Wildlife, according to Mengak, are generally referenced as free-ranging, terrestrial vertebrates. This normally includes snakes, lizards, frogs, toads and all other wild animals. Fish are normally treated separately. When you are dealing with a nuisance wildlife situation, you need to know what you can do legally.

According to Mengak, the legality issues can be reviewed by researching the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Note that all native birds are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In fact, citizens may not pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or possess at any time any migratory bird, their nest or egg. This includes feathers, shell or any other bird parts. The point is when dealing with nuisance wildlife, you need to know what you can do legally or you can get in trouble.

Citizens can protect property from wildlife damage, but you need to seek the correct and legal way to handle the situation. You need to keep one simple thing in mind- that wildlife needs three things to call a site home. Those items are food, water and shelter. Many times, if you remove one of the three, the nuisance animal will normally leave. Many times, leaving food out for the wildlife is the problem. For example, even the county agent is guilty of feeding his dogs and cats in the evening, and also may leave out more food than the pets can eat. Dog and cat food make a great easy meal for critters such as an opossum. You can stop the problem by putting the pet food in a tight sealing container, feed the animals at a time the wild animals normally will not be out searching for food and by only putting out the right animal of food for your pets.

I know most people love to watch wildlife. My wife and dad have bird feeders. It is great way to attract birds. At the same time, you can attract squirrels that can raid the feeder or even rodents such as mice that will eat the bird seed that falls to the ground. The point is that when you attract animals you do want, you can attract others that you do not want. The best things is to know your wildlife.

Mengak states to learn the habits, preferences and requirements of offending animals and try to remove or modify the habitat to make it not as pleasing to that species. This seems to be a bad year for snakes and human conflicts. Snakes like to consume mice or other rodents. Rodents need cover or shelter to feel safe. If you remove cover or hiding spots for mice, many times snakes will leave because the mice are gone.

In some situations, exclusion which can mean fencing or some sort of barrier can work. Deer can be a big problem in vegetable gardens. Some people may resort to fences, but for deer they need to be at least 8 feet taller or even higher. For smaller animals that like to dig, fence material such as chicken wire may have to buried up to a foot in the ground. Removal and even repellents can work if you follow laws on trapping and even releasing laws. You have to follow proper uses of repellents such as where and on what they can be used on. Note, if a product sounds too good to be true, many times, according to Mengak, it is.

For more information, contact UGA Extension- Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email gbowman@uga.edu.