Help With Problem Wildlife

Raccoon and Opossum Damage Control

Published on: Jun. 27, 2014

We Missourians love our wildlife — unless it gets a little too close to home. Then we need know-how or help keeping bats from denning in our attics, deer from decimating our gardens, and Canada geese from greasing our lawns.

Browse our nuisance wildlife info first

The Department offers online, call-in, and — when necessary — in-person help with controlling unwanted wildlife. If you have a problem critter on your place, try browsing our Nuisance Native Wildlife section before calling your local Department office. The Wildlife Control Guidelines page gives you an overview of regulations, permitted methods, and how to dispose of wildlife carcasses safely. Specific control sheets show you what works and what doesn’t for the 24 kinds of wildlife most likely to become nuisances in Missouri.

Call for help if the problem is too big to handle on your own

If you have a threatening situation — say you witnessed a coyote exhibit stalking behavior near your livestock, pets, or family — please do call your local Department office. Our wildlife-damage biologists can investigate and help you deal with the offending animal in a way that’s legal, safe, and humane.

Prevention is the best cure

Department wildlife-damage biologists Jim Braithwait and Daryl Damron say that the best way to deal with problem wildlife is to keep it from becoming a nuisance in the first place. “They’re like us,” Jim says. “They need food, water, and shelter. Don’t provide these three things, and they will find someplace else to live.” 

Precautions should be taken to avoid confrontations and loss before damage occurs, they say. "The most effective and long-lasting success will be achieved through damage prevention rather than responding to a animal, especially a bear, that already has discovered a food source." Bears learn rapidly, and if their activities are rewarded by food, then barriers or harassment techniques will be less effective, often resulting in a bear having to be destroyed.

Don’t feed the wildlife

If we leave out pet food or greasy grills, we should expect raccoons, opossums, and even bears (if there’s a population near by) to come to dinner. Don’t put out stinky garbage before collection time, and don’t feed the birds during summer months. “They have plenty of natural forage this time of year,” Jim and Daryl say. Keeping birdfeeders full in summer can make nuisances of raccoons, squirrels, deer, and other wildlife looking for easy pickings.

Protect small pets

If you live outside of town, you may have owls, bobcats, foxes, and coyotes on your property. If you also have prey-sized housecats and small dogs, they can attract wildlife — and become dinner for a hungry predator. Keep your small pets inside, especially at night, and don’t leave them tied up where large wildlife can easily attack and eat them. Conversely, keeping small pets inside most of the time prevents them from hammering small, sometimes declining wildlife, such as reptiles and songbirds.

Don’t invite wildlife to set up housekeeping

If you have brush, junk, or rock piles around your house, or if your roof has an opening, you will have mice, rats, skunks, groundhogs, bats, squirrels, raccoons, snakes, lizards, etc. making themselves at home. Keep rock gardens and walls well maintained, and inspect your roof and eaves yearly. Got woodpeckers hammering your siding? They’re looking for insects. Call your pest-control contractor, and the woodpeckers will find other places to forage.

Give wildlife time to move on

In fact, some wildlife will go away on their own if you give them a chance. Jim and Daryl get lots of complaints about foxes, especially in spring and summer. “Just give them a month,” Daryl says, “and they’ll be gone.” That’s because fox families disperse in the fall. Meanwhile, if you’ve got a problem with squirrels, you can count on foxes to set their numbers back a bit.

Consider hunting and trapping in season

If you’ve changed your habits, cleaned up your property, fixed the holes in your eaves — and you’ve still got problems — consider hunting or inviting hunters onto your land during specific hunting seasons. Even if you live in town, supporting or participating in urban deer hunting during season can help reduce the number of deer nipping the buds off your roses every spring.

 

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