University of Maryland Extension

Best Practices - Wildlife

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Best Practices to Support Beneficial Wildlife

Best Practices to Manage Nuisance Wildlife

raccoon walking on snow

  • Identify the animal responsible for the damage before attempting control. 
  • Food, water and shelter are the basic requirements for most wildlife to thrive. Habitat modifications can be put in place to limit one or all three of these components to discourage unwanted wildlife pests. For example, remove food sources like easily accessible pet food, keep trash can lids tightly secured, and reduce areas of standing water. Eliminate woodpiles and areas of thick vegetation near your home. Keep garage and basement doors closed to keep mice and other critters out of the home, especially in the fall. Install a chimney cap to prevent squirrels, birds, and raccoons from coming down the chimney.
  • Seal all holes, cracks or crevices around your home. Inspect the weather stripping on doors and basement windows for tightness of fit. A common entrance for small snakes is along small gaps between the top of the basement walls and the siding of frame houses. 
  • Trim branches overhanging the roof line or touching the house.
  • Block off access to underneath porches, decks and sheds by installing 1/4 - 1/2 inch galvanized hardware cloth, buried 3-4 inches deep into the ground. 
  • Educate yourself regarding the control options, their costs, and practicality; then select and implement the options and monitor the results, changing your options as needed. 
  • Relocating animal pests such as squirrels, rabbits, or groundhogs, is not a humane way to deal with the problem as many folks think. In fact, relocating most animals requires a permit from the state wildlife agency (Maryland Department of Natural Resources). Also, research shows that relocated animals tend to die more quickly since the relocation process causes damaging physiological stress, they are unfamiliar with the area and are less prepared to deal with predators, and they must compete with other existing wildlife in the area where habitat is already limited. Contact your local animal control agency or The Nuisance Wildlife Information Line (NWIL), which is a service provided jointly by the MD Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the US Department of Agriculture, for information on trapping and relocating nuisance wildlife. Call toll free at 1-877-463-6497 M-F from 8 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4:30 p.m. Permits to control nuisance wildlife can be issued over the phone on a case by case basis. To find a Wildlife Damage Control Cooperator, who for a fee will remove or deal with problem wildlife, look on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website.
  • Timing, persistence, and if necessary using more than one control method are the keys to effective control.
  • Feeding deer is not recommended. The practice upsets the size of the local herd, increases their tendency to become pests, and may contribute to the spread of disease within their population.
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