University of Maryland Extension


How to Manage and Prevent Nuisance Wildlife

raccoon walking on snow

  • Identify the animal responsible for the damage before attempting control. Also, see the photos below. 
  • 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 roofline 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.

Common Wildlife Pests

brown bat

Beaver adult

adult chipmunk

jumping coyote

crow on rock

deer browsing
red fox

adult groundhogGroundhogs

field mice

garden mole

adult oppossumOppossums

grey rabbit
raccoon in tree
rats in a bag of grain
adult shrew

adult skunk

black snakeSnakes

grey squirrelSquirrels

meadow vole
woodpecker on tree
Woodpeckers and Sapsuckers
Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2021. Web Accessibility

University programs, activities, and facilities are available to all without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, physical or mental disability, religion, protected veteran status, genetic information, personal appearance, or any other legally protected class. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event or activity, please contact your local University of Maryland Extension Office.