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Michael Wheeler: To remove nuisance critters, start with what attracts them
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This is a topic that is full of opinion. What is a cute and cuddly critter to one person is a pest to another, or sometimes what begins as a cute animal turns into a pest after it ate your prize-winning roses or created $1,000 worth of damage to the garage or attic.

One of the first things to bring to the table on this topic is the legal issue with wildlife. Nearly all wildlife are protected by state and federal laws, even snakes. One specific law deals with native birds. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a strict liability law that does not allow you to pursue, hunt, take, capture kill or possess any migratory bird or anything associated with that bird, such as nests or eggs.

For more information about the laws which regulate nongame and game wildlife go to or contact an official from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Whether or not you hire a professional to solve your wildlife problem, or you think you can do it yourself, there are a few things to think about. All wildlife require three things: food, water and shelter. Remove one of these things and the animal will go elsewhere.

Also remember, to treat the problem not the symptom. This means the problem is the attractant that is bringing in the animal. The animal is the symptom.

An example of this is that there is a possum in the shed eating the dog food. The right answer to solve the problem is to seal up the dog food and any openings in the shed, then relocate the possum. If you just relocate the possum, then another hungry animal will be at the shed eating the dog food.

A model to think of when you are dealing with wildlife is called HERL. This model is based on the philosophy of removing the food, water or shelter; the animal will go to another place. The first step is “H,” habitat modification. The second step to move on to, if the first does not work is “E,” exclusion. The third step is “R,” removal or repellents.

And if all else fails, the final step is “L,” lethal control. Check with local, state or federal laws before moving on to this step. Sometimes a permit may be needed in order to legally kill an animal.

This is only a brief discussion of what can be done to control nuisance wildlife on your property. There are local licensed professionals in the area who will assist you in dealing with any problems if you feel that they are too much for you to handle on your own. But no matter how you deal with your wildlife problem, keep the HERL model in mind, even after the problem has gone away. This may keep the problem from returning.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, His column appears biweekly and on

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