One man or woman’s cute and cuddly critter is another person’s pest. Or sometimes what begins as a cute animal turns into a pest after it eats your prize-winning roses or caused $1,000 in damage to the garage or attic.
And everyone seems to have an opinion on the cute critter or destructive pest.
One of the first elements to discuss regarding the topic is the legal issue of 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 people to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or possess any migratory bird or anything associated with the bird, such as nests or eggs.
Therefore, before you address your wildlife problem, consult the laws regulating game and nongame wildlife at www.georgiawildlife.com or call the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division at 770-918-6401.
When you know the laws, the second act to consider is whether or not to hire a professional to solve your wildlife problem. You may think you can do it yourself, but think about a few things.
First, all wildlife require three things: food, water and shelter. Remove one, and the animal will go elsewhere.
Second, treat the problem not the symptom. This means the problem is the item attracting the animal to your yard. The animal is the symptom.
An example is a possum in the shed eating the dog food. Solve the problem by sealing the food, plug holes in the shed and relocate the possum.
Finally, commit the mnemonic word “HERL” when dealing with wildlife. It is based on the philosophy of removing the food, water or shelter, which will cause the animal will leave.
“H” stands for habitat modification.
If it does not work, try the second step of “E” or exclusion.
The third step is “R” for removal or repellents.
And if all else fails, the final step is “L” for lethal control. Check with local, state or federal laws before moving to this step. Sometimes a permit may be needed.
This is only a brief discussion of what you can do to control nuisance wildlife on your property. Licensed professionals may assist you if you feel they are too much for you to handle.
But no matter how you deal with your wildlife problem, keep the HERL model in mind, even after the problem has gone away. It 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, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.