There are many animals in the state of Florida. However, some can be more of a nuisance than others. All animals are part of the natural ecosystem and have their place. However, some animals can carry disease or cause other harm to humans. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), 68-A-9.010 nuisance wildlife refers to animals exhibiting behavior that:
- causes (or is about to cause) property damage
- presents a threat to public safety
- causes an annoyance within, under or upon a building
Any property owner can trap and remove wildlife that falls under these conditions; however, many animals require a special permit under certain circumstances. It is best to contact a professional wildlife trapper to minimize risk to yourself and others when dealing with a nuisance wildlife problem. The F.W.C. website has a list of trappers searchable by county. https://public.myfwc.com/HGM/NWT/NWTLogin.aspx
In Florida, common nuisance wildlife includes raccoons, opossums, alligators, skunks, and several other species. The following list will give you a general overview of the animal, their characteristics, and their feeding habits. As well as when and where these animals become a problem.
Well known as the black and grey ring-tailed “trash panda.” Raccoons have successfully adapted to any environment where they live. They have become especially adept at urban living. However, this is where it borders on becoming a nuisance. One of the foremost contributing factors to turn a raccoon from a friendly natural neighbor to a problem is by feeding them. As humans, we feel empathy for these little masked bandits rooting through the trash. But raccoons can go from cute to concern very quickly. As they become conditioned to not having to hunt for their food, they may invite themselves into your attic as an unwanted permanent guest. If the critters are hungry and you attempt to starve them out, then they can destroy crops, flowers, and other plantings around your yard. Raccoons are not picky in their food choices. If you have a swimming pool, they may use that as their personal loo. The biggest threat to humans is the fact that raccoons are a significant carrier of rabies. Raccoons are best left to themselves and admired from a distance. They do not need help from humans as they are clever enough to figure survival on their own. You can do your part to prevent raccoon annoyances by keeping your refuse in cans with a secured lid.
Opossums are probably the most helpful to humans of any species on this list. If you have them around, they eat both ticks and snakes. This species is immune to all but coral snake venom. It is estimated that a single opossum can eat up to five thousand ticks in a year. Despite popular myth, opossums do not spread rabies. They have a very low body temperature, which provides a difficult environment for the virus to flourish.
Opossums have a unique ability to “play dead” when they feel threatened, or actually whenever they feel like it. Although very often used as a method of self-defense, this ability to appear dead is an entirely voluntary reaction. Opossum control is similar to raccoon control, and nuisance issues are also shared between the two species. Keep your garbage tightly secured to avoid attracting opossums to hunt for their next meal. Make sure your home has no entry points to prevent opossums from taking up residence in crawlspaces, sheds, or garages.
Synonymous with Florida, the alligator is just as recognizable as the raccoon in terms of unique appearance. With a long, rounded snout, short legs, and vicious teeth, there is no mistaking an alligator for anything other than what it is. Female gators are usually around 9’ in length from nose to tail and weigh two hundred pounds or more. Males can grow to be thirteen feet or more and tip the scales at five hundred or more pounds. The record alligator was over nineteen feet long. Alligators attempt to eat anything that walks past them. They are extraordinarily adept to patiently wait for the next meal to happen along their path. They eat deer, fish, snakes, turtles, beavers, raccoons, large birds, and when then venture too close to human habitats pets, and small children have been known to be attacked. They quite often appear in people’s pools. Do not harass or otherwise interact with an alligator. Alligators are one of those animals that require a special permit to handle. If you have a potential nuisance gator, please go to https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/alligator/snap/ to report the issue. The commission will send out a licensed nuisance alligator trapper to assess the situation and remove it if necessary.
Skunks are just as recognizable as raccoons with their distinctive markings, bold white strips down a black body with a bushy tail. Skunks are also well known for their odiferous scent defense. Many a pup has come home needing several baths after losing a battle with the wrong end of a skunk. The scent usually takes days to remove from fur altogether. Skunks, raccoons, and opossums are opportunistic feeders, and all are well adapted to urban living. All three will dig through your refuse for their next meal. Skunks can also take up residence under sheds or decks, and in crawlspaces. Avoid attracting raccoons, skunks, and opossums by securing garbage lids and placing cans in a bin where they cannot be tipped over. Keeping chimneys capped, and crawlspaces sealed up to deter these otherwise harmless animals from taking up residence and become a nuisance.
Wolves, dogs, and foxes all belong to the canid family. Coyotes are a close relative of the domesticated dog. The average size of a Florida coyote is around thirty pounds and looks like a medium-sized dog. From the nose to the tip of the tail, they are about four feet in length. You’ll know if your neighborhood has coyotes if you hear their distinctive high-pitched yipping during the night. Coyotes are generally territorial, hunt at night, and try to avoid human contact. Over the past few years, however, human-coyote encounters have increased in frequency. Coyotes will also rummage through garbage cans, eat left out pet food, and otherwise search for opportunities that are easy meals. Coyotes are an essential part of the ecosystem as they eat rodents, insects, and other small animals. These animals generally hunt alone or in pairs unless they are taking on larger prey like a deer. Coyotes become a nuisance when they lose their fear of human interactions and keep returning to neighborhoods for food sources. Coyotes that have lost their fear of humans have been known to chase joggers and bikers, attack unleashed pets, and approach small children. Hazing a coyote is the best practice for discouraging coyotes from returning to an area. Hazing is the act of deterring a coyote from an area by making it less appealing. “Coyote shakers” are a popular method hazing. They are easy to make by putting coins, or small stones inside a coffee can or drink container. Keep it handy, and shake it when a coyote approaches you. Keep your pets safe by keeping cats indoors and small dogs on a leash no longer than six feet in length. Keep children safe by teaching them to recognize a coyote and to walk calmly away. Running away may incite the coyote to chase. They should also yell loudly, as this often scares the animal away. If an adult is nearby, they should also yell loudly as most coyotes will run away if challenged.
Merely seeing one of the animals on this list is not necessarily a cause for concern. If an animal presents in a way that is cause for concern, that is when a wildlife trapper should be called. Alligators anywhere outside of their natural habitat should always be a concern. However, if they are less than four feet in length, they likely don’t pose much of a threat to humans, their pets, or their property. These are small, usually juvenile gators that feed on frogs, fish, and other small animals like mice. They typically aren’t even a threat to most pets. Deter any of the other four animals on this list by not making it easy for them to find food on your property. Keep pet food indoors, secure garbage lids, and by all means, don’t help these animals by giving them food. It is illegal in Florida to do so. For those who may have poultry or other livestock, make sure to secure them behind predator resistance fencing. Coyotes aren’t the only ones who will raid the chicken coop.
Florida Department of State: Administrative Code and Administrative Register
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission: