As a Florida homeowner, many animals are often found in our neighborhoods and backyards, including raccoons, opossums, skunks, armadillos, and of course, alligators. But where does seeing any of these animals become a nuisance wildlife concern?
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission defines nuisance wildlife as an animal that:
- Causes or is about to cause property damage
- Presents a threat to public safety
- Causes an annoyance within, under, or upon a building.
Many of these animals can invade attics and crawlspaces. They will rummage through garbage and get into scuffs with our pets. Sometimes these animals carry diseases that can be harmful to humans. Other times, wildlife is just doing what it does, trying to survive. As urban sprawl expands, these animals have less and less area to be themselves, and so animal-human interactions become more commonplace.
With each animal, there are laws about what you can do and how you have to handle them. Some require special permits to handle and remove, like alligators. But would you really want to try to get an alligator out of your pool? Other times, animals can be trapped and relocated or euthanized depending on the creature. It is always best to call in a wildlife trapper to help you with your nuisance wildlife concerns. Doing so will avoid any potential harm to your or your family.
A Note on Relocating
Many species do not take well to being relocated and will attempt to find their way back to their place of origin. These animals have made a home there and want to return. Also, larger or more adapted wildlife in their new area may chase them away or kill them, fearing the competition brought by this stranger. This is the reason many nuisance wildlife are euthanized rather than relocated. However, depending on the species, it may be protected and, therefore, cannot be euthanized. Other animals, such as wild hogs are so problematic that you may not even need a special permit to hunt or trap them.
One species in Florida is so problematic that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission holds an annual event to catch and kill them. The Burmese Python is an invasive species in Florida and is competition for the state’s natural predators like the alligator and the Florida Panther. FWC encourages all people to learn to spot and safely capture these snakes for removal and destruction. Python Patrol is a unique program led by the FWC that teaches anyone how to identify, capture, and remove these snakes when they are spotted. The Python Bowl is an annual event where the FWC encourages hunters, anglers, and all other sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts to participate in trapping and removing these invasive snakes for prizes. There are no regulations on hunting, trapping, and killing these constrictor snakes throughout the year. FWC asks that you first be trained to handle them safely, and of course, you must have landowner permission to hunt for these or any other wildlife. There are over twenty Wildlife Management Areas where you can hunt for Burmese Pythons at any time of the year without restriction.
Most other snakes in Florida are not a problem, and are, in fact, a valuable part of the ecosystem. If you see a snake in your yard today, know that by tomorrow it will be far from your property. Snakes travel over large areas. These animals regularly eat rodents and other small pests, so there really isn’t a good reason to kill a snake unless it posses an immediate danger to yourself or your children and pets. Snakes don’t attack unless they feel threatened. Avoid harassing or otherwise molesting a snake, and it will, in turn, leave you alone as well. If you happen to notice snakes around an area often, it is likely that you have a rodent problem. A snake will hang around so long as there is a plentiful food supply. Remove brush, debris, and other attractants for the rodents, and you will also solve your snake “problem.”
Bats are a concern because of their nesting habits. Bats are nocturnal, meaning they hunt at night and sleep during the day. But they can roost in nearly any small space. A bat can fit through an opening only 3/8th of an inch wide. Bats become a nuisance when they roost in chimneys, attics or walls. The animals themselves are not necessarily problematic, but their droppings can accumulate quickly, and the smell is not pleasant. According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the number of rabies cases from bats is highly exaggerated. Death from rabies transmitted by bats has only totaled eight cases in both the United States and Canada in the last thirty years!
The only method of legal prevention and control of bats in Florida is exclusion. Exclusion is not permitted through the spring and summer months (April-August) because baby bats may become trapped inside the building from which the bats are being excluded. Bat houses are an excellent alternative to prevent bats from roosting in your human-occupied buildings. Bat houses offer an excellent way for property owners to get the benefit of bats without having to deal with them in their buildings. Bats eat many pest insects and are therefore useful to have in proximity. Light or high pitched sound devices can also be used to discourage bats from certain areas.
Woodpeckers pose potential damage to houses and other structures because of their hunting method. They can also be a noise disturbance for the same reason. Woodpeckers build nests and search for food by driving holes in exterior surfaces of homes and trees. These birds are very territorial, and it can be difficult to discourage them once they have made a home on your property. Mesh and nylon netting can be hung to prevent them from landing on home siding but should be placed about 3″ from the surface. Plastic covering can also be used on the siding to prevent them from perching. The most common method of woodpecker deterrent is the use of model owls and hawks. These large birds are natural predators of the woodpecker. With the presence of these plastic impersonators, homeowners have had some success in discouraging woodpeckers from their dwellings.
Muscovy ducks are considered problematic in Florida due to the competition they cause for other native waterfowl. Muscovy Ducks are a nuisance because they can transmit disease, damage property, and often interbreed with other waterfowl. Likely introduced into the wild by people keeping them as pets and later releasing them or other means of escape, they have invaded residential areas. They are a common sight in every part of the state. Muscovy ducks are easily identified by the red warty appearance of their faces around their eyes and bills. These ducks multiply quickly, which contributes to their nuisance classification. People often feed them, which makes them less afraid of humans and prone to stay in areas where food, especially free food, is plentiful. Like Canadian Geese, Muscovy Ducks can sometimes be aggressive.
Because this is considered an invasive species, no permit is required to catch them. However, because people keep them as pets, one must identify whether the ducks have an owner. If the owner is located, you should inform them that it is illegal in Florida to release Muscovy Ducks. They must be contained from intermingling with other wildlife and must be retained and restricted from leaving the owner’s property. If no owner can be identified, there is no permit required to catch these ducks. However, because it is illegal to release them, they cannot be relocated and, therefore, must be humanely euthanized. In this situation, it is best to call in a wildlife trapper who can help trap and euthanize these pesky ducks.
General Prevention and Control
Many species can easily be discouraged from nesting or otherwise taking up residence on your property by following a few simple guidelines. For smaller pests like raccoons, skunks, and opossums, keeping your garbage lids secured is the simplest of solutions. Also, remember to pick up spilled birdseed or other food sources from your backyard. Don’t leave out pet food or other food attractants. Keep debris and brush piles cleaned up as not to provide homes for rodents, snakes, and other wildlife. Make sure your home is sealed and that there are no cracks in the foundation or entry points to crawlspaces. If you have a chimney, invest in a chimney cap to discourage small mammals and bats from taking up residence. Do not leave your pets outside unattended, especially overnight. While this may prevent some animals like raccoons and opossums, it could also warrant an attack by coyotes or other larger prey animals.
If you find yourself with a nuisance wildlife concern in Florida, you should first consider procuring the assistance of an expert wildlife trapper. If you wish to handle the situation on your own, there are a few things to consider first. The most important is to familiarize yourself with the regulations surrounding the trapping, hunting, and relocating of wildlife in the state. You can begin your research on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions licensing page: https://myfwc.com/license/wildlife/. Here you will find answers to the most common questions surrounding hunting, trapping, and removing wildlife from your property. Of course, it is much safer to call an expert wildlife trapper. These trappers are trained in the proper handling techniques and are already familiar with the laws surrounding each particular species. They may also possess the legal authority to trap and remove certain animals, like alligators. Remember to keep the safety of yourself and your family in mind first when dealing with nuisance wildlife concerns.