2018-05-16 / Gardening Tips

Nuisance Wildlife

By Bob Beyfuss

The woods have exploded with all sorts of wonderful wildflowers this past week, just in time for Mother’s Day weekend! In the past seven days I have noted the appearance of blue cohosh, bloodroot, wild columbine, spring beauty, trout lily, baneberry, ramps, herb Robert, coltsfoot, red trillium, partridge berry, wintergreen, hepatica, and even some wild ginseng is popping up!

The trees and shrubs have taken on a lovely shade of lime green and our lawns have a much darker green hue that I find almost equally attractive. There is no need to apply lawn fertilizer now, despite the TV and radio ads, since the grass either turns green on its own at this time of season, or it is dead. There are some lawns with dead patches due to grubs and the presence of moles tunneling often indicates a grub problem as well. Wait until the end of May to fertilize your lawn, or better yet, wait until September.

Common questions

The rest of this week’s column was written by Lynn Braband, of the NYS IPM program at Cornell University. It answers many common questions about the legal status of our local wildlife. This is the time of the year when woodchucks, skunks, moles, chipmunks, rabbits and red squirrels make their presence known in a bad way. What is most notable about the regulations is that it is not legal to transport any wild animals, dead or alive off your property.

So if you live trap that nuisance woodchuck or rabbit that is eating your garden, you need to kill and bury or burn it on your premises! It is also illegal to kill any type of snake, any other reptile, i.e snapping turtle or amphibian (frogs and salamanders) under any circumstance.

The major regulatory agencies for wild vertebrates in New York are the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (all species) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (migratory birds and federally endangered species). Every species of wild vertebrate in the state has a legal classification. The classification categories, of most relevance to vertebrate pest management, are “unprotected” and “protected.”

“Unprotected” species

An “unprotected” species can legally be taken by the property owner at any time of the year and by any means as long as other laws (i.e., pesticide regulations, firearm discharge ordinances, trespassing laws, etc.) are not violated. However, without a permit, the property owner cannot release the animal off his/her property. The animal must be destroyed and buried or cremated. An “unprotected” animal could also be released on the same property where it was captured. “Unprotected” mammals include shrews, moles, bats (except Indiana bat, which is federally protected), chipmunk, woodchuck, red squirrel, flying squirrels, voles, mice, and Norway rat. The rock pigeon (feral pigeon), house sparrow, and European starling are “unprotected” bird species.

There are two subcategories of “protected” species. For some “protected” mammal species, if an individual animal is causing damage (not merely being a nuisance), it can be captured and/or destroyed by the property owner. Mammalian species, which are classified under this category, include opossum, raccoon, weasels, skunk, porcupine, and gray squirrel. However, the animal (dead or alive) cannot be transported off the landowner’s property without a nuisance wildlife control permit. Exceptions would be animals that are taken during a legal hunting or fur trapping season established for that species if the appropriate hunting or trapping license has been obtained. Another exception is that skunks may legally be taken if only a nuisance (not causing damage).

Nuisance wildlife control permits are issued to individuals who have gone through the prescribed application process.

A few mammals (including bear, beaver, deer, mink, and muskrat), most birds, and (currently) all reptiles and amphibians are not only “protected” but cannot be captured and/or removed from property without special case-by-case permits.

NOTE: This document is for information only. If you have a question concerning the legal status of a species or contemplated action, contact the Wildlife section of the regional office of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. For more information, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/ 81531.html

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