From Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky is blessed with a diversity of wildlife – some 74 species of mammals, 380 species of birds, and 112 species of reptiles and amphibians.
Many of the state’s outdoor enthusiasts encourage wildlife on their property and spend countless hours and considerable sums of money, to get close to nature and its wild creatures.
But, when a family of raccoons takes up residence in the attic, or an opossum spends more time in your garage than the family car does, it doesn’t take long for these uninvited guests to become a nuisance.
That’s when it’s time to call the local Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator.
“They are permitted to take and transport wildlife causing damage or threatening public health and safety,” said Chad Soard, a wildlife biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “At the present time, we have 106 licensed Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators in Kentucky.”
Operators are typically small business owners -- men and women working in Kentucky cities, suburbs and rural areas. Operators charge fees to remove nuisance wildlife and work year-round, often outside legal hunting and trapping seasons.
Based on the annual reports submitted by operators, the raccoon is the number one nuisance wildlife species. A majority of the raccoons captured live in the state’s three largest metropolitan areas – Louisville, Lexington and northern Kentucky.
“During the 2008-09 license year operators captured 4,723 raccoons, 3,016 squirrels, 1,854 opossums and 878 skunks,” said Soard. Other nuisance wildlife species that operators encountered included bats, woodchucks, coyotes, muskrats, beavers, chipmunks, birds, foxes, snakes, river otters, turtles, rabbits, mink and bobcats.
Robert Chilton, who operates Wildlife Animal Control in Henry County, said problems with nuisance wildlife change with the seasons.
“In January and February, when skunks are breeding, the females are seeking out dens, and that’s when you get problems with them digging under porches,” said Chilton. “The males are fighting over females and they do a lot of spraying.”
In May, there can be a spike in calls when raccoons begin to bear their young, and decide to set up a home in somebody’s attic. “They walk on the roof and find a way to get in from under the eve,” said Chilton. “Squirrels will do that too. They like to go through air vents.”
The telltale sign that something is living in the attic is when homeowners hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet running across attic joists.
In mid-summer, snakes can become a nuisance when they shed their skins. “They want to get away, where there isn’t any activity. They are vulnerable when they molt,” said Chilton. That’s why snakes try to come inside garages and out buildings and sometimes crawl between walls in houses.
With the onset of cold weather, squirrels seek out warmth in attics. Squirrels have a bad habit of actually working their way downstairs into houses. “They follow the light and gnaw their way through gaps in the plywood, where a pipe goes through a wall, the ceiling or into a closet,” said Chilton.
While many homeowners ask that the animal taken from their property unharmed, Soard said relocating nuisance wildlife is not always the best option. “The primary threat is the spread of disease to new populations,” he said. “Also, relocated animals often die soon after release due to natural mortality factors -- starvation from not being able to find food, or injury from fights with animals they encounter, when attempting to establish a new territory.”
By law, injured or diseased wildlife must be euthanized.
Nuisance wildlife control operators are permitted to deal with native wildlife under state jurisdiction, but they can’t capture and transport federally protected species unless they get a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Federally protected species include song birds, birds of prey (such as hawks and owls) and migratory waterfowl.
Resident Canada geese only migrate during periods of severe cold and snow and are a problem in urban areas, where they live around lakes in city parks, golf courses, and suburban neighborhoods. Goose droppings create a mess on sidewalks and driveways, and at times the big birds can be aggressive.
The names and telephone numbers of Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators, and the counties in which they work, are posted on the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website at fw.ky.gov.
Author Art Lander Jr. is a former outdoors writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He is an information specialist in the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Information Center.