Controlling Nuisance Wildlife While Protecting Our National Symbol

By Kathy Reshetiloff / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

When it comes to conserving land and America’s wildlife, farmers and hunters have been at the forefront. Being outdoors much of the year, they often are the first to note changes in the landscape and local wildlife.

On the Delmarva Peninsula, farms are the economic engines that sustain many communities year round. In addition to growing crops, livestock and poultry farming are well established.

Agricultural lands and associated forested habitats together attract many types of small mammals, migratory birds and waterfowl. Private lands, including farms, also serve as Regulated Shooting Areas (RSA’s). These areas are managed for upland game birds and waterfowl which can be used by family or leased to hunters. This not only provides recreational opportunities but in some cases supplemental income.

But there are times when wildlife can become a problem to the point where some form of control is needed to protect crops or domestic animals from scavenging wildlife. In addition burrowing animals can also become a hazard to farm machinery during planting and harvesting seasons.

To reduce some of these wildlife impacts, poisons are often used by landowners to control problem wildlife which is not only illegal but unsafe. Many chemicals are toxic not only to targeted wildlife, but can also harm domestic animals, other non-targeted wildlife and potentially even people. Chemicals toxic to wildlife can runoff the land, eventually entering local streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, contaminating fish and other aquatic life. 

Some chemicals, like carbofuran, can no longer be used for any lawful purpose. Carbofuran was originally used to control insects on a wide variety of field crops. Carbofuran has one of the highest toxicities to people than any insecticide widely used on field crops. It is considered a neurotoxic pesticide. It can overstimulate the nervous system causing nausea, dizziness, confusion, and at high exposures, respiratory paralysis and death. The use of carbofuran in its granular form was banned in 1991. In 2009, the liquid form was banned for use on crops for human consumption.

Carbofuran is also toxic to mammals and fish, and particularly toxic to birds. In fact, in its granular form, a single grain will kill a bird.

The Chesapeake Bay area supports one of the largest bald eagle populations in the United States. Eagles forage and nest close to water, fields and mature forests often found near farming communities. In the poultry industry, the routine stock piling of chicken manure or their body parts and other organic materials frequently attract scavenging vulture and eagles to the agricultural landscape.

Besides being extremely dangerous, using it as a poison leaves an individual open to prosecution, fines and penalties for violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In Maryland, a person may not kill, attempt to kill, or injure by poison wildlife or domestic poultry. In Delaware, no person shall make use of any drug, poison, chemical or explosive for the purpose of injuring, capturing or killing birds or animals protected by the laws of the State.

So what can you do to control wildlife safely and legally? Do not use pesticides or other chemicals as poisons and do not bait meat or animal carcasses to lure wildlife. Bald and golden eagles, vultures, owls and other scavenging raptors are prone to consuming these baits Trapping and hunting are safer methods for controlling nuisance wildlife.

  • If you think you have a problem too large to be solved by these methods, contact APHIS Wildlife Services at 410-349-8055 or 1-866-4USDAWS. Their wildlife biologists can develop a wildlife management plan to protect your crops or domestic animals safely and legally.
  • For advice on how to safely and legally handle pesticides, please contact the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Regulation program at 410-841-5710.
  • For questions about hunting or trapping, contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources at 1-877-620-8DNR. For information regarding federally protected birds or wildlife, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 1-800-344-WILD.

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