Nuisance Control

Hazing, Securing Property And Small Pets Are Good Ways To Keep Nuisance Wildlife Away In Louisiana’s Urban Areas

story by TRey Iles, LDWF Public Information

That Louisiana is a haven for wildlife is no great revelation. Though greatly diminished in the last couple of centuries, there is still viable habitat for many species that call the Bayou State home.

So it’s natural for there to be numerous human/wildlife conflicts in Louisiana.

Many of these conflicts come in urban areas, which may surprise some people. You’d expect wildlife in rural areas and coastal regions. Seeing an alligator wander into someone’s yard in Cameron Parish, for example, would be par for the course.

But Louisiana Department Wildlife and Fisheries personnel field many nuisance wildlife calls from the bigger population centers such as the New Orleans metro area. And many times, those calls deal with coyotes or foxes, said biologist Melissa Collins, LDWF’s permits coordinator who oversees the nuisance wildlife program.

Sightings of those two canid species have increased through the last several years. Coyotes and foxes are synanthropic species, meaning they live near and can benefit from an association with humans and the artificial habitats that humans create.

With an increase in urban sprawl, more coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks and certain rodents, which aren’t true forest dwellers, are being spotted.

Urban areas provide shelter, such as tool sheds, under porches and other storage areas, and food, garbage, bird feeders and rodents, to these species.

While some people enjoying seeing these species, many others would prefer them to reside elsewhere. Collins said there are several ways to discourage what you would consider nuisance wildlife in urban areas.

“The first thing someone should do, though, is identify what is actually going on,’’ Collins said. “Is it really a nuisance animal. Is it a dog? A cat? A lot of times people will find that it’s not a coyote or fox.

“Once you’ve identified the problem and it is, say, a coyote, you need to make sure your garbage is picked up and you’re not throwing out compost, oils and scraps. And don’t leave dog or cat food out, even if it’s in a container. Don’t assume these animals can’t get into it.’’

Though coyotes don’t normally attack humans, they will seek pets such as small dogs and cats as prey. Collins said it is imperative for owners to secure their pets.

“If you have small animals, you should have them on a leash when they’re outside with you,’’ Collins said. “Otherwise, bring them in with you. If you can’t do that, then you need to put them in a pen or enclosure.’’

If you spot a coyote or fox and don’t want it around, it’s best to deter and haze the animal.

“The most economical method is to haze, haze, haze,’’ Collins said. “That could mean throwing whatever is nearest to you at them. Stomping your feet at them, making yourself look big and loud. It’s the same thing we tell people to do with bears. Let them know they’re not welcome. If you do that enough the animals will learn.’’

Collins said when you haze coyotes for the first time, they may trot off but then will turn back and look at you. They may do that several times before leaving. But just keep at it and they’ll be deterred.

The one thing to never do is feed wildlife, be it coyotes, foxes or any other non-domesticated animal. When humans provide food to wildlife, it acclimates, or habituates, them. They become reliant on a human handout that isn’t necessary.

“Wildlife really doesn’t need our help foraging for food,’’ Collins said. “Don’t approach them, don’t talk to them, don’t treat them like you would your dog or cat. Don’t feed them. It’s unnecessary. They know what to do.’’

Collins said that it is important to observe the behavior of nuisance wildlife when hazing or deterring. If you think the animal is displaying abnormal behavior then it might be wise to call nuisance control.

“You’re looking for a combination of abnormal behaviors,’’ Collins said. “Animals that have significant hair loss, wobbling or circling. They appear to be partially paralyzed. A lot times you’ll see their back ends go out as they walk or run. They’re acting disoriented. They’ll mutilate themselves sometimes. They appear to be agitated. They bite or snap at imaginary, or sometimes, real objects. If they’re drooling.

“Sometimes they appear to be tame and seem to have no fear of humans. That could be one of two things. Someone has either acclimated them or habituated them to humans. Or there is a neurological issue where the animal is no longer afraid of humans. That’s cause for concern.’’

It’s best to be educated on how to deal with urban wildlife, Collins said, because these species aren’t going away. It’s unwise to interact with any wild animal other than to haze and deter it.

“It’s increasingly difficult in urban areas,’’ Collins said. “You can’t set the normal traps you would in a rural area. Snare or foothold traps are not always the best choice in a neighborhood where you may catch a dog or cat. The best and most effective method is hazing and deterring.’’

Additional Information

For more information on dealing with nuisance wildlife, go to

www.wlf.la.gov/wildlife/nuisance-wildlife.

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