This guide provides methods for managing wildlife damage, based on research, for a variety of different species using the latest control techniques within a framework of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Several important topics are addressed, such as control techniques, safety, wildlife diseases, animal biology, legal issues, and euthanasia. We have adapted this guide to an online format so individuals can read the information at their own convenience via the internet at This manual focuses on all aspects of wildlife damage management (WDM) that are essential for homeowners, gardeners and other non-licensed people who wish to resolve human-wildlife conflicts.

Prevention of damage is something many people can and should do to reduce potential conflicts with wildlife and economic losses. Understanding the basics of WDM and the general principles of IPM enables homeowners, gardeners, landowners, and others to deal with a wide range of human-wildlife conflicts.

This guide will help you understand federal laws and regulations pertaining to control of vertebrate pests, specifically mammals and birds. When dealing with wildlife, you need to understand local and state laws, as well as the major federal regulations. Those who wish to assist others or themselves in WDM should know which species can be managed, the management methods that can be used legally, and the considerations and safeguards needed to protect non-target species. They should know how to obtain information from state and federal websites. Some violations (e.g., violating the Endangered Species Act) may result in criminal charges.

Pest identification is a critical component of WDM. Those who want to deal with wildlife damage should be able to identify the common mammal and bird pests in both urban and agricultural environments. It also is important to identify the species by its tracks, sign, and types of damage. It is helpful to understand whether the species is native or invasive, as legal requirements for management may vary. Check out the species information on this website.

A certain amount of knowledge of vertebrate biology and ecology is necessary to understand how to manage a problem species. Knowledge of the species’ litter size, food and water requirements, preferred habitat, local predators, and activity cycles will help in the creation of a successful management plan for the problem species.

The importance of safety in any program cannot be overstated. Dealing with problem wildlife can be hard and dangerous work. One of the most frequent causes of injuries when dealing with problem wildlife is a fall from a ladder. In addition, animal behavior can be unpredictable, resulting in bites, scratches, and attacks. Animals can carry diseases and parasites that can harm people or pets. Pay close attention to health and safety recommendations. If you have concerns about your ability to handle a certain task, we suggest hiring a professional.

Success in WDM is obtained when the problem is reduced to a tolerable level. Successful resolution of human wildlife conflicts uses the following process:

  1. set an economic threshold,
  2. identify the pest,
  3. locate and monitor the pest or damage,
  4. determine the legal status of the pest and obtain necessary permits, and
  5. choose prevention or control methods.

The goal of this guide is to provide the information needed to make good decisions when performing WDM activities. Some procedures, such as shooting or trapping, require a higher level of skill than others. Many prevention and control measures, such as habitat modification, exclusion, and sanitation can be performed by most people.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a key component of WDM. The goals of any good pest management program are to start with what is easy, least expensive, and has the lowest risk to the environment and non-target species. Prevention and control measures must be legal, and used ethically and with integrity.

What is Wildlife IPM?

Wildlife IPM is an effective and environmentally-sensitive approach to wildlife pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. The wildlife IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of problem animals and their interactions with the environment. This information, in combination with available control methods, allows us to manage wildlife damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.

The IPM approach for WDM can be applied to both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, such as the home, garden, and workplace. Also, this approach takes advantage of all appropriate management options including, but not limited to, the judicious use of trapping or other lethal controls. This approach also takes into account the conservation and preservation of our natural resources, and attempts to enhance the enjoyment of wildlife through balanced efforts of control and management.

How do Wildlife IPM programs work?

Wildlife IPM is not a single animal control method, but rather, a series of wildlife management evaluations, decisions and control activities. In practicing WDM, those aware of the potential for wildlife problems should follow a four-tiered approach (Figure 1).


Figure 1. The four steps of IPM in WDM.

The four steps include:

Set Action Thresholds

Before implementing any method, WDM first sets an action threshold, a point at which environmental or economic conditions indicate that a wildlife management action must be taken. Sighting an animal in the back yard does not always mean control is needed. The level at which wildlife will become an intolerable problem, a safety or health concern, or become an economic threat, is critical to guide WDM decisions.

Identify and Monitor Problem Animals

Only a few species require control. Many wildlife species are innocuous, and some are even beneficial. A WDM program accurately identifies problem animals and monitors their activity so that appropriate control decisions can be made. Accurate identification and monitoring are the first steps in reducing the possibility that an inappropriate method will be used when it is not really needed, or that non-target animals will be impacted.


As a first line of pest management, WDM programs work to manage the garden, home landscape, or indoor space to prevent animals from becoming a threat. Exclusion and habitat modification are powerful, long-term management methods. This could include selecting animal-resistant varieties of ornamental plants, or planting garden crops that are not attractive to wildlife. It also could mean using netting, fencing, or setting up the garden in a controlled space, such as a yard patrolled by a dog. Removing food attractants, such as spilled birdseed, is very important. Also making sure that chimneys are capped, and buildings are in good repair, is critical. These management methods can be very effective and cost-efficient, and present no risk to people or the environment.


Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that wildlife control is required, and preventive methods are no longer effective or available, WDM programs then evaluate potential control methods both for effectiveness and risk. Effective methods with less risk are chosen first, including exclusion, repellents, or the use of one-way doors. If further monitoring, sightings, and action thresholds indicate that these methods are not working, then additional approaches should be employed. These could include trapping and removal of wildlife, or judicious use of toxicants. Lethal control methods are often a last resort.

Do most homeowners use WDM?

With these steps, WDM is best described as a continuum. Most landowners identify the exact species of nuisance wildlife before taking action. A smaller subset of homeowners use only less risky methods such as netting and fencing, habitat modification, and a high level of sanitation. Some resort to lethal control. All of these methods are on the IPM continuum, ranging from low risk to higher risk. The goal is to move clients only as far along the IPM continuum as needed to resolve a conflict.

If I grow my own fruits and vegetables, can I practice WDM in my garden?

Yes, WDM principles can be applied to home gardens and landscapes by following the four-tiered approach outlined earlier. For more specific information on practicing WDM in your garden, contact your state Cooperative Extension Service for assistance.

Wildlife Damage Management for Master Gardeners Practical Core Wildlife Control Principles and Methods is designed to convey the basic knowledge needed to perform WDM. Check out the professional version of this program at or consult the Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. The 1994 version is available at, and is a resource for anyone who deals with wildlife damage problems – from professionals to the general public.