Prevention and management of wildlife damage
December 5, 2014
A recent phone call, requesting information on dealing with bats, reminded me of the many questions I've been asked on limiting wildlife damage. While most people enjoy and appreciate wildlife, their activities are not always appreciated. The situations and species involved have varied, and since it's impossible to learn and remember all of the information, the reference handbook, "Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage" has been a savior.
Extension has long been recognized as a place to turn for help with problems of all kinds, and although the structure of the system has changed in South Dakota, we still welcome the tough questions. The handbook is now online, so if you want to look yourself, visit the "Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management": http://icwdm.org/.
This website contains the electronic version of the reference notebook, as well as a wealth of other information in the form of pictures, videos and much more. The handbook contains factsheets with details on identification, control and management of over 90 species of wildlife. Depending on the species, what they eat, their size, habitats and other characteristics, damage prevention and control methods might include exclusion, habitat modification, frightening, repellents, toxicants, fumigants, trapping, and/or other methods. If a control method is feasible for the wildlife species of concern, and what you are trying to protect, specific recommendations are provided in more detail.
As urban areas grow and humans continue to invade the wildlife habitat, the conflicts between people and animals become more common. One would hope that our goal would be to minimize the impact on desirable wildlife while we are striving to limit the damage they might do to our homes, gardens, etc.
So what is the remedy for bats? Although many people despise bats, in their native habitat, outdoors, they have tremendous ecological value. Virtually all bats in North America feed on insects, many of which are harmful to people. The only effective, lasting way to keep them out of homes or other buildings is exclusion, i.e. keeping them out. For the smaller species, that means eliminating gaps larger than 1/4" x 1 1/2" inches or holes larger than 5/8" x 7/8". Fine netting can also be effective for larger openings. If they're already in the building, you can take advantage of their need to get out to feed, but control should be initiated before young are born or after they are able to fly, and must allow them to get out but not back in. There is some one-way netting available to simplify this.