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Nuisance Wildlife

More than 75 percent of the U.S. population lives in urban areas. While the growth of cities and subdivisions displaces some wildlife, many species continue to live in the habitat available in parks, undeveloped parcels of land and vacant lots, along stream and river corridors and in our backyards. Their presence can provide recreational and educational viewing opportunities. For many people, especially children, viewing wildlife in the backyard is exciting. People and wildlife can peacefully coexist in most situations. However, there may be times when conflicts arise.

Contact your district office for additional information about wildlife control.

Nuisance Species

Read more about how to prevent and control these common nuisance wildlife species. 

General Prevention

  • Don't feed wildlife. If you choose to feed songbirds, place the feeder where it is inaccessible to other wildlife species.
  • Use a feeder with a gravity-operated treadle to discourage squirrels, and don't let spilled food accumulate.
  • Trim tree branches that extend over your roof or install a three-foot-wide band of sheet metal (six feet above the ground) around the trunks of trees which overhang your house. This will reduce the access raccoons have to your roof.
  • Cover window wells with grates, bubbles or hardware cloth.
  • Keep pet food inside.
  • Seal up holes around and under home foundations.
  • Bury 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth one to two feet deep in places where animals might gain access through digging.
  • Store garbage in metal or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. Keep the containers in the garage or shed and put trash out only when it is scheduled for pick up.
  • Fence gardens and cover fruit trees and berry bushes with netting. Screen fireplace chimneys and furnaces (from February to September) as well as attic and dryer vents. Keep dampers closed when not in use (consult a knowledgeable source to prevent fire or safety hazards).
  • Decks built less than two feet off the ground should have 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth nailed from the top of the outside joists to the bottom of a 10-inch trench, leaving about six to eight inches of extra hardware cloth at the bottom to form an L-shape. Wooden lattice can be added for aesthetics.
  • Seal all holes and cracks in your foundation, siding or stucco that are larger than 3/8 inch wide to keep rats, mice, bats, and snakes out. Common entry points include chimneys; gaps around window air conditioners, water pipes or electric outlets; openings in interior walls that lead to the attic or ceiling; loose or shrunken siding boards; and loose vent covers.
  • Repair broken, weak or rotted areas on the roof, soffit and fascia of your house.
  • Mark large windows with strips of white tape or raptor (hawk) silhouettes to avert birds from flying into the window.


There are 10 bat species commonly found in Ohio and they are all insectivores, meaning they eat insects. Bats are the only major predator of night-flying insects and they help farmers by saving them billions of dollars a year on pest control. Bats are usually able to exist near human homes without making their presence known. However, with decreasing amounts of habitat available for bats (e.g., trees being cleared), bats may find their way into man-made structures. Bats use existing openings (cracks as small as 1 ¼ inch by 3/8 of an inch) to enter buildings or to roost in attics. To remove unwanted bats from a building, you must place an exclusion device over their main entrance and seal all other holes. Exclusion devices allow bats to safely exit the house but keeps them from getting back inside. After leaving the device up for several days and ensuring all bats are gone, the device can be removed, and the last exit sealed.

In order to protect flightless bat pups, it is unlawful to perform an exclusion between May 16-July 31 if there are 15 or more bats inside a structure. In situations where human health and safety is at risk, a property owner/designee may seek written authorization from the Chief of the Division of Wildlife to perform an exclusion during the restricted period. Before applying for authorization, the property owner/designee must inspect the property for bats and perform two bat watches at dawn or dusk at the structure within a 7-day period. To apply for exclusion authorization, please complete and return a Bat Exclusion Authorization Application (Please contact ODNR Division of Wildlife customer service at 1-800-WILDLIFE (945-3543) or wildinfo@dnr.state.oh.us for more information).

Bat Exclusion Authorization Application [pdf 509Kb] (link coming soon)

Occasionally, a bat may get in your house. If one does, there is no need to panic. Open a window or exterior door, and close interior doors, confining it to one room if possible. The bat will leave as soon as it locates the exit. If the bat continues to stay in the house, we recommend calling a professional to have it removed. If you decide to remove the bat yourself, the “shoebox method” is the best way to do that without physically handling the bat. Grab a shoebox, or some sort of sturdy container, and place it over the bat, whether on the floor or wall. Then, slip a lid or piece of cardboard under the box. Take the box outside and place it up against a tree so that the bat can crawl out onto the tree as bats cannot fly from the ground. This method works well in the spring, fall, and summer, but if it is the middle of winter, it is advised that you contain the bat in a box with a small blanket or towel and call a local wildlife rehabilitator. Rehabilitators that can handle bats are the rabies vector species certified rehabilitators listed on our orphaned and injured wildlife page. You should never handle the bat with bare hands, so wear the thickest gloves you can find, preferably leather or fireplace gloves. Then, determine how the bat got into the house and seal the opening(s).

If you have a colony of bats in your house, normally in the attic, it would be good a time to call a professional company to come to your house and carry out an exclusion. The most popular and recommended form of exclusion is a one-way door. This allows for the bats to leave on their own, as they would to forage at night, and then they would not able to get back into the house. When installing a one- way door, it is advised that you also bat proof your house. Bat- proofing is a way to close off all possible entrances in a house. Due to the small areas that bats can fit into, it is best to have a professional do this.

All bats in Ohio are declining and protected in some form or another and cannot be intentionally harmed. Therefore, you should not kill the bats in your attic as it is illegal. However, they should be removed due to potential health concerns for humans. Feces from bats and birds can hold a lung infection disease known as histoplasmosis. For this reason, it is advised that after excluding the bats, the attic is thoroughly cleaned with proper protective gear. For more information about histoplasmosis, you can visit the Center for Disease Control website.

As previously mentioned, a large reason that bats make use of buildings for roosts is due to lack of otherwise available habitat. The Division of Wildlife strongly suggests placing a bat box up outside to replace the lost habitat of an attic. This will not only provide additional habitat, but it will prevent bats from trying harder to seek entrances in your home. Bat houses should be placed approximately 15 to 20 feet (no lower than 10) off the ground on a tree with approximately 7-9 hours of daylight. Bat boxes should have dark stains in order to soak in as much of the sun’s warmth as possible. These bat boxes are easy to put up, and can provide a home for more than 100 bats. If you would like to put up a bat house in your own backyard, you can visit the Bat Conservation International website.


Black bears are large animals and can cause significant damage while in search of an easy meal. If your yard is being visited by a black bear there are several things that must be done to ensure that the animal doesn't become a “problem bear.” A “problem bear” can be defined as an animal that has lost its natural fear of humans and habitually causes property damage while in search of food. In this instance all potential food attractants must be removed from the area. This includes:

  • Bird feeders and other wildlife feed: remove feeders, including hummingbird and suet feeders.
  • Trash receptacles: store your garbage either in a garage or a secure container.
  • Pet foods: keep pet foods inside, especially at night.
  • Grease from grills: clean out grease traps after each use; store grill in garage or shed.
  • Secure beehives: place electric fencing around beehives.
  • Crops: pick fruit from berry bushes as soon as possible; scare bears out of agriculture fields as soon as damage occurs

Black Vultures

In Ohio, there are two types of vultures; turkey vultures and black vultures. Both are scavengers and feed on a variety of dead animals. Smaller and more aggressive than turkey vultures, black vultures have been witnessed attacking newborn calves. Vultures will strike during the birth process, or shortly after birth, by attacking the eyes, nose, and other soft tissue of newborn calves. In some cases, the adult cow is also injured during these assaults, sometimes to the point of causing death.

Black vulture range and population numbers have also expanded since the 1980s, resulting in increased property damage, livestock and pet depredation, and aircraft collisions. In Ohio, the number one request to U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services for help with black vultures is for livestock depredation. These requests doubled from 2012 to 2015, and black vultures continue to threaten livestock producers throughout Ohio.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (WS) provides some useful tips and strategies to reduce the potential for livestock losses.

Harassment and husbandry practices can prevent damages before they occur and should be implemented as soon as vultures are observed on your property. The goal is to discourage the birds until they decide to move to another area. Any wildlife live where it finds shelter, food and water, so these recommendations are designed to make your property no longer attractive to the vultures.

  • Visual and sound harassment are the primary means of dispersing vultures. Noise harassment can include propane exploders or pyrotechnics, sound-and-light projectiles similar to firecrackers.
  • To move vultures from a night-time roost, shining a low-powered red or green laser towards the birds, approximately 30 minutes before and after sunset, can discourage their presence. Lasers, safe and quiet, can be effective over distances of several hundred yards.
  • A vulture effigy suspended near livestock could disrupt daily vulture activity and persuade vultures to leave the area. Effigies may be a carcass, a taxidermist preserved mount or replica.
  • Immediate removal of carcasses and/or afterbirth will reduce the attraction to an area. These materials should be deeply buried or composted.
  • Implement rotational grazing, move livestock closer to human activity, or use guard animals.

If you continue to experience losses or damages after using harassment and husbandry practices, several programs can assist you. The 2015 Farm Bill offers a Livestock Indemnity Program administered by USDA Farm Service Agency to compensate producers for loss due to avian predators. Should you experience a loss or damage to livestock and would like to pursue compensation please follow the instructions below:

  1. Immediately contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to file a notice of loss and complete an application upon discovery of loss.
  2. It is also recommended to take digital photos of the predation/injuries as soon as it is discovered.
  3. Provide documentation for proof of livestock to FSA (see Fact Sheet for acceptable documentation)
  4. Producers have 30 days to file a notice of loss, however because of decomposition it is best to file as soon as possible because a follow up on site investigation may be necessary to be eligible for compensation.

After non-lethal and husbandry practices have been implemented, if your livestock are still threatened by vultures, lethal removal of a few black vultures may be necessary to further encourage the flock to leave the area. Although a threat and sometimes a nuisance, black vultures fill an important place in the environment, and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Lethal take without a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is punishable with fines and/or jail time.

A Migratory Bird Depredation Permit from the USFWS is available, however, and does not require active damage or livestock loss prior to applying. If you have experienced black vulture damage in the past, or if impending black vultures threaten your livestock, you may apply for a permit to have on hand, ready to use. The Ohio Division of Wildlife will pay the $100 permit fee for your first permit. The time from application to issuance is minimal and permits can be used for one year.

Steps for applying and receiving a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit from the USFWS for black vulture damage in Ohio follow:

  1. Livestock producers experiencing black vulture depredation or who have aggressive black vultures harassing livestock should call the WS Ohio office 1-866-4USDAWS (1-866-487-3297) or (614) 993-3444.
  2. WS recommends that the producer take several digital photos of the injured/killed livestock and the vultures, as soon as they are discovered.
  3. WS provides a permit application and instructions to the producer electronically (email or fax). If the producer does not have access to email or fax, they can contact their local county Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office to assist with the application and computer/fax access. NOTE: All livestock producers with black vulture problems who apply for this initial permit are excluded from paying the $100 application fee to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The Ohio Division of Wildlife has set up a fund to pay for first-time permits. If producers need a permit in subsequent years, the $100 renewal fee will be the responsibility of the producer.
  4. The producer returns the completed application and any other supporting documents (i.e. pictures, investigation report completed by SWCD specialist or county wildlife officer) back to WS electronically.
  5. WS reviews the application to ensure it is completed correctly and generate a WS Form 37 as required.
  6. After the WS Form 37 is generated, WS submits the completed application package to USFWS Region 3 Bird Permitting office, on behalf of the producer.
  7. Once received, USFWS reviews the application, WS Form 37, and any supporting documents. Generally, a Federal Migratory Bird Depredation Permit will be issued within 1-3 business days and sent back to the producer or SWCD specialist via email. If the SWCD office is assisting, the SWCD specialist will notify the producer that the permit has been issued and is available for pick up at the local SWCD county office.

Black vultures, like all wildlife, have value. They play an important role in the ecosystem, feeding on carrion and reducing disease. We need to appreciate their value, and manage them appropriately. While vultures can cause significant economic losses to livestock producers, through proper wildlife management and animal husbandry techniques these losses can be minimized or prevented. For additional information on minimizing and mitigating damage caused by black vultures, please call the Ohio WS state office at 1-866-4USDAWS (1-866-487-3297) and see the Wildlife Services’ Fact Sheet on Vulture Damage Management.

Roosting Birds

Sparrows, starlings, and pigeons are the most troublesome of the birds commonly found in the urban environment. When these birds congregate in large numbers their droppings can create a foul-smelling, unsightly mess.

Netting can effectively be used to exclude birds from virtually any kind of structure and from roosting or nesting in trees. The net will not entangle birds. Netting may be draped across the front of buildings; fasten it tightly from above windows to below the ledge to discourage perching.

Most birds prefer to perch on flat surfaces. Surfaces with an angle of 60 degrees or greater cause birds to slide off when they try to land. Wood or metal sheathing cut at an angle can also be added to the problem area. Another deterrent is to install porcupine wire on ledges and rails where birds roost. Thinning tree branches will remove perch sites and reduce a source of wind protection, which may force the birds to move to another site. Combinations of noise (AM/FM radio, wind chimes, firecrackers, banging pots and pans) and visual stimuli (colored flags, reflective tape, revolving lights, balloons, replicas of hawks and owls) used persistently can evict birds. Control measures should be initiated as soon as the problem is identified.


Raccoons are well adapted to urban living. Raccoon damage typically involves raiding gardens, upsetting trash cans and taking up residence in chimneys, attics or other unwanted areas. Control is not difficult, but requires persistence.

Garden fruits and vegetables can be very appealing and accessible to raccoons. For smaller garden plots, a single strand of electric fence can be strung eight inches above the ground.

An inexpensive radio that is turned on, placed under a garbage can and left in the garden overnight, will also often discourage raccoons from approaching.

The easiest solution for garbage can raids is to store the cans inside the garage or a shed overnight. Raccoons may also be repelled by coating the outside of the can with a weak solution of cayenne pepper in water or by placing a small dish of ammonia in the bottom of an empty can.

Uncapped chimneys are appealing nest den sites to raccoons. When this occurs they may be evicted by noise, combined with bright lights or a pan of ammonia sealed in the fireplace. Once the raccoon vacates the chimney, install a chimney cap. Identify and seal other attic entries after evicting the raccoon. Overhanging tree limbs provide easy access to your roof. Inspect your house and trim tree limbs where needed.

Occasionally raccoons will enter a house through a pet door. Since they can cause considerable damage if panicked, it is advisable to quietly open windows and doors through which the animal may exit and close doors that provide access to other parts of the house, before leaving the room. Wait quietly for the animal to escape.

Raccoons can transmit rabies, canine distemper, and parvovirus to domestic animals and humans. You should avoid any raccoon that is active during daylight hours, has lost its fear of humans, or appears uncoordinated, confused or listless. If you encounter such an animal, report these observations to the District Office; if exposed to a potentially sick animal, contact your local Health Department and/or your personal physician.

Nuisance or sick raccoons may be trapped without a permit, but it is illegal to live trap and relocate them to a new area. In order to prevent the possible spread of raccoon diseases in Ohio, all live trapped raccoons must be released again on the homeowner's property or humanely euthanized. Consult your district wildlife office for further information.

Skunks & Opossums

Skunks and opossums seldom cause damage to property other than raiding garbage or eating pet food. They sometimes reside under buildings or in rock and wood piles. Discourage visits by taking appropriate precautions:

  • In confined spaces skunks or opossums may be driven away by placing an ammonia-soaked towel in the den.
  • Install a one-way door until you are sure the animal(s) have left, then permanently seal the entrance.
  • An animal that becomes trapped in a window well will climb out if you place a rough board in the well that extends to the top.
  • If an animal gets into the house, open a door and calmly allow it to exit.
  • Never chase or excite a skunk.


The coyote is generally a slender animal, very similar in appearance to a medium-sized dog and much smaller than a wolf, a species not currently found in Ohio. The majority of coyotes are gray, though some show rusty, brown or off-white coloration. It has a bushy tail which is usually tipped with black. Coyotes are most active at dawn and dusk, but may be seen frequently throughout the day.

What to Do if a Coyote is in Your Backyard:

  • Understand that coyotes are common throughout Ohio's 88 counties in both rural and urban settings. There are no wild wolves living in Ohio.
  • Identify that the canine is truly a coyote and not a stray dog. If you determine the animal is a stray dog, contact your county dog warden.
  • If you do have a coyote on your property, remove all "attractants" to possibly deter the coyote from returning. This includes removing garbage and pet food before nightfall and cleaning up around the grill. Coyotes prey primarily on small mammals, such as rabbits and mice. Small pets may also be taken. Keep small dogs and cats inside. Coyotes are curious, but generally fearful of humans. Clap your hands and shout in a stern voice to scare off coyotes that are investigating your yard.
  • If the coyote visiting your yard seems to lack a fear of humans or is presenting a conflict even after removing attractants from your yard, contact a nuisance trapper. Coyotes in rural areas can be controlled through legal hunting and trapping methods. See the Hunting & Trapping Regulations for more information.


One of the largest bird species in Ohio, the great blue heron are widely distributed throughout the state. It prefers shallow water areas with trees for nesting nearby. The great blue heron is often observed motionless, as it pursues its prey while standing in a stream, river or wetland.

Unlike numerous other predators that actively stalk on foot or wing, the great blue heron takes the complete opposite approach–it stands still, watching the water for a fish. Then in the blink of an eye, in a sharp and seamless movement it will snare its prey.

Herons feed during both day and night and eat fish, snakes, frogs, crustaceans, birds, small mammals, and insects. Nuisance situations with herons usually involve a heron eating fish from someone's pond.

You can make an area less attractive to herons by:

  • Creating obstacles around the pond. Herons typically land around the perimeter of a pond and walk up to the water. Obstacles, like clear fishing line strung around the pond perimeter or low decorative fencing make access difficult by creating a barrier they would need to step over.
  • Startling them with water. For smaller ponds (1200 sq. ft. or less) a motion-activated sprayer that detects movement up to 40 feet away and spritzes the heron with water can scare them away.
  • Using a heron decoy. Place a heron decoy in the pond. Herons are territorial, so if they see that another heron occupying the pond, they will likely avoid that pond and seek other feeding grounds. Moving the heron decoy every few days can make the decoy look more effective. Avoid using heron decoys during mating season, which is generally the end of March through mid-April.

Provide hiding places for your fish. Placing large diameter pipe (large enough diameter for the fish to enter) give the fish a place to hide from predators including herons. Beds of weeds also work well.

Use a variety of methods as these methods work best when integrated and stay vigilant. If all the fish have been taken from the pond it is best to implement the above strategies before restocking the pond with fish.

Great blue herons are protected by federal and state laws. They may only be captured or killed with a special permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Damage Control. Call the Division of Wildlife for phone numbers.


Most snakes are beneficial in helping to control destructive insects and rodents. Only three species of snakes in Ohio (the copperhead, and the massasauga and timber rattlesnakes) are venomous. None of these snakes are common.

Problems with snakes range from occasional encounters with a single snake to infestations of large numbers of snakes in basements and out-building foundations. Snakes are a valuable part of the ecosystem, including Ohio's 3 venomous species. Individual snakes should be valued for their rodent- and insect-eating habits. A snake that takes up residence where it cannot be tolerated should be captured and released at least a mile away from the dwelling.

You can make an area less attractive to snakes by:

  • controlling insect and rodent populations
  • removing piles of junk, rocks, brush and boards
  • and keeping grass mowed and landscapes clean.

To remove a snake already in a building, you must first find it. If a snake is difficult to find in the open, place a damp cloth or burlap bag covered with a board or shingle on the basement floor. Use a 1/2 to 1 inch spacer to elevate the board so the snake can easily get under it. The combination of dampness and shelter is attractive to snakes, making them easier to capture.

Snakes can be picked up with a hook or hoe, or by making a noose with a loose slipknot in a strong piece of string and attaching it to a short, strong stick. Lower the snake into a strong paper or cloth bag with no holes. If you use the string, clip the noose with a pair of scissors before dropping the snake in the bag. Transport the snake as soon as possible to a woodlot or undeveloped area away from other houses.

Another effective way to capture snakes inside a home is to use a glueboard. These can be purchased in a variety of places such as agriculture supply and hardware stores. Most small snakes can be captured using a single glueboard placed against a wall but away from pipes or other objects that a snake could use for leverage to escape.

For larger snakes (four to five feet long) attach several glueboards side-by-side to a piece of plywood. Release snakes by pouring vegetable oil or common cooking oil over the snake where it is adhered to the glueboard. Glueboards should only be used indoors or under structures where children, pets and other wildlife cannot reach them.


Squirrels are never found far from the shelter provided by trees. They are opportunistic foragers feeding on acorns, nuts, fruits, berries, corn, fungi, flower bulbs, and bird seed. They readily adapt to suburban and urban areas.

Chasing a frantic squirrel inside your house can result in additional damage. If a squirrel is trapped, open a door or window, block off the room it is in and quietly wait for the squirrel to exit. Once the squirrel is gone, identify where the squirrel entered and seal the access. If the squirrel is in the fireplace, close the damper, block off the room and open an exterior door or window to provide an escape route for the squirrel.

Squirrels trapped inside the chimney flue can be freed by closing the damper and lowering a 1/2-inch diameter rope into the chimney from the roof. The rope must be long enough to reach down to the damper. Anchor the upper end and wait for the squirrel to climb out, then cover the chimney. Before evicting a resident squirrel from the attic determine if young are in the nest and where the female's entrance is located. If there are no young, scare the squirrel out by banging on the rafters inside the attic or wait until the squirrel leaves for the day.

Seal the entrance with 1/4- inch hardware cloth or with sheet metal. Extend the seal at least six inches beyond the hole. If young are present, locate the entrance and install a one-way door until all have left the nest, then proceed as previously described.


There are seven species of woodpeckers in Ohio. The majority of woodpeckers do most of their pecking on dead or dying trees. Woodpeckers peck for several reasons: to announce their territory, to feed on insects and to excavate nest cavities. In suburban areas woodpeckers may use houses and drain spouts. No one really knows why, but natural wood siding, a house's large size and better sound production may make houses seem like super trees to the birds. The key to control is to take action as soon as the woodpecker shows signs of becoming a pest.

A troublesome woodpecker may be discouraged by employing one or a combination of techniques:

  • Open a nearby window and shout or bang pans whenever the woodpecker is heard
  • Hang strips of foil, streamers, cloth, toy snakes, owl decoys or cut-out hawk silhouettes near the problem area to frighten the bird
  • Spray a water hose near the bird to frighten it
  • Eliminate any ledges or cracks the woodpecker may be using when pecking
  • Cover the damaged area with screen, hardware cloth or sheet metal until the bird has been discouraged.

Repair any damage caused by the woodpecker promptly. If insects in the siding seem to be the cause, caulk all the tunnels in the siding. Insecticides and toxic wood preservatives seem to repel woodpeckers as well as providing wood care benefits.

Woodpeckers are protected by federal and state laws. They may only be captured or killed with a special permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Animal Damage Control. Call the Division of Wildlife for phone numbers. 

Canada Geese

Canada geese are probably the most adaptable and tolerant of all native waterfowl. If left undisturbed, they will readily establish nesting territories on any suitable pond, be it located on a farm, backyard, golf course, apartment or condominium complex, or city park.

Most people will welcome and start feeding the first pair of geese on their pond, but these geese will soon wear out their welcome. In just a few years, a pair of geese can easily become 50 to 100 birds. The feces will foul the areas around the pond and surrounding yards and also damage the lawn, pond, and other vegetation. Geese that are fed will lose their fear of humans and attack adults, children, and pets during the nesting season (March through June). DO NOT FEED GEESE. Feeding bread, corn, potato chips, popcorn, and other human food items harms the geese and sets the scene for goose attacks on people.

Canada geese are protected under both the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Ohio state law. This protection extends to the geese, goslings, nests, and eggs. Non-lethal scare and hazing tactics, which do not harm the geese, are allowed. These tactics include: pyrotechnics, dogs, barriers, a grid on the pond, laser pointers (at night), distress calls, or grape-flavored repellents such as Flight Control.

If non-lethal tactics have been used in the past, without success, the Division of Wildlife may issue a lethal permit to allow the landowner to destroy nests, conduct a goose roundup, or shoot geese. These permits can only be used March 11 through August 31. Hunting in the fall, outside city limits, is also a good method to reduce the goose population, feed people, and further scare the geese away.

Landowners should consult with their county wildlife officer or contact the nearest district office for assistance.

Mute Swans

Mute swans are commonly seen on large public lakes and are wide spread throughout Ohio. They are considered a non-native invasive species in the United States, and are becoming a nuisance here in Ohio. There are three species of swans that can be found in Ohio: The native trumpeter swan, tundra swan (or whistling swan, which only migrates through Ohio), and the mute swan.  Mute swans will outcompete with the threatened trumpeter swan on Lake Erie marshes and other locations for nesting habitat.

During the breeding and nesting season, which generally runs March through May, adult mute swans become highly territorial and will fight to push native birds out of their nesting area.  Mute swans have been known to attack humans and pets during this time as well.  This aggressive behavior also occurs after the young, called cygnets, hatch out.  On public lakes, people who use jet-skis and kayaks tend to get flogged by swans if they get too close to their nest or young.  The adult male will fly after what they see as a predator to chase it away and use their wings to attack.  They have been known to drowned people in rare occasions.   

An adult male swan can weigh up to twenty-six pounds and stand as tall as five feet.  Mute swans can consume up to eight pounds of submerged aquatic vegetation in one day.  They uproot the whole plant usually leaving nothing behind.  This takes away natural habitat from fish and leaves little food source for native waterfowl.  The removal of aquatic vegetation can also cause water quality issues and erosion problems. 

The Division of Wildlife controls mute swans on public lands by utilizing egg addling to cut back on production and by physical removal of adult birds.  Occasionally, complaints are received from homeowners who surround public lakes when mute swans are being aggressive.  Removal of the bird is the action taken when human safety is a factor.  

Contrary to what most people believe, mute swans will nest next to Canada geese.  Homeowner associations or golf courses will purchase swans for goose control.  Ultimately the swans will eventually become a problem for the homeowners around the ponds because of aggression issues, and removal is warranted.  We encourage private landowners who chose to have mute swans to keep them controlled.  The ways to control them is to only purchase one swan or two of the same sex, and keep their wings clipped or pinioned.  This will keep the swan on the owner’s property.  Landowners can also addle the eggs so cygnets do not hatch out.  If the young are going to be allowed to hatch out, their wings need to be clipped or pinioned as well so they cannot leave the property.  Division staff will assist private landowners who ask for removal of mutes by giving technical assistance or removing the swans depending on site-specific circumstances. 

The Ohio Division of Wildlife has come up with an action plan to deal with nuisance mute swan issues. 

Ohio Swan Management Plan [pdf 263Kb] (link coming soon)


Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, usually are viewed as a nuisance animal for homeowners and farmers. The major problems that they cause are the large holes they dig and the damage that occurs from this animal. Their holes can be 8-12 inches in size. This animal creates two, sometimes three holes, with a large tunnel system that runs from one hole to the next. They usually will have a large mound of dirt in front of the hole called a porch. Groundhogs use this to stand high to get a good view of their surroundings before making their move to venture around. Farmers get crop damage to corn, soybeans, and other crops planted in fields. Groundhog dens are a major concern for farmers because of the large tunnel system they build under the ground. Farmers have been known to sink tractor tires in the ground because of the big hole that lies below the surface of the field. Most home owners deal with groundhogs denning under their porch or shed, and damaging their gardens. A den that is built next to a building or house can cause structural damage as their burrows can weaken foundation. Contrary to what most people believe, groundhogs will climb trees. Tree nurseries can face problems with them gnawing on their ornamental or fruit bearing trees. Other wildlife such as fox or skunks will take over groundhog holes when left vacant.

If you are dealing with a nuisance groundhog on your property there are a few things you can try to prevent damage. Placing fencing around the garden or underneath your porch is a way to keep them out. However, groundhogs are good climbers and diggers. Fences should be at least 3 feet tall and made of heavy, thick wire such as hardware cloth. Burying the lower portion of the fence into the ground at least a foot should help to prevent them from digging underground. At tree nurseries, placing metal flashing or tree guards around the trees at least 3 feet high will prevent wildlife from stripping the bark and destroying the trees. Once a groundhog is present and living on your property, they are hard to get to move along. The best way to get rid of them is to physically remove them. Nuisance groundhogs can be live trapped and relocated with permission of the landowner. If you choose not to relocate the groundhog, they can either be released on site where the animal was originally trapped or you may humanely kill it. Refer to the American Veterinary Medical Association for guidelines on euthanasia. Landowners who chose to set traps themselves to catch groundhogs should remember that they are responsible for the animal in the trap. Each trap must be labeled with your name and address, checked every 24 hours, and animals removed within 24 hours of being trapped. This is especially important to note when you are trapping within city limits. If you are trapping within city limits, you should always check with your police department to determine if there are any ordinances governing trapping in your community. If you do not want to remove the animal yourself, the Division of Wildlife licenses nuisance trappers that can be contracted with to remove the problem groundhog for a fee.

There is an open hunting on groundhogs, meaning they may be hunted anytime of the year. Refer to the Hunting and Trapping Regulations for additional information.

River Otters

River otters were historically in Ohio, but were extirpated by the early 1900’s. The Ohio Division of Wildlife started a seven year reintroduction program for river otters in 1986. There were 123 otters released on the eastern side of the state. Today, the otter population is estimated to be over 6,500. As the population increases more problems are likely to occur with this species.

Otters have been known to cause damage in private ponds and fish hatcheries. Aquaculture operations and koi ponds are sometimes a target for river otters as the food sources are plentiful. If you notice uneaten fish heads with the skeleton attached along with scat piles, you more than likely are dealing with a river otter in your pond. Their scat piles will consist of scales, exoskeletons and sometimes body parts of fish. River otters will not live in a pond, but rather in a creek or river that is located close to a pond. Often they will travel to find a food source stumbling across a pond. They will repeatedly use the same spot along a creek or river bank to urinate and defecate. These locations are called latrine sites and help you identify if an otter is denning close to your property. Otters are capable of consuming 2-3 pounds of fish per day. When observing damage to a pond, keep in mind that blue herons are also a culprit of killing stocked fish. Herons will leave behind uneaten carcasses with large puncture holes. Mistakenly, river otters get blamed for the damaged because they were spotted in the vicinity.

Fencing is a way to keep otters out of ponds by using 3 inch wire mesh at around 3-4 feet tall. By burying the fencing into the ground at 6 inches, this will prevent the otter from pushing underneath the fence. Providing structure such as Christmas trees or cinder blocks for fish will give them safe places to hide from predators such as otters. There is a trapping season on river otters which runs from the end of December through the end of February in specific counties throughout Ohio. You can refer to the Hunting and Trapping Regulations for additional information. If issues are occurring outside of the trapping season, river otters can be live trapped and relocated with permission of the landowner where the otter will be released. You may contact your local district office or county wildlife officer for further assistant if lethal control is needed because of certain conditions.


Agricultural Damage

While experiencing agricultural damage can be frustrating, it is important to know that you must use a combination of techniques to best limit the damage.

In determining which of these options best suits the needs of the person experiencing deer damage and the type of damage the farmer is experiencing, one needs to consider the following:

  1. Type of damage
  2. Timing of the damage, both time of year and time of day
  3. Extent of damage
  4. Deer population in the area
  5. Availability of alternate deer foods and cover
  6. General characteristics of the site to be protected
  7. Material and labor costs of the technique
  8. Maintenance costs
  9. The amount of loss that can be tolerated

Scare Devices and Techniques

Probably the simplest and least expensive method for deterring deer would involve the use of streamers, flags, aluminum pie pans, or any other device or material that either moves in the breeze or throws a reflection when illuminated by a natural or artificial light. When deer pressure is light and alternate foods and cover are readily available, the motion or reflection that is produced may be sufficient to reduce damage to tolerable levels. However, deer quickly become accustomed to the disturbance that these devices produce. These need to be moved every two or three days within the area to be protected or else their effectiveness drops rapidly. This technique is useful if the period of damage is of short duration and the value of the plants being protected is minimal. In addition, use of these can have an additive benefit of deterring additional wildlife causing the damage such as birds.

Propane cannons or exploders are another option available to property owners experiencing light to moderate deer damage. They cost approximately $350 and are available through various mail order nursery, forestry, and agricultural supply dealers. Most operate on an adjustable timer so that the frequency of discharge can be varied, and some rotate so that the sound appears to move around or originate from different locations. Additionally, they operate regardless of the weather and light conditions to more effectively scare deer from the area being protected. As with streamers, however, they do require attention in that they must be moved periodically to remain effective. How often they need to be moved is best determined by monitoring the crop for evidence of continued damage.

Another technique involves the use of one or more guard dogs confined within the area to be protected by an electric wire buried just below the surface of the ground. This “invisible fence” operates like systems used by many homeowners desiring to keep the family pet in their yard. To be effective, the dog must remain within the confines of the area needing protection during the time that protection is needed. Costs for this protection will likely be higher than for other scare devices, but because the dog is mobile it is able to more effectively protect a larger area.

Physical Barriers

Properly constructed physical barriers, or fences, are intended to exclude deer from entering an area. The vast variations in fence design, which are limited only by one’s imagination, greatly influence their effectiveness in achieving this objective. Current fence designs vary from as simple as a single strand of electric wire to as elaborate as a woven, or livestock, wire fence eight feet tall. Obviously, fence design has a tremendous impact on installation and maintenance costs, as well as its life expectancy. For individuals desiring long-term protection of valuable crops such as a commercial orchard or nursery operation, the costs of an eight-foot woven wire fence can pay for itself in saved plant loss in just a few years.

On the other hand, the use of a peanut butter fence can be highly effective to protect small orchard operations even as large as 10-15 acres (see Garden Damage below).

For those interested in fencing, but whose needs fall somewhere between an elaborate eight-foot fence and a peanut butter fence there are a variety of options available. The three-wire two-dimensional fence involves the construction of two separate fences, one 38 inches inside the other. As with the single wire fence, these wires can be electrified. The outer fence consists of two wires, one set 15 inches off the ground, the other 43 inches from the ground. The inner fence has a single strand of wire set 30 inches from the ground. This fence is effective because it discourages deer from jumping the fence as they are too close for deer to easily jump each fence separately without making contact with one of the fences, and far enough apart that the deer are not able to easily jump both at the same time.

Another good design is the Penn State Five-Wire Fence. With this design, the area is enclosed by five separate strands of wire. The first wire is attached to a vertical pole at a height of 10 inches from the ground. Each successive wire is positioned 12 inches above the previous one. Total height on this fence is 58 inches.

A Slanted Deer Fence can be another effective fence design especially for vineyards. To construct this fence, vertical posts are placed no more than 60 feet apart. A rail is then attached to each post four feet from the ground so that the horizontal distance from the pole to the long end of the rail is 56 inches. The high side of the rail should be on the side furthest from the area being protected. Wires are run from rail to rail with the first wire placed 10 inches from the ground end. Successive wires are spaced at one-foot intervals.

Lethal Control

The use of hunting affords you a free option for controlling the deer herd and should be used whenever possible. In addition, you have the ability to manage the deer on your property by allowing additional hunters to utilize the property and can even put requirements on the hunters using your property such as only allowing them to shoot female deer or requiring them to shoot a doe before a buck. Often farmers don’t realize that it takes a lot of hunters to effectively reduce a deer herd on that property.

Often times it seems that killing the deer through a deer damage permit will help solve the problem. However, one must take the following into account:

  1. There will always be additional deer that will come onto the property to cause additional damage
  2. Killing deer can be highly labor intensive
  3. Deer may be causing the damage at night making killing them difficult
  4. Killing deer causing damage is often done during some of the hottest months of the year
  5. Deer damage permits are designed primarily to affect behavior, not reduce the population


Non-agricultural Damage

Garden Damage

Deer look for easy sources of food and gardens offer a buffet of food to them. However, oftentimes the solution to garden damage by deer is a quick and easy process. Since most gardens are relatively small, the Division of Wildlife suggests that you install a 3-4 foot barrier (vinyl, hardware cloth, etc.) with the first foot of the barrier underground to keep out small critters like raccoons, skunks, and groundhogs Figure 1 shows a good garden fence. On the corners of the garden install posts that reach 7 feet off the ground. You can then run a single string or wire every 1 1/2 feet to achieve a higher barrier. Run the top line at the top of your tall corner posts. Periodically hang ribbon (or better yet aluminum pie pans to scare off the birds) to act as a visual to the deer that the lines are there. Deer have poor depth perception and they will not jump between the hard fence and the wires. In addition the top wire appears too tall for them to want to jump over. Another option is to use the concepts of the above mentioned fence but to utilize electric fence in its place. Figure 2 shows how you can accomplish a barrier for various wildlife causing garden damage including deer. You will notice the multiple lines of wire at the bottom act as the “solid” barrier equivalent to the vinyl/hardware cloth of the above mentioned fence. Maintenance with an electric fence is a must to ensure that the grass beneath the wires does not touch the wires. Contact between the two will cause the fence to no longer work. Electric fence also allows you the ability to turn on or to turn off the charge depending on the activities in the yard. You can even place a timer to allow the fence to be active from dusk to dawn coordinating with the primary times when deer are moving around looking for a bite to eat. Fencing in your garden with a good fence can help achieve zero loss without requiring the use of lethal control.

Landscape Damage

Deer looking for a bite to eat will often find your landscaping a palatable option. A great tool to use is the “peanut butter fence” technique (Figures 3 and 4) to keep deer off of the plants you work so hard to maintain. The “peanut butter fence” is an electric fence wire strung about 2 ½ feet off of the ground with a piece of foil or aluminum flashing wrapped over the line with peanut butter smeared on it. When the deer approaches the landscaping, the smell of the peanut butter attracts the deer to lick it thereby giving a non-lethal shock to the deer on their tongue. Simply using an electric fence wire without the peanut butter “flags” will typically not work since the hair on deer is hollow thereby acting as an insulator for the deer and not allowing the shock to be fully felt. As soon as the deer start eating a particular plant (or better yet in anticipation as particular plants begin to grow), install the “peanut butter fence” around that section of landscaping. Because various plants will grow/bloom at different times of the year, you will need to move the “peanut butter fence” to the area the deer are browsing at that particular time of year. The parts for this technique can usually be purchased at farm supply stores such as Tractor Supply Company or online. If you are putting this up as a permanent barrier it is suggested to use three lines as shown in Figure 5.

Another technique is to use various sprays to deter the deer from eating your plants. Keep in mind that if a deer is hungry enough and the deterrent is not strong enough, they may still eat your plants. In addition you will need to reapply to the particular plant they are eating several times to get the deer to stop eating it or as rain/water rinses the product off the plant. You can also use ground cayenne pepper obtained at a bulk food store to deter deer from plants. Spray the plants with some water and then generously dust the plants with the cayenne pepper. The hotter you make the plant the less likely the deer will eat it. It may also be a good idea if you grow your own garden to plant some hotter pepper plants such as habanero or some of the ghost peppers. You can harvest, dry, and grind them for your own homemade pepper spray. This will be much hotter than the cayenne pepper and will do a better job of deterring the deer.

Finally, in areas where you regularly have deer causing damage it is recommended to choose plants that tend to be less palatable to the deer. There are several decorative ornamentals that fit in this category. Keep in mind that there is no plant that deer “will never eat”. If a deer is hungry enough they will even eat plants that are hard to chew and digest or that tastes bad. However, at times this is all it takes for the deer to go looking for some better food elsewhere.

Tree Rubbing Damage

Tree rubbing (often called buck rubs) occur when either a buck is shedding the “velvet” off of their antlers or they are marking territory. There are three easy ways to address tree rubbing. The first (figure 5) is to install a fence around the tree(s) you want to protect. A good rule of thumb is to have the fence 3-4 feet away from the trunk of the tree. You can also elevate the fence several inches to make it easy to maintain the grass for aesthetic purposes. Also, making the mulch bed the same distance away from the trunk will help make maintenance of the area much easier for you. The second (figure 6) is to install a triangle of posts around the trunk of the tree. Male deer will typically not rub their antlers on metal, but if they do the rubbing will be on the post and not your tree. Both of these techniques are only needed from September 1st to January 31st and can be removed the remainder of the year.

The third technique is to use rigid tree bark protectors (Figures 7 and 8) which you can purchase at any home improvement store or by doing a quick search online. Usually using protectors rather than wrappings will provide better results. Use these from where the trunk of the tree meets the ground up about 4 feet. These protect the tree if the deer would attempt to rub on it. In addition, this technique offers trees (especially young trees) protection from squirrels, rabbits, and rodents from chewing the bark which can kill the tree as well. If you use this method, it is recommended to keep the tubing on from at least October 1st to April 1st. However, these can be left on year round if you wish. Once the tree begins to outgrow the tree bark protector, usually when the tree reaches 4 inches in diameter, make sure to remove it so that it doesn't harm the tree as the tree grows. By that time the tree will be large enough that most deer will avoid rubbing the tree. Again, using these techniques can help achieve zero loss without requiring the use of lethal control.

Deer Vehicle Accidents

The best way to avoid deer collisions with your vehicle is to be watchful not only for deer crossing the road but also for the driver in front of you that may slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a deer. While deer can and will move throughout the day, their primary movement times are at sunrise and sunset. Particular attention should be paid during the peak breeding season in October and November as well as the peak birthing season from April to June. These are the times you should be extra vigilant in watching for deer along roadways. While hitting a deer can cause serious damage to your vehicle, you run a better chance of injuring yourself or someone else by swerving off of the road. Therefore, it is recommended to slow down if you see a deer crossing the road in front of you. If you need to quickly stop to avoid hitting a deer, hit your brakes while maintaining your vehicle in the lane in which you are driving. Remember, deer crossing signs are only placed in areas throughout the city that have been identified as areas where deer regularly cross the road. However, deer can cross in front of you on any road throughout the city.


While deer most times appear to be gentle animals, you must remember that they are wild animals that can be unpredictable. You should always give wild animals their space. If they feel threatened they can easily cause injuries to humans or pets. If you notice a deer approaching you, make noise and wave your hands so that the deer knows you are there. If the deer continues to approach you, get inside and contact your local police department.

If you let pets outside, you should always scan the area prior to letting your pet out to ensure no deer are in the yard. Even dogs contained within a buried electric fence will chase after a deer potentially putting the pet at risk of getting hit by a car or getting lost. This is specifically important during the time of the year when does have fawns (May-July). Occasionally, a doe may perceive your dog as a threat to the fawn and may injure the dog while trying to protect the fawn from the perceived threat.

However, oftentimes normal deer behavior is confused with a deer acting aggressive. A normal deer reaction is to stomp the ground when they are unsure if something is a threat or not. It is not uncommon to walk outside only to find a deer in the yard. You immediately stop often worried if the deer is a threat. As you stand still the deer will stomp the ground to try and get you to move to determine if you are a threat. As mentioned above, make noise and wave your hands so that the deer knows you are there. The deer should within a few seconds and with the flickering of its tail, turn and leave the area. Keep in mind that deer in cities regularly see and hear people and that it is not uncommon for urban deer to not run away when they see a person.

Deer Damage Complaint Procedure

Ohio Administrative Code – 1501:31-15-08 (Deer Damage Control Permit) authorizes the Ohio Division of Wildlife to issue Deer Damage Control Permits under certain conditions and guidelines. While the OAC allows any landowner to apply for a permit, the application of a permit does not guarantee the landowner a permit even if damage is occurring. The Division of Wildlife personnel and partners, including SWCD Wildlife Specialists, provide guidance on handling complaints of crop losses or property damage caused by deer and issuance of permits.

In situations where deer damage is currently occurring, a landowner/lessee can request assistance on techniques to help deal with the damage experienced. In most cases the assistance is first provided by a discussion over the telephone and/or email. However, at times a site visit may be needed to further assist the landowner/lessee to identify ways to minimize the damage. Recommendations to a landowner may include fencing and other exclusions, scare devices, repellents, alternative landscape plantings, and hunting. Hunting is the most economical and efficient method of reducing deer numbers and is encouraged where feasible. If a Division of Wildlife representative determines that the use of a Deer Damage Control Permits (DDCP) in conjunction with other management techniques will further assist the landowner, a permit may be issued primarily when the damage is occurring.

These permits allow permittees and their approved shooters to kill an agreed upon number of deer during the dates and under the conditions specified on the permit. In most situations the permits are used to allow the shooting of deer outside of Ohio’s deer hunting seasons. However, in circumstances where damage is occurring during Ohio’s deer hunting seasons, permits may be extended during that time. The killing of antlerless deer is encouraged whenever possible. Under no circumstances are antlers from deer harvested under a Deer Damage Permit able to be kept.

Deer Damage Permits are intended as a tool for landowners to modify deer behavior in conjunction with reducing deer numbers on a particular property in an effort to alleviate and reduce property damage caused by deer. They are not issued for use as a quality deer management tool or as a primary means to kill deer for human consumption. The permittee and their approved shooters are fully responsible for conducting shooting activities in a safe, legal and responsible manner and assume all liability arising from their shooting activities. The permit may be revoked if the permittee and/or their shooters violate any of the conditions listed on the permit, are found to be in violation of local ordinances or are found to be conducting irresponsible shooting activities which affects adjoining landowners or tenants.

Deer Damage Control Publication 

Apply for a Deer Damage Permit