How to Avoid Common Issues - Tips & Deterrents

Whether or not you realize it, we are living with wildlife on a daily basis. Most likely there are many critters with whom you share your environment (squirrels,raccoons, rabbits, snakes, bears and many more!). Just like we have adapted to our surrounding, wildlife does the same, whether it is in an city or rural setting.

While the majority of time, humans and wildlife can coexist peacefully, there may be times when you encounter wildlife when their interests conflict with your own or cause a nuisance. Often times, there are a number of different steps you can take to avoid such conflicts.

If you are faced with a public safety issue call NDOW’s Dispatch Center in Reno at (775) 688-1331.

Bear-Trash Ordinances and Government Contacts - [PDF]

The following tips may help you avoid potential conflicts with wildlife near your home:

  1. Do not feed wildlife. Feeding wild animals makes them dependent, and can cause them to lose their natural fear of humans. It can also be potentially dangerous and place you in a greater risk to be bitten. The feeding of any wildlife, including birds, may inadvertently attract unwanted animals, which then attract other animals to prey on them. Bird seed and hummingbird feeders are known to attract bears.
  2. Keep pet food out of their reach and secure garbage cans. Many wild animals are opportunistic and will make a meal of pet food or table scraps that are left in unsecured containers. If a dog or cat is fed outside, bring uneaten food inside as soon as the pet has finished eating. Place trash in a secure container so that it is unavailable. Some wild animals have even been known to use “doggie doors” to get food inside. If this is a problem, block the door for a week or two, if possible, until the wild animal learns it cannot get inside.
  3. Work with your neighbors on making your neighborhood undesirable to wildlife. If wildlife is frequenting your neighborhood, you can be certain that it is finding food there. Work with your neighbors to eliminate food sources that are bringing the animals into the neighborhood. Prevention is far better than dealing with a conflict later on.
  4. Leave wildlife alone. Often times, you may see young wildlife, like baby birds or fawns all alone. It is not lost or abandoned. Most likely, the parents are nearby and may be feeding, or watching their young from afar. Baby birds in this situation are often learning to fly, and will be fine if left alone to discover their wings on their own. Wildlife is best tended to by its natural parents.
  5. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator with injured wildlife. Even with the best intentions, it is against the law to try and rehabilitate injured wildlife yourself, unless you are licensed by the state. If you come in contact with injured wildlife that needs assistance contact a licensed rehabilitator.
  6. Leave snakes alone. Most snake bites occur when the victim tries to capture or kill the snake. Even dead snakes have been known to bite by reflex action. Non-venomous snakes often carry the salmonella bacteria in their mouths and should be avoided as well. Bird feeders attract rodents, and rodents attract snakes. According to Geist, snakes are more visible in the fall and spring during the middle of the day, when the ambient temperature is more comfortable. In the summertime, they tend to emerge in the early morning or evening hours after it has cooled off.
  7. Landscape accordingly. Homeowners should be aware that a beautifully landscaped backyard may create the perfect habitat for wildlife of all sorts.
  8. Ponds stocked with fish may lure birds, raccoons or other wildlife. Bodies of water also attract nesting birds and other animals search for water in times of drought. 
  9. Be aware of your landscaping, and enjoy the wildlife that it attracts. Know that predators follow prey. Landscape or remove vegetation to eliminate hiding places for wildlife like mountain lions.
  10. If wildlife is disturbing your landscaping or garden, visit your local garden shop to learn about vegetation that may help avoid these problems.
  11. Keep your yard clean and neat. This will help prevent rattlesnakes and other critters from taking up residence too close to your home or garden. Wildlife often looks for places to take cover and find shade.
  12. Ducks, Geese or other Waterfowl Landing in Pools. Scare the ducks off the pool immediately the first time you encounter them. Don't feed the ducks or other waterfowl. Pool covers are often useful to avoid such problems. 
  13. Do not allow waterfowl to nest. Scare waterfowl away from bushes or bodies of water before they nest and lay their eggs. You cannot, legally disturb them once eggs are laid.
  14. Avoid letting dogs and cats roam freely. Coyotes kill and eat small dogs and house cats.
  15. Be Bear Logic if you live in bear country. Nevada’s black bears are primarily found in the Carson front and Tahoe area of Nevada. If you live in bear country, don’t be surprised to see a bear passing by. Maintain a safe distance, and never approach or feed a bear. Use bear-proof garbage containers available through commercial dealers.
  16. Seal off entry points to your home. This includes crawl spaces, attics, eves, and chimneys. Wildlife may use these points to find a suitable nesting spot within your home. However, be sure not to trap wildlife inside your home.
  17. Slow down when you see road kill. Many birds of prey, like the rough-legged hawk may not move out of the way from road kill if a car is coming. Slow down to avoid injuries to these birds.
  18. Learn to live with and enjoy the wildlife in the area – but from a distance. Binoculars are great ways to keep a safe distance from wildlife and yet enjoy all they have to offer.


Specific Situations

The following information provides some steps you may take if confronted with a specific wildlife situation.

"Abandoned" Fawns Like Deer, Antelope, Elk or Bighorn Sheep

Most likely, if you see a fawn by itself, the mother is probably feeding or has been scared off by human presence. It is completely natural for the mother to leave the fawn while it goes to eat. If you leave the area, the mother is almost guaranteed to return and will resume caring for the fawn, however, if you stay in the area, most likely the mother will not return.

Attacks / Dive Bombings by Mockingbirds

Mockingbirds are grayish birds with conspicuous white patches on their wings and tail while in flight. This type of aggressive activity by mockingbirds is seasonal and should last only a couple of weeks. Where possible, stay away from the nesting area until the young are ready to fly and the parents are no longer so protective. If you must walk past a nest, consider carrying an umbrella. Alternatively, a squirt of water from a garden hose may deter the bird.

Baby Bird Falling from a Nest

No matter where you live in Nevada, it’s likely that at some point you will come across a baby bird on the ground. You'll have to decide: should you rescue it or leave it to fend for itself? In most cases, it’s better not to interfere - the parents are probably close by and will almost certainly do a better job of raising it.

If the bird is fully or partially feathered, it’s most likely outgrown the limited space available in the nest. Young birds, referred to as “fledglings” or “branchers”, typically leave the nest and move about on the ground and on low branches for a few days before they can fly. Their parents are nearby and continue to care for them. You can help fledglings by keeping your dogs and cats in the house.

If the bird is unfeathered or partially feathered and you wish to assist, place the bird back in the nest if it can be located. However, don’t take unnecessary personal risks in the process. It is a myth that birds will not continue to care for their young once a human has handled them. If the nest cannot be found, place the bird in a shady place above the ground in hopes that the mother may continue to care for it. Let nature will take its course.

If the bird was attacked by a cat or dog, is bleeding, and/or you know the mother is dead, there are Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitators in the area that may assist you.

More on Injured Birds


Specific Animals

Mammals

Badgers (Taxidea taxus)

Badgers are unprotected and can be hunted without a license but cannot be trapped without a trapping license.

Prefers open country with light to medium cover and are rarely found for long in tree covered areas. They are mostly crepuscular (early morning and late evenings) but can be seen at all hours of the night and usually are inactive during daylight hours.

They can have a ferocious growl, snarl or hiss and make short charges against threats. Don’t corner the animal, such as in a garage. Give it plenty of opportunity to escape. Do not let your pets harass them, they are very capable fighters.

Most damage is from digging large holes after rodents, but they can and do predate on small livestock and rarely pets.

Exclusions, other than chain link fencing buried a foot underground and at least 4 feet above ground, itis difficult since most damage is to pasture and farmlands. Frightening devices such as bright lights have limited use and effectiveness. Problem individuals can be trapped for removal. Habitat modifications are the best by reducing or eliminating the prey base.

Bats

There are 23 species of bats native to Nevada. Four of these species have state “protected” status, four species have an elevated “sensitive” status and one species (spotted bat) has “threatened” status.

Bats are very beneficial, feeding on a variety of flying insects including mosquitoes. For example, a single little brown bat can catch 1,200 mosquito-sized insects in just one hour. In Nevada, bats occupy a variety of habitats ranging from natural desert washes to high elevation tree canopy. They also live in manmade structures like mines, barns, garages, and in some cases even attics in houses. Male and female bats roost separately during the summer season - females search for a warm well protected spaces in a mine, cave or attic of a house to give birth and raise their young (pups).

Bats typically migrate from summer and winter locations (roosts); however, a few species do not hibernate during the winter but migrate south where they can find insects all winter. Bats are attracted to rough surfaces outside your home (brick, rock, wood, stucco) in which to roost, to eat insects, groom and socialize. When bats are in migration status you may observe them spending a few days around your house before continuing on with their journey. Abandoned mines and caves provide some of the best habitats for bats to hibernate or use as summer roosts to raise their pups. These are critical periods of time for bats and human disturbance could lead to pup abandonment. Never enter abandoned mines as these are extremely dangerous and you could disturb bats during critical time periods. Refer to NDOW brochure for more information “Nevada Bats-Our Aerial Allies.”

People are most concerned about bats because of rabies – a disease which is spread when the salvia of an infected animal enters the body through a bite or scratch. Less than one half percent of bats have rabies and these only typically bite in self-defense. It’s important to realize that all wild mammals will bite if provoked and most bat bites are a result of people handling or provoking animals which could already be injured or sick.

If you do not handle a bat, the odds of contracting rabies are extremely small. Do not handle bats – leave them alone. If you think you or a pet have been bitten or scratched by a bat, call the State Health Department, see your doctor, and call Vector Control or the Department of Agriculture to pick up the bat. If a bat is sleeping high enough off the ground that they will not be disturbed by pets or children they generally pose little threat to anyone.

preventing bats from entering your home is the best way of reducing potential conflict. In many cases you won’t be aware bats can enter until they are present. Refer to Bat Conservation International’s (BCI) web site at www.batcon.org for information on how to humanely exclude them (basically you need to allow the bats to exit the structure and then seal all areas to prevent re-entry). Remember bats can enter very small spaces.

As the pups must be able to fly before an exit and exclusion strategy will work, the best time to repair entry ways into your attic is during the fall and winter when they have departed. If you try to exclude them when young pups are present you will not only destroy them but will create a huge health issue when insects invade to feed on decaying flesh.

Bats will quite often temporarily roost in an area like a porch, patio, garage, roof gutter, or in the eaves. They may be resting or be attracted to areas of high insect activity such as around porch lights in an urban environment. If you don’t want bats to hunt insects, rest and roost around your house use bug lights or a motion sensor light instead of white lights. You can also discourage bats from your porch by using a noise maker such as a radio operated by a motion sensor or smooth the surface of the area you wish to defend. A garden hose can be used as well to discourage bats. Droppings from bats (guano) are not harmful but should be swept clear if pets or children play in the area. Sweep guano in flower beds or shrubs to take advantage of the best natural fertilizer.

You can also install a bat house and place it away from your house to help prevent the eves or attic from being inhabited. You if want to purchase a bat box or download a design to construct one yourself visit the Bat Conservation International (BCI) web site at www.batcon.org.

Bears

Please see our Bear Logic section.

Beavers 

Beaver are classified as furbearing mammals in Nevada. There is a season established by the Nevada State Board of Wildlife Commissioners to legally trap and kill beaver and a current trapping license is required. If beaver are causing damage on private property, the landowner can apply for a Depredation Permit from the Nevada Department of Wildlife to kill the offending beaver. If beaver build a dam which causes damage or flooding, please contact the Nevada Department of Wildlife Game Division who has personnel trained to use explosives to remove the dams.

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Bobcats are furbearer species. To harvest must have valid trapping license and the season must be open.

The bobcat inhabits a wide variety of habitats and occurs in all 48 States and from southern Mexico to British Columbia. Bobcats are capable of hunting and killing prey in sizes ranging from mice to mule deer. They are mostly crepuscular but can be active during daylight hours. 

Growls and hisses are sounds the cat emits when threatened and make charges against threats but will mostly try to hide or run. Don’t corner the animal, such as in a garage. Give it plenty of opportunity to escape. Do not let your pets harass them, they are very capable fighters.

Most damage is predation, consumption of pet foods or human safety (trapped in garage).

Exclusions are difficult due their abilities to climb and jump as well as expensive. House small livestock in pens or coops and don’t leave pet food out overnight. Frightening devices such as motion sensitive bright lights and noise makers have limited use and effectiveness. Problem individuals can be trapped for removal. Habitat modifications are the best by reducing or eliminating the prey base and their food sources. Brush removal may also help.

Chipmunks, Ground Squirrels, Marmots, or Rabbits

You can try to exclude these small mammals from damaging shrubs and plants by putting up light-weight fencing. Approved repellents like Naphthalen crystals (moth balls or Ro-Pel, may help keep unwanted rodents out of the area. 

Coyotes (Canis latrans)

Coyotes are unprotected. Can be hunted without a license but cannot be trapped without a trapping license.

Coyotes occur coast to coast and Arctic to Tropic in North America (and all points in between). They are mostly crepuscular but can be active during daylight hours. Coyotes are almost omnivorous and utilize prey from livestock, to deer and rodents as well as fruits, berries and nuts.

Growls, snarls and yips are sounds the coyote emits when threatened. May charge against threats but will mostly try to hide or run. Don’t corner the animal, such as in a garage. Give it plenty of opportunity to escape. Do not let your pets harass them, they are very capable fighters.

Most damage is predation, consumption of pet foods or human safety. 

Exclusions, other than chain link fencing buried a foot underground and at least 5 feet above ground, is difficult due to their abilities to jump and dig as well as expensive. House small livestock in pens or coops and don’t leave pet food out overnight. Frightening devices such as motion sensitive bright lights and noise makers have limited use and effectiveness. Problem individuals can be trapped for removal. Habitat modifications are the best by reducing or eliminating the prey base and their food sources. Brush removal may also help.

Fox species: Red (Vulpes vulpes), Gray (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), and Kit (Vulpes Macrotis)

This animal is a furbearer. To harvest must have valid trapping license and the season must be open. 

Fox species are mostly crepuscular but can be active during daylight hours. Fox utilize prey from small livestock, to birds and rodents as well as fruits, berries and nuts.

Growls, snarls and yips are sounds fox emits when threatened. May charge against threats but will mostly try to hide or run. Don’t corner the animal, such as in a garage. Give it plenty of opportunity to escape. Do not let your pets harass them, they are very capable fighters. 

Most damage is predation, consumption of pet foods or human safety.

Exclusions, other than chain link fencing buried a foot underground and at least 5 feet above ground, is difficult due to their abilities to jump and dig as well as expensive. House small livestock in pens or coops and don’t leave pet food out overnight. Frightening devices such as motion sensitive bright lights and noise makers have limited use and effectiveness. Problem individuals can be trapped for removal. Habitat modifications are the best by reducing or eliminating the prey base and their food sources. Brush removal may also help. 

Marmots (Marmota monax)

Unprotected. Can be hunted without a license but cannot be trapped without a trapping license.

A member of the squirrel family, marmots are generally referred to as woodchucks or groundhogs. Marmots typically live in burrows often within rock piles. Marmots are highly social, and use loud whistles to communicate with one another, especially when alarmed. They hibernate through the winter months.

Marmots mainly eat greens. They eat many types of grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, roots and flowers.

Most damage is digging, plant consumption and feces buildup.

Exclusions are difficult due to they like open areas and they burrow. Trapping individuals is effective.

Mountain Lions 

Please see our Mountain Lion Safety section.

Muskrats

Muskrats are classified as furbearing mammals in Nevada. There is an annual season established by the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners to legally trap and kill muskrats and a current trapping license is required. If muskrats are causing damage on private property, the landowner can apply for a Depredation Permit from the Nevada Department of Wildlife to kill the offending muskrats.

Raccoons

Raccoons are found throughout the United States and are commonly found in areas with water and trees. Though they generally den in hollow logs, ground burrows or rocky crevices, they will take up residence in abandoned buildings, attics, chimneys and woodpiles. While raccoons are generally associated with rural environments they easily adapt to life in urban areas.

Adult raccoons generally weigh from 10 to 30 pounds, measure two to three feet in length and stand about 16 inches tall at the shoulder. They are easily identified by their grizzled gray color, bushy tails with alternating black and gray rings, and the black mask across their faces. Raccoons are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Common foods include fruit, berries, nuts, and corn, acorns, grains, crayfish, frogs, rabbits, mice and bird eggs.

Like most animals, raccoons will adjust their behavior to take advantage of opportunities that provide the greatest reward for the least amount of effort, especially when it comes to food. Raccoons become a problem when they lose their natural fear of humans and move into urban settings. Problems often associated with raccoons include tipping over garbage cans, nesting inside a chimney, and causing damage to homes or gardens and fruit trees. Raccoons may also spread diseases such as rabies or distemper. 

One of the first steps toward alleviating raccoon problems is to make the area in which they are causing problems less attractive to them. Never feed a raccoon. Remove possible food and water sources, take measures to cut off access to areas where they might find shelter, and keep the yard clean. It’s also a good idea to secure garbage can lids and to store those cans where the wind won’t blow them over. Repellents and scare tactics, such as those based on loud noises, are ineffective.

In Nevada raccoons are classified as a varmint and can be hunted without a hunting license, but a trapping license is required to trap them. A trapping license also is required to sell raw furs of any kind regardless of how they are taken. 

Raccoons (PDF) Wildlife Damage Management Series Figure

Raccoon Roundworm (PDF) 

Raccoons and Rabies (PDF)

Skunks 

Nevada is home to two skunk species, the striped skunk most of us are familiar with and the lesser known spotted skunk. The striped skunk is easily recognized due to the two broad, white stripes that run down its back, thus dividing its long black fur. It also has a triangular shaped head and a large bushy tail. The striped skunk is the smaller of the two. It too is black and has four broken stripes along the neck, back and sides.

Both species have a reputation for discharging a rather foul smelling musk from their anal glands and can do so accurately to a distance of about 10 feet. This ability usually gives them an advantage in a confrontation with pets. They have also been known to spray human beings.

Since these animals are nocturnal, humans don’t generally see much of them even though they might be cruising the neighborhood on a regular basis while hunting for insects, small rodents, carrion, poultry, eggs, nestling birds, fruit, pet food or garbage. Skunks can cause significant damage to gardens, lawns and other landscaping when digging for grubs and other insects. Skunks also are a rabies vector and can carry numerous other diseases such as canine distemper and tularemia among others.

Residential areas offer skunks several enticements including food, water and shelter. Remove these attractants and you’ll take a big step toward discouraging the presence of skunks. Remove any unused pet food and water bowls after dark and make sure your garbage can lids fit tightly on garbage cans. Harvest gardens frequently and pick up any fruit that may have fallen to the ground. Never feed a skunk. 

Patch or repair all holes or weak places in existing wire or wood coops or runs. This is especially important if you have poultry. Coop doors should fit snugly and sturdy, and make sure all coop edges are secure.

In Nevada skunks are classified as a varmint and can be hunted without a hunting license, but a trapping license is required to trap them. A trapping license also is required to sell raw furs of any kind regardless of how they are taken. 

Birds

Any bird can become a “problem” if it does something that we find unpleasant or annoying. The first step in trying to solve the problem is to figure out what is attracting the bird. It’s important to keep in mind that most bird problems do not have simple solutions. You may find a solution that seems effective, but it may only work for a limited time period. The most successful approach is to incorporate a variety of tactics and to vary them. Examples that may work include visual (lights, scarecrows, Mylar tape with a shiny coating) and sound tactics (slapping two boards together making a loud cracking noise), and physical barriers such as bird netting or hardware cloth. The following provides suggestions for dealing with bird species you may come into conflict with in urban settings. 

More information is also available at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website on backyard bird problems or at the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management website.

California quail 

California quail are classified as an upland game bird.

Birds are typically dependent on thick, brushy escape cover. Shrubs and small trees often provide California quail with roosting and hiding cover, but areas with rock outcrops can also be considered adequate escape cover. California quail are typically associated with chaparral, sagebrush scrub, oak grasslands, riparian and foothill woodland, and disturbed areas with humid forest ranges (Calkins et al. 1999). Suburban settings with larger lots and ample cover in the form of ornamental shrubs can also provide California quail with suitable habitat.

California quail coveys will generally begin to break up in March with egg laying activity beginning in April. Hens will nest in various substrate including dry grass and weeds as well as rock piles and dense brush. Clutch sizes average 11 eggs, but nest success is typically low. Hens will nest a second or third time if their nest is destroyed before hatching and under favorable conditions may raise two broods. Home ranges of California quail vary from 19 to 45 acres in the winter (Emlen 1939) with typical daily movements from 0.5 to 1.0 miles (MacGregor 1953) depending on availability of free water and habitat suitability. Birds depend of the seeds of broad-leafed annuals for most of the year.

California quail are not a threat to human or pet health. Damage from large coveys can occur during the winter, especially if someone is feeding birds. Areas of lawn can be scratched up by feeding quail and buds of younger shrubs may also be affected. Quail may roost in dense shrubs or thick trees and droppings can be considered a nuisance as it accumulates over the winter.

Excluding California quail from yards or ornamental shrubs can be difficult. If large coveys are damaging landscaping, the most effective alternative may be to determine whether or not neighbors are feeding birds. If so, explaining the situation and requesting that the neighbor cease feeding for a period of time may alleviate the problem. In some situations, removing dense cover may also be an effective solution, but may not be acceptable to the property owner. Other solutions involve the use of deterrents such as predator decoys like owls, hawks or ravens. Over a period of time, these deterrents are often ignored as the quail become habituated to them. 

California quail are not normally viewed as a nuisance species that would create problems. Most situations arise in the winter in association with supplemental feeding. If large coveys are becoming a problem, cessation of feeding will eventually alleviate the problem. Scare tactics and artificial predator deterrents can work for a period of time, but will often be short-lived in effectiveness. In some situations, the Nevada Department of Wildlife will loan traps to capture birds and thin coveys. These birds will be translocated to suitable habitats and released.

Herons and egrets (fish eating birds) 

Herons, egrets and other fish eating birds are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Nevada state law. These laws strictly prohibit the capture, killing or possession of migratory birds without special permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NDOW. No federal or state permits are required to scare or harass migratory birds that are destroying property except for endangered and threatened species.

The majority of herons and egrets are diurnal predators, actively searching for food during daylight or at dusk. Most hunt individually but if food is plentiful, they may be found together. The great blue heron is the largest of the herons in Nevada. It can reach 4 feet in height with a wingspan of nearly 6 feet. In urban settings, they are often attracted to lakes or backyard ponds. As “stand-and-wait” predators, they typically remain motionless for long periods of time, waiting for a fish, frog, tadpole or insect to venture near them. Alternatively they will wade slowly through the shallows. When approached by humans, herons will usually take off in slow flight, with head and neck drawn back in an S-shape and legs held straight to the rear. 

Herons and egrets (and other common fish eating birds like gulls and cormorants) pose little immediate threat to people or their pets; however they can have a significant economic impact on aquaculture operations. In urban settings, they also feed on fish in small ponds.

Physical barriers will deter most fish-eating birds from entering a pond. For small ponds, complete screening with bird netting may be effective. Properly spaced monofilament lines suspended over a pond may exclude herons (every foot) and gulls (every 4 feet). Perimeter fences provide some protection by preventing birds from wading into the water from the surrounding area. 

Water features like ponds are an attractive area to fish-eating birds. As netting and other physical barriers may not be visually appealing, it is recommended you try scare techniques first. If this doesn’t work, consider excluding access to the pond. Herons are intelligent birds, and if successful in catching and eating a fish from your pond, they will likely return again. Scaring herons away as soon as they appear will help ensure they don’t become accustomed to the site. A dog that spends most of its time in the backyard can also be an effective deterrent. To a lesser extent, so too is a scarecrow ‐ provided it is regularly moved. Alternatively try a motion bird scaring devise that sprays water or inflates a balloon.

Making areas less attractive through habitat modification is worth considering. Consider digging out the edges of your pond to make the sides steep and deep. Herons like to walk into and out of a pool easily when wading for food and a vertical bank will help deter them. Also provide adequate cover and hiding places for fish can help make the site less attractive to herons. 

For additional information, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Reno (775) 861 6300 or Las Vegas (702) 515-5230. Alternatively contact your local NDOW office.

Owls 

All owl species are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Nevada state law. Before any person may take (pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture), possess or transport any migratory bird, including its feathers, eggs or nest, they must secure permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NDOW. No federal or state permits are required to scare or harass protected migratory birds that are destroying property, unless the species is threatened or endangered.

Owls are almost entirely nocturnal predators with sharp bills and talons (claws). They have wide wings, lightweight bodies, and feathers specially designed to allow them to silently swoop down on prey. They are effective hunters of small mammals, birds, and reptiles and can play an important role in keeping rat, mouse and snake populations in check. Some, like the great horned owl, are widely distributed across the state occupying forests, open woodlands, deserts, and urban environments, including golf courses, backyards, cemeteries, and parks with adjacent woodlots. They prey on small to medium sized mammals and will take poultry and other small domestic livestock if the opportunity presents itself.

Burrowing owls are unusual in that they are ground-dwelling birds that are active during the day. They breed across the state but are most commonly found in the southern part of the state especially during winter. In rapidly developing suburban areas in southern Nevada, they often nest on vacant lots. Consequently, development activities often displace them. In the Mojave Desert portions of Clark, southern Lincoln and Nye counties, owls may use desert tortoise burrows for nesting and shelter.

Owls pose little threat to humans; however, larger owls may take small animals like free-roaming chickens, and small dogs and house cats for prey. In winter owls establish territories, build nests, and rear young. During this period, adult birds may display aggressive behavior towards creatures many times their size, including people. In this case, owls are simply trying to protect their homes, their mates, or their young. 

Free-roaming poultry or other domestic livestock (rabbits, ducks and pigeons) tend to attract predators. Many problems can be eliminated by housing animals in a coop at night. Fenced enclosures can be constructed using poultry wire attached to a wooden frame. Although rare, there have been reports of great horned owls taking unattended puppies and small cats and kittens. Keeping puppies and kittens inside or attended when outside should be considered if an owl is present.

Scaring an owl away by increasing human activity in an area or with sudden loud noises, such as hand clapping or banging pans is usually effective. If an owl displays aggressive behavior (dive-bombing) it is usually because it has a nest in close proximity. Where possible, stay away from the nesting area until the young are ready to fly and the parents are no longer so protective. If you must walk past a nest, wave your arms slowly overhead to keep the birds at a distance or consider carrying an umbrella.

Once owls nest and potentially lay eggs both are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In Clark County, however, through a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, burrowing owls may be discouraged from breeding at construction sites on private property by collapsing a desert tortoise burrow during the owl’s non-breeding season (September through February). This may help avoid construction delays. Once a burrow has an active nest, however, you must avoid the site until the chicks have fledged. For additional detailed information on the burrowing owl read Protecting Burrowing Owls at Construction Sites in Nevada's Mojave Desert Region - PDF.

Common poorwills are often mistaken for owls and are typically seen lying on the ground, day or night, as if in distress. They are speckled gray and brown in color and have whisker-like feathers around a very small beak, black eyes and a large mouth for scooping up insects on the wing. They are primarily active at dusk and night. If a poorwill is observed in the wild, it should be left alone. In urban environments, poorwills are found in large garages and warehouses. The best option is to open all doors and allow the poorwill to leave on its own. If one has been picked up by mistake, ideally it should be returned to a safe area, placed in shade away from foot traffic, and released. 

If you find an injured owl, note the exact location of the bird and contact the Fish and Wildlife Service, NDOW or a local rehabilitator and let them know.

If you pick up and transport an injured owl, be extremely cautious of the bird’s talons (claws). Wear heavy gloves and throw a blanket over the bird. The darkness will calm most birds and make it harder for them to defend themselves. To avoid injury to the owl, or yourself, the bird should be restrained before being transported. Place the bird in a cardboard box with ventilation holes punched in it, or in plastic pet container. Transport the owl as quickly and safely as possible to a rehabilitator or to a local NDOW office.

For additional information, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Reno (775) 861 6300 or Las Vegas (702) 515-5230. Alternatively contact your local NDOW office.

Pigeons

In Nevada, pigeons are considered to be an introduced, feral, domestic species, and thus are not considered "wildlife." As such, NDOW will be unable to respond if a pigeon is hurt or injured, or if they are causing a nuisance. If you are concerned for the welfare of a pigeon, you may try to tend to it yourself, or call your local Humane Society.

Raptors (eagles, hawks and falcons)

Raptors are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Nevada state law. These laws strictly prohibit the capture, killing or possession of migratory birds without special permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NDOW. No federal or state permits are required to scare or harass migratory birds that are destroying property except for endangered and threatened species and bald and golden eagles. Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act it is also illegal to disturb, agitate or bother bald or golden eagles.

Eagles, hawks and falcons belong to a group of birds collectively known as birds of prey (or raptors) and are highly specialized predators. They hunt during the day, have exceptionally good vision and sharp talons (claws) for grabbing their prey. Raptors breeding in Nevada, include: eagles (golden and bald), hawks (red tailed, ferruginous, rough-legged), accipiters (sharp shinned, Cooper’s and goshawks) and falcons (prairie, peregrine and American kestrel).

Hawks have broad-winged and fanned tails for soaring, and feed on rabbits, rodents and other small mammals. Accipiters are forest-dwelling hawks with long, narrow tails and short, rounded wings for speed and agility. They typically hunt small birds. The largest accipiter is the northern goshawk which feeds primarily on rodents, rabbits and birds. Occasionally they are attracted to free-ranging poultry. In urban areas, sharp-shined hawks will take advantage of songbirds congregated around bird feeders and hunt in these areas. Falcons are known for their incredible speed and agility, and usually feed on smaller birds, which they dive at and capture in mid-air. American kestrels are more commonly found in urban areas.

Hawks and eagles pose little threat to humans but will defend themselves (primarily with their feet) if approached or attacked. They prey on other animals and more aggressive species like the goshawk and red-tailed hawk may take free-roaming chickens or ducks because they are conspicuous and concentrated in areas with little escape cover. Sharp-shinned hawks and American kestrels occasionally prey on songbirds attracted to bird feeders.

If chicken, duck or pigeon depredation is a problem, fenced enclosures can be constructed using poultry wire attached to a wooden frame. Covering the roof of an enclosure is also recommended so that raptors and other predators cannot see the potential prey.

Especially in dry years when wild prey items are scarce, urban areas can provide a good source of food for raptors. For this reason, the effectiveness of techniques may vary. In general, increasing human activity in an area will keep most raptors away. Scarecrows are also effective if moved regularly. If this proves ineffective, modifying habitat to make it less attractive to raptors is an option. As hawks often survey a site from a perch before an attack, consider removing large isolated trees or other perching surfaces within 100 yards of the threatened area. If songbird predation becomes an issue, remove bird feeders. During winter months, however, do not stop feeding abruptly as songbirds rely heavily on these types of artificial food sources. Also, where possible minimize use of loose clothing lines and wires as these can be injurious to raptors in flight.

Hawks and eagles can inflict serious injury if handled incorrectly. If you see a raptor that appears to be injured, observe its behavior for a few minutes, note the exact location, and contact a local wildlife rehabilitator or NDOW. Hawks sometimes stand on the ground to rest after eating and a rehabilitator or NDOW staff can help determine if the bird is injured. 

If you pick up and transport an injured hawk, be extremely cautious of the bird’s talons (claws). Wear heavy gloves and throw a blanket over the bird. The darkness will calm most birds. To avoid injury to the bird, or yourself, place the hawk in a cardboard box or plastic pet container large enough for it to stand upright in, and with ventilation holes punched in. Only carry one bird per box. Place an old rag in the box to provide a gripping surface. Transport the hawk as quickly and safely as possible to a rehabilitator or to a local NDOW office. Do not attempt to feed or water an injured raptor.

If you have tried all of the above treatments and are still experiencing problems, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Reno (775) 861 6300 or Las Vegas (702) 515-5230 for further guidance. Alternatively contact your local NDOW office.

Waterfowl

All native waterfowl, such as ducks and geese, are protected. This protection extends to the birds’ nest and eggs. Where lethal control of waterfowl is necessary, it should be carried out only after nonlethal control techniques have proven unsuccessful and only under permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NDOW. A permit is not required to merely scare or herd nuisance migratory birds, provided no attempt is made to confine the birds or destroy their nests.

Waterfowl are most often found near water. However, they can fly long distances to and from their feeding grounds, which may include agricultural or upland sites. Some species like mallards and Canada geese occupy rural and urban environments. Here in Nevada, they are particularly attracted to mowed lawns around homes, golf courses, and parks. Many waterfowl overwinter in Nevada from more northern localities and can be particularly concentrated on golf courses and in parks during this time period. 

Adult waterfowl have a varied diet. Some species feed exclusively on aquatic foods, others forage on land. Others are highly adaptable and can do both. Canada geese are among the latter, grazing on grass and other vegetation out of the water and feeding on submerged aquatic vegetation by reaching under the water with their long necks. Food items range from pondweed to bread scraps and from wheat to alfalfa.

Canada geese are ubiquitous and nest in a variety of circumstances. Pair bonds are formed in January and nesting typically begins around March and can extend through July. Although eggs are incubated by the female goose, both parents vigorously defend the goslings until they are able to fly at about ten weeks. Mallards typically form pair bonds in late winter and nest in the early spring in urban areas of southern Nevada.

Because waterfowl and people often occupy the same grassy spaces at the same time of the year, conflicts can arise. The most common problems are aesthetic - feathers and feces in a park can become an annoyance and geese and ducks using swimming pools can leave these cast offs to clog pool filters. Goose droppings left on the greens can ruin a golfer’s short game, and young waterfowl can become entrapped in swimming pools. During the nesting season, geese may also become aggressive towards humans that get too close to their nests or young.

Since waterfowl can fly or walk into a site it is difficult to exclude them completely. Geese can be prevented from landing on small bodies of water or preferred forage sites by a grid of overhead wires. Covering swimming pools when not in use often works to exclude ducks and geese from establishing themselves in an area. Covering the pool is particularly important during the late winter and early spring period to discourage waterfowl from trying to nest. 

Waterfowl, particularly Canada geese, can be difficult to disperse once they become established on a pond or at a feeding site. Be particularly attentive for signs of two birds together for this could be a pair that may try and nest. Prompt and persistent application of a combination of methods is usually necessary to repel waterfowl.

Hazing ducks (primarily mallards) and geese from a body of water as soon as they appear will help ensure the birds don’t become accustomed to the site. Increasing bird disturbance (erecting flapping flags or shiny metallic streamers, periodically broadcasting loud noises or horns, placing walkways alongside water) should also be considered. Spraying birds with water from a garden hose may also be tried. Even the smallest of dogs are considered to be a threat, so ducks and geese tend to refrain from visiting backyards where they patrol. Once waterfowl construct a nest and potentially lay eggs both are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. So act quickly during the spring breeding season prior to nesting activity.

Any supplemental feeding of waterfowl should be discontinued immediately as this encourages large numbers of birds to congregate in unnaturally high numbers and may cause geese to become aggressive towards people.

Making areas less attractive through habitat modification is worth considering. Canada geese typically do not establish nesting territories in areas where they cannot walk easily into and out of a pond. Constructing ponds with an 18-24 inch vertical bank will help deter them. Geese are grazing animals and prefer short green grass. Replacing mowed, fertilized grass with other plantings or materials is the simplest and most direct way of reducing food at a site. If this is not possible, let grass grow to its full naturalized height. Grass at least 6 inches tall has few young, tender shoots for geese to find.

If a duck or goose becomes trapped in a pool, prop a long flat board, plank or blanket from the side of the pool into the water so that it is able to walk out. Alternatively, use a pool cleaning net to gently scoop the bird out.

Once nuisance waterfowl are gone from an area, make sure the area remains as unattractive to waterfowl so they will not return. For more information read Waterfowl: Damage Prevention and Control Methods - PDF.

If waterfowl continue to be a problem, depredation permits may be issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NDOW. Application for a permit must include a recommendation from US Department of Agriculture-APHIS-Animal Damage Control personnel. You should begin by contacting Wildlife Services in Reno (775-851-4848), Elko (775-738-3341) or Ely (775-289-2791). If Wildlife Services recommends that a permit be issued to capture or kill birds, they will complete a Wildlife Services Permit Review Form (Form 37). This form and a copy of any required State permits must accompany your federal application.

You may also register at the Resident Canada Goose Registration website for federal authorization to destroy resident Canada goose eggs and nests on property under your jurisdiction.

Ducks, Geese or other Waterfowl Landing in Pools

Scare the ducks off the pool immediately the first time you encounter them. Don't feed the ducks or other waterfowl. Pool covers are often useful to avoid such problems.

Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers are classified as nongame migratory birds and are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and Nevada state law. Before any person may take (pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture), possess or transport any migratory bird, including its feathers, eggs or nest, they must secure permits issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NDOW. No federal or state permits are required to scare or harass protected migratory birds that are destroying property, unless the species is threatened or endangered. 

Woodpeckers, flickers and sapsuckers are all members of the Picidae family. They have short sharp-pointed beaks with long tongues, stiff tail feathers, sharp claws and short legs. They are dependent on trees for food and shelter and usually occur in or around the edge of wooded areas where they nest in cavities. Many species will nest in human-made structures and have extended their habitat to include utility poles, buildings and houses. Woodpeckers are generally considered beneficial birds because of the large number of insect pests they eat. The majority feed on tree-dwelling or wood boring insects. Other species like northern flickers forage on the ground looking for ants and beetle larvae, while sapsuckers feed primarily on tree sap.

Northern flickers are one of the more commonly seen and heard woodpeckers in Nevada. They have a conspicuous white rump patch and salmon-colored wing undersides. When crowded out of their natural wooded territories, they will often use alternative structures (like houses and poles) to search for food or excavate a cavity. 

Woodpeckers do not pose a threat to humans or their pets however in urban settings they can damage wood and stucco sided houses and other structures by pecking holes and sometimes creating cavity nests in roof rafters. In most areas, if damage does occur, it usually occurs between February and June, which corresponds with the breeding season when birds are establishing territories. In southern Nevada, overwintering birds, like northern flickers, cause problems in the fall and winter as well as springtime. They may also peck holes in siding in search of insect larvae. Drumming (term used to describe sound of rapid pecking) on metal or wood, including gutters, drainpipes, TV antennas, plumbing vents, and wooden siding, poles or hollow trees causes little damage other than possible paint damage. However, the noise can be annoying. Stucco housing, in particular in southern Nevada, is an easy substrate to penetrate for woodpeckers. Often northern flickers will leave multiple holes throughout the side of a house looking for insects.

Woodpeckers can be prevented from accessing the side of a house and potentially damaging wood and stucco siding beneath the eaves by creating a barrier. Attach a sheet, tarp, or plastic netting (1/4 inch mesh or less) from the outside edge of the eave and angle it back to the wood siding. A larger area of siding can be protected by vertically hanging the sheet, tarp or bird netting from the roof gutter. Any ledges or cracks the bird might use as a foothold while drumming should be covered as well. Metal (aluminum) sheathing can also be placed over the pecked area to provide permanent protection. Take care to observe for multiple holes indicating insect searching versus one large hole that may indicate a nesting cavity. 

Woodpeckers are not easily driven away from an area once they have established a territory so deterring them as soon as a problem is identified is important. Repeatedly scaring the bird away with sudden loud noises, such as hand clapping or banging pans from a window may be effective. A squirt of water from a garden hose may have a similar effect. Sticky or tacky bird repellents, such as Roost-No-more, and Tanglefoot, can also be smeared on and near damaged areas including tree trunks and limbs to repel woodpeckers and prevent further damage. Some species, like northern flickers, will occasionally use artificial nest boxes. Some success has been achieved by placing nest boxes on the building in the vicinity of the damaged area (to discourage from nesting on the actual building). If you have dead trees in your yard, consider leaving them in place. Cutting down dead and decaying trees deprives woodpeckers of nesting, drumming and food sites, and may force them to take a look at your house. For more information read Woodpeckers: Damage Prevention and Control Methods - PDF

If extreme damage has occurred to private property and all non-lethal control methods have been exhausted, it may be necessary to remove the offending woodpecker. In such instances, permits may be issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NDOW. Generally, there must be a good case to justify issuance of a permit. 

Application for a permit must include a recommendation from US Department of Agriculture-APHIS-Animal Damage Control personnel. You should begin by contacting Wildlife Services in Reno (775-851-4848), Elko (775-738-3341) or Ely (775-289-2791).

Reptiles & Snakes

Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizzi) 

The desert tortoise is federally and state listed as threatened. While it is illegal to handle a wild desert tortoise without federal and state authorization, it is allowed to have pre-act desert tortoises (in captivity before August 1990) and their progeny in captivity as pets. Desert tortoises are not harmful to humans or their pets and are not considered a public safety threat.

In Nevada, desert tortoises are primarily found in creosote bush flats in the Mojave Desert and prefer burrows under Mojave Desert shrub plants, mainly creosote or bursage shrubs. Desert tortoises are active during the day, for the most part from March until October each year in Nevada. During the summer, when temperatures rise above 90°F, desert tortoises seek shelter in their burrows to avoid overheating. Desert tortoises come out of their burrows to thermo regulate, eat, drink and mate during this active time of year. During the winter, when temperatures are consistently below 70°F, desert tortoises seek shelter in their burrows to stay warm; here they hibernate, or brumate, for the winter months. Desert tortoises do not come out of their burrows during this in-active time of year. 

Desert tortoises do not pose a threat to humans or their pets. However, if a desert tortoise is in danger (found in a road or wandering an urban area) please call the organizations listed below. If a desert tortoise is found in the wild, leave it alone. Disturbing a desert tortoise by picking it up may cause it to void its bladder, causing invaluable water loss to an individual trying to survive in the dry and harsh Mojave Desert.

Desert tortoises are easily excluded from areas utilizing this fence design Desert Tortoise Exclusion Fence Design

If a wild desert tortoise is observed in the wild, leave it alone. If it’s on a road, allow it to cross on its own unless there’s heavy traffic, in which case you could carefully move it off the road in the direction it was heading; it’s helpful to place it in the shade under a shrub, then leave it alone. It is illegal to collect a wild desert tortoise. If a desert tortoise is observed in an urban area, carefully place the desert tortoise in a cardboard box with a shallow water dish and, if possible, dandelions, keep the box in a cool place (70-80°F) and refer below.

In Southern Nevada, contact the Pick Up Service at 702-593-9027 or the Tortoise Group (for adoption and care) at 702-739-7113. In Northern Nevada, contact the Reno Tur-Toise Club for adoption and care at 775-972-8532. 

Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum)

The Gila monster is a state protected species and it is illegal to handle a Gila monster without authorization from NDOW. The exception to this regulation is when a Gila monster is posing a public safety threat and needs to be removed only to avoid harm to humans. 

Gila monsters are basically limited to the Mojave Desert in Nevada and prefer rocky areas adjacent to sandy flats or washes. Gila monsters can be active at night or during the day; their activity seems to depend upon their biological needs and temperature and other climate-related factors. Gila monsters spend 98% of their lives underground in burrows and are active from March to October when ambient temperatures are 70-90°F. During the summer, Gila monsters seek shelter in their burrows to avoid overheating and excessive water loss as well as to hide from potential predators. Gila monsters briefly come out of their burrows to thermo regulate, eat, drink and mate during this active time of year. Gila monsters are typically not active from November to February in Nevada. During the winter, when temperatures are consistently below 70°F, Gila monsters seek shelter in their burrows to stay warm; here they hibernate, or brumate, for the winter months. Gila monsters do not come out of their burrows often during this in-active time of year.

Gila monsters are the only venomous lizard in North America and this, along with their tenacious bite and razor sharp teeth, could potentially pose a threat to humans and their pets. Gila monsters will only bite in self defense when they feel threatened or cornered. A bite can be inflicted by a Gila monster only when an attempt is made to get close enough to pick one up. Gila monsters move slowly, relative to other lizards. However, their relatively slow locomotion should not be confused for a harmless lizard. Gila monsters can turn their head very quickly to inflict a bite, should a person or pet get close enough. Refer to the Department’s ‘Venomous Reptiles of Nevada’ brochure or Southwest PARC’s ‘Living with Venomous Reptiles in the Southwest’ brochure.  

Gila monsters can be excluded by cinderblock walls at least two feet tall. Gila monsters can climb well, and a chain link or chicken wire fence will not exclude a Gila monster from an area.

If a Gila monster is found in the wild, leave it alone. It is illegal to handle or harm a Gila monster, unless it is posing a public safety threat, which in the wild, it is not. If a Gila monster is posing a public safety threat in a developed area, call the NDOW. If left alone, Gila monsters will leave an area where there are humans (usually after getting a drink from a pool or pond or eating a meal). If the Gila monster is unable to leave an area, placing a trashcan over the Gila monster and keeping the trashcan in the shade until a NDOW warden responds to remove it is effective. Refer to the Department’s ‘Gila Monster Protocol’ - PDF.

If a Gila monster is observed in Nevada, contact the NDOW immediately, preferably with a photo and locality information, at 702-486-5127.

Rattlesnakes (Crotalus spp.) 

Rattlesnakes are the only native snakes in Nevada harmful to humans or their pets. All other native snakes are harmless and should be left alone. All rattlesnakes are unprotected in Nevada.

Rattlesnakes are active from March to October in Nevada and can be seen during the day or night. During the summer, when temperatures rise above 90°F, rattlesnakes temporarily seek shelter in rock crevices, burrows, vegetation or sand to avoid overheating. Rattlesnakes come out of their refuges to thermo regulate, eat, drink and mate during this active time of year. Often times, rattlesnakes are encountered in urban areas including shaded yards, garages or covered patios because the snake needs to escape the heat and the human altered landscape is cooler than the open desert. During the winter, when temperatures are consistently below 60°F, rattlesnakes usually seek shelter to stay warm; here they hibernate, or brumate, for the winter months. Rattlesnakes do not often come out of their refuges during this in-active time of year and when they do, they do no go far before retreating back into their winter refuge. 

All rattlesnakes are venomous. All other native Nevada snakes are harmless to humans and are therefore not a threat. All rattlesnakes are capable of lunging at least 2/3 of their body length to inflict a bite at lightening speed when necessary. Juvenile rattlesnakes are fully capable of inflicting venomous bites. Matter of fact, juvenile rattlesnakes are not yet able to control the amount of venom injected during a bite and will almost always administer a venomous, or wet, bite when harassed. Rattlesnakes will not always rattle before a bite, nor do they always bite after rattling. The rattle serves as a warning if the rattlesnake feels threatened. Sometimes, a rattlesnake will hold completely still if it does not think it’s been seen by its potential predator. In these instances, people can easily not notice a rattlesnake and step on it, causing the snake to inflict a bite. Refer to the Department’s ‘Venomous Reptiles of Nevada’ brochure or Southwest PARC’s ‘Living with Venomous Reptiles in the Southwest.'

It is very difficult to exclude snakes from any area. Snakes can easily slip through chain link or chicken wire fencing and snakes are agile climbers and climb cinderblock walls or other solid fences with ease. If a fence is tall enough (over five feet) and constructed to angle away from the protected area, it is much more difficult for a snake to climb over. This fence design can be found at Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management

If a rattlesnake is found in the wild, leave it alone. Trying to needlessly harm, kill or move a rattlesnake only puts you at risk. If a rattlesnake is posing a public safety threat, call the NDOW. If left alone, rattlesnakes will leave an area where there are humans. If the rattlesnake is unable to leave an area, placing a trashcan over it and keeping the trashcan in the shade until a NDOW warden responds to remove it is effective. Refer to the Department’s ‘Venomous Reptiles of Nevada.'

If a rattlesnake is posing a public safety threat in Nevada call (775) 688-1331.