Information for Connecticut's Home and Business Owners
Each year, the Wildlife Division receives several thousand calls concerning conflicts with wildlife. A majority of these problems involve small mammals, such as squirrels, raccoons, skunks, woodchucks, opossums, and bats, as well as some birds, such as house sparrows, starlings, pigeons, and woodpeckers. Problems caused by these species vary, but they often involve animals establishing dens and nests in or under homes, decks and sheds; damages from holes, burrows, nesting material, and feces; and associated safety and disease concerns. Other species commonly reported as causing conflicts include beavers, coyotes, foxes, and Canada geese. Some of the conflicts include threats and damages from flooding; attacks on pets, poultry and livestock; fecal damages to lawns and recreation areas; and associated disease and safety threats to people and pets.
Compounding these conflicts are the loss of wildlife habitats caused by residential and commercial development and an increasing human population that often lacks a basic understanding of common wildlife and the prevention and control of damages.
The Wildlife Division provides wildlife damage control information over the telephone or through information provided on our website to assist Connecticut residents in resolving wildlife conflicts, but some residents require more assistance.
In 1985, the Connecticut State Legislature established a license for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCOs). Licensed NWCOs must complete a comprehensive training course and pass a state exam which assesses their knowledge of NWCO regulations, policies and procedures; animal identification, habits, and life histories; recommended wildlife control practices; and humane handling and euthanasia. NWCOs can advertise services and charge fees for the purpose of controlling nuisance wildlife. They must keep accurate, up-to-date records of their activities and report their activities annually. Though not DEEP employees, their activities are governed by DEEP regulations, policies, and procedures. By instituting these requirements, DEEP is certifying that NWCOs have reviewed the procedures, guidelines, and expectations of the NWCO Program. (How to Become a NWCO)
If you are experiencing wildlife-caused problems and are unable or unwilling to resolve the situation yourself, you will most likely be referred to a NWCO. The DEEP, through regulation and policy, determines which animals the NWCOs can handle and which methods they can employ (Brochure: Nuisance Wildlife Control Program, Rabies, and Client Notification). However, some decisions must be negotiated between you and the NWCO. After contacting a NWCO, you should discuss the following issues before action is taken:
- Determine the nature of the problem.
With the NWCO's assistance, identify the offending species, the number of animals involved (if possible), and describe the extent and types of damage.
- Determine which methods will be used to resolve the problem.
Ask the NWCO to recommend possible methods of control, the estimated costs, and the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
- Establish the conditions which will constitute a solution to the problem.
Let the NWCO explain how much, if not all, of the problems he or she expects to be able to resolve within the limits of his/her methods and abilities.
- Establish a fee or rate of payment.
DEEP does not regulate rates charged for NWCO assistance. Such payments should be agreed upon ahead of time between you and the company you want to hire. Fees charged may vary between individual companies.
Bureau of Natural Resources / Wildlife Division
CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127
By administering the NWCO program, DEEP is implementing a mechanism to address the growing number of nuisance wildlife complaints. This program is particularly applicable in urban and suburban areas where traditional hunting and trapping are not practical methods of wildlife population control.
Do you need help and advice concerning nuisance wildlife? Check out www.wildlifehelp.org and select "Connecticut" as your state to get started. This website is supported by the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Northeast Wildlife Damage Management Cooperative.
Nuisance Wildlife Control Conflicts Involving Rabies Vector Species
Homeowners are strictly prohibited from trapping and shooting wildlife outside regulated seasons, unless the animal has been actively causing property damage or is an obvious threat to public health and safety. If this course of action is taken under such circumstances, you must still comply with state trapping laws and local firearms restrictions.
Relocation of rabies-vector species (raccoon, skunk, and fox) is prohibited under Connecticut General Statutes Section 26-47(b) and 26-57. This restriction is necessary to prevent human-assisted spread of this disease and is an important component of the state’s nuisance wildlife control program.
The trapping or removal of rabies-prone species by a NWCO is encouraged only if the animal is causing property damage, appears to be sick or diseased, or is posing a public health and safety threat. Strongly recommended alternative controls include eviction from buildings using harassment or one-way doors, followed by animal proofing and eliminating wild animal access to food and shelter.
Rabies is a fatal viral disease primarily found in bats and wild carnivores, such as raccoons, skunks, and foxes — also referred to as rabies vector species (RVS). It can also infect unvaccinated cats, dogs, livestock, and other mammals, like woodchucks and deer.
The following symptoms may indicate the presence of rabies, distemper, or other disease in mammals:
- Unprovoked aggression
- Impaired movement, difficulty walking
- Unusual vocalizations
Rabies is found in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted primarily through a bite. It can also spread when saliva or central nervous system tissue (brain, spinal cord) enters an open wound or mucous membranes (eyes/nose/mouth). Anyone exposed to a suspect rabid animal should thoroughly wash wounds and immediately contact a doctor and follow their instructions, or seek emergency medical treatment. If a pet or livestock is exposed to a rabid animal, the incident should be reported to a veterinarian and the town Animal Control Officer (ACO).
Suspect rabid wild animals that expose people or pets/livestock should be captured and dispatched, generally by local police or animal control — without damaging the brain. Rabies testing for human exposures is done at the State Dept. of Public Health (DPH) Virology Lab and coordinated through your local health director or district. Testing of animals that have exposed domestic animals is handled by the UCONN Animal Diagnostic Lab for a fee. Suspicious wildlife euthanized due to safety threats that did not expose people/pets/livestock do not need to be tested, but could also be brought to the UCONN Lab.
Curbing populations of RVS to control rabies is not feasible, nor is there a current plan for a vaccination program. Vaccinating pets and avoiding and reporting suspicious wildlife for removal are recommended as the primary means to avoid rabies conflicts. Eliminating food attractants (bird feeders, garbage, pet foods, and compost, etc.) and animal proofing homes (by installing chimney caps or sealing off openings under decks and sheds) will help reduce nuisance related conflicts with and alleviate concerns about encountering rabid animals.
Rabies Prevention Measures
Homeowners can minimize their risk of exposure (and also the risk to their pets and livestock) by taking the following precautions:
- Vaccinate pets and livestock against rabies. Unvaccinated pets represent the greatest risk of rabies exposure to humans and are frequently the link between rabid wildlife and people. If your dog or cat is unvaccinated and exposed to a rabid animal, it must be euthanized or removed from the home and quarantined for six months. The importance of pet vaccinations cannot be overemphasized! Do not allow pets to roam freely. Keep them closely supervised, feed them indoors, and confine them at night. If your pet is exposed to a suspected rabid animal, wear gloves when handling it or treating its wounds. Contact a veterinarian for advice. Your local police, animal control officer, or NWCO can help identify, capture, or destroy the suspect animal for testing.
- Avoid contact with wild or stray animals. Report animals behaving suspiciously to your local police or animal control officer. Never attempt to feed, pet, or handle wild animals or strays. It is illegal to keep any wild animal as a pet, and doing so will increase your risk of exposure to rabies and other diseases. To discourage wildlife from living in or around your home, cap chimneys, screen crawl spaces, and repair openings into buildings. This also includes securing potential food sources (garbage cans, pet or livestock food, and even birdseed). Contact the Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011, or a NWCO, for information on wild animal behavior and control techniques.
- If you are bitten, scratched, or think you have been exposed to rabies, wash the exposed area thoroughly with soap and warm water and contact your doctor or emergency clinic immediately. If possible, without further risk of exposure, capture or destroy the wild animal without damaging its head. (For assistance in the capture of animals involved in a rabies exposure, contact local or state police or an animal control officer.) If you are unable to contact local authorities, call the DEEP at 860-424-3333 for guidance. NWCOs may also be able to assist with human exposure cases by capturing suspect animals and assisting with transport for rabies testing. Note that treatment for rabies exposure is highly effective if administered promptly and consists of a series of six relatively painless injections.
Additional Rabies and Wildlife Control Information May Be Obtained from the Following Sources:
- Human Exposures
Questions regarding human exposures should be directed to local Departments of Health, private physicians, or the Connecticut Department of Public Health
- Domestic Animal Exposures
Remember to vaccinate your pets/livestock! Gloves should be worn prior to handling an exposed or suspect animal. Notify your local Animal Control Officer or veterinarian of any exposure to pets or livestock.
- Wildlife Control/Behavior/Rabies (general info)
- CT Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection
Wildlife Division: 860-424-3011
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
- DEEP Emergency Dispatch: 860-424-3333
*In some cases, DEEP Environmental Conservation Police may be available to respond if there has been an exposure or a suspect animal is aggressively threatening people, pets, or livestock.
- CT Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection
- Rabies Testing
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)