DEEP: Nuisance Wildlife Control and Rabies

Nuisance Wildlife Control

Information for Connecticut's Homeowners
{Illustration of Common Nuisance Wildlife Species}
Copyright 1997

What is a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator?

Each year, the Wildlife Division receives several thousand calls for assistance from residents who have problems with wild animals.

These conflicts typically include wild animals damaging crops, livestock or property; wild animals posing a threat to human safety; diseased wild animals; and wild animals taking up residence in areas where they are unwanted.

Many of these problems are resolved by providing advice over the telephone or through the mail, but a substantial number of situations require direct action. The increase of such nuisance wildlife problems in recent years, due primarily to urban and suburban encroachment into wildlife habitat, has exceeded the manpower capabilities of the department.

In 1985, the Connecticut Legislature established a license for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCOs), individuals who can advertise services and charge fees for the purpose of handling nuisance wildlife problems. NWCOs are not DEEP employees; however, their activities are governed by regulations, policies and procedures established by the DEEP. (How to Become a NWCO)

Applicants to the NWCO program must successfully complete a DEEP approved training course. They are also required to pass an examination which assesses their knowledge of NWCO policies and procedures and animal identification, habits and life histories.

Licensed NWCOs must keep accurate, up-to-date records of their activities. By instituting these requirements, the DEEP is certifying that the NWCOs have reviewed the procedures, guidelines and expectations of the NWCO program.

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. 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.
    Have the NWCO 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 problem he expects to be able to resolve within the limits of his methods and abilities.
  • Establish a fee or rate of payment.
    The DEEP does not regulate fees charged for NWCO assistance. Such fees should be resolved ahead of time between you and the NWCO. Fees charged may vary between individual NWCOs.   
Because the NWCOs are conducting private businesses, the DEEP is not liable for any actions that they may take. If, however, you feel that a NWCO has acted in an unsatisfactory or unethical manner, you are urged to report such actions in writing to:

Bureau of Natural Resources / Wildlife Division
CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127

NWCOs who accumulate such complaints will be given a formal hearing and may have their license suspended if charges against them can be substantiated.

By administering the NWCO program, the 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.

List of licensed NWCOs (PDF 200k)

Things to consider when hiring a NWCO (PDF 106k)

You may also obtain a list of licensed NWCOs
from the Wildlife Division by calling
(860) 424-3011.

Facts About Rabies

Rabies is a fatal viral disease that can affect all warmblooded animals including man. Rabies is primarily transmitted by the bite of infected animals. Rabies may also be transmitted by scratches or when saliva or central nervous system tissue (i.e., brain, spinal cord) from a rabid animal gets into an open wound or mucous membrane (eyes, nose, or mouth). Rabies is not transmitted by contact with urine, feces, blood, or scent glands.

Symptoms of rabies in animals vary, but they often include changes in behavior such as unprovoked aggression, unusual friendliness, paralysis or uncoordination, excessive drooling, disorientation, and aimless daytime wandering. Note that even healthy nocturnal animals such as raccoons are sometimes active during the day, and this behavior should not in itself be reason to believe an animal is sick.

Since 1991, Connecticut has experienced an outbreak of rabies in wild animals. Raccoons are the primary carrier and most commonly affected animal. However, rabies cases in other wild and domestic animals such as skunks, woodchucks, foxes, bats, cats, dogs, horses, sheep, and cows have been reported. Squirrels, rabbits, and mice are seldom affected by rabies. Birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and insects do not get this disease.

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, and immediately report the incident to the local police or 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.

Nuisance Complaints Involving Rabies-Prone Species

The trapping or removal of rabies-prone species by NWCOs is encouraged only if the animal is causing property damage or if there is a high probability of contact with humans or domestic animals. Homeowners are prohibited from trapping or shooting wildlife unless the animal has been actively causing property damage or is an obvious threat to public safety. Shooting of wildlife under such circumstances must still comply with local firearms ordinances. Live trapping and relocation of certain rabies-prone species (raccoon, skunk, fox) is prohibited under Connecticut General Statutes Section 26-57. This restriction is necessary to reduce the spread of disease and to minimize the negative consequences associated with wildlife relocation. Relocation of wildlife may transfer the original problem to someone else, subject the relocated animal to increased stress and mortality, and disrupt wildlife populations native to the relocation area. Using more effective and permanent controls such as animal proofing methods and eliminating wild animals' access to food and shelter should be emphasized.

Remember that relocation restrictions do not require that every trapped rabies-prone species be destroyed. Options for release of these animals on the same property in conjunction with appropriate animal proofing should be considered.

Additional Rabies Information May Be Obtained from the Following Sources:

  • Human Exposures
    • CT Dept. of Public Health

    Questions regarding human exposures should be directed to local Departments of Health, private physicians, or the Connecticut Department of Public Health

  • Domestic Animal Exposures
    • CT Dept of Agriculture
      Animal Control Division

    Notify your local Animal Control Officer or veterinarian

  • Wildlife Behavior
    • CT Dept. of Energy & Environmental Protection
      Wildlife Division
      Routine: 860-424-3011
    • Law Enforcement Division
      Emergency: 860-424-3333
  • Rabies Testing
    • Animals that have exposed humans or domestic animals
      CT Virology Lab
    • Sick Animals with no known exposure history
      UCONN Animal Diagnostic Lab