All animals need food, water, and shelter to survive. Loss of habitat, due to urban growth, increases the chance for wild animal/human interactions. Many animals move and find suitable habitat away from these areas. Beaver, coyotes, raccoons, and skunks thrive in the urban and farmland environment.
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Most of the damage caused by beavers is a result of dam building, bank burrowing, tree cutting, or flooding. Some southeastern states where beaver damage is extensive have estimated the cost at $3 million to $5 million dollars annually for timber loss; crop losses; roads, dwellings, and flooded property; and other damage. In some states, tracts of bottomland hardwood timber up to several thousand acres (ha) in size may be lost because of beaver. Some unusual cases observed include state highways flooded because of beaver ponds, reservoir dams destroyed by bank den burrows collapsing, and train derailments caused by continued flooding and burrowing. Housing developments have been threatened by beaver dam flooding, and thousands of acres (ha) of cropland and young pine plantations have been flooded by beaver dams (Fig. 6). Road ditches, drain pipes, and culverts have been stopped up so badly that they had to be dynamited out and replaced. Some bridges have been destroyed because of beaver dam-building activity. In addition, beavers threaten human health by contaminating water supplies with Giardia.
Coyotes can cause damage to a variety of resources, including livestock, poultry, and crops such as watermelons. They sometimes prey on pets and are a threat to public health and safety when they frequent airport runways and residential areas, and act as carriers of rabies. Usually, the primary concern regarding coyotes is predation on livestock, mainly sheep and lambs. Predation will be the focus of the following discussion.
Since coyotes frequently scavenge on livestock carcasses, the mere presence of coyote tracks or droppings near a carcass is not sufficient evidence that predation has taken place. Other evidence around the site and on the carcass must be carefully examined to aid in determining the cause of death. Signs of a struggle may be evident. These may include scrapes or drag marks on the ground, broken vegetation, or blood in various places around the site. The quantity of sheep or calf remains left after a kill vary widely depending on how recently the kill was made, the size of the animal killed, the weather, and the number and species of predators that fed on the animal.
Raccoons may cause damage or nuisance problems in a variety of ways, and their distinctive tracks often provide evidence of their involvement in damage situations.
Raccoons occasionally kill poultry and leave distinctive signs. The heads of adult birds are usually bitten off and left some distance from the body. The crop and breast may be torn and chewed, the entrails sometimes eaten, and bits of flesh left near water. Young poultry in pens or cages may be killed or injured by raccoons reaching through the wire and attempting to pull the birds back through the mesh. Legs or feet of the young birds may be missing. Eggs may be removed completely from nests or eaten on the spot with only the heavily cracked shell remaining. The lines of fracture will normally be along the long axis of the egg, and the nest materials are often disturbed. Raccoons can also destroy bird nests in artificial nesting structures such as bluebird and wood duck nest boxes.
Skunks become a nuisance when their burrowing and feeding habits conflict with humans. They may burrow under porches or buildings by entering foundation openings. Garbage or refuse left outdoors may be disturbed by skunks. Skunks may damage beehives by attempting to feed on bees. Occasionally, they feed on corn, eating only the lower ears. If the cornstalk is knocked over, however, raccoons are more likely the cause of damage. Damage to the upper ears of corn is indicative of birds, deer, or squirrels. Skunks dig holes in lawns, golf courses, and gardens to search for insect grubs found in the soil. Digging normally appears as small, 3- to 4-inch (7- to 10-cm) cone-shaped holes or patches of upturned earth. Several other animals, including domestic dogs, also dig in lawns.