University of Illinois Extension

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make my property less vulnerable to wildlife damage?

1) Remove the resources that attract wildlife. Wild animals are experts at finding the resources they need for survival, namely, food, water, and shelter. By removing these resources from your property you reduce the chance that an animal will take up residence in your yard or damage your property. Many species need more resources than can be provided in one yard, so you'll want to share these tips with your neighbors to help keep wildlife populations in your community from becoming over-abundant.

  • Remove food sources such as birdseed, pet food, garbage, or food scraps in compost bins.
  • Remove sources of water such as bird baths, backyard ponds, leaky outdoor faucets, or containers that hold rainwater such as old tires or plastic food containers.
  • Remove cover and shelter. Modify your landscaping by removing plants that are attractive to wildlife for food or shelter. Cut back tree limbs that are within 10 feet of buildings, keep grass cut short (2-3 inches high), and remove brush piles and piles of stacked firewood.

2) Exclude wildlife. It isn't always realistic to remove the resources that attract wildlife. For example, most of us are not willing to give up our flowers, shade trees, vegetable gardens, or bird feeders. When properly used, fences and repellents are effective at protecting landscaping. To protect your home, regularly check the integrity of the structure. For example, prevent wildlife from accessing your home by making sure the soffits and eaves of your house are in good condition, install a chimney cap, and use hardware wire over outside vents. Quickly repair any holes that you find (make sure the animal is not still inside before sealing the hole!). Prevent wildlife from denning or burrowing under decks or around the foundations of buildings by placing hardware cloth over openings under decks and patios.

3) For more detailed tips on living with urban wildlife or for information on how to deal with problems caused by specific species go to the How to Solve a Problem with Wildlife at Your Home and Directory of Illinois Wildlife sections.

How can I protect my small pet from being harmed by wildlife?

Always monitor small animals under 20 pounds when they are outside. Keep cats and dogs confined to a fenced yard or run. Fences should be 6-8 feet above the soil surface to keep coyotes out of your yard. Keep small animals like rabbits in an enclosure with a top if left unattended. For pets that are kept outside, always provide a shelter that they can use to escape a predator.

If you have not seen or heard bats but find small droppings in the attic, how do you know if they are from bats or mice?

The droppings of bats and mice are fairly easy to tell apart. Mouse droppings will be small, dark, cylindrical pellets that are generally scattered about. Bat guano will have a shiny appearance and be brittle due to the remains of insects. The guano will usually be found in piles near the roost.

How do I remove a wild animal or bird from my property?

If the animal or bird is not causing property damage and is not a threat to public safety it is illegal to remove it. If the animal is causing substantial property damage or causing a safety issue then there are four courses of action:

  1. Check the government listings in the telephone directory to see if your municipality or county has an animal control department that will handle wildlife control cases. (Many do not have the resources to provide this service)
  2. Hire a nuisance wildlife control operator to trap and remove the animal.
  3. If you want to remove the animal yourself, call your local Illinois Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist or Conservation Police Officer to request an animal removal permit. A removal permit will be issued only after all other reasonable control methods have failed to remedy the problem. (In rural areas, legal hunting or trapping methods could be used to remove certain game or furbearing species)
  4. Call APHIS Wildlife Services to remove the bird or animal. If you need a permit to remove a bird or nest, Wildlife Services should be called before calling IDNR.

Why should I hire a wildlife damage control operator instead of trapping an animal myself?

There are several reasons why it is better to hire a professional. First, it is safer for a trained professional to capture a wild animal. Trapping a wild animal carries the risk of physical injury, and wildlife can be carriers of diseases that are transmittable to humans (zoonoses). Second, it is convenient. Operators already have the necessary permits and training to do the job right. Third, some animals must be humanely euthanized after they are captured. You should hire a professional if you do not have the skill or ability to do this part of the job. Finally, animals that are to be relocated must be transported safely and securely. It is illegal to transport a wild animal unless the animal is secured in a suitably sized trap. The trap must be secured in a vehicle that has more than one compartment (i.e. a pickup truck with a topper) to avoid contact between humans and the animal.

When is it ok to remove or kill a wild animal that is causing problems on my property?

Wildlife may only be removed or euthanized if a permit has been issued. An animal removal permit is only issued if the Illinois Department of Natural Resources determines that the animal is causing substantial property damage or if there is a public health or safety issue. For example, structural damage to a home caused by raccoons chewing through the roof or property damage from flooding caused by beavers would likely warrant the issuance of a permit. Permits are not likely to be issued to deal with inconveniences such as squirrels raiding feeders, woodpeckers drumming trees, or rabbits foraging in flowerbeds unless substantial damage is being caused. While these situations are understandably frustrating for the homeowner, there are non-lethal methods that can be used to remedy these problems. Check out the How to Prevent Problems with Urban Wildlife section to learn how to prevent problems with wildlife.

Are all species covered by the Wildlife Code? How do I know if I need a permit to remove an animal from my property?

Certain species, house mice for example, are not covered by the Wildlife Code, and so you do not need a permit to remove them from your property. Other species, such as those that are threatened or endangered, may not be removed. To figure out if you need a permit to remove a particular species go to the Do I Need a Permit? section.

I want the animal trapped and removed from my property, but I don't want it to be euthanized. Why can't the animal be relocated?

Caring about the welfare of individual animals is understandable. However, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has the responsibility to conserve and manage wildlife populations. When an animal is relocated there is more at stake than the welfare of that particular individual. There are several reasons why it may be better not to relocate an animal. First, if the animal is relocated to another urban area then someone else is going to inherit your problem. Second, handling and transporting a wild animal can be dangerous. Third, any diseases or pests that the relocated animal carries have the potential to spread to the new local population which puts other animals, and potentially people, at risk. Finally, the reality is that many relocated animals do not survive. The new location to which the animal is moved will already have a population of animals using the resources (food, water, and shelter) of the area. Relocated animals often travel long distances trying to find a new place to establish a territory. During this time they are more vulnerable to predators and increase their risk of being struck and killed by vehicles. Relocation is not allowed in some cases because we must consider the best interest of the animal and other wildlife populations. By law, all captured skunks in Illinois must be euthanized.

How can I be sure that the wildlife control operator I'd like to hire will use the best practices of the profession?

You should always make sure that the nuisance wildlife control operator has a license from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) before hiring them to work on your property. Licensed operators have a valid nuisance wildlife control permit issued by the IDNR. To obtain the license operators must pass an annual test administered by the IDNR and must follow strict guidelines for capturing, handling, and transporting animals. Always report any negative experiences with wildlife control operators to the IDNR or Better Business Bureau. Unscrupulous operators can have their license revoked.

How do I remove a wild animal or bird from a room in my house?

Sometimes a bird, squirrel, or other animal will accidentally gain entry into your house either by falling down the chimney or coming in through an open door or window. Stay calm. Do not yell and try to chase the animal out with a broom. The animal is already frightened from being in an unfamiliar place. Yelling and chasing the animal will only increase the animal's stress level and may increase your chances of being injured. Block access to other parts of the house by closing doors to other rooms. Leave a window or door open to the outside. Give the animal some time alone to reorient itself. It will soon show itself out. If the animal fell down a chimney it may be injured. Do NOT try to capture an injured animal on your own. Call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or a nuisance wildlife control operator to catch the animal for you.

It sounds like I have baby birds/animals in my chimney. What do I do?

Birds and raccoons seem to like chimneys as places to start a family. If at all possible, try to let the adults finish raising their young. Baby birds will fledge from the nest in about two to three weeks. Baby mammals will remain in the 'den' for up to two months. Other than the inconvenience from the noise, the animals should not cause any damage to the chimney and are not a danger to your family. Make sure that the chimney flue is closed so that the birds/animals do not have access to your house. Do not use the fireplace until the animals have left the chimney permanently. Have the chimney professionally cleaned before using it again to avoid a fire hazard. Install a commercial chimney cap to prevent birds or animals from gaining access to the chimney in the future.

An animal chewed through the soffit (roof, attic vent, etc.) of my house and I think it is living in my attic. What do I do?

The best way to handle a situation like this is to hire a nuisance wildlife damage control operator to catch the animal(s) for you. Once the animals(s) have been removed, repair the damage to prevent other animals from gaining access. Make it a habit to regularly inspect your home for rotting wood, openings or holes, or other weak spots that make it easy for animals to gain entry.

How do I dispose of euthanized or dead wildlife?

Dead wildlife may be disposed of by a garbage service or buried. Dead wildlife should be removed from a property as soon as possible, and may be disposed of in the municipal garbage if they are double bagged. Small and medium sized carcasses can be picked up with a shovel and placed in a plastic bag. Wear disposable gloves while handling the carcass, and wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water when finished.

Nuisance wildlife control operators can also provide disposal service.

If you live in a rural area, dead wildlife may be buried on your property in a hole at least two and half feet deep (there should be at least 6 inches of compacted soil covering the carcass). If you do not know where the underground utility facilities (power, phone, and gas lines) are located on your property, call JULIE before you dig (1-800-892-0123). The location you choose should be at least 200 feet from any supply of surface or groundwater to avoid contamination of the water supply.

If there is a dead deer near the road, the local highway department or the local public works department will usually dispose of it. Some municipal public works departments will go onto private property to remove the carcass, but because of liability concerns others will not. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not provide disposal service.

Will the Illinois Department of Natural Resources remove wild animals from my property?

IDNR does not remove wildlife and does not provide funding to reimburse citizens for damage caused by wildlife. The role IDNR plays in wildlife damage management is to provide technical advice to citizens on ways conflicts can be alleviated and administer permits to ensure that wildlife are properly managed.

Who do I contact for technical advice about nuisance wildlife in Illinois?

The Living With Urban Wildlife in Illinois website was designed to provide basic information about urban wildlife and human-wildlife conflicts. If you didn't find the information you need and have still questions or if you have a public health or safety concern regarding wildlife please Ask an IDNR Wildlife Biologist. (Please allow 2–3 days for a response.)

If you need to hire a professional to remove an animal:

Contact a nuisance wildlife control operator. These are private, fee-based companies.

If you would like to apply for an animal removal permit:

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources issues permits. You can find your local IDNR wildlife biologist here. You can also contact the IDNR Urban Deer Program Manager for a deer removal permit:

Marty Jones, Project Manager
IDNR Urban Deer Project
(847) 798-7620

If you would like to apply for a bird removal permit:

You will need to work with IDNR, but first you must contact the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services (USDA APHIS-WS). The Illinois Wildlife Services State Director can be reached at (217) 241-6700.

For Canada geese permits, contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Urban Waterfowl Project Manager, Roy Domazlicky, at (847) 608-3100 x2031.

How do I become a wildlife rehabilitator in Illinois?

For information on how to become a licensed wildlife rehabilitator you will need to contact Brian Clark with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Law Enforcement License and Permit Programs; (217) 782-6431.

How do I become a nuisance wildlife control operator?

To become a licensed nuisance wildlife control operator (NWCO) in Illinois you must take a test administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The IDNR will send out study packets to anyone requesting information on how to become a NWCO. The packet includes administrative rule 525 which sets out the requirements & provisions of the program. Contact Laura Kammin at lasimmon@illinois.edu for more information.

Didn’t find the answer to your question? Ask an IDNR Wildlife Biologist.