Chemical Update: Vertebrate Pest Controls

Vertebrate pests — rodents, birds and deer — can appeal to human sentiment, but they can also wreak havoc to the properties you manage. If you find yourself in that predicament, you already know that these pests can be difficult to displace, often creating a public relations predicament.

Dealing with vertebrate pests in urban environments poses special hazards. Pets are easily lured to poison baits and traps, and shooting is not permitted in cities. Plus, such animals are often classified as wildlife, which means they may have a “season” and may be regulated by state or federal wildlife agencies.

Non-lethal alternatives such as live traps, decoys and exclusion (fences) may be effective. Unfortunately, these tactics may be impractical or ineffective in many situations. Chemical repellents and anti-feedants are other tools that you can use.

  • Geese

    Methyl anthranilate and anthraquinone are anti-feedants effective against Canada geese — by far, the most difficult bird pest. Other methods — herding dogs, dead goose decoys and sound cannons, to name a few — can be useful. However, bad-tasting anti-feedants have been shown to be a reliably effective and non-intrusive strategy.

  • Deer and rodents

    Several substances can deter deer and rodent feeding through unpleasant odors or tastes. Castor oil is a common rodent repellent. Pepper (or capsaicin, derived from peppers), egg solids, the fungicide thiram, bitrex and several other substances also can reduce feeding through the unpleasant tastes or smells they impart.

According to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), repellents with active ingredients that emit sulfurous odors (ones with bloodmeal or egg solids) generally provide good results.

Poison baits may be more suitable for rural settings. Interior rodent controls may also be registered for outdoor use where rats and mice may be a problem (around dumpsters, for example).

Deer and rodents can be amazingly persistent. Some animals apparently are able to overcome their initial aversion to certain products, especially when particularly hungry. And scientific research on repellents and anti-feedants has shown mixed results. Frustratingly, what works in one situation may not work in another, sometimes for reasons that aren't clear. So be persistent and ready to employ a variety of strategies.

Sometimes, it's burrowing or some other destructive activity (such as with moles and gophers) that needs to be stopped, and the only solution may be removal of the animals. Trapping or lethal controls, if permitted, will be necessary.

Most vertebrate chemical controls have an EPA-approved label, which you must follow. This listing is for preliminary planning only and is not a substitute for label information. Remember to check local ordinances and state and federal laws governing wildlife.

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