Beasts Begone! Removing Animals
The following is a summation of the legal framework for wild animal control in New York State. The major regulatory agencies for wild animals in New York are the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (all species) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (migratory birds and federally endangered species). Contact your local office of the Department of Environmental Conservation (or the appropriate agency in other states) with any specific questions or concerns that you may have.
Every species of wild animal in New York State has a legal classification. The classification categories of most relevance to pest management are "unprotected" and "protected."
An "unprotected" species can be captured and removed legally without a permit at any time of the year and by any means provided other laws are not violated (i.e., pesticide regulations, firearm discharge ordinances, trespassing laws, etc.). "Unprotected" mammals include shrews, bats (except the Indiana bat, which is federally protected), eastern chipmunk, woodchuck, red squirrel, flying squirrels, mice, and Norway rat. The rock dove (feral pigeon), house sparrow, and European starling are "unprotected" bird species. Most snake species are "unprotected."
Most "protected" mammal species fall under the sub-category of "protected/general permit." For these species, an individual animal can be captured and/or destroyed by the property owner if it is causing damage. However, the animal (dead or alive) cannot be taken off the landowner's property without a nuisance wildlife control permit. Exceptions are made for animals taken during a legal hunting or trapping season established for that particular species, provided the appropriate hunting/trapping license has been obtained.
In addition, "blanket" nuisance wildlife control permits are issued to individuals who have gone through the prescribed application process. These general permits, which must be renewed annually, allow the removal of "protected" animals in any number, at any time, and from any location (with the landowner's permission) within the state. Examples of individuals who may have obtained a "general" permit include private nuisance wildlife control operators, many pest control operators, municipal animal control officers, and some wildlife rehabilitators. Mammalian species that are classified under this "protected/general permit" category, include the opossum, raccoon, grey squirrel, weasels, and skunks.
A few mammals, snakes (such as the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, and queen snake) and most birds are not only "protected" but cannot be captured and/or removed from property without special case-by-case permits. The general "blanket" nuisance wildlife control permits do not authorize the removal of these species. With the possible exception of woodpeckers and gulls, these species would rarely cause problems in buildings.
There are various complications associated with these regulations. For example, an "unprotected" animal can be captured, possessed, and transported without a permit; however, a state permit is required to release an animal off your property. Additionally, local municipalities may require a permit for pigeon control. State and county health departments have authority over species that may carry rabies. As stated previously, contact the Department of Environmental Conservation if you have questions about the law and wild animal problems.