The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) is mandated to manage, protect, and perpetuate Oklahoma’s wildlife. ODWC issues permits to landowners, lessees or their designated agents to control nuisance or damage by regulated species of wildlife or feral hogs. The NWCO program was developed to provide assistance to the public who encounter such problems.
The NWCO program was not developed to address complex damage situations or problems with any and all forms of domestic or imported non-native wildlife, migratory birds, or any federally protected species. The Wildlife Services (WS) program of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is authorized, in both Federal and State law, to take necessary action in assisting any landowner in management and control of rodents, non-game birds, feral pigeons and furbearers on their property.
Oklahoma laws generally grant citizens substantive latitude to deal with wildlife problems and considerable assistance is available from USDA Wildlife Services. However, many landowners may prefer to employ individuals who are skilled and educated in handling human/wildlife conflicts. Although permitted and regulated by the ODWC, Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCOs) are not state employees. They operate as private enterprises and normally charge a fee or solicit a donation for their services.
The NWCO program was also developed to provide ODWC with a record of activities of those responding to nuisance wildlife calls/complaints and a reference base of various wildlife species; the types of problems that they cause and the frequency of such human conflicts. Additionally, the program provides documentation of the various methods used for addressing wildlife damage and human/wildlife conflicts.
The Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator’s Permit authorizes both commercial operators and individuals to trap and/or remove designated species of wildlife causing nuisance or damage problems for citizens and landowners in Oklahoma. Trapping and/or removal of the designated species of wildlife may be conducted at any time of the year and in areas closed to traditional harvest methods.
The NWCO Permit consists of two parts:
- NWCO Certification
- Possession of a valid annual Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator permit.
NWCO permit requirements:
Every individual engaged in private control of designated species of nuisance wildlife who charges, solicits a donation for services.
Exemptions from NWCO permit:
- Landowners may request a Wildlife Depredation permit from ODWC to deal nuisance wildlife problems. An ODWC employee will conduct a wildlife damage complaint investigation prior to issuing a depredation permit.
- Any on duty ODWC employee.
- Any on duty USDA Wildlife Services Program employee.
- Any employee of any federal, state or local government entity designated to control nuisance wildlife while on duty.
What does the NWCO Permit authorize a person to do?
An NWCO permit authorizes an individual to capture, euthanize (humanely kill) or relocate designated species of wildlife by safe and effective means at any time of year and without limits which may be in force on certain species of wildlife.
What is required of a person to operate as a NWCO?
NWCOs can conduct activities such as capture, relocation and euthanization of designated species of wildlife provided they meet all of the following conditions:
- That the individual has passed the NWCO certification examination (See Certification Procedures below).
- That the person possesses a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator Permit.
- That the person is acting on a documented nuisance wildlife complaint.
- That the person is at least 18 years of age.
- Does not have his or her hunting or fishing license privileges revoked or suspended.
- That the person provides annual reports to the ODWC of activities that deal with certain nuisance species.
A NWCO permit Certification must be carried at all times while conducting NWCO activities and shall be presented when requested by any ODWC employee.
Persons wishing obtain NWCO certification will need to complete the National Wildlife Control Training Program certification course. The National Wildlife Control Training Program is an on-line course hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Cornell University. The approximate cost for the training program is $200.00. The training program is available at http://wildlifecontroltraining.com/.
Applicants applying for a NWCO permit will need provide a copy of their certification certificate as proof of their successful completion of the program. Persons who were previously certified by ODWC will not have to re-certify under the training program.
Species authorized by a NWCO permit:
NWCOs are only authorized in Oklahoma to trap and relocate/euthanize the following wildlife species when such action is warranted by a valid nuisance wildlife complaint for commercial removal purposes only and only in conjunction with authorized NWCO traps (no bait, no poison, etc., as explained in the NWCO vs Department of Ag permitting clarifications PDF) including but not limited to: armadillo, badger, bats (except for certain endangered species), beaver, bobcat, coyote, jackrabbit, cottontail rabbit, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, red fox, gray fox, porcupine, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, raccoon, river otter, snakes, striped skunk, weasel, flying squirrel, woodchuck.
In summary, if you are trapping wildlife for commercial purposes you must have a NWCO permit.
*Problems and complaints concerning deer, elk, turkey, bear, alligator, antelope, mountain lion, big horn sheep, endangered or threatened species and game birds will NOT be handled by NWCO's.
Nuisance wildlife regulations for NON-NWCO situations (only applicable and pertaining to NUISANCE wildlife control by individuals for non-commercial purposes):
- The following species may be taken year-round without a NWCO permit by individuals for non-commercial nuisance wildlife purposes (no one is paid for removal, no license is needed on private lands).
- Non-regulated Wildlife Species - armadillo, bats (except for certain endangered species), feral pigeon, flying squirrel, gopher, porcupine, ground squirrel, moles, mice, rats, woodchuck.
- The following species may only be taken without a NWCO permit by individuals for non-commercial nuisance wildlife purposes (no one is paid for removal) after obtaining a Depredation Permit from their county game warden.
- Regulated Wildlife Species - badger, beaver, bobcat, coyote, jackrabbit, cottontail rabbit, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, red fox, gray fox, porcupine, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, raccoon, river otter, striped skunk, weasel.
- The following species may be taken without a NWCO permit by individuals for non-commercial nuisance wildlife purposes (no one is paid for removal) as long as the appropriate hunting or fishing license is obtained (IF APPLICABLE):
- Regulated Wildlife Species with Fewer Restrictions and/or Animals which MAY Require Other Licensing (These wildlife/animal species MAY require licensing but may NOT ALWAYS require depredation permits, depending on methods and time of day/ consult hunting regulations) - feral swine, snakes, amphibians (except for certain endangered or threatened species).
- Regulated Wildlife Species may always be taken within season dates, bag/possession limits, and legal methods of take.
- There are no state or federal regulations on the English House Sparrow, or European Starling so they may be taken year-round regardless of if it is a nuisance animal or not.
In addition, through a special permit issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the ODWC can authorize NWCOs to conduct management and control activities on Resident Canada geese. NWCOs who wish to conduct activities on Resident Canada geese are required by the ODWC to attend mandatory training. For information on obtaining special NWCO certification to control Canada geese, contact ODWC Migratory Bird biologist Josh Richardson at (405) 396-2503 or the ODWC Wildlife Division at (405) 521-2739.
NWCOs may not handle complaints and/or conduct nuisance wildlife control activities involving native wildlife species or endangered species not listed above unless authorized in writing by ODWC.
What species of animals that may be causing problems and complaints do not fall under NWCO authorization?
Problems and complaints concerning domestic wildlife and imported, non-native wildlife are not legally included in jurisdiction and powers of the ODWC and therefore complaints concerning these species are not covered in any way by this program. Problems with such animals and their owners normally fall under jurisdiction of local or county governments.
Problems and complaints concerning certain wildlife species such as big game (deer, elk, turkey, bear, mountain lion etc.), game birds or endangered species will only be handled when specifically authorized by ODWC. Primary responsibility for addressing migratory bird damage rests with the USDA Wildlife Services Program.
Reports are required on NWCO activities concerning the following species: including but not limited to armadillo, badger, bats (except for certain endangered species), beaver, bobcat, coyote, jackrabbit, cottontail rabbit, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, red fox, gray fox, porcupine, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, raccoon, river otter, snakes, striped skunk, weasel, flying squirrel, ground squirrel, moles, gophers, mice, rats, woodchuck.
In summary, if you are trapping wildlife for commercial purposes you must include it in the mandatory annual report. An individual report must be documented for each nuisance complaint that is acted upon for these species.
NWCO activity requirements:
NWCOs must provide client/complainant with:
- Identification of species causing problem and estimate number.
- Proposed method of control.
- Conditions which constitute a mutually agreed upon solution.
- Estimate of fee to be charged. (The NWCO Permit holder and complainant enter into an agreement without ODWC intervention. The NWCO Permit holder sets the fee for his/her services. ODWC does not regulate fees).
- Prevention measures to eliminate or minimize future human/wildlife conflicts.
Other responsibilities of NWCOs are:
- To document (record in writing at the time of complaint) any wildlife complaint that the Permit holder plans to act upon.
- To obtain approval of property owner/lessee where the complaint is logged and must confine control measures and activity to said property.
- To make every effort to reduce the capture/control of non-targeted animals.
- To follow all state laws that apply to the taking of wildlife with the exception of season dates and bag limits except as otherwise provided (see Method of Control section).
- To only capture/control wildlife species that affect humans and/or their property. Complaints involving conflicts between two wildlife species (e.g. hawk or squirrel at bird feeder) are not valid nuisance wildlife complaints.
Note: While not mandatory, ODWC strongly urges all those engaged in commercial control of wildlife to procure appropriate comprehensive liability insurance in the amount of $300,000 to $500,000.
METHODS OF CONTROL
Traps and other similar devices set by or under the direction of a NWCO must adhere to the following:
- Traps must be checked at least once every 24 hours whenever practicable and all animals removed.
- All trap devices must have a metal tag attached and visible with the NWCO’s name and phone number. The name and number on the trap tag must match the NWCO’s name on the permit or the company of his/her employment.
- The NWCO may use cage (live) traps, foothold traps, enclosed trigger traps (dog proof) and body gripping style less than size 330 unless water set for beaver when a 330 may be used)
- The NWCO may use snares (snares set on or just above ground level shall be equipped with a locking device that prevents the loop from closing to a circumference less than 10 inches. Snares set above ground such as in an attic do not need the loop restriction).
- Poisoning and/or exploding traps and/or trap devices are not allowed under the NWCO permit.
- Shooting is permitted by NWCOs if municipal ordinances or similar laws do not prohibit the discharge of firearms.
What can a NWCO do with captured wildlife?
Unless otherwise provided, animals captured by NWCOs can be relocated, turned over to an ODWC licensed wildlife rehabilitator or euthanized (humanely killed). Pursuant to state law: All wildlife which the NWCO is authorized to control/capture shall be taken and disposed of in a manner to ensure safe and effective handling and /or euthanasia. When the captured animal is to be euthanized the guidelines followed will be those adopted by the American Veterinary Medicine Association. In addition, wildlife may be delivered to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who must then agree to the relocation restrictions contained herein.
RELOCATION OF LIVE WILDLIFE:
Except as otherwise provided, NWCOs can relocate wildlife pursuant to the following:
- ODWC does not encourage the release or relocation to urban or semi-urban areas of captured beaver, fox and gray squirrels, opossum, porcupine, raccoon, and striped skunk. Release of these species could either adversely impact the health of wild populations; or could likely become a nuisance animal again thus passing the problem on to someone else rather than constituting a solution of the problem.
- Captured wildlife that is to be relocated must not be held by the NWCO for longer than 24 hours unless specifically authorized by ODWC.
- Wildlife should not be relocated to a place close to human dwellings, which would transfer, rather than solve, the nuisance problem.
- Wildlife that is relocated shall be released within the State of Oklahoma, outside any city limit, but not more than one county distant from the capture site.
- Wildlife shall not be released on private land without first obtaining the receiving landowner’s written permission.
- Wildlife shall not be released on public land without first obtaining the written permission from either the governmental entity owning or administrating the release property. (This would include, but not be limited to, any city property; lands in federal or state ownership or administration; or utility company properties).
DISPOSITION OF SICK OR DISEASED WILDLIFE:
Captured wildlife that appears to be sick or diseased will be handled in the following manner:
- All sick or diseased wildlife is to be euthanized rather than relocated.
- Burial or incineration (burning) of the carcass is required.
NOTE: Wildlife that has bitten a human should be submitted to a county or state health official for rabies testing. NOTE - the animal’s head should be preserved for testing with ice or refrigeration. DO NOT FREEZE. Euthanize animal by means other than by shooting or damaging the head.
DISPOSITION OF INJURED WILDLIFE:
Captured wildlife that is injured and unfit to be released should normally be euthanized. Occasionally, depending on the species, and the severity of the injury, they may be turned over to an ODWC licensed rehabilitator, for care and later released.
EUTHANASIA OF WILDLIFE (humane killing of wildlife):
Euthanasia as it pertains to Oklahoma nuisance regulations and policy shall be defined as follows:
"When lethal methods are employed they should be the safest available for the operator and the public and promptly carried out in a manner that causes the least amount of stress to the animal being euthanized."
The ODWC prescribes methods of euthanasia recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (Smith, et. al. 1993. 1993 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc; 188:252-268). Any procedure recommended by this report is approved and recommended by ODWC.
- Sodium Pentobarbital – The injection of sodium Pentobarbital is considered the most humane method available however it is a schedule 2 controlled substance and is not generally available to most NWCO permit holders. They may if the client is in agreement, transport the animal to specially licensed veterinarian, dog pound, or animal shelter which has agreed to perform the service in this manner.
- Carbon Dioxide Chamber – These commercially available units are commonly used to euthanize animals. Normally there is a two stage process utilized to first anaesthetize the animal with about a 60-70% carbon dioxide mixture followed by the increased of carbon dioxide to 100% which leads to respiratory arrest within five minutes. Chambers large enough to insert the entire live trap without handling the animal are safer for the operator and cause the animal less handling stress. These chambers can be homemade very reasonably.
- Shooting - A shot to the brain can be the most painless and sometimes the only available method to humanely dispose of an animal. Local laws concerning the discharge of firearms must take precedence and shooting in the head should not be used if the animal has been known to have bitten a human (See disposition of sick or diseased wildlife).
ODWC REFERRAL POLICY
ODWC personnel will attempt to resolve wildlife complaints by phone, Internet information, and/or mailing of technical assistance information designed for self-help.
If a nuisance wildlife complainant wants direct assistance then the NWCO program will be explained and a list of current NWCOs will be made available.
ODWC does not control geographic distribution of NWCOs and there will be neither effort made nor promise on the part of ODWC that there will be commercial NWCOs in any geographic area. In addition, ODWC provides appropriate education for NWCOs, but does not endorse any NWCO nor provide any assurance of skill or integrity of any NWCO.