Do you know who to call about wildlife?
Did you know you have more than one option depending on the topic? In this week’s Wildlife Matters, the Masked Biologist helps lessen the potential confusion about wildlife professionals.
Who are you going to call? It wasn’t that long ago that you would reach for the phone book and flip through the yellow pages to try to find a heading that matched the topic of interest. Today, though, people tend to default to searching on the web for a name or a phone number. We now have untold volumes of information at our fingertips, but it comes at us full blast like a firehose and can be very difficult to sort out when we do a search.
When you have a wildlife question, your first thought or the first piece of free advice from a neighbor might be to call the DNR. Rightfully so, too. The state department of natural resources is a highly visible agency, and is very relatable because of their ties to the hunting and fishing public. They have game biologists, nongame biologists, conservation wardens, and customer service staff who are all well-versed in a variety of wildlife topics. There are a number of other wildlife professionals out there who might be able to help you solve a problem or address a need.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is one of the nation’s oldest wildlife agencies. It was created by the Federal Government, and operates inside the Department of the Interior. Big picture, national and continental issues are their primary focus. They work on migratory waterfowl, interstate transit of fish, coastal fisheries, and migratory game and nongame birds. If you are wondering about the last waterfowl survey or woodcock singing survey, for example, or you had questions about the legality of keeping migratory birds as pets or mounts, these folks would be the ones to call. They also have a partners program that makes funding available to help private landowners improve habitat for fish and wildlife species.
USDA Wildlife Services, also known as APHIS, is another Federal agency. These folks are the troubleshooters or problem solvers in my world. They help trap nuisance bears, round up nuisance geese, capture feral hogs, and deal with livestock killed by predators like wolves and large cats. These are also the folks who have the means to help when you have a woodpecker hammering on your siding or problems with migratory birds in general. They also are the folks who deal with airplane bird strikes, which is a messy problem that could be fatal.
The US Forest Service has wildlife biologists as well. While much of their focus is on wildlife habitat improvement and management on the forest itself, they are very knowledgeable in a wide range of game and nongame wildlife species. If you are looking for a great spot to hunt or watch wildlife on federal lands, these are the folks to call.
If you see injured or sick wildlife, your best first call might be to a wildlife rehabilitator. These skilled folks are knowledgeable about tending animals, and know what is or is not legal depending on the species. They are not operated by or funded by state or federal wildlife agencies, rather they depend on the goodwill of people who support their cause with financial support.
Finally, if you have a problem with a squirrel in your attic, or an opossum in your garage, a skunk under your deck, who do you call? These calls go to nuisance wildlife specialists. Most animal removals need to be done by the homeowner or their representative, which can include a nuisance trapper or wildlife specialist. These folks have to charge a fee to cover their costs, but provide a troubleshooting service that no one else provides.
This is just a quick overview of some of the different options available. It can be confusing, and there might be more than one right answer, so don’t be upset if the first person you call refers you to someone else. They are just trying to help get you in contact with the best fit for your particular issue or need.
Striving to make new things familiar and familiar things new, this is the masked biologist coming to you from the heart of wisconsin’s great Northwoods.