CALL 1-855-WILD-HELP (1-855-945-3435)

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions we are most often asked, since starting the Hotline, in no particular order.  If you have a question for us please feel free to contact us anytime.  We would be happy to assist you.

Will you come and pick up this animal?  If not, who will?

In many cases, there is not a public service to come out to your home or place of business to pick up a wild animal.  Depending on what county you are in, animal control often will not handle anything wild, only domestic animals.  Rehab centers will not take in perfectly healthy animals just because you don’t want them in your yard.  These animals lived there before you did, and all we can hope to do is peaceably coexist with them.  Removing or killing a wild animal on your land is not only inhumane, but it does not solve the conflict.  There are many more wild animals where that one came from, and you’ll never be able to remove or kill them all.  If you wish to help an injured animal, usually you will have to deliver it to the closest rehab facility or private rehabber.  There are some counties where we have contacts that will pick up wild animals, if necessary, but remember these people are often volunteers spending their own gas money and their own time to come out and get this critter.  Offering the rehabber even a nominal donation for gas money is sincerely appreciated.  Many rehabbers work a day job in addition to rehab, so be patient if your local rehabber is unavailable during the work day.  In emergency situations, when an animal is STUCK, DYING, or the police have become involved, we will attempt to gather the proper people together to come out and rescue an animal.  This is a case by case scenario, and we cannot guarantee that this will always be possible.  It depends on the situation and the animal involved.

If you won’t come and get this animal, why bother calling you?

Clearly, it is your choice to call the hotline or not.  Our assistance is only intended to help you handle the conflict at hand.  When a wild animal is in YOUR trash can, on YOUR property, near YOUR home – it is YOUR problem to solve.  Callers sometimes think that it is not their problem, and that there are some sort of supermen government agency that will come out and fix this for them, but there is not.  The hotline’s specialists will walk you through how to get the animal out of the trash can safely, and how to prevent it from happening again.  If you want someone to handle it for you, we would be happy to give you the phone number for humane wildlife removal companies in your area.  These companies do charge a hefty fee for coming out to your home to assist you though.  Your options are to let us assist you via phone, or spend the money on a pest control company.

Is it legal for me to kill an opossum, raccoon, skunk, squirrel, snake, bird, etc.?

We are continually surprised that this question and answer is not available anywhere on the web.  As we put together the answer though, we discovered why.  There are many different answers to this question, dependent on what city and county you live in, and what species of animal we are talking about. We will attempt to make this as clear as possible.  Many cities and counties do not allow firearms to be discharged within their limits, which means it is illegal to shoot anything, or in this case to shoot nothing.  For example, St. Louis City does not allow the discharge of a firearm, so you cannot shoot a gun into the air on New Year’s Eve, and you cannot legally shoot a raccoon, opossum, or anything else for that matter.  However, if you live in Jefferson County Missouri, it is legal to discharge a firearm on YOUR property, to DEFEND your property.  So if you live in Jefferson County and a raccoon has been tearing up your garden, you are allowed to sit outside in a lawn chair, wait for the raccoon, take aim, and fire.  However, this will not fix your raccoon problem.  You will have killed ONE raccoon in a world of MANY raccoons.  It makes a whole lot more sense to put a fence around your garden and not shoot the raccoon.  Unless of course you like sitting outside in a lawn chair and shooting at raccoons every night.

Mammals:  According to Missouri statute, it is ONLY legal to shoot, humanely euthanize (via a vet’s office) or ‘kill trap’ a wild animal, when it is legal to kill them at all.  This means that it is completely illegal, inhumane, and punishable as a crime to drown, torture, starve, imprison, stab, feed antifreeze to, set on fire, pour hot grease on, or any other bizarre act that people think is funny.  It is a class A misdemeanor to abuse ANY animal in this way – including mice and rats.  This means, if you have a wild mammal on your personal property that you wish to do away with, it is only legal to shoot or trap them.  Check with the Missouri Department of Conservation on what traps are allowed within your county.  Live traps are always okay, but kill traps have restrictions.  Poison is only legal inside your home, when using an approved poisonous bait made for this purpose, and even then it is only legal for rodents.  You cannot legally sprinkle rat poison across the boundary into your yard to kill off wild animals and stray cats.  This is ILLEGAL!

Birds:  It is 100% of the time completely illegal to kill any songbird or bird of prey (hawk, eagle, owl) within any of our 50 states.  These are federally protected species and have every right to be here.  If you are a farmer with crops being damaged due to bird activity, contact the US Department of Agriculture to have them come out and quantify the damage.  Once that is done they may decide to assist you in controlling the population of birds, only if the birds are non-native and inflicting monetary damage to crops.

Snakes/Reptiles/Amphibians:  In Missouri we have quite a few reptilian and amphibian species that are endangered and protected under the law.  Any time you are thinking about killing one of these species, you should check with the Missouri Department of Conservation and make sure that you have correctly identified the species in question before taking lethal action.

In Illinois:  Illinois Department of Natural Resources does not allow for the trapping and killing of any species without  prior authorization from them outside of trapping seasons.  Even if an animal is on your property and you wish to trap that animal in a live trap to get it out of your home, Illinois requires you to have the proper permit before setting the trap.  You cannot legally set a trap, a snare, or take aim at any animal or bird in Illinois without a permit in place.  Always contact them first before taking any lethal action.

For Deer:  There are SO many rules and regulations when it comes to deer hunting, shooting, tagging, processing, etc. that we are just not comfortable giving anyone advice on what’s legal and what’s not.  Please contact your local Conservation office to find out for sure what you can do about deer in your area.  We would love to help but it is impossible to stay on top of every county’s different laws and ordinances when it comes to this species.  If you are thinking about even looking at a deer angrily, call Conservation to make sure it’s okay.

There is a dead animal in my street/ yard.  Will you come and get it?

Depending on the street, this might be something we can refer you to your local county’s street department for.  If it is a private road, you will have to contact the organization that maintains the road to get it removed.  The other option is to pick it up with a shovel and either put it in a trash bag and leave it out for the pickup, or throw it in the woods to decompose the way nature intended.  It’s not pleasant to think about, but even in death wild animals help our environment.  The decomposition of that animal feeds multiple species that scavenge for just such a thing, and eventually it nourishes the soil for the plants benefit.

I trapped an animal that has been tearing up my garden and I don’t want to kill it.  What do I do?

In Missouri, the Department of Conservation has designated areas for exactly this purpose.  They allow re-release of animals in protected areas, and can assist you in finding the closest one to you.  In the case of a skunk, it is better to transport it in the back of a pick up truck, instead of a closed car, and wrap the trap in a wet towel all the way around, with only a small opening for air.  This will keep the animal cool, dark, and less stressful while you drive it to an appropriate place to release him.  In fact, with all animals it is better to cover the trap with some sort of sheet, towel, or tarp to keep the animal from stressing out and becoming more aggressive.  Call your local Conservation office to find your closest release site.

My dog / cat caught a wild animal and killed it.  Should I be worried?

Wild animals try very hard to defend themselves against any and all attacks.  Never assume that your pet is uninjured just because you don’t see them dripping with blood anywhere.  Cats get mouth ulcers and face wounds from eating rodents while they are still alive and you may not notice them until they are infected.  Dogs can get the same sort of internal mouth injuries or facial injuries that are hard to find but can cause problems.  Also, eating a wild animal in this manner is not the greatest idea for multiple reasons.  Many of these wild animals carry a variety of parasites that can be passed on to your pet.  You will want to have your pet’s stool checked for parasites about two weeks after him eating a wild animal to ensure that he didn’t catch anything from the wild critter.  Most veterinarians will allow you to bring them a stool sample and they can run the test fairly quickly to see if your pet is infected with a parasite.  Usually the medication for parasites is low in cost and extremely effective.  Another issue is poison.  If your pet consumes an animal that was easy to catch because it was dying from being poisoned, this is a serious situation.  If you know that you have rat poison out for the rats, and your pet eats a rat, go to the emergency room with your pet as soon as possible.  If caught quickly this has a much better chance of being treated effectively and at a much lower cost than if you wait.  Do NOT wait for the vet to open in the morning, go to the ER now!  Do NOT wait for your pet to show any signs or symptoms.  By the time you see symptoms it is usually too late to treat.

If your pet has a habit of chasing down and catching wild animals on a regular basis, please talk to your veterinarian about extra vaccinations that might be recommended to protect your pet against the diseases that our backyard critters carry.  One little extra shot per year can save you a lot of money and heartbreak down the road.

Wild animals keep getting in my pool and by the time I find them they have drowned and died.  How do I keep them from getting in the pool?

Regretfully, we get calls about this very issue every single year.  Most of the time, the animal that got into the pool is already dead.  But every once in a while someone will find a squirrel in the pool and still trying to swim.  You can use your pool net to pick up the squirrel and place him under a bush or tree protected from predators a bit, and give him some time to recover.  It takes a lot of energy for a squirrel to tread water like that, so you’re going to have a very limp, tired, docile critter on your hands.  But do not take him into your house!  You can, if you want, dry him off with a towel, and you probably won’t get bit, but as soon as that animal recovers some strength he is going to flip out, and try to get away from you however he can.  This is why you do not take him inside.  One second you are holding him with a towel drying him off, and he looks conscious and aware, but doesn’t fight you.  The next minute that squirrel is struggling to get away from you, biting if necessary to get away, and running to every corner in your home looking for a way out.  They’re not very thankful for us saving their life!  We don’t get much gratitude from the squirrels.

To prevent animals from getting in the pool in the first place, there is a product that allows animals to climb out of the pool if they get stuck in it.  Animals are used to natural water sources, and natural sources get gradually deeper.  Think of a river or creek – they don’t go from dry land to six feet deep in one step.  They gradually get deeper and deeper as you walk into the lake.  This is what animals expected from sources of water.  Your pool doesn’t have this natural sloping, at least not shallow enough, so the animal is surprised by that and falls in.  A “Frog Log” is a lifesaver that will prevent them from struggling and dying in your pool, and it’s cheap, lasts forever, and works every time!  Visit our friends at Frog Log to get one for your pool.  We wish that every pool came standard with this accessory, or at least that the pool sales people would suggest it to all pool owners, but until they do, we have to buy it separately online.

If you have any other questions contact us online or by phone at 1-855-WILD-HELP anytime.