Local authorities are often called upon to ‘control’ wild species in town or city centres, as well as in suburban areas. Concerned residents may demand action while not always understanding the true nature of ‘pest’ problems, thus subjecting councils to political and financial pressures. A rushed response to these demands for action can lead to inhumane and ineffective control, breaches of current legislation and wasted funds. A clear and well-informed policy, together with accurate assessments of the impact of these species, will enable relevant departments to respond effectively.
Culling wildlife is rarely an effective long-term solution – which is why North East Lincolnshire Council believe we should prefer to use humane, non-lethal techniques to solve problems. This web page offers help and advice on the various species that come into conflict with people, along with cost-efficient, humane ways to deal with any that are perceived to be a pest.
The council no longer has a Pest control service, residents must access private providers found online or via a telephone directory.
Foxes are opportunistic feeders, surviving in a variety of habitats, from isolated woodlands to city centres. As a result, they frequently come into conflict with humans. They are playful, social creatures with complex territories and impeccable timekeeping, showing up early for any regular feeding session. As a member of the canine family, this successful omnivore can be seen as a nuisance by residents for fouling, digging and ‘screaming’ during the breeding season this is in the early part of the year. Foxes are territorial and will breed if there is a good food supply, producing four to five cubs in March. Certain territories can be highly sought-after and, when a fox is killed, another will take her place, which renders culling ineffective and a waste of resources.
A more humane way of controlling the fox population is:-
- Reducing available food.
- Replacing fish or bone fertilisers with plant-based ones.
- Using noise – such as a radio left on in a shed – to disturb their routines and deter a vixen and her cubs. This should be done without disturbing the humans in the surrounding area.
- Raising the height of fencing
- Blocking fence holes but leave one big enough for the hedgehog to commute from garden to garden.
- Removing or defending attractions such as bins, compost heaps, raise bird feeds.
Native to North America, grey squirrels were introduced to the UK as an ornamental species in the nineteenth century. They thrive in a variety of habitats unsuited to red squirrels and expanded their range in the 1940s to encompass much of England. They can now be found in urban areas across the country where they often delight and charm the public with their acrobatics and ingenuity, and offer rare contact with nature for many people. These highly intelligent and adaptable animals can be seen in woodlands, parks and gardens throughout the UK. Human persecution has decimated the populations of grey squirrels’ natural predators, pine martens and goshawks, but thousands are still killed by cats and dogs. Others die of starvation or they are killed on our roads.
- Reducing available food by using airtight storage containers
- Encouraging residents not to feed squirrels
- Use of squirrel-proof bird feeders
- Coating bird feed in chilli or capsicum – it deters squirrels but is not detected by, and does not harm, birds. The RSPB recommends that seed mixes be thoroughly coated, but not hidden, in the chilli powder
- Blocking access to roof spaces and buildings (and covering water tanks to prevent squirrels drowning)
- Using squirrel repellent spray around bird feeders
If a squirrel trap is used it is against the law to re-release it in another area. If one is caught it would have to be humanely destroyed.
Pigeons are actually rock doves, who originally nested high on cliff edges. They have adapted well to an urban environment and now thrive on a diet largely consisting of fast food scraps and bread. They have become a common feature of many city centres, attracting appreciative crowds to famous squares the world over. These amiable and most intelligent of wild birds will breed depending on the food supply: quite simply, the more they are fed, the more they breed. Having easily adapted from their native cliffs to high buildings, which offer predator-free roosting, they have the best vantage point from which to locate the vast amount of food we waste. Research shows that culling can actually increase flock sizes. When adult birds are removed, more food is available for the flock to prosper and so breeding rates increase.
- Reducing the food available by, for example, ensuring streets are kept clean and street bins are emptied
- Educating and encouraging residents, especially ‘persistent feeders’, not to feed the pigeons
- Employing physical deterrents such as spikes, balloon-kites and properly fitted humane netting, which must be regularly checked and properly maintained
- Blocking access to roof spaces and buildings where necessary
Originating from Asia, rats and mice are extremely adaptable creatures, now living in a great variety of habitats worldwide. Mice have followed human settlements throughout history, from around 8000BC, and thrived alongside man. Black rats were brought to the UK by the Romans on ships 2000 years ago, and are today one of the UK’s rarest mammals. Brown rats arrived much later, at the beginning of the eighteenth century. House mice can be frequent visitors to our homes. They also dwell outside but will squeeze into incredibly small spaces seeking shelter, warmth and food. Sometimes confused with wood mice, these resourceful creatures will breed if there is a good food supply. Despite their poor image, rats are extremely bright, clean and sociable – as anyone who cares for ‘pet’ rats will know. Wild brown rats live in small family groups, and occupy small territories, provided there is an adequate food supply. This explains their close proximity to human habitats and the vast amounts of food they find there. Although black rats are rare, they are routinely persecuted along with their brown cousins.
Availability of food and their neo-phobia (fear of new things) is key to deterring rats and mice. Simple and common sense techniques can work quickly and effectively.
- Establish good hygiene practices
- Reduce the food available by clearing away pet food and keeping food in airtight containers
- Use bins with tight-fitting lids
- Don’t compost meat, fish bones or bread
- Disrupt rat or mouse ‘runs’ by placing different obstacles on the trails
- Keep areas close to buildings tidy and free from weeds
- Ensure buildings are well maintained and inspected, and holes blocked
- Ensure drain covers are tightly sealed
- Fit cone guards to waste and drain pipes
First bees do not belong under the name vermin. They are anything but a pest and for the species to survive they need our help. We need them to survive as they save our agriculture industry around £1.3 billion pollinating our crops. So you can say we need them for use to survive.
In the UK we have around 250 different species of bees 25 of these are bumble bee the other 225 are solitary bees. Bees will not attack or sting unless they are in sever danger. So always try to help the bee if it is nesting near you and bothering you change your lifestyle slightly to avoid the bee. If it nest near where you sit in the garden change your sitting position and have the pleasure of watching the activity around the nest. Its only for a short time. Solitary bees have several nesting sites over a summer so once established they will move on to another site and the nest will emerge next summer and find another place to nest.
Wasps unlike bees have had a bad press. They are of benefit to use and key to our ecological system. They are a friend of the gardener and farmer as the eat aphids these insects suck the sap out of plants and take their strength. Don’t flap at them just ignore them and they will move on, flapping at them will aggravate them. Like bumble and honey bees they are social insects living in colonies. We have 9 species of social wasps in the UK – the familiar black and yellow or orange-banded ones. There are also digger, mason and potter wasps. Wasps only use a nest for one year at the end of summer the nest will die and the queen at the start of next summer will start another nest.
So if you can leave a Bee or Wasp nest then please do but if it has to be dealt with there is only one way and that is through a professional pest controller.