Best practices
for nuisance wildlife control operators in New York State

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Ch 3: Federal laws related to wildlife control 

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Regulatory agencies: US FWS, and each state's lead wildlife agency (again, in NY, that's the DEC)

Applicable to: all migratory birds (such as ducks, geese, songbirds, gulls, shorebirds, wading birds, birds of prey) with these exceptions:

Read the law:
print—16 U.S.C. 703–712; Ch. 128; July 13 1918; 40 Stat. 755

This law protects all migratory birds, their feathers, nests, and eggs (with the few exceptions listed above). You may not take, possess, or transport a migratory bird without a special federal permit. Before you attempt to control a migratory bird, the landowners must obtain the 50 CFR Depredation Permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This permit allows the taking of migratory birds that have become a nuisance, are destructive to public or private property, or are a threat to public health or welfare. The permit spells out the conditions under which the birds may be controlled and the methods that may be used. Permit holders may control migratory birds that are clearly shown to cause, or are about to cause, serious damage to crops, nursery stocks, or fish in hatcheries. (USDA-APHIS-WS staff can help you apply for this permit. There is a fee for the permit.)

That said, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act has a special provision about blackbirds: "A federal permit shall not be required to control yellow-headed, red-winged, rusty, and Brewer's blackbirds, cowbirds, all grackles, crows, and magpies when found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance..."

State and local ordinances may further define control activities. For example, in New York, the Environmental Conservation Law states "Red-winged blackbirds, common grackles and cowbirds destroying any crop may be killed during the months of June, July, August, September and October by the owner of the crop or property on which it is growing or by any person in his employ."

Local laws may limit the types of treatments that can be used in controlling birds, for example, they may limit the use of pyrotechnics. Check local and state laws before attempting to control any bird species.

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