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Ch 4: Section four: What you need to know about wildlife diseases
What do you do with contaminated materials and dead animals?
Overturned trash cans are a nuisance, but is the situation dangerous? Depends on whether the culprit is a bear or a mouse. To use the best practices approach, you need to think like a detective. Imagine if you saw this scene after the bear left. A careless NWCO might blame the problem on a raccoon and suggest ways to make the cans raccoon-proof. Those measures might not slow down a bear. So the problem, and the safety risk, could continue.
Most NWCOs do a certain amount of clean-up of the site as part of their service. If the site presents a formidable mess, some NWCOs contract for clean-up separately while others recommend a cleaning service. Whether you do a little or a lot of cleaning on site, you’ll still need to clean your gear and your truck.
Clean and disinfect your equipment with a commercial disinfectant or a 10% chlorine bleach solution—that’s one part bleach to nine parts water. This doesn’t last long, so mix up a new batch every day. Many NWCOs keep a 10% bleach solution in a quart-sized spray bottle in the truck, for quick, small cleaning jobs. (Always read the label on any cleaning product or disinfectant before using it.)
NEVER mix bleach and ammonia! A toxic gas will result. A similar gas may be produced when bleach is applied to bird droppings.
Remember, if you’re working around bird, bat, or rodent droppings or nest materials, don’t stir up dust. Wear the proper safety gear. Wet down anything that might have been contaminated with disinfectant, including any dead animals. Wipe up with a damp towel or sponge, or use a commercial, heavy-duty vacuum.
Cleaning up after raccoons is a bit trickier. The eggs of the parasite that causes raccoon roundworm are resistant to disinfectants. Contaminated materials, feces, and soil should be burned, if possible. Flame your metal traps using a propane torch, or use boiling water and bleach. For those materials that can’t be burned, either wash with boiling water and bleach (a good option for decks, porches, and contaminated clothing) or double-bag the material and bury it deeply.
To refresh your memory for safety protocols, here are the diseases you’re more likely to encounter when working with:
- Birds: histoplasmosis
- Bats: histoplasmosis, rabies
- Rodents: hantavirus (squirrels often get mange)
- Raccoons: rabies, raccoon roundworm, feline distemper, canine distemper
- Foxes, coyotes: rabies, mange, canine distemper
All of these species attract a variety of parasites, too. And although they don’t catch it as often, woodchucks, squirrels, and birds may suffer from raccoon roundworm. Any mammal can be infected with rabies.
Carcasses and other potentially contaminated materials (gloves, protective clothing, nesting materials) must be disposed of properly, because they can also spread diseases. In New York State, the health department may give you specific disposal instructions, which you must follow. Otherwise, these items may be buried, burned, or sent to a landfill.
Basic tips to reduce risks from wildlife diseases
What you need to know:
- Which wildlife diseases are present in your area.
- How they’re spread.
- Symptoms in wildlife and in people.
- How to recognize disease hot spots.
- Recommended safety gear for different situations.
Before you start a job:
- Get pre-exposure rabies vaccinations and tetanus shots.
- Stay current.
- Have emergency phone numbers handy—local police, animal control, department of health, state wildlife department, your doctor.
- Vaccinate your pets.
- Wear protective gear when needed, and know how to use it properly.
While you’re working:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially before you eat, drink, or smoke.
- Keep your gear clean, too.
- Record all animal contact in your daily log.
- Be even more careful when handling a sick animal or one that’s behaving oddly.
- If you’ve been bitten or scratched, or are sick, go to the doctor promptly.
- Tell your doctor about your work.
- Dispose of animals and any contaminated materials safely.
After you’re done for the day:
- Clean your gear, truck, and clothing.
- Shower and scrub well.
Points to Consider
Here are some points to consider for each disposal method, based on recommendations proposed by the National Wildlife Control Operators Association:
- Secure the landowner’s permission.
- Pick a location that will protect both surface water and ground water from contamination. The grave should be at least 200 feet away from any wells used to supply drinking water.
- Ideally, the carcass should be covered with two feet of soil within a day of burial. (This can be extremely difficult during the winter, so you may need to switch to another method).
- If using a common grave, it should not be located within a 100-year floodplain zone or a wetland area.
- The incinerator must have approval from both state and local authorities to burn pathological wastes. A local veterinary hospital or pet cemetery may be willing to dispose of your carcasses, but may charge a fee.
3. Removal to a standard landfill (Type II licensed solid waste disposal facility, a.k.a. “the dump”)
- Double-bag the carcass and any contaminated materials in heavy-duty plastic garbage bags, or use other suitable air-tight containers.
4. Follow state and local regulations for solid waste disposal.
- Understanding Nuisance Wildlife
- The Business Side
Needs of People and wildlife
- Six Questions NWCOs must ask
- New York State Wildlife Control Laws
- Local Regulations for Wildlife Control
Safety Risks for Customers
- Job Risks
- Safety Gear
- Carcass Disposal
- Wildlife Diseases
Best Practices for Wildlife Control
- Assess the Situation
- Choose Management Options
- Tools and Techniques
- Preventing Problems
- Evaluating Success
Resources for NWCOs
This manual was written as a guide to train nuisance wildlife control operators in New York State. Laws and regulations may differ in your state. Always consult local and state laws before implementing wildlife damage management activities.
Contact your local Extension Office
Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management
National Wildlife Control Operator’s Association
We thank the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for contributing this information.
Produced by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the NYS Integrated Pest Management Program.