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Things Have Changed!

By Jim Meyer
When we first started raising game birds here at Oakwood Game Farm in the late sixties, our state game and fish people were more than willing to provide us with drawings and installation instructions for capturing hawks and great horned owls as a control measure for protecting our livestock.

Pole traps and Swedish goshawk traps were commonly used, and encouraged, to control raptors - things have changed a lot since then. Today those same bird killers are federally protected and you don’t want to be caught looking sideways at any raptor, let alone attempting to trap them. Serious consequences will usually follow anyone caught messing with these highly protected raptors and this entire subject is further complicated as enforcement varies across the country. I have customers where wardens will “look the other way” when the owner does, what he has to do, to protect his livestock. Conversely, other enforcement officers will throw the book at violators; involving huge fines, confiscated equipment and even jail time or community service. The truth is, there are very few ways to control raptors legally when it comes to protecting bird and waterfowl livestock.

Luckily, controlling ground predators has not been impacted to the degree that raptor control has, but as Bob Dylan sings, times they are a-changing. Many of us are being surrounded by housing developments and the negative things that can bring to someone raising livestock. It’s always surprising to see city folks move to the country and then complain about country activities. Often this will include the raising of poultry and water fowl and the need to control the predators that are killing them. PETA and other animal rights groups continue to challenge all animal raising and trapping and are gaining support in numbers and money. The Humane Society of the United States with seven million members is currently attempting to stop all shipping of day old poultry through the U.S. mail system. This being the only safe and viable way to ship and receive this kind of livestock; see birdshippers.org for further information on this. Most people want to be good neighbors, however, we are entitled to raise poultry, waterfowl and other animals, as long as zoning laws, game laws, trapping laws etc. are not violated. Fight hard to retain these rights.

As far as the mechanics of trapping is concerned - certain ground type predators are much easier to control than others. Raccoon, possum, skunk and feral cats are probably the easiest to remove using live havahart traps, leg hold ground sets and snares. Conibar traps also fall into this category, but like snares they tend to be in-discriminate and can cause neighbor problems if ‘ol fluffy, or rover is sniffing around your animals. Electric fencing can also be helpful, but requires a bit of expense and a lot of maintenance. It is always best to attempt to know the predator you are dealing with and be target directed to get it. Snares, for example, do not work well for skunks, whereas it often times is the only way to stop fox or coyote problems. Look for tracks in the soft dirt or mud, or hair or fur left on entry points. Pouring sand on the ground where predators would step in it to leave tracking prints works pretty well, especially if you have trouble finding evidence of what predator is causing the problem. Fox and coyote are tougher to deal with as they tend to be very wary and have good street smarts in avoiding capture. The most difficult to remove, are mink and weasel. If they want in, they will get in, whether it be a fenced area, livestock building or a pond. Find the den and using fish for bait try to ambush them along a travel lane using a baited leg hold trap or snare. If you are really set on catching and relocating predators live, you’ll have to use the HavaHart live trap. They are sold in various sizes, so be sure to get one large enough for the project. Raccoon, possum, skunk and cats, both feral and domestic will readily go into a HavaHart baited with marshmallows, fish or dead pocket gophers (gophers really work great). However, most other predators are very wary of these traps and it is tough to get them to enter one. All of these methods require the expense of traps, bait and your time (which can be huge) to deal with all of the maintenance.About ten years ago we at Oakwood developed an alternative to trapping for the control of predators. It is a solar powered, red flashing light, which only needs sunlight or daylight to power it. We call it the Nite Guard light and it is a true win/win situation as it merely repels predators away from the area needing protection. It also requires only the cost of the light itself, no maintenance, no baiting, no electricity and no batteries needed. It is legal and eliminates offending people or groups that oppose the trapping and killing of predator type animals. Most important, Nite Guard is the only device out there that can be used to stop hawk and owl kills legally.

It takes a bit of a story to tell how we got there. One spring years ago, we were having a horrible problem with great horned owls. There were about a dozen of them working our 100 acre farm killing nearly 200 breeding hen pheasants each night. As is the norm, the head would be missing, so it was clear that we were dealing with owls. Also, we could hear them at night, hooting and causing the birds to flush as the owls sailed over the tops of pens grabbing the head of a bird as it flushed and hit the top netting.

We were beside ourselves trying to stop this- as the options were limited. Without putting a lot of thought into it, including any consequences, I ordered pole traps to be put up in several locations around the farm. Several weeks and one anonymous phone call later (one of those TIPS things) nine conservation officers and fish and wildlife officials paid us a visit and slapped us with several thousands of dollars in fines and confiscated traps and other equipment. I was left to ponder my inability to protect my birds and my livelihood – on my own property. This was one of the low points in my life to say the least and one that left me angry, embarrassed and at a loss of what to do next. I wondered how many thousands of other bird raisers were faced with the same problem. Something had to be done.

We had been aware of construction site amber flashing lights being used to keep owls at bay. The flash of the light somehow scared them away. However, these lights were heavy, expensive and the batteries did not last very long, especially in very cold weather – but the flashing light did stop owl kills. We learned later that animal behavior tests conducted in Europe had shown that a flash of light, the color red seemed best, proved to be threatening to wary night predators as they perceive this to be the eye of another organism watching them – and they simply leave the area.

After several years of experimenting with a lite weight, solar powered and weather sealed light, we came up with the Nite Guard. It gives off a single pulsating red light every second, and is totally portable requiring only the sun, or day light, to power it. Mounted approx. ten feet in the air on a post this light will stop owl kills; they will not come near an area where the light is flashing. After field testing in all types of weather, including -20 below zero, we also found that the Nite Guard light mounted 20” off the ground and about 100’ apart facing away from the area to be protected, will stop every night predator we tried it on including cougars, bears and wild boar. This in addition to all of the predators mentioned in this article. Sound too good to be true? That’s what we thought until people started using them all across the country. Now we have hundreds of glowing testimonials. As a bonus, Nite Guard lights can be mounted to give the impression of security systems in place, thusly, protecting areas against break-ins and theft. We were thrilled to have developed something as simple, inexpensive and effective as this flashing light to stop our losses of thousands of dollars each year in predator kills, and to provide a security system for our facilities. We decided to offer this to others having these same problems across the country – and the rest, as they say, is history. We currently sell thousands of the Nite Guard lights each year and our customers love them. Most of our new orders come from referrals. They absolutely work. We guarantee it.

Written by Jim Meyer, CEO, Nite Guard, LLC PO Box 274 Princeton MN 55371. Copyright 2007 – 2011, Nite Guard, LLC.  All rights reserved.  Unauthorized use of any images, illustrations, descriptions, or article content without written permission is strictly prohibited under copyright law.  Nite Guard Solar is a registered trademark of Nite Guard, LLC.