Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO)

Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator Annual Summary Form


Program Background

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) is mandated to manage, protect, and perpetuate Oklahoma’s wildlife. ODWC issues permits to landowners, lessees or their designated agents to control nuisance or damage by regulated species of wildlife or feral hogs. The NWCO program was developed to provide assistance to the public who encounter such problems.

The NWCO program was not developed to address complex damage situations or problems with any and all forms of domestic or imported non-native wildlife, migratory birds, or any Federally protected species. The Wildlife Services (WS) program of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is authorized, in both Federal and State law, to take necessary action in assisting any landowner in management and control of rodents, non-game birds, feral pigeons and furbearers on their property.

Oklahoma laws generally grant citizens substantive latitude to deal with wildlife problems and considerable assistance is available from USDA Wildlife Services. However, many landowners may prefer to employ individuals who are skilled and educated in handling human/wildlife conflicts. Although permitted and regulated by the ODWC, Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCOs) are not state employees. They operate either as private enterprises and normally charge a fee or solicit a donation for their services; or are employed by city or county governments.

The NWCO program was also developed to provide ODWC with a record of activities of those responding to nuisance wildlife calls/complaints and a reference base of various wildlife species; the types of problems that they cause and the frequency of such human conflicts. Additionally, the program provides documentation of the various methods used for addressing wildlife damage and human/wildlife conflicts.


What is a NWCO Permit?
The Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator’s Permit authorizes both commercial operators and individuals who are employed by city or county governments, to trap and/or remove designated species of wildlife causing nuisance or damage problems for citizens and landowners in Oklahoma. Trapping and/or removal of the designated species of wildlife may be conducted at any time of the year and in areas closed to traditional harvest methods.

The NWCO Permit consists of two parts:
1) NWCO Certification (issued once for life by the ODWC, currently free of charge)
2) Possession of a valid (annual) Professional Trapping License (Resident or Non-Resident ), which unless otherwise exempt, also requires the purchase of a valid Oklahoma Hunting License)

Note: Employees of city or county governments who handle nuisance wildlife while on duty are exempt from purchasing a Professional Trapping License, and are exempt from purchasing an Oklahoma Resident or Non-Resident Hunting License, but are required to pass the examination and carry NWCO certification.

Who needs a NWCO Permit?
Every individual engaged in private or public* (see Note above) control of designated species of nuisance wildlife who charges, solicits a donation for services, or handles nuisance wildlife during the course of their employment by a city or county government.

Who does not need the NWCO Permit? (EXEMPTIONS).
1) Any citizen who handles nuisance wildlife personally and not commercially does not need a NWCO permit HOWEVER use of body gripping traps or snares is prohibited.
2) Any on duty ODWC employee.
3) Any on duty USDA Wildlife Services Program employee.

What does the NWCO Permit authorize a person to do?
An NWCO permit authorizes an individual to capture, euthanize (humanely kill) or relocate designated species of wildlife by safe and effective means at any time of year and without limits which may be in force on certain species of wildlife.

What is required of a person to operate as a NWCO?
NWCOs can conduct activities such as capture, relocation and euthanization of designated species of wildlife provided they meet all of the following conditions:
1) That the individual has passed the NWCO certification examination (See Certification Procedures below).
2) That the person possesses a valid Annual Professional Trapping License* (see Note below).
3) That the person is acting on a documented nuisance wildlife complaint (complaint can be logged in any manner such as conversation notes or E-Mail, etc).
4) That the person is at least 18 years of age
5) That the person has not been convicted of violating any fish or wildlife law within the last five (5) years (Also see Permit Suspension and Revocation below).
6) That the person provides annual reports to the ODWC of activities that deal with certain nuisance species. (See Reporting Procedures below).

Note: A NWCO Certification and Professional Trapping License must be carried at all times by the NWCO permitted individual while conducting NWCO activities and shall be presented when requested by any ODWC employee.

Which species of wildlife that are creating a nuisance do not require a NWCO Permit to control by an individual?
The following species may be controlled without having a NWCO permit: armadillo, bats (except for certain endangered species) coyote, English (house) sparrow, European starling, feral pigeon, flying squirrel, gopher, porcupine, ground squirrel, moles, mice, rats, and amphibians (except for certain endangered or threatened species) and woodchuck.

Which species of wildlife that are creating a nuisance can a NWCO Permit holder control?
NWCOs are only authorized in Oklahoma to trap and relocate/euthanize the following wildlife species when such action is warranted by a valid nuisance wildlife complaint: armadillo, badger, bats (except endangered species), beaver, bobcat, cottontail rabbit, coyote, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, flying squirrel, English (house) sparrow, feral pigeon, gray and red fox, ground squirrel, jackrabbit, mink, mole spp., mice spp., muskrat, nutria, opossum, gopher, porcupine, raccoon, rats, striped skunks, snakes, European starling, weasel spp., and woodchuck.

Who do I contact to find more information on becoming a NWCO?
The ODWC training coordinator, David Deckard can be reached by phone at: 405-522-0871 or email:

In addition, through a special permit issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the ODWC can authorize NWCOs to conduct management and control activities on Resident Canada geese. NWCOs who wish to conduct activities on Resident Canada geese are required by the ODWC to attend mandatory training (For information on obtaining special NWCO certification to control Canada geese, contact Alan Stacey, ODWC Wetland Development biologist ph. (918) 299-2334 email: or Josh Richardson, Migratory Bird biologist ph. (405) 396-2503)

NWCOs may not handle complaints and/or conduct nuisance wildlife control activities involving native wildlife species or endangered species not listed above unless authorized in writing by ODWC.

What species of animals that may be causing problems and complaints do not fall under NWCO authorization?
Problems and complaints concerning domestic wildlife (except feral hogs) and imported, non-native wildlife are not legally included in jurisdiction and powers of the ODWC and therefore complaints concerning these species are not covered in any way by this program. Problems with such animals and their owners normally fall under jurisdiction of local or county governments.

Problems and complaints concerning certain wildlife species such as big game (deer, elk, turkey, bear, etc.), game birds or endangered species will only be handled when specifically authorized by ODWC. Primary responsibility for addressing migratory bird damage rests with the USDA Wildlife Services Program.

Do NWCOs have to keep records and report their activities back to the ODWC?
YES! Reports will be required on NWCO activities concerning the following species: armadillo, badger, beaver, coyote, fox squirrel, gray squirrel, flying squirrel, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, porcupine, raccoon, striped skunk, spotted skunk, weasel spp., and woodchuck.
An individual report must be documented for each nuisance complaint that is acted upon for these species.

In addition, accidentally taken river otters must also be reported although every effort must be made to prevent their accidental capture as nothing in this program allows intentional capture.

Okay, so now I get a NWCO permit and go into business. Are there certain rules or regulations that I must comply with?
Yes, NWCOs are required to conduct their activities pursuant to the following:


NWCOs must provide client/complainant with:
1) Identification of species causing problem and estimate number.
2) Proposed method of control.
3) Conditions which constitute a mutually agreed upon solution.
4) Estimate of fee to be charged. (The NWCO Permit holder and complainant enter into an agreement without ODWC intervention. The NWCO Permit holder sets the fee for his/her services. ODWC does not regulate fees).
5) Prevention measures to eliminate or minimize future human/wildlife conflicts.

Other responsibilities of NWCOs are:
1) To document (record in writing at the time of complaint) any wildlife complaint that the Permit holder plans to act upon.
2) To obtain approval of property owner/lessee where the complaint is logged and must confine control measures and activity to said property.
3) To make every effort to reduce the capture/control of non-targeted animals.
4) To follow all state laws that apply to the taking of wildlife with the exception of season dates and bag limits except as otherwise provided (see Method of Control section).
5) To only capture/control wildlife species that affect humans and/or their property. Complaints involving conflicts between two wildlife species (e.g. hawk or squirrel at bird feeder) are not valid nuisance wildlife complaints.

Note: While not mandatory, ODWC strongly urges all those engaged in commercial control of wildlife to procure appropriate comprehensive liability insurance in the amount of $300,000 to $500,000.

What control measures can be used by NWCOs?


Traps and other similar devices set by or under the direction of a NWCO must adhere to the following:
1) Traps must be checked at least once every 24 hours whenever practicable and all animals removed.
2) All trap devices must have a metal tag attached and visible with the NWCO’s name and phone number. The name and number on the trap tag must match the NWCO’s name on the permit or the company of his/her employment.
3) The NWCO may use cage (live) traps, foothold traps, instant kill traps (conibear style less than size 330 unless water set for beaver when a 330 may be used)
4) The NWCO may use snares (snares set on or just above ground level shall be equipped with a locking device that prevents the loop from closing to a circumference less than 10 inches. Snares set above ground such as in an attic do not need the loop restriction).
5) Poisoning and/or exploding traps and/or trap devices are not allowed under this NWCO permit.
6) Shooting is permitted by NWCOs if municipal ordinances or similar laws do not prohibit the discharge of firearms.

What can a NWCO do with captured wildlife?
Unless otherwise provided, animals captured by NWCOs can be relocated, turned over to an ODWC licensed wildlife rehabilitator or euthanized (humanely killed). Pursuant to state law: All wildlife which the NWCO is authorized to control/capture shall be taken and disposed of in a manner to ensure safe and effective handling and /or euthanasia. When the captured animal is to be euthanized the guidelines followed will be those adopted by the American Veterinary Medicine Association. In addition, wildlife may be delivered to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who must then agree to the relocation restrictions contained herein. (Attachment A)
Except as otherwise provided, NWCOs can relocate wildlife pursuant to the following:
1) ODWC does not encourage the release or relocation to urban or semi-urban areas of captured beaver, fox and gray squirrels, opossum, porcupine, raccoon, and striped skunk. Release of these species could either adversely impact the health of wild populations; or could likely become a nuisance animal again thus passing the problem on to someone else rather than constituting a solution of the problem.
2) Captured wildlife that is to be relocated must not be held by the NWCO for longer than 24 hours unless specifically authorized by ODWC.
3) Wildlife should not be relocated to a place close to human dwellings, which would transfer, rather than solve, the nuisance problem.
4) Wildlife that is relocated shall be released within the State of Oklahoma, at least 5 miles outside any city limit, but not more than one county distant from the capture site.
5) Wildlife shall not be released on private land without first obtaining the receiving landowner’s written permission.
6) Wildlife shall not be released on public land without first obtaining the written permission from either the governmental entity owning or administrating the release property. (This would include, but not be limited to, any city property; lands in federal or state ownership or administration; or utility company properties).

Captured wildlife that appears to be sick or diseased will be handled in the following manner:
1) All sick or diseased wildlife is to be euthanized rather than relocated.
2) Burial or incineration (burning) of the carcass is required.

NOTE: Wildlife that has bitten a human should be submitted to a county or state health official for rabies testing. NOTE - the animal’s head should be preserved for testing with ice or refrigeration. DO NOT FREEZE. Euthanize animal by means other than by shooting or damaging the head.

Captured wildlife that is injured and unfit to be released should normally be euthanized. Occasionally, depending on the species, and the severity of the injury, they may be turned over to a ODWC licensed rehabilitator, for care and later release provided the rehabilitator is made aware of the relocation requirements of this program (see Relocation of Live Wildlife) and agrees to comply with them.

EUTHANASIA OF WILDLIFE (humane killing of wildlife):
EUTHANASIA as it pertains to Oklahoma nuisance regulations and policy shall be defined as follows: "When lethal methods are employed they should be the safest available for the operator and the public and promptly carried out in a manner that causes the least amount of stress to the animal being euthanized."

The ODWC prescribes methods of euthanasia recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (Smith, et. al. 1993. 1993 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia. J. Am. Vet. Med. Assoc; 188:252-268). Any procedure recommended by this report is approved and recommended by ODWC. These procedures are outlined within attachment A of this booklet.


ODWC personnel will attempt to resolve wildlife complaints by phone, Internet information, and/or mailing of technical assistance information designed for self-help.

If a nuisance wildlife complainant wants direct assistance then the NWCO program will be explained and a list of current NWCOs who have asked to have their names released will be made available.

ODWC does not control geographic distribution of NWCOs and there will be neither effort made nor promise on the part of ODWC that there will be commercial NWCOs in any geographic area. In addition, ODWC provides appropriate education for NWCOs, but does not endorse any NWCO nor provide any assurance of skill or integrity of any NWCO. ODWC will not release the name of any NWCOs without their expressed written request to do so.

3) Shooting - A shot to the brain can be the most painless and sometimes the only available method to humanely dispose of an animal. Local laws concerning the discharge of firearms must take precedence and shooting in the head should not be used if the animal has been known to have bitten a human (See disposition of sick or diseased wildlife).