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Pest Control with an Airgun

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Author Jim Chapman

Pest Control with an Airgun

Pest Control

The application for which most airguns are purchased domestically would be for plinking and target shooting. However looking at guns purchased with the intention to shoot quarry, without a doubt they are most frequently used to shoot vermin and pest species. This can range from shooting the squirrel or starling raiding the backyard bird feeder to professional pest control removal of roosting pigeons in factory buildings or rats raiding feeders in the farmer’s barn. Most states permit the culling of pest species with an airgun, and even allow some game animals to be taken out of season under a depredation permit when they are causing damage to property. Some species by there very nature considered pest animals, ones that are vectors for diseases or cause damage to property such as brown rats. Other animals are usually not a pest species, but due to population explosions caused by an abundance of food or lack of predators, become pest. The most common pest species shot with airguns are rats, ground squirrels, sparrows, starlings, black birds, pigeons and other animals causing a nuisance or depredation on private property. Under certain conditions, a small game animal such as cottontail rabbits on a golf course or tree squirrels in the attic become a pest animal …. Once again you need to check your local ordinances. Shooting pest animals makes a lot of sense as the other options are either setting traps or laying poison, both of which have many negative attributes. They are both indiscriminate, you don’t want to poison the barn cat along with the rats, and you don’t want your dog sticking his nose in a rat trap. Shooting can also be more effective allowing several individuals to be culled in a single session and a whole population eradicated over a short period of time. To be successful the shooter needs to keep the pressure up, as these animals tend to breed very rapidly and can quickly build the population back up if allowed to. It should be understood, the objective of pest control is to kill as many animals as possible, effectively removing the population from a specific area. It is not hunting in the purse sense of the word, you are not interested in sport or giving the animal an advantage, only in removing them (or significantly reducing their numbers) from the ecosystem. In this context, the pest control shooter should not hesitate to cull young animals or females, and unless there are local regulations there should not be a concern over season. Speaking of pest control and seasons, one of the strangest sets of regulations I know of is in Louisiana. Nutria are a huge pest that cause a great deal of damage to the levies and waterways; the state has a bounty on them and sometimes the problem gets so bad that the police have to cruise the canals popping the mega rodents with rimfires ……. But there is a season! Go figure. My point is, the purpose of true pest control is to remove every member of the pest specie that you can. As a matter of fact, if a farmer or facilities manager gives you permission to shoot his property, it is your responsibility to clear every varmint you can. When I talk about pest control, I mean real pest control; a pasture that has become dangerous to livestock because there are so many burrows they are at risk of breaking a leg. Pigeons that are nesting in a factory building and spreading a layer of guano over people and equipment, or blackbirds and crows causing crop damage, are real pest. There is another type of pest control, which is justifiable but not for the same reasons. Let’s face it, the starlings raiding your bird feeder are not causing that much damage. The justification for removing this type of pest animal is simply that, they don’t belong in North America. Every English sparrow, starling, or pigeon that lives here is eating, taking nesting space, and breathing the air required by native species and should be eradicated for that reason. Using airguns to shoot these pests makes a lot of sense, as they are uniquely suited to the task. They are powerful enough to effectively dispatch a pest animal at 50 yards, and the guns that we discuss and recommend in this book are capable of tack driving accuracy. If you do happen to miss, the projectiles will not travel a mile or cause excessive damage to surrounding equipment or buildings. And lastly, the guns are quiet, and with a shrouded barrel can be almost silent. This means that you will not become pest specie to your neighbors as you move around the yard clearing out the starling populations, your pest might be their cute little bushy tailed squirrel … so stealth has its place.

Depredation Permits

Most states give land owners the right to remove pest species that are causing damage to crops or property. In some jurisdictions you need to get the permits before you can actually remove the pest animals, in some you need to notify the authorities within a specific time of taking the animal, and in others you need not follow up. The federal government also issues depredation permits to allow the take of migratory birds which are causing serious damage to public or private property, pose a health or safety hazard, or are damaging agricultural crops or wildlife. If it is necessary to apply for a permit to kill a limited number of birds, documentation from their office that they have offered advice in the non-lethal control of birds is required as part of the application information. Airguns are an ideal way to remove animals under a depredation permit, as this often requires animals to be taken in areas that are populated, that have buildings or equipment that could be damaged with firearms. They offer a quiet, effective means to get the job done without sending out an alarm to those that would oppose the legal culling of these animal pests.

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