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Vertebrate Turf Pests on School Grounds Webinar Report

Vertebrate Turf Pests on School Grounds, part of a series of school Integrate Pest Management (IPM) webinars, hosted by EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM, was presented on April 19, 2015. Included here is the contact information for the presenters, webinar statistics, responses to questions and comments, and related resources.

On this page:


  • Stephen Vantassel, Ph.D., Montana Department of Agriculture
  • Richard Kramer, Ph.D., Innovative Pest Solutions
  • Samuel Smallidge, Ph.D., New Mexico State University

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Questions and Answers

The questions below were posed by the webinar participants. The responses may have been refined by the presenters following the webinar for clarification or to include additional resources.

General Questions

  1. Will the presentation be available for download? Where?

    You can access a  recording of the webinar.

  2. What are a good sources of promotional materials, posters, etc. to help educate our teachers, students and staff on IPM?

    (M. Anderson)  EPA’s Managing Pest in Schools website and the IPM Institute of North America’s School IPM 2020 Exitwebsite.

    Check out the May 10, 2016 webinar on Stop School Pests and iPestManager. The iPestManager portion of the program will highlight school IPM resources accessible online by computer and smart phone. The Stop School Pests training and iPestManager online repository are part of the school IPM toolbox that EPA is developing.

Pest Management Questions

  1. Are there guidelines for disposing of trapped animals?

    (S. Vantassel) Guidelines for the euthanasia, or humane killing, of vertebrate pests vary from state to state. However, two broad principles should be applied - never kill animals in public view and endeavor to use the least painful method possible. Follow the procedure suggested by the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management. Exit Many recommend the use of carbon-dioxide gas to euthanize animals. Shooting, through the brain, can also be euthanasia but care must be used regarding the discharge of firearms (local laws and safety). Also NEVER shoot an animal in the head that needs to be tested for rabies as it will invalidate the test. You may also want to contact a local wildlife control operator or animal shelter as they may be willing to dispatch the animal for you for a fee.  As for disposal of the carcass, again standards vary by location. In many areas, small numbers of small animals (less than 50 pounds) may be disposed of at the local dump. Your sanitation facility will know if they can accept small animals. Be sure to double-bag carcasses in 3 mm thick (industrial strength) bags then place them in a cardboard box. This sort of precaution helps to prevent scratches and scrapes that can occur from handling carcasses. Always wear gloves and other protective equipment when handling carcasses as they can still carry diseases and ectoparasites.

  2. Dr. Vantassel, could you please share the link to access your Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook? Exit

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Species-Specific Questions

  1. My moles do not create surface runs, so what trap would I use to capture them?

    (S. Vantassel) There are several traps available. The Victor Out of Site®, NoMol® and Gophinator® are three choices to consider. You might also try watering the lawn a bit more to bring the mole closer to the surface.

  2. What is the best way to get rid of moles on school grounds?

    (S. Vantassel) Best method depends on your goals and preferences. Effective techniques include trapping and Bell Labs’ Talpirid® mole bait. My preference is traps but I know that many people prefer poison. Talpirid® has a good reputation in the industry but I am told that there may be issues with it in wet soil such as would occur in the Pacific Northwest. Don’t use grain-based toxicants because moles don’t eat grain. While castor oil has been touted as a mole repellent and I recall it is registered for that use, I don’t think the evidence for its effectiveness is very strong. It may be worth a try but I understand its use requires a lot of water.

  3. Are there any plants that will repel voles?

    (S. Vantassel) No. Voles eat plants.

  4. Are there any plants that will repel moles?

    (S. Vantassel) No.

  5. There are so many pocket gopher mounds on the property that I cannot tell which ones are new or old. How can I differentiate them?

    (S. Vantassel) Fresh mounds have moister soil (usually designated by browner soil coloration), fine grained soil (doesn’t clump), and are tall. If the landscape is so marked that it is difficult to differentiate old from new mounts, harrow the mounds flat manually or with a tractor. Then, look for new mounds.

  6. Where might I find out more information on prairie dogs?

    Call your local state wildlife agency or visit these websites:

  1. Do you have any recommendation on how to deal with a badger on school grounds?

    (S. Smallidge) Badgers may be protected as furbearers in your state or be offered no protections.  Check your state/local laws to understand badgers’ legal status. The long-term solution to badgers is to control rodents, particularly burrowing rodents. Use of bright lights at night may discourage badgers. You may trap badgers using live traps or foothold traps. A baited live trap anchored to the ground with stakes in an area where the badger has previously been active is one method of capturing badgers. If foothold traps are used, it is best to anchor them to a drag (strong limb) such that the badger may not pull the drag into their burrow. A dead chicken is a common bait.

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Health-Related Questions

  1. What are some precautions that my school may take to mitigate potential exposure to plague?

    (S. Smallidge) As much as possible, keep children, parents, and pets from walking through areas inhabited by prairie dogs. Applying deltamethrin directly to prairie dog burrow openings has been demonstrated to reduce flea populations within prairie dog towns. Manipulate habitat with visual barriers to encourage prairie dogs to move away from school grounds.  If visual barriers or other habitat modifications are unsuccessful, population control measures may be necessary. Population control, integrated with habitat modifications, may provide the best long-term solution on school grounds.

  2. Should modes of action be rotated for treating fleas in prairie dog colonies?

    (R. Kramer) As with any disease vector with high reproductive potential such as fleas, rotation of pesticides is a good course of action. Always insure that the product is registered for the site of application.

    (S. Smallidge) Deltamethrin is the most commonly used product. I am unaware of other products that could be rotated with deltamethrin.

  3. Do groundhogs vector rabies?

    (R. Kramer) Groundhogs are the member of the squirrel family most often found to be infected with rabies. However, they are not considered a rabies vector. Ironically, the day after this webinar, a school we service reported a child being bitten by a groundhog. Given the rarity of the event and that a groundhog that bites a person is most likely ill, we recommended that the child be seen by their physician and the incident reported to the local health department.  Treatment of bites of this nature are best left to medical professionals.

    (S. Smallidge) Groundhogs (Marmota monax), also known as woodchucks, are known to carry rabies and may pose a health risk to humans or pets. Like all mammals, prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) are capable of being infected by rabies. However, prairie dogs are unlikely to pose a rabies transmission risk. Prairie dogs (and other smaller rodents) are not likely to survive an attack by a rabid animals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has information on rabies.

  4. What is the probability of raccoons, skunks or bats on carrying rabies?

    (R. Kramer) In addition to feral cats, these animals are the ones most frequently infected with rabies.  There is no way to assess the probability of an animal carrying rabies or whether a specific animal is infected without laboratory testing of the animal tissues.  In the event of contact (bite, scratch, or prolonged exposure) with any of these animals, the individual should seek medical attention. It is ideal if the suspect animal can be captured, without further exposure, and taken to an animal shelter for rabies evaluation. Keep in mind that exposure to rabies can be fatal if not properly treated.

    (S. Smallidge) Raccoons, skunks, and bats are all known carriers of rabies and have all been responsible for transmission of rabies to humans and pets. The probability of any one of these species having rabies in your area is dependent on the presence and prevalence of rabies in the local wildlife population. The best approach is to treat all of these animals as potentially infected with rabies or other diseases. If someone encounters or is bitten by one of these animals, local medical personnel (school nurse, doctor, etc.) should be contacted.

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Upcoming School IPM Webinars

We welcome your participation in our upcoming webinars and ask you to encourage your peers to attend. These presentations are geared specifically to school and school district facility managers, buildings and grounds managers and staff, childcare facility managers, and school IPM practitioners. School nurses, school administrators, health officials, and pest management professionals are welcome to attend.