Many homeowners welcome the presence of owls on their property as owls are beautiful, fascinating creatures that can be very helpful in controlling pests such as mice and rats. If you have small pets or farm animals that roam outside after dark, however, you may decide you need to get rid of owls, which prey on these types of animals.
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Before you take any action, though, you should understand that owls are protected by various state and federal laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and it's illegal to shoot, hunt, kill, injure, or possess owls and other birds of prey. Although you likely won't be able to prevent all owls from "trespassing" on your property at all times, you can minimize conflicts by using several humane owl-control methods.
Features That Attract Owls to Your Yard
Owls are attracted to your yard or garden by quiet, low-light conditions at night and the presence of food, shelter, and water. They may want to make their homes in nearby trees, nesting boxes, or parts of your house or outbuildings, and they're looking for food in the form of other birds; small mammals, including mice, rats, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits; and the occasional insect, snake, lizard, fish, or amphibian.
How to Get Rid of Owls
If you want to get rid of owls on your property, you can discourage them humanely using an integrated approach that combines the use of scare tactics, exclusion, and habitat modification to make your yard as unwelcoming to these raptors as possible.
Experiment With Scare Tactics
Scare tactics are effective owl deterrents, but they rarely work in the long term so you need to change up your routine frequently. Keep in mind that the intent of scare tactics is to startle owls, not to kill or harm them in any way.
Make Some Noise
Owls are sensitive to loud noises, which you can take advantage of to temporarily scare them away:
- Bang cymbals, pots and pans, or cans together if you see an owl in your yard.
- Clap your hands together loudly and shout or use whistles, horns, or other types of noisemakers.
- Fire a gun loaded with blanks into the air in the direction of the area you wish to protect.
- Use pyrotechnics, such as noise, whistle, or bird bombs fired from a pistol, or shell crackers — 12-gauge shotgun shells containing a firecracker that are best used with an open-choke shotgun.
Before using any form of pyrotechnics to repel owls, consult with your local fire department to see if any state or local permits are needed to own and use pyrotechnics.
Turn On the Lights
Because most owls are nocturnal and hunt at night, you may achieve some success by shining a bright light at them on multiple consecutive nights if you see them in your yard after dark. Bright lights can interfere with the hunt and may make owls feel unsafe on your property, which encourages them to hunt elsewhere. Turning on porch lights and security lights at night may also help to deter owls.
Put Up a Scarecrow
Another trick for scaring many types of birds is the classic scarecrow. If you decide to give it a try, string old CDs and other reflective objects on your scarecrow and attach the arms and legs so they move in the wind to foster the illusion of an actual person. Changing the scarecrow's location and appearance every few days also helps to repel owls and other birds.
Use Exclusion Techniques
Owls prey on chickens, ducks, rabbits, and other small farm animals, so properly shelter these types of animals after dusk in a covered enclosure that excludes owls. Since owls may also prey on cats and small dogs, keep your pets safely inside from dusk until dawn. If you have to take your pets out briefly, keep them close and supervise them. If it's dark out, attach a small strobe or flashing light to your pet's collar or use a collar that has built-in flashing light, which may help keep an owl from approaching.
Change the Habitat and Minimize Food Sources
Discourage owls from making a home in your yard by making it as challenging as possible for them to create a nest. Remove nesting boxes or platforms, cover your chimney with a screen, and repair any holes in your walls or roof that may make cozy homes for owls.
You also want to prevent owls from roosting in your yard by removing tall, isolated trees and other suitable perches, such as fence posts, within 100 yards of your home, chicken coop, or another area of concern. If this isn't feasible, make it difficult or uncomfortable for them to perch by installing bird spikes or metal post caps where possible.
Reduce the supply of rodents and other prey animals in your yard by removing brush piles and potential sources of food. For example, avoid keeping any pet food outdoors since it attracts many types of birds and other animals, which in turn attracts owls looking for a quick meal.
Empty birdbaths and remove bird feeders from your yard for several days as another means of owl control. This may help prevent some of the birds that owls typically feed on from coming to your yard.
Avoid getting too close to nesting owls, which can be especially aggressive toward people and cause injury.
- Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: Living With Wildlife Owls
- KTNV: How to Scare Away Owls in Your Yard
- Owl Research Institute: Attracting Owls to Your Backyard
- Today's Homeowner: Scarecrows in the Garden
- Wildlife Damage Management: Hawk and Owl Damage Management
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918
- Bob Vila: How To: Attract Owls to Your Yard—And Why You Should!