There’s plenty of good reasons for landowners to have their guard up around pests. Pests can cause devastating losses to crops, can kill livestock, and generally wreak havoc on the health of your land. However, some creatures with reputations for being pests can actually do more good than harm for your land.
Snakes are one of the most common fears in America. Not only do they look scary, snakes have the potential to be deadly. Poisonous snakes can cause serious damage to you and your livestock.
Even though they look creepy, snakes do have their benefits. Snakes eat rats and mice, which carry ticks. Timber rattlesnakes are especially fond of eating tick-carrying pests. A 2013 University of Maryland study showed timber rattlesnakes ate so many ticks that they removed 2,500-4,500 ticks from the site they lived on each year. Keeping the tick population down is important to reduce the spread of Lyme Disease (a bacterial disease carried by ticks), which can be especially important for recreational properties that host hikers or hunters.
Call The Exterminator Or Let Them Be? If the snakes aren’t venomous and you don’t have a serious phobia, they can be a boon to your land.
Raccoons may look cute, but there’s nothing cute about the damage they can do to your property. Besides digging through trashcans, raccoons are also known for eating eggs, like those of our snake friends mentioned above, and other small animals. Worst of all, raccoons carry diseases such as parvovirus, fleas, and rabies. According to the Center for Disease Control, raccoons account for 30.2% of all animal rabies reports. Their feces also carry disease such as salmonella and racoon roundworm. None of this is good if you are trying to manage or attract wildlife to your property.
Having raccoons on a property does have a few upsides. They are one of the few animals that eat wasp larvae, which gets rid of the nest. They eat a wide variety of things, including harmful insects and small rodents that can also be considered pests on your land. However, these benefits don’t typically outweigh the drawbacks of having raccoons on your land so its best to find ways to deter them from making their home there.
Call The Exterminator Or Let Them Be? A cute, furry face masks a host of nasty diseases and a bad temper. Consider bringing in a professional.
Opossums have a bad reputation for their mangy looks and tendency to ‘play possum’. Their looks hide the fact that opossums are actually very well-groomed. While ticks may cling to opossum fur, only 3.5% of the ticks survive opossums’ grooming and feeding. Like snakes, their presence on your land can kill thousands of ticks every week.
Besides ticks, they also eat other pests that plagues your land like cockroaches, mice, snakes, and animal carcasses.
Call The Exterminator Or Let Them Be? Opossums tend to be non-aggressive, eat ticks and other pests, and can even get rid of poisonous snakes. They may not be the prettiest creatures to look at, but they are good for the overall health of your land.
Foxes are often viewed as sneaky, sickly creatures that will kill all of your chickens. That reputation isn’t entirely fair. These cat-sized creatures aren’t naturally aggressive and are easily scared off.
Foxes are also healthier than they are perceived. They can have rabies, but the strain they carry is much less common than raccoons (in 2017, foxes were the cause of 7% of all rabies cases).
If you have small household pets (rabbits, guinea pigs, kittens, and small dogs) or chickens, these could be at risk of a fox attack. It's best to keep pets locked indoors and make sure the enclosures for any small livestock living outside are secure.
Call The Exterminator Or Let Them Be? You probably don’t need to call pest control. In most cases, they are relatively harmless and hunt tick-carrying animals.
One of the worst things about warm weather is seeing a steady stream of ants trickle into your house. While they may be annoying in your living room, ants have a lot to offer your land. The leaves and fruits the ants bring into their tunnel eventually decompose, creating valuable nutrients for the soil. The tunnels that the ants go through also redistribute nutrients throughout the soil.
Call The Exterminator Or Let Them Be? Unless swarms of ants are causing serious damage to your crops, you can leave ants alone.
Some common farmland pests are just pests. Other creatures can benefit your land by getting rid of disease-carrying critters, eating tics, or improving the overall health of your land. If in doubt, contact your local animal control company. While some pests do nothing but cause trouble, other pests can provide a helpful service to your land.
Now that you know what pests are beneficial for your land, you may be interested in other best practices for your managing your land or even looking at purchasing some additional land for yourself. If so, be sure to use our Find A Land Consultant tool to find a qualified land expert in your area.
About the Author: Laura Barker is a freelance writer based out of California for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She has been with RLI since October 2017.