Another Look at the “Humane” Alternative

Thousands of wild animals call our city home. Sometimes we don’t think about our wild neighbours until there is a problem: a squabble over who gets the garden vegetables, or an uninvited tenant taking up residence in the roof. While wildlife are only trying to meet their basic food and shelter needs, these conflicts can be very frustrating for homeowners.

So why not trap the animals and move them somewhere else?

Contrary to popular belief, live-trapping an animal and relocating it is not a good way to solve the problem. While trapping may seem like a humane option, it often ends in a death sentence for the animal and leaves your property vulnerable to ongoing wildlife conflicts. Here’s why:

There’s no place like home

Many people think that a wild animal can survive anywhere. You may even think that moving an animal from an urban backyard to a ravine, park, or forest will help them, since these spaces seem more “natural.” But the truth is, most animals have specific home ranges where they are adapted to living.

An urban animal may have a home range of only a few city blocks. Within that range they learn where to find food, water, and shelter, and how to stay safe. An animal that’s spent its whole life living in a garden shed and foraging in green bins isn’t going to stand a chance suddenly transported to a conservation area. Not to mention that there are probably already other animals living in the new territory who won’t be too happy about having a new neighbour.

Trapping an animal and moving it to a new, unfamiliar location – even one that looks nice to us – is stressful and bewildering. Relocated wildlife almost never survive more than a month or two in their new environment.

Babies get left behind

Most wildlife conflicts happen in the spring and summer, when mothers are looking for shelter and extra food to raise their babies. These babies are quietly awaiting their mother’s return in attic nests or backyard burrows. When a mother is trapped and moved, dependent babies are left behind. Without their mother, they will die.

Toronto Wildlife Centre receives hundreds of calls a year about baby raccoons, squirrels, and other wild animals who have been “orphaned” because someone trapped and relocated a “nuisance” animal. Sadly, we don’t have the resources to take care of all of them, and many are turned away.

Trapping and relocating a mother with her babies also doesn’t work. Because of the stress and terror caused by relocation, faced with an unfamiliar territory with no way to find food or shelter, the animal will almost always abandon her babies at the new site.

Short-term fixes don’t work

There are no empty spaces in nature. If you get rid of one animsl, it won’t be long until another one finds that cozy den in your roof or delicious meal in your garden. More likely, you will do a lot of unnecessary work or pay a lot of money to an animal removal company with no long term results.

In fact, removing wildlife can sometimes even backfire and make the situation worse. Research has shown that animals with multiple births (including raccoons, squirrels, skunks, and coyotes) will have larger litters in areas where there has been a lot of trapping in previous years since there is still plenty of food and shelter. New babies simply fill the gap left by the ones that have been trapped and relocated.

Conflicts with wildlife are best dealt with individually: what is the animal doing that’s bothering you, why is it doing it, and how do we get it to stop?

Learn more about how to humanely handle wildlife conflict situations

Thanks to the generous support of Ontario Power Generation, Toronto Wildlife Centre is working to educate people about biodiversity and wildlife issues.

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