With winter approaching, decreasing day and night time temperatures are causing urban wildlife to leave their less sheltered summer den sites and relocate to more protected areas such as attics and chimneys. Wildlife such as raccoons, squirrels and skunks will regain entry into previously occupied den sites or find new shelters within our homes.
If animal activity is detected in or around homes, these guidelines will help to maintain harmony between people and wildlife:
Why shouldn’t urban wildlife be trapped and relocated?
The most common removal technique available to the general public experiencing wildlife problems has been live-trapping and relocation. It is now increasingly recognized that there are serious adverse aspects associated with this method. Studies by the Ministry of Natural Resources show that 60% of relocated raccoons will die. Furthermore, the new Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act specifically states: “If you live-capture a nuisance animal and do not kill it humanely, you must, within 24 hours, either release it in close proximity to where you caught it, as directed by MNR, or, if it is sick, injured or immature, turn it over to a veterinarian or an authorized wildlife custodian.”
Trapped wildlife will often suffer from self-injury in their attempts to escape. This is more probable as their confinement in the trap is prolonged. Relocation of the captured animal adds to the stress of being in an unfamiliar territory. This increases the potential for transmission of infectious diseases and also increases conflict between the animal and its environment. Decreasing wildlife populations without decreasing food and/or shelter results in the remaining animals simply living longer, having larger litters, and migrating to fill the void, thus maintaining the pre-existing population levels.
Also, trapping and relocation of adult animals (especially during the spring and summer) will in many instances separate mothers from babies, and will result in the death of dependent offspring.
How do we learn to live in harmony with urban wildlife?
The first step in learning to live with urban wildlife is learning to understand nature itself. Nature controls wildlife populations relative to the availability of shelter and food sources. We need to understand that animals are by nature opportunistic and will take advantage of any source of food and shelter they can find.
By reducing these resources the level of conflicts will be appropriately reduced. However, conflicts do arise. In order to minimize the adverse aspects of our mutual association with wildlife a better understanding of their habits and needs is vital. While the ideal situation would be total prevention of wildlife intrusion, this is unlikely. However, steps can be take to significantly reduce or eliminate most problems.
Where do we start?
The first step in prevention should include a more concentrated effort in animal proofing all homes and other buildings at the time of construction. This would involve valid input by reputable and knowledgeable wildlife interest groups and education to provide better awareness and appreciation of urban wildlife by the general public.
There is tendency on the part of some homeowners to adopt a Band-Aid approach to wildlife intrusion, often dealing only with the existing problem and neglecting potential problem areas. Preventive measures have proven to be less costly and less stressful for both wildlife and the homeowner in the long term.
So what can you do about the problem?
In order to discourage or prevent wildlife intrusion the homeowner will find the following checklist of great advantage:
Eavestrough: remove debris (i.e. leaves, etc.) to prevent water overflow and possibly wood rot.
Chimney screens: install and securely fasten.
Shingles: replace curled, worn or missing shingles.
Roof vents: screen outside opening with heavier type screen.
Open attic spaces: secure with strong metal screening.
Soffit vents: cover existing vents with a strong metal screen when located near eavestrough downspouts, tree branches, etc. that provide easy animal access.
Stove and bathroom exhaust vents: install strong metal screen on covers.
Window wells: screen or install window well covers.
Existing gaps: screen with strong metal screen.
All garbage should be stored in sturdy plastic or aluminum animal proof containers with a lid that is secured with a bungee cord. It is best to keep garbage indoors until the morning of garbage pick-up.
Make sure all composters are animal proof and have secure lids. Be sure to regularly rotate the compost thereby reducing odours and preventing the attraction of animals.
If the lawn is being ripped up, more than likely raccoons or skunks have found a food source of grubs. A lawn care company should be consulted regarding treatment of the grubs. This approach may take up to 3 years to remedy the problem. Further to the treatment
as such, installing a 9 volt electrical fence around the perimeter will prevent access onto the lawn. Using a timer set to come on at night only (raccoons are nocturnal) and left operational for at least one month will give the lawn a chance to recover and change the foraging behaviour of the raccoons and skunks.
Digging a 20 centimeter deep trench around the perimeter of the structure and lining the trench with galvanized steel screen in a “L” configuration will prevent re-entry.
Trees & Bushes
Trees and bushes should be trimmed at least 5 meters back from the roof edges to prevent animals having access to the roof and to keep debris from rotting the roof surface.
Unused antennas should be removed. Antennas used for signal reception should be wrapped around with sheet metal around and at least 1 meter high. It is important to bury the sheet metal into the ground, at least 15 centimeters deep, to prevent animals from digging under it and then climbing up.
1. All screening should be 16 to 18 gauge galvanized steel (non-rusting) and with holes between .5 to 2.5 centimeter in the mesh. Chicken wire should not be used.
2. If an active entry point does exist or the presence of babies is detected, consult a professional wildlife agency for advice and possible service before proceeding. Never attempt to close an entry hole without being absolutely sure that there are no animals inside of the building structure.
If professional help is required what should you look for?
The wildlife removal industry is not licensed. Therefore, before contacting a wildlife company, you should know what to look for:
1. Wildlife companies are sometimes short lived. Make sure they have been at least three years in business.
2. Make sure the company provides an on-site estimate.
3. Always ask what method the company uses to remove wildlife. The “Hands-On” removal method is the most humane one.
4. Do not hire companies that trap and relocate, since the new Fish & Wildlife Conservation Actprohibits relocation.
5. Hire companies that offer a guarantee on the entire serviced area, not just the entrance hole.
6. Hire companies that offer re-entry prevention applications to avoid future conflicts.
7. Pay for services after the job is completed, not in advance, and only when you are satisfied.