We’ve all seen videos of cute raccoon families huddled around a garbage can, rummaging for old fruits or any food they can get their hands on. Although it may seem like an innocent family meal, it is important to understand what makes wildlife choose our trash over the food in their natural environment, and why this can be so harmful.
In the first weeks of 2022, many areas of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland experienced extreme weather that delayed trash pickups. In some areas, collection was cancelled for up to four weeks. In addition to community frustration over sanitization issues, a build up of trash can increase the chances of urban wildlife being attracted to a community.
Extreme weather events have become increasingly frequent throughout British Columbia. Even without the assistance of these extreme wildlife events, wildlife will always be attracted to our properties for food and shelter. The more you know about how to properly store and dispose of your trash, the easier it becomes to protect your home and the wildlife in your community.
Why Do Wildlife Eat Trash?
As our communities have grown, the wildlife around us have adapted to living in urban environments. Our communities provide a constant source of food for wildlife all year round, being particularly helpful in the winter months when natural food supplies are scarce and animals are trying to build their fat stores to keep warm. Wild animals have a keen sense of smell that attracts them from near and far to the variety of odours that ooze from our trash. With easy access to an abundance of choices, they are able to conserve their valuable energy which they would normally exhaust on scavenging for sustenance.
Some of the most common wildlife species you may find rummaging through your garbage bins in B.C. are raccoons, squirrels, opossums, seagulls, and foxes. Especially when garbage disposal is not properly taken care of, there may be a higher-risk of wildlife making their way to your driveway for dinner.
What’s The Harm of Having Wildlife on Your Property?
Wild animals will always prefer the path of least resistance, and what is more comfortable than a constant source of food and a warm home to shelter in? When you leave your garbage unsealed, many animals may take this as an invitation to make your home their own, which can result in serious risks to your property and your family.
Wildlife can enter our homes through vents, openings in the roof, cracks or holes they find along the exterior, or can even chew their way in. Once they have made their way inside, they have the potential to destroy your insulation, chew your electrical wires, destroy your ventilation systems, and weaken the structural integrity of your home. Depending on the time of year, the wildlife may use your home as a place to birth babies, resulting in more wildlife and more damage.
The animals living on your property can also pose significant health risks. Many animals are carriers of viruses and bacteria that can be transferred from their feces to humans through the respiratory system. While many of these bacterial and viral infections can be treated, they can still have significant impacts on your body, and can be even more detrimental to your pets. Even if the wildlife eating your garbage have not made their way inside your home, there is a risk that they have defecated on your property, leaving behind dangerous bacteria.
How Does Trash Harm Wildlife?
The trash that we leave at the end of our driveways can also have serious consequences for the wildlife in our communities. While our furry friends see our garbage as a buffet ripe for the picking, they are often unaware of all the toxic chemicals and harmful materials they will ingest. Many of our household cleaning items contain toxic chemicals that can cause serious illness, or be fatal to the wildlife that consume them. Many studies have found that the consumption of plastic can have detrimental impacts on the digestive tracts of wildlife, and the chemicals can pose a fatal risk as well.
While rummaging through our trash bins, wildlife are at risk of getting cut on broken glass or sharp materials, and if the cut is deep, it can potentially have devastating consequences. Open jars and cans also pose a risk to animals getting their heads caught inside, which could result in the animals suffocating, overheating or even starving if they can not remove it. In 2018, the Toronto Wildlife Center had to remove a glass grease jar from a panicked raccoon’s head who was found panicking alongside a ravine. The poor little guy would not have been able to remove it without the help of wildlife rescue workers.
How to Prevent Wildlife From Getting Into Your Trash
With all of these consequences in mind, you may be wondering: “What can I do to prevent wildlife from getting into my trash?” Whether it’s a squirrel with sharp teeth or a raccoon with human-like dexterous hands, preventing wildlife from getting in your trash can be difficult. However, there are some steps you can take to discourage wildlife from rummaging through your bins:
- Install motion sensor lights in the area you leave your garbage
- Purchase wildlife proof garbage cans
- Store your trash in a shed or garage
- Use garbage disposal to limit waste in your trash
- Wash your garbage cans frequently
There are also a few things homeowners can do to reduce the risk of harm to wildlife
- Ensure all broken glass is wrapped
- Break down cardboard boxes and plastic materials that could harm wild animals
- Rinse out cleaning product containers before recycling them
- Place trash out to the curb as close to the pickup time as possible
If you already have wildlife living on your property or in your home, do not attempt to remove them yourself. Professional wildlife removal is the only way to ensure your safety, and provide a long-term solution to your wildlife infestation problem. Contact Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control Coquitlam to schedule a property assessment and begin the process of wildlife exclusion from your property.