Despite good intentions, trapping and relocating wildlife is often a death sentence

Need an argument-ending argument on the contentious issue of whether or not #trapping and #relocating wildlife is humane?

When Jack Murphy from Urban Wildlife Rescue Inc endorses an article on humane wildlife control, our ears prick up. And when we see the author is Katherine McGill from 411 Raccoon Solutions (FL), we’re all in.

This is such an important read. It was written for humane wildlife control operators, but it’s chock-full of good information for the rest of us. Please give it the attention it deserves and have it ready next time you see some amateurs on FB or Nextdoor spouting off on what does and doesn’t work when it comes to “nuisance” wildlife.

Successful catch or utter failure? The perils of trapping and relocating.
by Katherine McGill, 411 Raccoon Solutions

You never know if the animal you caught is the “guilty party”, or just one drawn to the free meal in your trap. Pretty much any 10 year old can bait a trap and catch something. Frankly, it is downright lazy and cruel – and ineffective. You dump this animal miles away and believe you spared his or her life.

Hopefully, the animal was not a mother and her babies were not left to perish, slowly. When they are found, even if they are alive, it is too late for any happy ending. Their mother is long gone, having gone frantic for being separated from them, terrified in a foreign land… while we tell ourselves how lucky she is to have been relocated?? These heartbroken now-orphans will cost a volunteer rehabilitator several hundred dollars, months of time, risk of communicable shelter disease, and less-than-optimum survival skills without their mother. Now, multiply this one single “good deed” times tens of thousands, year after year… Is that humane? For whom?

Fact: When resolving a “nuisance” animal issue, there is no such thing as “humane trapping and relocation”.

Fact: There is no idyllic place where existing animals welcome newcomers dumped in their territory. None.

As of this writing, we have 15 years of GPS raccoon translocation studies to prove this isn’t humane and has poor survival rates – just 18%. We have hard science proving conflicts are best resolved in situ; i.e., on site, and not with removal. More than 90% of conflicts today can be resolved without removing the animal.

With rules and regulations that allow people to freely trap and relocate wildlife while knowing it is by far the undesirable approach, what can we do as advocates to ensure proper actions are taken and that the science (and our intent to do our best by them) is upheld and better achieved?

1) Recommend people to the most qualified sources we have available to us today. Know your own limitations in this field, especially if you are not a trained humane wildlife conflict operator. Most people will appreciate your suggestions and compassion, but make no mistake that they still want their resolution ASAP. If suggestions are all you can offer, get better at them. If you’re an HWCO, never “close” an inquiry without putting the number of a trusted HWCO in their hands.

Animal Help Now offers the most complete listing of humane wildlife conflict operators (HWCOs). Simply click “Wildlife Conflict” to find operators in your area.

Even if there is no HWCO close by, you will still be provided with nationwide consultants who will provide guidance free of charge. Most of these Specialists will help people to hire and properly guide a local NWCO provider. They, the paying customer, can dictate what methods are used by any NWCO they need to hire if they know specifically what to demand is done. (NWCO = “Nuisance” wildlife control operator, AKA “trapper”.)

2) Do not throw out a dozen “remedies” as if they alone are silver-bullet complete resolutions, especially without knowing the full story and circumstances. Wildlife conflict resolution involves many steps, with a critical goal of an end result that does not harm animals and prevents the conflict from happening again.

The more these “humane remedies” are bandied about the more they risk failing. Any failure results in less respect and traction for the HWCO industry to prevail and change the paradigm. (The conventional trapping industry loves it when a humane idea fails, and they love to talk about that time it failed as if it always fails.)

3) Do not rush to get babies to a rehabilitator until it is the absolute last resort. Job #1 is to reunite healthy babies with their mothers. Please know your limitations on advising reuniting steps. What works for one age may be unsafe for another age, etc. Nothing feels more awesome than succeeding with a reunite! ❤

Never accept assertions that “there’s no mother around.” Push for more information; more often than not this reveals the possibility she still is.

4) Change your state “nuisance” rules and regulations, get engaged. As long as the rules allow our wildlife to be killed/removed merely for being seen, we are all failing. By all of us, I mean every human on this planet. Every advocate, every “science-abiding” state agency, every animal control law enforcement department charged with upholding state animal cruelty statutes, and every conventional operator selling the worst (the least effective and most expensive) services/solutions to uninformed consumers.

Change starts with you! ❤

Nobody Cares! … or do they?

A desperate chorus rises each year as spring turns into summer, and wildlife rehabilitators across the country approach or reach capacity.

It can be nearly impossible in many parts of the United States to find help for wildlife emergencies at this time of year (wildlife baby season and migration). This is tragic for the animals who need help, and it’s tragic for the good humans who are trying to help them.

A familiar refrain of frustration returns to social media, email inboxes, and voicemail messages from the would-be rescuers: Nobody cares!

We created Animal Help Now specifically because of the difficulty of finding wildlife emergency assistance in the United States (though, to be sure, it’s a planet-wide problem). With our app we have solved the problem of finding the closest and most appropriate help for wildlife emergencies – and conflicts! – but that doesn’t mean more help is available. It doesn’t mean this country has suddenly developed an appreciation for wildlife rehabilitation. It doesn’t mean wildlife agencies are making it easier to rehabilitate wildlife. It doesn’t mean government funding is available to support rehabilitation centers and hotlines.

It doesn’t mean our communities have come together to develop systemic approaches to mitigating the ubiquitous anthropogenic threats (cat and dog attacks, window strikes, motor vehicle strikes, poorly executed “nuisance” wildlife control, etc.) that result in millions of wild animals getting injured and killed in the United States every day.

Wildlife ambulances should not be the stuff of science fiction.

As your stomach turns and you jump into action after hearing the dreaded thump of a bird hitting a window, seeing a bleeding and broken-shelled turtle in the road, encountering your neighbor’s outdoor cat with a bird in her mouth, you know instantly that you will need help as quickly as possible. And it is gut-wrenchingly tragic (to the empathetic among us) that sometimes there simply is no help. When no help is available, when your only option might be to find a veterinarian who will euthanize the animal, you are rightly anguished, sad, angry….

And you may lash out. Nobody cares!

But of course that’s not true. You care. The hundreds of people looking for help for another animal in need in some other place but at the exact same time you are – they care. The volunteers who do the work to get licensed to rehabilitate wildlife and who often work out of their homes, covering their own expenses, doing their best to get phone calls returned between feedings, having compromised sleep for months on end – they care. The paid staff and volunteers serving wildlife rehabilitation centers, rescues, and hotlines care. The veterinarians who are willing to stabilize wildlife care. Many wildlife and law enforcement agents care.

AHNow’s volunteers, paid staff, and financial supporters care.

It may be fair to say that more people care than do not!

We simply must make this a safer world for wildlife and lift up wildlife rehabilitation where it belongs. Animal Help Now lays it out in its vision statement.

Animal Help Now envisions a world in which humans:

  • Respect wildlife
  • Are familiar with threats facing wildlife and act to minimize them
  • Are educated about wildlife emergencies and empowered to effectively help orphaned, injured and distressed wild animals
  • Are educated about living in harmony with wildlife and empowered to effectively and humanely resolve human/wildlife conflicts
  • Place high value on the services provided by wildlife rehabilitators, humane wildlife conflict operators and other wildlife experts

This is going to take a society-wide effort, from businesses to HOAs to all levels of government. State legislatures and state wildlife agencies and the commissions that direct them, in particular, can and must do better. More than enough people care. More than enough to effect such changes, that is. We just have to be better organized, better directed, and a bit quicker about it.

A fate worse than death, then death

I’ll not soon forget one of my heroes – Jon Stewart, then host of The Daily Show – giggling while airing a video of a skunk or raccoon with her head stuck in a jar of peanut butter or some such.

Comedy is personal, and one person’s funny is another’s unfunny. I don’t blame a satirical genius for occasionally taking the easy slapstick laugh. And gods know we don’t need to reinforce the stereotype that vegans are humorless.

The stuck skunk came to mind when a friend told me yesterday that her landlord in animal-loving Boulder, Colorado, had hired a “pest control” operator to kill rats who had moved into her house after high waters displaced them from their homes along an irrigation ditch. (For what it’s worth, even among humane wildlife control operators you’ll find a few that are OK killing rats.)

This operator arrived ill equipped for the job. His snap traps were too small for rats, but they were all he had, he said, so he put one out anyway. The next day, the trap was gone. The rat was found days later in a wall some distance away, his head stuck in the trap, having succumbed to death from starvation or thirst or internal injuries after what was likely unspeakable pain and suffering. Everybody fights to live.

To its credit, the City of Boulder on its web page on “safe and effective rat control” encourages the public to provide oversight on operators: “Ensure that you understand the principles for effective trapping and don’t assume that a pest control service will use these techniques unless you require it when you hire them.”

We support the City’s advice on minimizing conflicts with rats, but we are at odds with their quick-to-kill approach. Rats are not to blame for taking advantage of the favorable living conditions provided for them in the human environment. We disparage rats and pigeons, but perhaps we need to be mindful of the adage that those characteristics we most despise in others we also see in ourselves.

Our species makes a mess of things, so is it any wonder we attract animals who thrive in messes? Is it any wonder the skunk gets her head stuck in a recklessly discarded peanut butter jar?

This year Animal Help Now debuted its wildlife conflict service, which enables anyone anywhere to get humane advice (and, in many areas, assistance) for dealing with “nuisance” wildlife. This isn’t about cash. (We’re a nonprofit.) It’s about taking responsibility. It’s about taking care of those most impacted by the havoc we’re wreaking on the world.