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From 21 August 2005 Issue

Just What Is A 'Nuisance' Animal?
By Share Bond - www.ProtectRWildlife.org 
President of Protect R Wildlife

Animals such as the skunk, opossum, raccoon, squirrels, coyote, rattlesnake, fox, etc. are labeled as nuisance animals or vermin, when in fact they are very important to our ecosystem. They rid our neighborhoods of mice, rats, harmful garden pests (gophers, snails, plant-destroying grubs, beetles, etc.), creepy things that people don't want around their homes (cockroaches, black widow spiders, scorpions).

You can contact your local Humane Society to get tips on how to coexist with your problem wild animals, or how to get in contact with wildlife groups who are more specialized in the animal you have questions about. Again, do not trap. Take the time to find out more about the problem animal and the simple things you can do to improve your relationship with nature.

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of bats, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, skunks, large carnivores, etc., and read more details on how to coexist with them, go to http://www.protectrwildlife.org/articles.htm#Nuisance . Solutions and remedies are covered in another section of Protect R Wildlife's web site HUMANE TRAPPING INSTRUCTIONS http://www.protectrwildlife.org/humane_trapping.htm .

All of these animals would prefer to live as far away from humans as possible. Even though people are encroaching on the homes of these animals, many learn to adapt. A skunk, opossum or raccoon are perfectly happy to live under your home. But the real reason they are there is because people lure them there. They create their own problems by leaving a steady supply of pet food outside (95% reason); improper storage of pet food in their garage; leaving their pet door open during the hours that these animals forage for food; improper garbage storage; not closing off holes in attic, under homes or in fences; even unprotected compost heaps.

There is a great availability of room and board. A downtown environment is almost ideally suited for nuisance critters. Trees, old houses, and abundance of edible trash make downtown a prime spot for warm-blooded creatures great and small. Raccoons can grow to 30 pounds on a feral gourmet diet of pet food and human leftovers. Downtown is also home to legions of opossums, rats, and other animals.

Picture a wildlife haven in someone's backyard, only the customer doesn't want the deer to eat his beautiful roses, or the skunks, raccoons and opossums to drink from his lily pond, waterfalls, or live under the open decks. But he complains that they are turning up his flowers and lawn. If he had a better fence, and a closed off deck, they wouldn't be able to get in. These aren't easy solutions and are costly, but there are simple and inexpensive solutions. Rather than trap every animal and relocate them elsewhere (better than having them killed!), he could mix a solution of 8 oz. of castor oil, 8 oz. of dish soap (mix well), then add to 1 gallon of water, and spray around the yard to ward off these animals. This solution conditions the soil and doesn't damage the lawn or flowers.

There have been extensive studies that proves that trapping and removing wildlife never works. You are wasting your time and money. More of these animals will move in to the abandoned territory. As long as the unnatural food supply remains, they will have larger litters, more females, and more litters. This unique reproductive strategy is a safeguard against extermination. It is not fair to these animals to lure them there and then kill or disrupt their lives, most of the time making orphans of their offspring that are left behind.

The average person doesn't know when mating or baby season is, nor do many of them care. People in the business of trapping and extermination are in the business to make money, so they give you the option to trap. There are some that care about animals and just want to do what you ask, so they relocate or transport to wildlife rehabilitation facilities or to a wilderness area. But a responsible wildlife consultant will not give you this option. It does not work!

I have been helping people locally, nationally and in Canada for 11 years and almost always when people are having problems with skunks, it is because pet food is left on or near the ground. Once the food is removed, they relocate themselves (usually to another home that leaves food out for them, but then maybe I'll get a call from them as well).

More and more people are looking for more humane solutions. This is why I receive approximately an average of 100 calls a week. When people are looking for help, they call Animal Control and Humane Societies, where they many times turn people away and tell them that they don't go out on these calls any more, and to call a trapper or borrow one of their traps. They even refer calls to me because they know I will recommend practical humane solutions. But when they do come out in response to your call, since many callers don't think or care to ask what will happen to this trapped animal, they find out the hard way that they are destroyed (shot, gassed, drowned and worse). Do not assume that they will be delivered to Shangri-La.

Well-meaning people often create problems by giving handouts to wild animals. What they don't realize is that they are really killing them. It should not be done for these reasons:

1) It teaches them unnatural behavior. A skunk used to finding food on this person's porch will beg at the neighbor's porch. The neighbor then calls to have the animal removed and then it is destroyed most of the time.

2) Even high-quality cat food causes obesity, liver failure, and metabolic bone disease in most of these animals.

3) It keeps them from doing their important job of ridding our neighborhoods of real pests.

What it really boils down to is that, according to nature, humans are really the nuisance animal!

(Feel free to copy and circulate this information to those that need this information, and put in your local newspapers and newsletters, as long as you don't change any of the content, and mail a copy to Share@ProtectRWildlife.org .)

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