Too often the media highlights wildlife as public nuisances or backyard pests. To change this narrative we must shift our perspective, giving wild animals the same respect we would give one of our pets. A mouse living under your deck may be considered a pest, while the one in a cage in your home is a beloved pet. Learning how to cohabitate with wild animals and show respect to them and their habitats is ethically and ecologically important (they are living organisms too!). Ecologically, every living organism has a role in maintaining the ecosystem and its biodiversity. In the case of the larger wild animals seen in our backyards, their role is often as a predator, controlling the population of other smaller wild animals like mice and bunnies. Without natural predation, these creatures can overpopulate an area, affecting other species with competition and depleting plant species that play a role in the carbon cycle. In addition, wild animal attacks are more likely if we do not respect their natural ways, so it can be a preventative measure protecting human health to treat wildlife with respect.
The best practice is preventative action when it comes to wildlife conflict. The BCSPCA advises not to feed wildlife, seal any gaps on your property (ex. sheds or porches), and keep your yard tidy. There’s the saying “a fed animal is a dead animal”, and it rings true. Unfortunately, conditioning an animal with food, even unintentionally, can bring the wild animal out of their natural reclusive nature. For example, coyotes naturally fear humans, but with conditioning, will approach and sometimes attack. It’s critical to avoid this not only by avoiding direct feeding, but by ensuring garbage and compost are secure, pets are fed indoors, bird feeders are monitored for fallen birdseed, and yards are cleared of any fallen fruit from trees.
Other preventative action includes giving wild animals space when you see them. Do not approach for close-up pictures. Practice extra caution when seeing a wild animal with their young, as they are generally extra protective, and already are on defence.
In cases where it is too late for preventative action, and you are already experiencing problems with wildlife in your home or backyard, there are humane ways to approach removal. It’s important to avoid trapping and relocating if you can. Stress from trapping can be immense, and the animal may hurt itself or die trying to escape. The stress follows them during relocation, finding new sources for food, making a new home, and competing with other animals in the area. Consider contacting an Animalkind exclusion company instead of using lethal or trapping methods if looking to remove wildlife from your property. Recommended ways for a raccoon, for example, would include the use of lights or sound to encourage the animal to relocate on its own, or installing a one-way door and sealing gaps so that they cannot re-enter after the wildlife has left. The recommended methods vary for individual species. Trapping, relocating to the backyard after sealing the entry to where they were living before is more humane than relocating to a whole new area.
Having specific wildlife problems? Check out the pdfs available for best animal control practices specific to common wildlife species on the BCSPCA website.