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September 25, 2009

The Humane Approach to Human-Wildlife Problems

Six steps for living peacefully with your wild neighbors

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Beaver Deceiver

    Skip Lisle's Beaver Deceiver prevents flooding while preserving the wetlands beavers help create. The HSUS

  • Bat Box

    Bat boxes give bats a place to roost and raise their young. John Griffin/The HSUS

The humane approach to solving problems with wildlife is based on three principles:

  • Respect for the environment
  • Tolerance and understanding of living things
  • A willingness to resolve conflicts using non-lethal means

Appreciating the environment we share with other living things is one of the most important components of wildlife conflict resolution. Often the first and best defense is to let natural forces resolve the issue without intervening.

Tolerance and understanding are also crucial—many so-called wildlife “problems” arise out of our irrational fears and lack of understanding about wildlife. For example, realizing that a fox seen crossing the yard at during the day is not a rabies threat but a member of the natural community, going about her business will remove the immediate impulse to call animal control.

Many conflicts can be satisfyingly resolved without any loss of life. In fact, non-lethal solutions tend to be more permanent. Because lethal methods are quicker and easier (though by no means more efficient), it can take a greater effort to advocate for and adopt nonlethal methods.

Six steps

Non-lethal conflict resolution is an area most people have only just begun to investigate and understand. The following six-step evaluation will help you resolve wildlife conflicts safely and humanely.

1.  Determine the problem—and consider whether it is a problem at all. Learning about the habits of your wild neighbors will help you decide. For example, if a family of woodchucks moves into the backyard will they attack your child or your pet? If you educate yourself about the behavior of these animals, you’ll see that they are not a threat.

2.  If there is a problem, collect information that will help you solve the problem. Identify the species involved, the kind of damage, how long it has been happening, whether there are young animals present, and what can be done to solve the conflict in a humane and permanent way. (write, photograph, or record all the evidence you can, including sounds, especillay cries of young animals, footprints, tooth or claw marks, feces left behind, etc.)

3.  Assess the seriousness and extent of the problem. Important considerations: safety or health concerns to people or pets, the likelihood that the conflict will happen again, and whether the damage appears to be seasonal or ongoing.

Timing is often a factor--many problems with animals last only a short time, or happen only during certain seasons (raccoons, for instance, may choose your chimney for a nursery, but they will leave once their young have grown enough to follow them out).

4.  Take action, but only after all the facts have been collected. Action should be one of your last steps, and it should not have to involve killing animals. Exclusion, environmentally sound repellents, changing human or animal behavior, and habitat modification are all viable non-lethal strategies.

5.  Evaluate results. Did your action resolve the conflict or merely address the symptoms? Your solution should get at the underlying cause of the problem if it’s going to be effective over the long-term.

6.  Seek help. You may not be able to solve the problem by yourself. Click here for information on where to buy appropriate products or seek help with sick, injured, or orphaned wildlife. Visit our Top Ten Problems section to learn about how to solve common problems with wild neighbors safely and humanely.

Resources

» If you are located within the D.C. Metro Area, take advantage of our wildlife conflict resolution service. Learn More
» Purchase a copy of Wild Neighbors; the go-to guide for useful, humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife.

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