As avid gardeners know, along with the growing season comes the roaming of local wildlife. Squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, raccoons, skunks, etc. are all out and about, in particular during the warmer months. The most important thing on the minds of these animals? Food. While we have stores and restaurants to keep us well-fed, animals don’t have that luxury. This leaves them to search for food wherever they can find it. Naturally, with these critters dwelling around the neighbourhood, backyard gardens are frequent targets – grocery stores for critters, if you will.
It’s certainly understandable for gardeners to find these tomato-stealing critters rather annoying. Thus, some take to setting out live traps to catch these animals, with the intent of releasing them elsewhere. However, this method – previously viewed as humane – is really anything but.
In addition to the severe stress animals are under while in these traps, they are at extreme risk for injury as they will no doubt be frantic in escape attempts and are exposed to the harsh elements. Should the relocated animal have been separated from its young, the dependents left behind are left prone and likely to die. It is also proven that relocated animals are at a huge disadvantage in their new environment, as they are forced to adjust to again searching for food, water, and shelter while potentially having been placed in another animal’s territory, leading to dangerous disputes. Lastly, other animals (pet dogs and cats, birds, etc.) are at risk of getting caught in traps.
Simply put, as the Ottawa Humane Society says about live trapping and relocation: “it is only a temporary solution.” It is far simpler to address the reason these wild animals continue to visit your yard than to continue trapping and relocating them. The critters are coming for a reason, and more will keep coming no matter how many are caught and released, especially as removed animals are only creating vacant territory for new critters to move in.
Being that animals are likely after food or shelter, ensure that it is harder for them to easily meet these needs in your yard and garden. Solutions such as fences, chicken wire, garden fabric or plant tents, raised plant beds, and contained compost are simple ways to dissuade critters from nibbling on planted fruits and veggies. Alternative food sources can also be provided – such as bird feeders – which easily distract some critters, especially as the majority are after the easiest way to get food.
Above all else, it is important to recognize that this smaller wildlife is only doing their best to survive in their environment, which humans have ultimately taken over. Additionally, despite being viewed as pests, small critters are incredibly beneficial to the environment. Squirrels, for example, are regarded as “nature’s gardeners” since their cycle of collecting and burying nuts and seeds – then forgetting where they buried them – has resulted in the growth of multitudes of trees and plants. Possums, while no doubt frightening in looks, eat ticks in abundance (as many as 4,000 in one week), meaning they are aiding in the fight against Lyme disease.
Remember that it is illegal in Ontario to relocate wildlife more than one kilometre from where it was trapped.