What's Happening: Wildlife
As urban and suburban growth continue unchecked, the sheltering community faces increasing public demand for assistance in resolving conflicts with wildlife. Lying in a gray area between state wildlife agencies and the private businesses that charge a fee for wildlife removal, shelters may be involved in everything from providing advice over the phone to scrambling to the scene of an injured deer or bear in the roadway. The time and effort that can be devoted to wildlife concerns varies with the situation and resources available, but it typically won’t be enough to meet the demand. An informal poll conducted by The HSUS in 1996 found that virtually all shelters handle wild animals in one way or another; more than half of those we asked did so 500 times or more every year.
But the typical animal shelter doesn’t have the resources to manage wildlife problems for the public. There are now private businesses that take care of wildlife problems, usually by trapping and relocating, or, as is increasingly being demanded by state authorities, killing the offending animal. Many animals are dying for nothing more than the offense of having thought that an attic or a chimney would be a secure place to make a den and, perhaps, raise young.
If they could only be encouraged to leave, the problem would be resolved. Fortunately, humane, biologically appropriate, and environmentally sensible approaches are already being advocated and practiced by some in the wildlife control industry who see things this way.
One example is found in a thriving business in Toronto, Canada. AAA Wildlife Control was founded more than 20 years ago by its president, Brad Gates, and has now grown into a business that operates four franchises with almost 50 employees. The company practices humane conflict resolution strategies, specializing in evicting offending animals while maintaining the integrity of family units. Though the invaded structures are “animal-proofed” so the animals cannot reenter, the evicted parties are left in their known home range, maximizing their chances of survival because of the continued access to known sources of food and shelter. This happens in hundreds of cases each year, satisfying homeowners’ demand for action, meeting the businesses’ needs to be profitable, and allowing animals the greatest chance to survive.
This approach can be incorporated into shelter operations through specialized training offered by AAA out of its Toronto headquarters and a modest commitment to the practical resources needed to make it work. One vision for the future sees the sheltering community more and more involved in wildlife services that make sense, not only as needed humane intervention but as a practical and profitable business operation as well. We see a brighter future for our wildlife when the first response to public needs can come from those who care about the animals and want to ensure the highest standards of humane treatment are employed.