Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Techletter, a biweekly training letter for professional pest control technicians from Pinto & Associates.
If you trap nuisance wildlife, even just squirrels, you know that you have three possible options once you have the animal in a trap. You can euthanize it by killing it humanely, you can release it on the customer’s property or you can relocate it to another site. You also should know that federal, state and even local laws may dictate what you can or cannot do with that animal. In some states, it is illegal to transport an animal to a new location.
Your customer (or maybe even you) might believe that taking the critter to a brand new place where it can run free is the best option for the animal. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. Animals that are translocated rarely do well and may not survive. Some jurisdictions feel that it is more humane to euthanize a trapped animal than to relocate it. A trapped animal is already stressed, and may be injured, and can face a lot of additional trauma when moved to a new location:
- The animal must try to find food, water and shelter in a new, unfamiliar place, especially difficult if the animal has been moved away from its cached food supply.
- A new location is probably already occupied by other members of the same species that will not welcome a newcomer into their established territory. They may drive the animal away or even kill it.
- If the relocated animal is carrying a disease, it may spread that disease to other animals in the area. Rabies is a special concern and is the reason that some jurisdictions require that you kill certain trapped animals rather than translocate them.
- The animal may try to return to its original area and be hit by a vehicle in the process. Squirrels and raccoons can return from up to 15 miles away. If the animal being moved has lost its fear of humans, it will no doubt repeat its habits, and moving it simply transfers the problem to someone else’s property.
If the law allows and you relocate a wild animal, keep it comfortable and calm during the process. Cover the trap to protect the animal from sun and rain. Never translocate an animal when the weather is severe. The animal may expend so much energy trying to find shelter that it will die. Never relocate an animal that is nursing young. Even if you try to move the young as well, the outcome won’t be good.
Make sure you know your state (and city’s) regulations regarding trapping and relocating for the animal in question. You may need a permit for either activity. Make sure you know who owns the property where you plan the release. You may need the owner’s permission. Make sure you don’t translocate a problem as well.
Sandra Kraft and Larry Pinto are well-known industry consultants and co-owners of Pinto & Associates.