Wildlife is an integral part of Britain’s ecosystems in both the countryside and cities, and we cause our animal neighbours far more trouble than they cause us. Every day, humans raze wildlife habitats, destroy their homes and kill animals who are simply trying to survive and raise their families.
Lethal Wildlife ‘Control’: Cruel and Ineffective
Drowning, trapping, poisoning, bowhunting, glue traps and other cruel wildlife ‘control’ methods cause terrible, needless suffering. Lethal methods are also ineffective: When individuals are removed, the resultant spike in the food supply prompts remaining animals and newcomers to breed at an accelerated rate. The result is in an endless, expensive, and futile kill cycle.
Culling is just a nicer-sounding word for mass slaughter of wildlife. Even though urban wildlife such as deer, badgers and other species thrive in and around human environments due to our rubbish, gardens, and exotic and fragmented landscapes, who perceive these animals as a threat often resort to lethal measures in a misguided attempt to reduce numbers. Countless animals are gunned down, poisoned, lethally trapped, or otherwise killed in these ineffective initiatives. Animals struck by arrows or bullets rarely die instantly. Many escape with horrific wounds, only to die slowly and painfully of shock, blood loss, infection, attacks by predators, or exposure. Culled animals aren’t the only victims; young and dependent family members are also left to starve. Successful population management programmes focus on curtailing food sources, and habitat modification via exclusion and repellents.
Snares are wire nooses that trap – and often kill – any animal unlucky enough to cross their path, including companion animals and protected species. Animals caught in snares struggle frantically to escape, often becoming dismembered, eviscerated or strangled in the process. Animals ensnared but non-fatally injured suffer immensely before death.
Spring traps are devices that slam shut on an animal’s limb or paw when stepped upon. While gin or steel-jaw traps are illegal in the UK, numerous other spring traps are permitted. Some victims, especially mothers desperate to return to their young, will attempt to chew or twist off their limbs in order to escape these devices. Trapped animals often struggle for hours or days before succumbing to exhaustion, dehydration/starvation, injury, and/or the elements.
Also, snares and spring traps are indiscriminate—every year, untold dogs, cats, birds and other animals are “accidentally” crippled or killed by these devices.
Cage traps can capture animals without injury, but if not checked several times daily then trapped animals can suffer similar fates as those victimized by snares and spring traps. And cage-trapped animals are commonly drowned by their users—a slow, terrifying and agonizing death if there ever were one (it can take up to 15 minutes for some species to merely lose consciousness). Drowning is illegal in the UK, violating the Animal Welfare Act 2006. To report instances of cruelty to wildlife, please call the RSPCA at 0300 1234 999.
Poisons are exceedingly cruel, causing convulsions, vomiting, internal bleeding, gradual cardiac collapse, and a variety of other reactions resulting in immense suffering and slow, agonizing death over the course of several days. Poisons also pose risks to companion animals and wildlife who consume the bait, or the carcasses of poisoned animals. Although it is illegal in the UK to place poison bait in the countryside, there are reports of this happening nearly every year.
Avicides are poisons that target birds but are also acutely toxic to non-target wildlife. attacks and impairs birds’ nervous systems, causing birds to become disoriented, exhibit erratic flight and tremors and suffer violent convulsions for hours before dying.
If you find an animal stuck to a glue trap, try to free him or her by pouring a small amount of cooking or baby oil onto the parts of the animal that are stuck and then slowly, gently working the animal free. Place tissue or paper underneath freed body parts, to prevent them from becoming re-ensnared. If you cannot remove the animal from the trap, rush him or her to a local veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator.
Humanely Deterring Uninvited ‘Guests’ From Your Home
Our homes and gardens are often attractive to wildlife because they provide food, shelter, warmth and hiding spots. There is no need to be cruel if you find unwanted wildlife “guests” in your home or garden. Discouraging animals from frequenting areas where they aren’t welcomed is as easy as curtail Follow these tips to humanely – and permanently – encourage wildlife to move on.
Foxes are opportunistic feeders, so it’s crucial to eliminate all food sources if you want to keep them away from your garden. Remove companion animal food, bird feeders and seed (they attract not just birds but many wildlife species, including foxes); ensure that trash and compost bins are securely sealed; place fencing or netting around fruit and vegetable gardens; and pick up fallen fruit. Reduce hiding spots by clearing areas of long grass and dense vegetation; keeping garage, shed and greenhouse doors closed; and block access to areas under sheds where foxes like to dig dens to raise their young. Evict foxes by placing ammonia-soaked rags in dens. They don’t like the smell and will move their family elsewhere. Motion-triggered lights or sprinklers will keep wildlife away at night.
Squirrels spend most of their time foraging for nuts, seeds, and other tasty morsels so the key to deterring them is to curtail access to these food sources. Secure garbage receptacles and compost bins, remove bird feeders, and pick up fallen nuts and fruits. To keep squirrels away from structures, trim branches off buildings and power lines, wrap tree trunks/poles with plastic or metal sheeting to prevent climbing, and erect garden fencing made of flexible plastic or deer netting which sway when animals attempt to scale. Pepper-based repellents applied to areas where animals chew will prevent damage to property. If animals have taken up residence inside an attic or shed, you can evict them using a radio, strobe light, or ammonia-soaked rags in attics/crawl. Once you are sure they have left, seal all entry points. If you cannot determine whether the squirrels have left, and in order to avoid entombing live animals, install a one-way door instead. You can make your own or you can order one online.
Mice and Rats
Rodents are attracted to areas with adequate food sources and shelter, so keep counter surfaces, floors and cabinets free of crumbs and store dry food and companion animal food in chew-proof containers. Securely seal trash bins, pick up your animal companions’ food at night and never feed wildlife. Reduce hiding places by keeping grass and vegetation trimmed and by storing outdoor furniture, grills and wood piles away from buildings. Prevent more rodents from entering by sealing cracks and gaps in walls and foundations and around windows and doors, and then live-trap and release any remaining rodents outdoors (check traps every hour and disable them when this isn’t possible; when not in use, live traps must be scrubbed thoroughly to remove all bait scent and securely stored).
Ants and Cockroaches
A good rule of thumb to prevent ants, cockroaches, or other insects from calling your house “home” is to maintain a clean home – especially your kitchen. Always wipe up crumbs and keep all food, including companion animal food, and trash in tightly sealed containers. Never leave dirty dishes sitting out, promptly recycle stacks of newspapers, magazines, brown-paper bags and cardboard boxes and vacuum frequently. Use caulk to seal all possible entrances into the house and apply weather stripping under doors to prevent more insects from entering. Use a kind device, such as PETA’s Humane Bug Catcher, to escort any remaining insects outdoors.
It’s simple to discourage snails from snacking on your garden. Introducing plants that snails don’t like, such as chives, begonias and yellow irises, will help encourage them to move along. Snails won’t walk over copper, so placing copper wire or rows of pennies around vegetation will protect established plants and seedlings. Ash will also work temporarily during dry conditions. Snails found on plants can be gently moved outside the protective barrier, within a few metres and to a cool, damp area of the garden where chewing won’t be a concern.
It can be tempting to intervene if you see an animal who appears to be orphaned or injured, but well-meaning people often harm – rather than help – animals by taking action when they shouldn’t. In most cases, young birds and mammals should be left alone. They are probably perfectly fine and their parents are likely foraging for food nearby or monitoring their young from a short distance away.
Animals only need rescue if one or more of the following is true:
- They are clearly injured (e.g., they have a broken wing or leg, they are bleeding or they are unconscious).
- They have been attacked by a cat, dog or other predator.
- They are weak and shivering, cold to touch, emaciated, or wandering aimlessly and calling.
- They are nestlings (baby birds with few or no feathers) or unweaned mammals (undeveloped coats and their eyes may not be fully open) who are out of their nest.
- They are in immediate danger, such as they are in or near to a road or are being stalked by a cat.
If rescue is absolutely necessary, drape a blanket or sheet over the animal’s head and body and, using gloved hands, lift the animal into a newspaper-lined box or crate. Cover the box or crate with a towel or blanket and place it in a dark, quiet place. Do not offer the animal food or water and please do not attempt to care for the animal yourself. Contact a humane society, veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator and arrange transport to a licensed facility immediately. If you are unable to transport the animal yourself, call the RSPCA .