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Wildlife Relocation: Not a Solution

One of the most disturbing trends in urban wildlife management is the increasing reliance upon relocation of wildlife to resolve human-wildlife conflicts. Relocation is commonly perceived as a quick, effective and humane solution. It is, in fact, none of the above. In the vast majority of cases, relocation is an ineffective, inhumane and ecologically destructive method for dealing with urban wildlife.

Most wildlife relocation goes undocumented. However, using statistics compiled by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODF&W), information provided by local trappers, as well as our own first-hand experiences, Audubon Society of Portland estimates that a minimum of 5,000 urban animals are relocated around Portland each year.

The reasons behind relocation range from misguided attempts to "give an animal a better home" to concerns about protecting human safety and/or property. The vast majority, however, can be described as "relocations of convenience." These are situations in which wildlife is perceived as causing a minor disruption on someone's property (tipping over garbage cans, eating out of pet food bowls, denning under houses, etc.). These are also situations, which with a little time, energy, and usually with significantly less cost than is incurred by relocation, could be resolved without removing the wild animal.

Why does Audubon Society of Portland oppose relocation?

  1. Relocation is usually ineffective. A new animal will usually quickly replace the one which was relocated. Effective long-term solutions can only be achieved by looking at what is attracting the animal and then removing the attractant (covering garbage cans, feeding pets indoors, sealing up potential denning areas in attics or under porches, etc.)
  2. Relocation is often inhumane. Many animals do not survive relocation. Each year, the Wildlife Care Center is brought hundreds of animals that have become injured or orphaned because of trapping. Animals that are relocated have to fight for new territories and are often injured or killed in the process. Relocation of a mother and young is almost always futile, since she must not only fight for territory, but also find food, shelter, and a safe place to raise her young. Juveniles are most likely abandoned or killed under these circumstances.
  3. Relocation is biologically unsound. Relocation of wildlife to new territories can disrupt the wildlife that is already living there. It also is a quick way to spread disease among wildlife populations. In many instances, sick animals are brought to our Care Center in cages side by side with animals that are about to be relocated.

The fact is, when we eliminate habitat, we eliminate the animals that dwell in that habitat. Relocating more and more animals into smaller and smaller spaces cannot mitigate this unpleasant fact.

Writing in 1997, the Humane Society of the United States called relocation "one of the least understood and most problematic wildlife 'control' practices we know of. Not only might the trapping and movement of the animal cause it harm or even bring it death, but the activity might adversely affect other wild animals as well."

Those truly concerned with preserving and protecting wildlife need to recognize that coexisting with wildlife is not always convenient. It may require an alteration of habits, or an investment of time, energy, or perhaps even money. A good place to begin is by doing some proactive problem prevention. Feed pets indoors, tightly cover garbage cans and other unnatural food sources, seal-up potential denning sites within your home, and never approach or do anything to tame down a wild animal. For these efforts to be truly successful you must talk with your neighbors about doing the same.

If problems do occur, call Audubon Society of Portland (503-292-6855) or your local wildlife agency and ask for solutions other than relocation of the wild animal. There are whole books devoted to this topic and many of the solutions are easy and effective*.

For those who see relocation as the only alternative, it is important to know that anyone performing relocation of wildlife in Oregon must have a permit from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Ask to see this permit prior to hiring anyone and report anyone who does not possess such a permit. ODF&W can be reached at 503.657.2000. This will prevent the worst abuses of this system. However, those who cannot or will not find a local solution to their wildlife concerns must still accept that relocating a wild animal and destroying a wild animal may well be synonymous endeavors.

*Wildlife Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife written by the Humane Society of the United States is an excellent and commonly available resource ($16.95 at the Audubon Society of Portland Nature Store, 292-9453).

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