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Relocating Wild Animals

2/19/2014 3:03:00 PM

Tags: wildlife, animal rescue, humane treatment

Do wild animals that are trapped and released in new locations manage to survive?

Though critters roaming your yard can be a nuisance, controlling wild animals by live-trapping and releasing them is not recommended by most wildlife biologists. An animal’s odds for survival Relocating Wild Animalsin a new location aren’t very good, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

“While releasing wildlife in a new location is an option often preferred by well-meaning people opposed to killing animals, this may be at the expense of the released animal or the animals at the release site,” says wildlife biologist Russell Link in the WDFW publication Trapping Wildlife.

Many animals cannot survive the stress and trauma of being trapped and then moved to an unfamiliar location. A relocated wild animal might become involved in a territorial dispute, especially if its species’ local population is already at or beyond its limit. If the animal does survive, it may try to return to its original home and be killed en route.

If you’re considering trying this approach to wild animal control, be particularly careful to avoid two circumstances. First, never relocate an animal when weather is severe. The animal could expend so much energy simply finding shelter that it dies soon afterward. Second, never move an animal that’s caring for young — relocating a nursing mother will almost certainly cause her offspring to die. (How do you know a nursing mother? The trapped animal will have enlarged teats with relatively little hair on them.) Wait until the young have left their nest, generally 8 to 10 weeks after birth, and plan to set multiple traps.

Many states (and some municipalities) have strict regulations about trapping, transporting and releasing certain animal species, which sometimes even apply to mice, rabbits and squirrels. Check with your nearest wildlife office to find out whether you need a permit or must follow certain trap-and-release procedures for relocating wild animals.

Photo by Dreamstime/Charles Brutlag: With wild animal control, what seems like a humane option may actually be a harmful one.


Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on .



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