How to cohabitate with urban wildlife humanely and ethically

Urban critters are a fascinating part of a city landscape and Toronto is replete with creatures small and big. Raccoons, squirrels, skunks, pigeons, and other animals are seen regularly patrolling the streets, and unfortunately can sometimes be spotted in our green bins as well.

Urban wildlife is often given a bad rep because they enjoy eating human food and can be disruptive to human homes. But, when you think about it, it’s incredibly fascinating how these animals have adapted to living amongst people — don’t forget they were here first and deserve our respect. In other words, Toronto belongs to the raccoons and squirrels and people need to share it appropriately with them! This does not mean turn into the token squirrel lady (my mother) or start giving squirrels or raccoons daily pieces of bread and other treats. Instead, people need to learn how to co-habitate with these city dwellers in an ethical and humane manner by animal-proofing your home, securing green bins, and providing urban green spaces for critters to thrive in.

People often complain about their green and garbage bins being raided by raccoons and squirrels. This is a common issue and in 2015, the City of Toronto tried to solve the issue by introducing raccoon proof green bins. Unfortunately, these intelligent and ingenious animals found a way around the latch system on the bins by learning how to open the latches or chewing through the sides of the lid.

To combat the determination of the urban raccoon, put a large rock or heavy bin on top of your containers and the problem is effectively solved. The raccoons will not be able to open the bins and people can stop having to listen to you complain about having your compost strewn about the lawn. The next generation of green bins are being rolled out by the City of Toronto throughout 2016-2017 and the Region of Peel has also released the new bin. It is much more difficult for raccoons to break in, but who knows, they may yet find a way!

If urban critters have taken up residence in the attic, chimney, or other accessible spaces in your home, don’t call just any wildlife control company . The City of Toronto does not require licensing for wildlife control businesses and many will harm or even kill these critters. AAA Gates’ Wildlife Control is a humane and ethical wildlife control company that will make sure to remove urban critters living in homes to more fit living spaces and will not separate a mother raccoon from her babies (very important!). Raccoon and squirrel mothers are some of the best and most dedicated urban animal moms, and will travel great distances to retrieve their babies.

AAA Gates also provides tips on how to prevent animals from getting into your home, which is the most ethical and humane way to prevent having to remove wildlife. By covering chimneys with cage wire, covering the space underneath decks with caging, and keeping your roof up to standard to prevent any holes will keep critters out and everyone happy. Squirrels and bats are especially apt at taking residence in tiny spaces, so be sure to do an annual check of your home to make sure there are no unwanted holes in the siding and roof of your house.

Another great solution is to create a space for them to enjoy in the trees and put nuts and seeds in it. By creating a ‘squirrel house’ or fashion an area for a raccoon, it keeps them out, but you can still enjoy their company in a more natural environment for these lovely animals. The same goes with having bird houses on your property. There are many creative different wildlife homes to make and it is a great interactive project to do with kids.

It is also important to note the proper procedures when finding a baby wild animal in the city. I found a baby squirrel in spring 2014 that had fallen from its nest. I was instructed by Toronto Wildlife Centre to leave it for 24 hours in case the mother found it. I checked back several times and after a day, I decided to take matters into my own hands. It is illegal to keep urban wildlife in Toronto and I spent several hours contacting licensed wildlife rehabbers (interesting to note that rehabbers must be certificated but animal control isn’t). I was incredibly lucky to find a wildlife rehab outside of Toronto where the little guy was taken care of before being released back into the wild.

Toronto Wildlife Centre normally does not take baby squirrels or raccoons in their high season and will often offer for animal control to come and put the baby down. It is a very difficult situation to be in as the babies require immediate feedings and finding a home for them is difficult, but can be managed with effort and dedication. If you are ever looking to donate to a worthy foundation, any wildlife rehab centre in Ontario deserves financial aid tenfold.

Overall, never forget that living without urban wildlife, your city would be empty and eerie. Imagine not seeing squirrels bounding through the trees or pigeons gathering on street corners? These animals deserve to be here as much as we do so next time you see an urban critter in your neighbourhood, take a minute and appreciate this adaptable and amazing animal.