By Barry Kent MacKay
A supporter recently wrote about an all-too-familiar problem. He had an adult raccoon in the attic and called an animal control service. The company live-trapped the animal in order to relocate it. But after catching the animal they called back to say “...they had killed the raccoon for no apparent reason.”
I won’t name the company, but I will say that I have had complaints about the same company before.
Then, according to the correspondent, the company called back to say they thought the animal they had killed had babies. That should have been determined before trapping was even considered.
The writer checked the attic and found six baby raccoons. He wrote, “This seemed like a very sketchy company from the get go and when my mom had told them that we found the babies and were looking for a home for them, they immediately came and picked them up (I was not aware of this). I talked to a good friend who works for the ministry [of natural resources] and she informed me that the babies cannot live without the mother and since the mother was already dead, the babies were killed as well. I am absolutely furious that they killed the mother knowing it had babies.”
The writer claimed he had “found a place that would have taken care” of the baby raccoons, but that the wildlife control company “...told us that it is illegal to posses these wild animals and that they had to pick them up right away.”
The story illustrates exactly what is wrong in Ontario and with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
The “good friend” who works for the Ministry was wrong. Orphaned raccoon babies can be raised by humans who are properly trained and equipped to do so, in a manner that allows them to survive in the wild. The process by which this happens is called “wildlife rehabilitation”, or “wildlife rehab” and it and the knowledge and procedures to do it successfully for raccoons are very well established. Success, in terms of giving the orphan babies a chance equal to what they would have experienced had their mother been left alone, has been confirmed by research.
Of course the mother animal should never have been removed, let alone killed, and a reputable service would never have done any of this, seeking first to leave the animals in place for the short time it takes until the mother could tend to the young away from the attic, and then rendering the attic raccoon-proof.
But here is the irony. In order to qualify for a license to do animal control, you face virtually no restriction, and can pretty much do as you please, and neither the public nor the animals are protected against unscrupulous companies providing bad, and lethal, “service” and lying about it, as well.
But to qualify for a license to do wildlife rehab one must face onerous restrictions and control, some of which seem designed to prevent people from ever wanting to acquire the necessary permit. Also, some of the restrictions do not allow, in the opinion of many wildlife rehabbers, the best likelihood of the animals surviving. Many would-be rehabbers have been forced to either quit providing this service, or to go underground, meaning they can’t make their services known, and thus are not known to the public who needs them. The result of this is that many people who lack proper training and equipment try to raise orphaned animals on their own, often with disastrous results to the animal. It is illegal to move an animal more than a kilometre from where it was captured so even if the animal control company were to move the animal, it would return.
I am as angry as our correspondent is at the wildlife control company involved, and others who are no better, but to stop them requires better legislation than exists, and that includes laws that support, not oppose, the practice of wildlife rehabilitation, the most important part of which is educating the public about the nature of “problem” animal situations and how to deal with them effectively and humanely. But mainly I blame Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government for reneging on promises to reform the situation to allow a more balanced approach with wide representation from the wildlife rehab community to address the problems and work out resolutions. It was a sham, and results in the deaths of animals who could be and should be saved, and in putting the public at risk to the shoddy charlatans who too often inhabit the animal control industry.