May 28, 2014: Living in Peace With Our “Wild Neighbors”

~by Susi Pittman

Could you imagine a world free of those aggravating and comical creatures we know as squirrels? It is certain that many people would vocalize a loud, “yes!” As irritating as they may be, we still have the obligation to see them as part of the family of creation.

Stewardship of the nature about our homes and communities requires a certain joyful cooperation for the welcomed wild visitors, as well as an eye to the humane treatment of the ones not so welcomed.

Many of us live in communities that were built in what was once a natural environment to a wealth of wildlife. That ecology and environment became displaced as the earth was moved, trees destroyed and homes were built upon what was a home for our “lesser brethren.” Wildlife was basically forced out or made to live on the periphery of what was once all they knew.

As we moved into the realm of these newly established human neighborhoods, we took control of all that was ours on our little green acre. Here in Florida as elsewhere where construction had been non-stop until the real estate bubble burst, scalp and burn was followed by claim it, maim it and kill it. Because we have paid a pretty penny for the privilege of owning our turf, the only mammals we wanted on our property or near our children were the family pets.

History in this country serves us the picture of wildlife being viewed as a resource that was there for our taking. Today, with more awareness in the value of protecting the ecological values and environmental nature of areas, we are being asked to move also into a more aware and humane response to the creatures that share the land with us.

So, how do we resolve this issue of un-welcomed or nuisance wildlife that scares us or drives us crazy?

We work under the auspice of environmentally responsible tenets. That comes with the understanding and tolerance of the creatures about us. It is in working with the natural processes and not against them.

Too many times a wayward squirrel which enters an attic reaping havoc on the air conditioning ducts or invading personal memorabilia doesn’t do so with intent. We all know animals cannot rationally set out to disrupt our lives. Most times creatures that end up in the attics of homes are looking for a place to escape the weather or perhaps bear young. There can be an alligator in the lake, deer in the garden or bats in your belfry. All present their own problem in removal.

The first call that is usually made is to the pest control company or a licensed trapper both of which deal with the nuisance animal lethally. We don’t need to expound on that topic, except to say it lacks humane treatment.

In your frustration you question, “What am I supposed to do, pick them up and move them myself?” No, that is consistently a bad idea.

There is good news! The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has launched an innovative program called, Wild Neighbors: Wildlife Humane Service. This program was created to aid conflicts between people and wild animals and its cornerstone for resolution rests in the humane practices used in approaching the removal and relocation of the wildlife. Though the program is in its infancy, it is guaranteed to change the standard across the board. There is great support for this program as people are becoming more concerned with solutions that do not harm animals.

It is the intent of the HSUS to build a network of wildlife removal and control businesses across the country dedicated to making humane wildlife control a national standard. This program has a tremendous future as 40% of calls to state agencies regard wildlife problems.*

To face this problem with knowledge and humaneness the HSUS has compiled and published a beautifully written book with easy to read research titled, Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife. This is the bible of the new standard on how to approach our problematic wild friends for sure. It is full of the best information on practical and humane solutions to problems caused by 35 species of wildlife.

The move is on to non-lethal conflict resolution and it is being met with the crucial understanding and tolerance that is so necessary for a more harmonious balance between humanity and the creatures we share this world with. Respect, tolerance and a willingness to resolve is all that is needed.

We stand at the cross roads of good stewardship or the continued loss of conscience for the natural realm.

The choice is ours!

Susi Pittman is founder of and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

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