A couple in south Pickering recently had to deal with something no animal lover wants to see.
Jane Becker and her husband Philip Perrin did what they could to help a baby raccoon that showed up in their backyard in pain with a snare trap clamped onto its paw late on June 21 near the Alderwood Park in the Bay Ridges area of Pickering.
"It was absolutely horrible," Ms. Becker told me. "It's something that we will never forget, the look in this poor animal's eyes."
Horrified, the couple managed to remove the snare, but the poor critter got away and they haven't seen it since.
Snares are terribly painful and are illegal in most of Ontario, and this definitely includes Pickering. Violators can face penalties of $25,000 and a year in prison.
When we reported on it, a wildlife advocacy group, The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (The Fur-Bearers), contacted me saying they are offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who can lead to the identification and conviction of this person or people.
The organization focuses on ways to educate the public on how to deal with conflict with wildlife in a humane way. There is plenty of information on the website www.furbearerdefenders.com about how to deal with raccoons and other wildlife destroying gardens and houses.
"That ranges from raccoons and squirrels up to coyotes and bears," said Michael Howie, a spokesman for The Fur-Bearers.
I feel bad for wildlife on a daily basis. When I see squirrels and raccoons hit on the road, it upsets me. We pave over their greenery and they pay the price. When I hear of someone hurting an animal on purpose, it makes me angry.
They just want food, water and shelter for their families. They're doing what they need to do in order to survive. When raccoons dig up grubs, they do it for food. When they break into attics, they do it for shelter.
According to the Fur-Bearers, there are two factors that tend to drive wild animals towards urban and semi-urban environments: the loss of habitat makes survival for some animals more difficult, driving them into previously unexplored territory; and the human-provided food sources in urban and semi-urban environments are abundant, and readily available. Who doesn't love an easy meal?
It's easy to avoid these conflicts and I found the following tips on the Fur-Bearers' website.
First, do not feed wildlife -- doing so shows animals that humans are a valid food source.
"We want them to believe the opposite," says the Fur-Bearers. "Table scraps and leftovers should never be left outside."
Keep pet food indoors. It can attract wildlife to your property and can cause territorial behaviours to develop around that food source.
Remove excess bird seed from your lawn because the seeds will not only attract birds, but rodents, rabbits and squirrels. When these small critters are around, larger, predatory animals won't be far behind.
In the summer, remove fallen tree fruit because leaving it will attract rodents, which again will attract larger animals.
Always keep an eye on your dog when it's outside, and ensure small dogs are leashed. And don't let your dog chase wildlife.
This message I write probably on a monthly basis, and others preach about it too, yet people still ignore it: keep cats indoors.
"From a coyote's perspective, there is no discernible difference between a cat and a groundhog," says The Fur-Bearers.
It's important to make garbage and compost inaccessible to scavenging animals. Do this by securing garbage and compost with tight-fitting lids.
Rinse all recycling food containers well and keep a clean and tidy yard. Remove old woodpiles and keep sheds in good repair.
If you do need wildlife removed, please call a humane organization. In the photo attached to this article, these two baby raccoons were removed by AAA Gates' Wildlife Control. This local company humanely removes wildlife from residences and businesses, keeps them out by repairing the animal's entry holes, as well as animal-proofing other potential entry points. Simply search online to find this company or others.
We should put these tips from the Fur-Bearers to use on a regular basis to avoid conflicts. If you know someone who is complaining about a destructive animal in their yard, please pass along this advice.
Information on the Pickering incident or any other illegal trappings should be reported to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources at 1-877-847-7667.