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From: Toni V. Shephard, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published August 19, 2013 08:49 AM

Living with Urban Wildlife: Non-lethal Control

The human population has surpassed seven billion and continues to increase by a quarter of a million people every day. That's 150 additional people every minute, all needing energy, water, food and space to inhabit. The inevitable and unrelenting urban expansion which results leaves precious few natural refuges for other species. No surprise then that habitat loss and degradation is the number one cause of global biodiversity loss. 

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Yet, some versatile species - such as foxes, rats, pigeons and gulls - manage to not only survive but thrive in our artificial landscapes. Sadly, few people see these animals as triumphant vestiges of the natural world but rather unwelcome scroungers who dare to live in our midst.

The irony is that we have created the perfect habitat for these adaptable species in our cities and suburbs. The 7.2 tonnes of food thrown away in the UK every year ensures they are never short of a meal; while many man-made structures provide safe places to nest or raise young away from natural predators. Many of us even go one step further - deliberately providing food and nesting sites for species we like, then bemoaning other animals that take advantage of the bounty.

Of course, some city dwellers relish encounters with all urban wildlife - feeding pigeons in the park or foxes in their garden is the only chance many get to engage with nature. But even the most tolerant animal 'lover' gets annoyed when a mouse chews through the electrical wiring or squirrels in the loft keep them awake to all hours. Just like with our human neighbours, sometimes conflicts arise and we must seek out a humane and effective solution.

Killing 'nuisance' animals is often seen as a simple way to solve human/wildlife conflicts. In reality, culling is rarely an effective long-term solution. Nature abhors a vacuum so removing the existing animals simply creates a vacant niche which new individuals quickly occupy. This means that culling must be done continuously; as soon as you stop you are back to square one, which may be great for commercial pest controllers, but is a colossal waste of time and money for homeowners and local authorities - and of course an unnecessary loss of animal lives.

Truly effective solutions require a more holistic approach that addresses the conditions which attract wildlife into conflict with us and even questions whether there is really a conflict at all.

Devised by the Humane Society of the United States, and suitable for homeowners, businesses and local authorities alike, is a six-step evaluation that provides a framework for finding humane solutions to human/wildlife conflicts.

Continue reading at The Ecologist.

Urban fox image via Shutterstock.

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