By Winslow Umberger
The word’s out. Asheville is a fantastic place to live and real estate agents are happily settling newcomers into their new homes. Not all of those settling in, however, are new to the area, and certainly not all are welcome, despite our progressive reputation. The unwanted might include squirrels setting up housekeeping in your attic, opossums creating cribs under your porch or chipmunks burrowing beneath your foundation. While there is a growing willingness to co-exist with our furry friends, making them roommates is a bridge too far.
Since ‘no vacancy’ signs or eviction notices for these uninvited won’t work, the two most frequently used solutions are either to capture and relocate the problem animal or to kill it. “A humane eviction is a far more ethical and biologically appropriate approach,” says Savannah Trantham, licensed wildlife rehabilitator and co-founder of Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. “Working out who lives where is just a matter of creative thinking.”
The first step is to determine what animal is causing the concern and research ways to resolve it non-lethally. Strategies range from a completely passive approach, where the homeowner waits until the animal leaves on its own accord, to the more active step of compelling it to move on. “No matter the situation, do not attempt to handle the animal as this can result in injury to yourself and/or the animal,” says Trantham. “Leave it to licensed professionals. It is important to understand that live trapping and relocation of ‘nuisance’ animals is ill-advised and wildlife regulations prevent rehoming, or make it illegal to rehome, a number of species. Animals have a home range and moving them out of it can be a death sentence. Relocation should only be done under the advice of a wildlife expert.”
The ideal solution is to prevent problems from occurring in the first place, but homeowners usually discover the breach after the animal moves in. The most common situation is squirrels in the attic. Removal can be done humanely with a one-way exclusion door that allows them out but not back in. Install this after making sure there are no other entry/exit points. “Do not do this if it is just one active female squirrel because she almost certainly has a nest of baby squirrels in the attic, too young to go out the one-way door,“ says Trantham. “You must wait a few weeks, about six after birth, for them to be nearly adult-sized and active. Otherwise, they will be stuck and the mom will chew frantically to get to them and, if unsuccessful, the babies will starve.”
If you need to hire a wildlife removal professional, engage one that uses humane, effective practices with an understanding of an animal’s biology and behavior during different seasons. Get referrals from trusted sources or contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission at 888.248.6834 or ncwildlife.org. Ask for an inspection and written estimate. Get specifics on how the animals will be handled in resolving the problem. Prevent the problem from happening in the first place by checking eaves, chimney, basement and walls for possible entry points. Mesh wiring or attractive lattice can discourage creatures from taking up residence under an elevated porch or crawl space.
As we grow in our understanding that we share the earth with fellow creatures, there is a growing willingness to make room for animals in our lives. Many are eschewing insecticides, providing water in their yards and taking time to save happened-upon injured wild animals. Providing habitats such as nest boxes, scrub piles, trees and old logs will give them alternatives to moving in with you. Asheville is known for its accepting nature, welcoming all. It is also a city that accepts Nature, mindful of its importance to all.
Appalachian Wild is a 501 (c) (3) organization providing aid to our forest friends as well as support for North Carolina’s licensed wildlife rehabilitators. Find out more at www.appalachianwild.org. Winslow Umberger is head of outreach for Appalachian Wildlife, bringing awareness of issues affecting our local native wildlife. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.