Expert Voices

When People and Wildlife Conflict, Humane Solutions Work Best (Op-Ed)

Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This Op-Ed is adapted from a post on the blog A Humane Nation, where the content ran before appearing in LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

The work of The HSUS is grounded on a couple of core principles: animals have the capacity to suffer, and we humans have the capacity to help them. We hold all the power over animals, and our choices and conduct have enormous consequences for them. And it's hardly some far-off or abstract concern, since they live in our communities, as pets and wild neighbors, and they are enmeshed in so many sectors of our economy and society, whether in food production, fashion, science or wildlife management.

That statement is from a blog I posted earlier this year. Those aren't just words, but a call to action.

At The HSUS, one of the important steps we've taken to provide a better outcome for wild animals in our neighborhoods is to expand a business, Humane Wildlife Services, that we created to provide homeowners, companies, municipalities and communities with humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife.

The idea was to provide a more enlightened and forward-looking approach to the work being carried out largely by the so-called "nuisance wildlife control" industry, which has a strong hold on strategies and commerce in this sector. Businesses in this field vary in size and ethics, but the dominant mindset is to trap and kill or to trap and relocate. Most companies do not search for or try to reunite dependent young, and many do not close up entry points or otherwise solve wildlife problems at their source.

Both animals and humans end up losers — and for animals, often fatally so. And while many of those businesses market themselves as humane, they overstate threats posed by wildlife in our proximity, they sometimes mislead homeowners about the nature of the problems they face and the available solutions, and they too often mischaracterize what the law allows regarding their disposition.

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Unfortunately, homeowners and businesses often believe that lethal conflict resolution to, say, a wild animal nesting nearby or in a home, is the only option they have.

Since creating The HSUS Humane Wildlife Services program in 2007 as a fee-for-services business, we have proved that a better approach is possible and preferable — not only sparing animals and solving the concerns of property owners, but instilling in neighborhoods a fresh appreciation of the wild animals among us.

Our goal is to show that humane methods are not only more effective, but commercially viable. Animals can be evicted from "human-built environments," parent animals can be reunited with their dependent young and structures can be wildlife-proofed to prevent future conflicts. Those who have worked with our service attest to being amazed at the insight they gain into the ways of nature, which is all part of the deal.

That's what I call a success story in the evolving development of the humane economy.

Whether it is a squirrel living in an attic, a raccoon in a chimney, a beaver damming a road culvert or geese loafing at the local marina, these conflicts can be successfully resolved without killing.

Our most recent raccoon videoexemplifies our approach — and some of our innovative uses of cameras and reuniting protocols — which led to a humane and effective solution for one of our customers. We hope it's an approach that will continue to spread throughout the country, and be taken up by local humane organizations and other providers over time.

Pacelle's most recent Op-Ed was "Cat Overpopulation Spawning Novel Rescue Approach" This article was adapted from "What's Possible for Possums, Best for Beavers, and Good for Gophers," which first appeared on the HSUS blog A Humane Nation. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on LiveScience.