Sunday, October 28, 2007

Critters not city's problem anymore

Roger's Park Rake got to talking about this Sun-Times article saying...
Is it any wonder that Chicago has gone so long with no recycling program to speak of, or that, despite Daley's loud pronouncements, we're one of the worst cities on the green scale? The Sun-Times found, not one but three aldermen ready to declare at least a verbal war on wildlife.

How about, they're harmless, properly secure your garbage (like you should from rats anyway), and live and let live? I didn't even grow up way out in the wilderness, but unless you grow up completely isolated from anything approaching nature, you learn that these animals are harmless. It takes real ignorance (not to mention deeply-ingrained entitlement) to think that you have to bring in a SWAT team to deal with a possum.

There's a sadder side to this. The perception is that these inconvenient animals have invaded "our" territory. The nicest thing I can say about that is that it's incomplete. Our constant process of chopping down forests and dividing increasingly smaller squares of land with larger swathes of pavement that crisscross every wilderness for hundreds of miles, to a greater or lesser degree. I suppose we could view the entirety of the world as "our" territory. I just don't think it's a good approach. It's a question of values - values that are right at the surface of complaining that a 12-pound possum was "scary."

Some people are still stuck in the 1950s, with the desire to kill all that is even momentarily inconvenient. That approach is killing the planet. There's another way to live, one that accepts the presence of nature around us. Sometimes, you forget how many people haven't advanced from the 1950s. Then, they pop up again.

Nature happens. Get over it.
Here's what the article says...
Chicago homeowners will have to fend for themselves when it comes to getting rid of the opossums, raccoons, bats and feral cats invading their backyards and rummaging through their garbage.

Unless the critter is in your home or is responsible for a bite, the Commission on Animal Care and Control is no longer making house calls to deliver animal traps.

The change that will force Chicagoans to call a private wildlife service was a concession to reality, executive director Anne Kent said Friday during City Council budget hearings.

With 146 animal traps and 13,000 annual requests to set them, there was simply no way to respond in a timely fashion. Not with 30 animal control officers who also respond to more serious requests, including dangerous dogs, bites and mistreatment of animals.

"If it is attacking somebody -- whether it's your dog, a citizen or a child or if it's around a school -- obviously we'll use our judgment to assist you. . . . A raccoon in a yard is not a priority," Kent said.
...
During budget hearings a year ago, aldermen complained about the two-month wait for traps. They were told Animal Care was planning to distribute 300 traps to ward superintendents and residents could pick them up -- with directions on how to use them -- instead of waiting for traps to be delivered.

Now the service is ending for backyard critters. After checking other major cities, Kent made no apologies. "We were the only ones in the wildlife trap business," she said.
A sign of the times. This is obviously a cut-back. And why not? Appaprently other major cities aren't in the trapping business.

I could look at this like privitization. Except that Chicago city government doesn't appear to be offering contracts for trapping wild animals in resident's backyard. So perhaps no one should gripe too much call a good pest control company and they'll get to you faster than the city of Chicago would.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to me that the city EVER became involved with trying to help property owners with wildlife issues. If they would have done any research, they would have discovered it is illegal for Joe Public to trap any protected (managed) wildlife in Illinois. The exception is fur trapping (with a trapping license) during regular winter fur harvest season (mid-Nov to mid-Jan). Illinois has a very strict testing and reporting program for year-round commercial wildlife control (similar to pest control, except eco-friendly in that NO chemicals/poisons can be used), and there is a complete set of regulations pertaining to such activities. The city has actually been promoting illegal trapping activity. WCO's (Wildlife Control Operators) are licensed and insured, and typically well trained in their field.

I'm not sure why cities ever became involved with providing traps anyway. Most city provided (read: taxpayer supported) services end at the curb. If you have a leaky faucet you don't call the city's waterworks, you call a plumber. If you have termites you don't call the city's mosquito control division, you call a PCO. If your bushes need trimming you don't call the city's general services division, you call a landscaping service. Why should the city provide free traps, removal and euthanization services for WILD animals doing normal wild animal things?

OK, if it's obviously rabid or an immediate safety issue sure, no problem. That's the same as the police and fire department policy. If you have a burglar or fire they have good reason to be at your home. But they don't provide childcare services while your kids play on the swingset or monitor safe operation of your grill during a family cookout. Taxpayers should be happy to pay for emergency services, but should be outraged that their tax dollars are spent on activities that private industry (any private industry) should be hired to do.

I have operated a commercial wildlife control business since 1990 when the IDNR program for professional wildlife control was initialized. Simply trapping an animal does nothing to eliminate the problem, as there will be an unending supply of other animals to fill the available "opening" that is temporarily provided. The solution is to follow up the trapping program with exclusion work. This provides the solution, and not just a quick fix. Installation of heavy attic screens, deck screens, chimney caps, and a variey of other "critter-proofing" or habitat mods are the services that WCO's provide, which is much more than the city "loan-a trap" program was able to do.

Another misconception is that the wildlife conflicts are occuring because we are "moving in" to the habitats. Slightly correct, but the primary reason the number of conflicts are so high is that the animals have adapted to our living conditions. Raccoon population densities in Cook County are around 70 per square mile. 25 years ago it was about 20 per square mile. Many other animals have easily adapted to our conditions, and their numbers are increasing at a rate that is truly amazing.

The levels of raccoons are so high in Illinois that it is no longer legal to trap and relocate them. Since 1999, all raccoons must be destroyed. Relocation is ILLEGAL due to poulation levels and the related disease factors of high numbers. Skunks must also be destroyed, as they are a rabies vector. So far, we can still relocate groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks, opossums, and many others. Bats are also state protected, as they are very beneficial as insectivores.

It seems a bit strange that there are so many people out there who claim to be animal lovers, but have zero knowledge about the current laws and regulations pertaining to wildlife management. The "bunny-huggers" are taking 'possums and coons with broken legs from vehicle mishaps in for rehabbers, and the DNR is extending hunting and trapping seasons, as they want us to cull (okay, kill) about 300,000+ coons each fur season to insure a healthy population. We are falling way behind on those harvest levels, so now Joe Homeowner gets to PAY for removal and we kill them and throw them away. Wow, and the animal rights folks think they have actually helped animals by hurting the fur market. Let's see.... reduce the animals from valuable resource to the level of over-populated "pests", and we end up with the current situation.

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