By Kitty Block
The Parks and Outdoors Department in Chattanooga, Tennessee, recently coated tree trunks with a mixture of sand and latex paint to deter beavers from gnawing on the trees. Such tactics represent a major step forward for coexistence with wildlife. Department of Parks and Nature in Chattanooga
A recent article in US News and World Report shed light on a simple, creative solution to preventing wildlife conflict: The Parks and Outdoors Department in Chattanooga, Tennessee, coated logs with a mixture of sand and latex paint to deter beavers from scavenging Gnawing trees for food and/or to use them to build a dam or hut. The weakening of the tree trunks can pose a safety hazard to locals enjoying a walk in the park. In the past, beavers may have been killed to prevent these dangers. In the world of wildlife management, painted trees represent a humane and effective approach that is the result of years of changing perceptions of wildlife and learning to appreciate our wild neighbors.
Every year in the United States, millions of wild animals are needlessly killed under the pretense of trying to “manage” human-wildlife conflict. Conflicts do occur with “nuisance” species such as raccoons, skunks, and marmots, but situational conflicts also arise with other species that humans may even hold in high esteem, such as bears, chipmunks, and birds.
For years, our wildlife conservation team has been at the forefront of developing humane and effective alternatives to resolving wildlife conflicts, not only for the good of the animals, but also for the good of sanity. That’s because the fatal removal of animals only treats a symptom of the problem and not the cause, meaning the problem is likely to recur and communities miss an opportunity to learn about wildlife and animal coexistence. The decision to kill wildlife is typically based on a lack of appreciation and information about wildlife that could encourage coexistence.
We are changing the way communities respond to wildlife conflict. We identify gaps in services and help communities learn more about the wildlife that lives with us. Our Wild Neighbors program works with animal care and control agencies, animal shelters, wildlife rehabilitation centers, law enforcement agencies, local governments and state wildlife agencies to implement humane solutions to wildlife conflicts. We develop resources, conflict management templates, and species profiles that help the public and communities effectively address problems without resorting to lethal control. More than 630 agencies across the US have signed our Wild Neighbors pledge to humanely and effectively resolve wildlife conflicts, which is good news for bears, bats, raccoons, coyotes, and many other species. We also spread information about how best to reunite and reinsert orphaned wildlife. Since 2020, we have trained more than 7,000 animal caretakers and control professionals in humane wildlife conflict resolution techniques.
With beavers, it is common practice to capture and kill them to prevent flooding associated with their dams and to conserve trees without understanding the animals’ role as key species, meaning they are essential to a functioning ecosystem. Not only is there a growing awareness of beavers and how to protect trees from unwanted gnawing and how to prevent flooding during dam construction, but there is also a growing understanding that beavers provide promising services that help mitigate the impacts of climate change at the landscape scale to mitigate
Wildlife comes alive during the spring and early summer season as bears, chipmunks, skunks and other animals seek mates and build nests or burrows to give birth and raise their young. It is important to understand that these behaviors are not only temporary, but fascinating. The more we can encourage communities to be curious about our wild neighbors, the better we can find humane solutions to prevent conflict in the first place. And we can take it a step further by making sure our homes and backyards don’t pose any dangerous hazards to animals.
Learn about coexistence with wildlife and creating a humane backyard.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.