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Although Canadian governments have managed our eastern and western fisheries almost out of existence, their efforts with other wildlife have had an opposite effect. Cities, towns and other settled areas across the country are plagued by populations of black bears, racoons, coyotes, foxes, skunks, squirrels and other “nuisance” wildlife. Some of these invasions carry the added peril of rabies.

Provincial ministries like Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources continue to warn northern homeowners, cottagers and municipalities to be “bear aware” and to work together to avoid attracting black bears. People may protect themselves or their property, but property owners should check with local police about by-laws regarding the discharge of firearms. Governments do not condone the killing of wildlife where other options may be available.

To reduce the chances of attracting bears (and other wildlife), property owners are advised to:

  • Regularly dispose of garbage (in some cases this may mean stop composting).
  • Keep garbage in bear-proof containers and don't put them out until morning of pick-up.
  • Keep barbecues and picnic tables clean.
  • Wait until the fall to fill birdfeeders.
  • Keep pet food inside the house.
  • Keep fish parts and meat scraps in the freezer until garbage pick-up day.

    To help alleviate nuisance bear problems in parts of Ontario, a proposal to allow for the chasing of bears with dogs will be posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry. This proposed change would allow daytime pursuit, chase and search for bears, but would not permit the capturing or killing of black bear. The public is invited to comment on this proposal.

    Meanwhile, the government’s twenty-five-year battle against fox-strain rabies continues in southern Ontario. In September, the Ministry dropped approximately 800,000 aerial baits in selected areas across the province.

    "Aerial baiting is the most effective method of immunizing foxes over large areas, and has been very successful in stemming fox-strain rabies," said Natural Resources Minister Jerry Ouellette. "The program has been so successful that areas of southern Ontario have been declared rabies-free."

    There were 76 cases of fox-strain rabies in the province in the first six months of this year, most of them in a localized outbreak in northeastern Ontario. This compares to 1,001 cases in the first six months of June 1989.

    While the government works to build a protective zone of defense against the introduction of rabies by raccoons, homeowners can protect their homes against the more than 1 million racoons estimated to live in the Toronto area alone. Since trapping and relocating is illegal (one of the rabies containment policies), the best remaining approach is to humanely remove racoons and other wildlife from the building, deodorize so that they do not want to return and put up wire and other barriers to make re-entry difficult. This drives animals away to another house or garage that is more inviting.

    Animal control experts at AAA Wildlife Control warn that prudent property owners should wildlife-proof the following areas of their homes: aluminum or plastic roof vents, chimneys, plumbing vent pipes, stove and bathroom exhaust vents, roof and fascia spaces and roof/soffit intersections.

    Dean Harbridge, Field Supervisor for AAA Wildlife Control, says the lower building standards of new homes present the greatest opportunities for racoon and other animal invaders. Even slight deficiencies in workmanship leave gaps and openings that welcome varmints. He recommends that a wildlife assessment of the new house will give buyers a head start on future maintenance costs and potential animal problems.

    As the battle against flower-bulb-eating squirrels, wandering skunks, garbage-can-overturning racoons and other wildlife continues across Canada, what is out best defense? An ounce of prevention seems worth a pound of animal invasion.

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