Moving wildlife is not as humane as you might think. Many people believe that it is more humane to move problem wildlife than to kill the offending animal. Taking the animal and putting it back into the wild, “where it belongs” sounds reasonable. Research has shown that this can be harmful and even fatal to the offending animal, with a slower, more painful death.
- On-site release: This occurs when you let a non-target animal go from the spot where you caught it. Nothing is wrong with this technique provided the animal appears healthy and does not pose a significant risk to public safety or risk to the animal. For example, you don’t release a mountain lion on-site when you caught him in the downtown area of a city.
- Relocation: to move an animal from one spot to another, within its home range.
- Translocation: to move an animal to an entirely new area, usually a considerable distance away from where the animal was found. When states forbid the movement of animals, they typically wish to prohibit translocation. They generally are not referring to the relocation of an animal from your attic to the backyard because the animal is still within its home range.
Unfortunately for the animal, translocation has a number of bad side effects.
- Translocated animals must find new food sources in an unfamiliar environment.
- Translocated animals must find new shelter in an unfamiliar environment. In the winter time, relocated wildlife have precious little time to find shelter.
- Translocated animals must find food and shelter while avoiding predators. They must also do those tasks before weather, food and water conditions take their toll.
- Translocation may result in the death of young through starvation that have now lost their mother.
- Translocating animals raises the risk of spreading a disease like rabies to new and uninfected areas. This is what caused the Mid-Atlantic Rabies Outbreak during the 1990s. The introduction of mange is also a concern.
- It may be illegal in your state. Some states do not allow any movement of wildlife – translocation or relocation.
Bibliography of Translocation Studies and Information
“Movement and Mortality Patterns of Translocated Urban-Suburban Gray Squirrels” was conducted in the summers of 1994 and 1995, by Dr. Lowell Adams (Urban Wildlife Resources) and Dr. Vagn Flyger (University of Maryland – Emeritus).
The study was originally designed to track 50 trapped and radio-collared squirrels, over a period of three years, but due to lack of funding, was terminated after the 1995 season. They only trapped 20 squirrels and gave us data for only 7 of them. Of the 7 squirrels they radio-collared in 1995, only one could be a confirmed mortality, while others disappeared from the study area rather quickly, only to emerge later at neighborhood bird feeders. I have the progress report and the summations if anyone desires to see them.
Statement by Sean Carruth, Critter Control, Inc.
Toward a Professional Position on the Translocation of Problem Wildlife – Wildlife Society Bulletin 1998, 26(1):171-177.
Survival and Movements of Translocated Raccoons in Northcentral Illinois – Journal of Wildlife Management 63(1):278-286.
Downside Risks of Wildlife Translocation – Developmental Biology 2008 131:223-232
Wildlife Translocation – Mengak, M. T. Wildlife Damage Management Technical Series. USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services 2018