So far this summer, there have been several issues concerning residents trapping “nuisance” wildlife. Most residents are unaware of the laws and consequences of improper use of traps.
Massachusetts has very strict trapping laws and residents can easily find themselves in trouble by the town and on a state level, which may result in hefty fines. Most residents only want to remove an animal that is causing damage to gardens and flowers without harming it by trapping them and letting them go somewhere else. Few realize that this activity is not only unlawful, but very inhumane. Massachusetts Law prohibits the relocation of wildlife (and domestic animals too). Here’s why;
- Most all wildlife animals set up and fiercely defend territories.
- Releasing an animal in another’s territory almost guarantees an attack by the “owner” of that territory. The released animal is usually run off into another animal’s territory and again, is attacked. The released animal usually dies from severe wounds and/or dehydration and malnutrition. The prolonged suffering is not what most people had in mind when they released the animal away from their property.
Disease is also a very important concern. If an animal has rabies or other transmissible disease and is released in the wild, then that disease will be spread to healthy wildlife populations.
Animals caught in a humane trap can appear to be in very good health, but may be harboring a serious disease such as rabies that can quickly spread at a later time.
Residents can take a few simple steps to make their backyards and gardens less attractive to wildlife; vegetable gardens should be completely fenced off to include chicken wire on the bottom two feet and then another foot or so underground. Decks and sheds should also have a barrier to exclude animals from seeking these areas for dens and hiding spaces. Keep your house in good repair to include good fitting windows and garage doors. Fabric or plastic type netting is not recommended as birds and small animals become easily entangled in it.
If woodchucks or other animals still persist, we recommend residents to seek professional nuisance wildlife contractors to deal with nuisance animals and not do it themselves. Homeowners do have the right to trap and humanely euthanize nuisance wildlife; however few have the devices or means to do this. To be safe, it is highly recommended that residents seek professional help.
The Animal Control Officer has received a sharp increase in calls this summer from residents who trapped skunks when they were trying to catch woodchucks and were too afraid to release them. It is the homeowner’s responsibility and not that of Animal Control to monitor traps set every 24 hours and to release non target animals. This situation happens when residents fail to close the trap at night when skunks and raccoons are foraging.
Animal Control and the Health Department urge residents to learn the law regarding trapping and nuisance animal control before setting traps. Animals, whether a nuisance or not should NOT be allowed to sit in traps for extended periods of time, or released in unfamiliar and often hostile habitats.
Questions about animal control in Belmont can be directed to the Animal Control Officer in the Health Department at 617-993-2724.