Many different wildlife species have managed to live alongside humans in the City of Windsor (and other urban areas!). But perhaps none have caused more controversy and conflict than urban skunks. Many people understand the need for effective, lasting, and humane solutions to occasional conflicts with wildlife but others resort to cruel and ineffective “solutions”. On many occasions our cruelty investigators have been called about skunks left in traps for days to die, skunks being drowned in their traps, or baby skunks that have been left to die when their mothers were removed. We also respond regularly to calls about skunks with an illness called distemper. This illness has been at higher-than usual levels in the past year, likely because the wildlife populations that it impacts (raccoons and skunks) are at cyclical highs in their population cycles.
For years the Humane Society has urged the City to implement an education and deterrent program, rather than heeding the many calls for their removal. Trapping is not a long-term, effective method of wildlife control because it doesn’t address the availability of food and shelter. The most effective solutions are those while limit the access to resources that skunk populations need to thrive – especially food and shelter. Hard-sided garbage containers, education about the need to pick up your outdoor cat’s food when they are done eating, and dealing with crumbling properties that provide habitat are all going to, over time, reduce the area’s skunk population. In addition, all wildlife populations go through cycles, and the numbers will fluctuate down with time. We are currently seeing this happening as a result of the illness distemper which is presently at high levels in the skunk population.
Yet City Council made clear that they were determined to take some action to remove skunks. And on March 4 of this year Council approved the hiring of a City staff person to go out and trap and put down as many skunks as possible. We had offered to assist the City with a limited program that would only remove skunks in situations where actual damage was being caused and would ensure that the skunks were relocated outside the City where possible or humanely euthanized, but the City decided that wasn’t sufficient and wanted a program that would trap any and all unwanted skunks. The program that was approved allocates $250,000 for a single year skunk removal program. The Humane Society will not be involved with this program except to follow our animal welfare mandate to ensure that the person hired will treat the animals humanely.