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Hazing wildlife: what is humane harassment and how to use it

If you’ve ever had raccoons in your backyard or encountered a wild animal on a trail at a close distance, you’ve probably wished they would just move along. Knowing how to encourage wildlife to leave the area without causing them harm is a valuable skill to learn.

‘Humane harassment’, also known as aversion conditioning or humane hazing, is a tool that has been used to reinforce boundaries, and avoid conflict, with wildlife for a long time.

Humane harassment uses negative associations and deterrents to safely compel animals to move away from humans and our homes without causing harm to the animals.

family of raccoons in a yard photo by Katy Thompson
Photo by Katy Thompson

Methods of humane harassment

Some humane harassment methods include:

  • Sound deterrents like playing a radio to discourage raccoons from making a home in your shed or raising your voice to scare off a coyote that has gotten too close.
  • Visual deterrents like keeping lights turned on in backyards to discourage animals from lingering.
  • Scent-based deterrents like apple cider vinegar soaked in rags and placed in plastic containers or essential oils placed on cotton balls (and inaccessible to companion animals) can also be used to deter animals.

Humane harassment is typically ineffective if there are attractants that strongly motivate animals to remain in an area or if an animal is strongly food-habituated to humans or their homes.

Before hazing wildlife, it is crucial that all attractants are removed:

  • Never feed wild animals
  • Ensure your garbage and compost are secure and inaccessible
  • Remove bird feeders if they are attracting other wildlife
  • Feed companion animals indoors
coyote in park urban wildlife photo by Trevor Clark
Photo by Trevor Clark

Hazing wildlife the right way

For humane harassment to work and not harm to the animal, remember to:

  • Always keep pets leashed when outdoors and do not allow them to chase wildlife
  • Never approach or conduct humane harassment on sick or injured wildlife
  • Never approach or conduct humane harassment on wild animals with young
  • Always provide an escape route for wildlife when using humane harassment, and never corner them

You can get more information on coexistence and humane harassment techniques that are species-specific in our wildlife and rodent control best practices sheets.

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