TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2018
KIM SLADE

 

April 8-16 is National Wildlife Week and the focus of this year is on our connection with wildlife.  Since the Canadian Wildlife Federation is interested in celebrating positive engagements this year, I wanted to focus on some steps that we can take to keep ourselves, and the wildlife that we may encounter, safe and healthy.

 

In Ontario, we live side-by-side with wildlife. It is not uncommon for us to encounter small wild animals as we go to and from work, or maybe even when we are at work. Small animals, like raccoons, skunks, and squirrels, are usually focused on satisfying their basic needs like food, water, and shelter. However, as they focus on these basic needs, they may look to barns, chimneys, garages, sewers, attics, outbuildings and crawl spaces as potential places of shelter. Since small wildlife animals do not differentiate between residential and commercial spaces, you may find that they move into your workplace. If you happen to find yourself in this circumstance, remember that not everyone will think they’re cute. While a squirrel, raccoon or skunk in the workplace might seem funny or cute to some, others will find this an upsetting experience.

 

As an employer or supervisor, it is your responsibility to deal with this hazard in a safe way in order to protect yourself and others from harm.  Here are some tips for keeping everyone, including your new furry work neighbour, healthy and safe.

 

  1. Do not feed a wild animal. Even if the animal appears hungry or thirsty, do not put down a dish of water or food. Feeding a wild animal can cause it to lose its natural fear of people. Also, city bylaws often prohibit the feeding of wildlife.
  2. If the animal looks injured, sick or very young, call the municipality or region in which your business operates. Municipal officials will be able to assist or direct you to an appropriate resource.
  3. Call for professional help to remove the wildlife from your premises and then take precautions to discourage other creatures from taking up residence.
  4. Areas or materials contaminated with feces should be removed carefully using gloves and a face mask. The waste should be bagged and sent to a landfill. Treat the contaminated area with boiling water and wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.

 

You can typically encourage unwanted wildlife like skunks, raccoons and squirrels to leave your workplace by making their new homes uninhabitable. Some tips for doing this include the following.

 

Skunks

  • Distribute urine-soaked kitty litter in and around the area where they may have been staying.
  • Keep the area brightly lit by installing lights or motion-sensing lights in the area.
  • Play an all-talk radio station loudly near the point of entry.
  • Create an obstacle to the point of entry using dirt or newspaper. (Only do this if you are sure that any babies can move on their own. Babies may be present between April and September in Ontario.)
  • When you are sure that all skunks have left, secure the opening to prevent re-entry. It is recommended to use galvanized sheet metal.
  • Secure all garbage cans with strong bungee cords, placing them up on a rack or tying them shut.

 

Raccoons

  • If you think a raccoon is in your workplace, sprinkle flour on the ground and check for footprints.
  • If you find an opening through which a raccoon may have entered, stuff it loosely with newspaper and see if it is removed the next day.
  • Hang ammonia-soaked rags or use a cayenne paper solution (2 tsp per liter of water) in the area.
  • Keep the area brightly lit by installing lights or motion-sensing lights in the area.
  • Play an all-talk radio station loudly near the point of entry.
  • When you are sure that all skunks have left, secure the opening to prevent re-entry. It is recommended to use galvanized sheet metal. (Babies may be present between May and July).
  • Repair any holes in the building.
  • Use heavy, rust proof screening to cover open air vents and cap chimneys securely.
  • Trim any overhanging tree branches.
  • Leave ammonia or bleach to discourage future habitation.
  • Dispose of garbage as frequently as possible. Store garbage cans in racks or tie them tightly shut so that they can’t be tipped over.

 

Squirrels

  • If you think a squirrel is in your workplace, sprinkle flour on the ground and check for footprints. Likewise, block any holes loosely with crushed paper and monitor to see if it is disturbed.
  • Distribute urine-soaked kitty litter in and around the area where they may have been staying.
  • Keep the area brightly lit by installing lights or motion-sensing lights in the area.
  • Play an all-talk radio station loudly near the point of entry.
  • Secure all remaining openings.

 

Other Resources

Canadian Wildlife Federation

Ontario SPCA: Keeping Wildlife at Bay – Safety Tips

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry: Preventing and Managing Conflicts with Small Animals

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry: Strategy for Preventing and Managing Human Wildlife Conflicts in Ontario

City of Toronto: Wildlife in the City

 

About the Author

Kim Slade is the Director of Emerging Markets and Commercialization at Public Services Health & Safety Association. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications and also has an Adult Education Certificate from OISE University of Toronto. Kim is also part of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Technical Committees on Occupational Health and Safety Training as well as the Paramedic Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Standard. She has been in the field of OHS training and education for the past 15 years.