BEDFORD — A new proposal could mandate raccoons, opossums and coyotes to be killed when caught by animal control workers in Indiana.
Currently, animal control specialists are permitted to release captured nuisance animals within the same county, but the Indiana Natural Resource Commission is calling for changes. Raccoon populations have been at high levels and raccoons have a reputation for transmitting diseases such as rabies, distemper and roundworm. Raccoons eat the eggs of birds and turtles, and also can kill poultry on farms. Coyotes attack cats and dogs, as well as poultry and game birds.
DNR officials will be in Spring Mill State Park’s Lakeview Room tonight at 5:30 p.m. to answer questions and concerns about the proposed policy change. Citizens can also comment online at nrc.in.gov/2377.htm. The deadline is March 23.
Rusty Collier of J&R Nuisance Wildlife Control said he understands the reasons for the proposed shift in policy.
“Survival rates of relocated animals out of their home territories is not great,” he explained. “Transferring diseased animals to another county is another concern.
“Raccoons need to be taken at least 10 miles from where they are captured or they will return. Animals are moving into crawlspaces and attics to have their young. At some point, a decision has to be made as to how much can be tolerated from a nuisance wild animal. They can ruin insulation, chew on wiring and tear siding and soffit off a house to gain entry.”
Collier said some farmers and raccoon hunters have asked him to release animals onto their properties to restock low animal populations.
J.D. Ramsay, Bedford’s longtime animal control officer, also understands why the policy has been recommended yet harbors a few concerns.
“Right now I release just about everything unless it is sick or badly injured,” he said. “This would require me to destroy all raccoons, possums and coyotes that I capture.
“We’re going to have to figure out how to do that, and you can’t just dump carcasses in the landfill. We’re probably going to have to cremate the bodies, and the only place I know nearby is Cresthaven.”
Ramsay also doubts some homeowners will contact him if made aware the nuisance animals will be killed.
“Most people want them removed,” he said, “but they don’t want them killed.”
Lola Nicholson, animal control officer for Lawrence County, plans to attend tonight’s meeting with Sheriff Mike Branham.
“I don’t have all the answers,” she said, “so I’m going with an open mind.”