Home | What's New? | Wildlife Health News | OWREN Courses | OWREN Conferences | Publications | Wildlife Rehabilitation | Wildlife Help Pages | Find a Rehabilitator | About OWREN | Contact Us | Shop OWREN Online | Links
There is virtually
nowhere that raccoons won’t be able to adapt to living.
Fun to watch (from a distance)
especially with their youngsters in tow, their intelligence and
curiosity gets them into conflicts with human beings more often than
They are omnivores and will
eat plant matter and animals.
Natural foods for them will
depend on the area they live in. Where available, grubs, fruits,
berries, insects, small rodents, amphibians, turtles, crayfish, birds,
eggs, and vegetables are all edible to a raccoon.
In urban areas and cities,
food sources are dumpsters, composters, and trash bags.
They will find water in
pools, ornamental ponds and leaky outside faucets.
They breed from Jan-May,
generally have litters of 3-5 on average but can have up to 8 kits.
Gestation takes 56-60 days and
mom runs a solo show once they are born. Only the female provides care
for the kits.
She begins to wean them at 6
weeks of age, and by 6-8 weeks they are mobile and following her on
Females are among the most
dedicated and protective to their kits of most mammal species. She does
not tolerate being separated from her kits very well and prefers to keep
them together under her watchful eyes.
Some raccoons will give birth
later in the season if they were too young when the first mating season
rolled around, or if they have lost their kits through disease or
These late born raccoons are
generally born from June – August and will have a harder time surviving
their first winter with mom.
They are mainly active during
the night, and remain active year round. Not true hibernators however,
they do enter a state of torpor when temperatures dip below freezing and
will den in communal dens together to keep warm. These are the only
times raccoons are inactive.
The life span of raccoons in
the wild is estimated at three to five years especially in urban areas.
They have amazing ability to
use their paws and amazing dexterity at opening things, turning
doorknobs, prying things open, taking nuts off of bolts and gaining
access to buildings or food sources and they can dig.
Raccoons also have an amazing
In urban areas they will den
in hollow trees, ground dens, chimneys (resemble the inside of a hollow
tree) in unused sheds, attics, under stairs and decks, open garages,
under porches, in brush piles. They easily adapt.
They are normally very
solitary animals, but can be territorial with ‘their space’.
Young kits may or may not
remain with their mother for their first winter. Males tend to wander
off in the fall, females may remain with the mother until she has
another litter the following spring.
In urban areas they have a
smaller home range and those ranges usually overlap with other
raccoons. They are less territorial and more tolerant in built up areas
of other raccoons than they would be in country areas with bigger
They are also very vocal and
have a range of over 50 different communication sounds that they make.
Babies purr, and the ‘3 Stooges, whoop-whoop-whoop’ sound sometimes
heard, is a locator call from a kit to its mother and siblings.
Keeping Safe Around Raccoons
Raccoons will not attack unless
they are cornered.
Should you get between a
mother and her kits, she will respond by being aggressive to get you to
back away. It’s best to allow her to make a safe escape from you.
Always give her an ‘out’ to get away and she will do that.
Because they live in such
close proximity to humans, city raccoons have lost some of their fear of
humans as predators.
Being so entertaining has also
created a problem with human beings who purposely feed wild raccoons.
These individuals unknowingly condition these animals to think of humans
as a source of food. Please - don’t feed wildlife!
Raccoons are often victims of
canine distemper, a virus they acquire from unvaccinated dogs. This
virus cause them to lose their fear of humans, to appear confused,
disoriented and to walk sometimes in broad daylight, totally
uncoordinated, swaggering, dragging their back ends along behind them
and will sometimes sit and have a ‘thousand yard stare’ on their
faces. Because the virus attacks their brain, in the end stages it may
cause aggression and is very difficult to differentiate from rabies -
even for professionals with years of experience.
In the early stages canine
distemper may manifest as a very bad upper respiratory infection, with
copious amounts of mucous being discharged from their eyes and noses.
It is contagious to other raccoons and to unvaccinated dogs. Should you
see a raccoon with these symptoms, call your local animal control
officer or humane society for assistance. Another good reason why it is
important for your domestic pets to be properly cared for and to receive
good veterinary care and routine vaccinations!!
Rabies in Raccoons
Since the initial entry of
raccoon strain rabies in the province along the New York border in
Eastern Ontario (2000), the Ministry of Natural Resources has done an
effective job in keeping rabies out of the provinces' raccoon
population. In Ontario, the MNR has maintained air drop baits, hand
dropped baits, and through Trap, Vaccinate, Release (TVR) programs along
the border areas, helps to maintain a healthy population of vaccinated
In short these efforts have
prevented wildlife rabies from grabbing an uncontrolled foothold in the
province. These efforts can be disrupted if individuals engage in
trapping and releasing wildlife outside the area they originated in.
The ministry advises that the removal of raccoons from one area will
open up territory for unvaccinated raccoons to move in and potentially
If you are bitten by any
animal, wash the wound with copious amounts of soap and water, contact a
doctor, and report the bite to your local Public Health Department (see
listings in your telephone directory). If possible, have someone keep
the animal in sight so that it can be captured or confined.
For more up to date and
accurate information about rabies visit the Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources Rabies Research and Development Unit website.
(Note: As the MNR url's change frequently, search
Google for 'MNR, Rabies, Ontario' for the current url.)
Got grubs on the lawn?
Sprinkle your lawn with soap flakes and water it thoroughly.
Try mixing some bone meal in
with your garden soil to keep them out.
Some folks use diluted Tabasco
sauce sprinkled over their fruits and vegetables to discourage wildlife
from eating them.
Light up the area. Raccoons
do not like being in the limelight. They prefer to forage in the dark.
Mylar strips that blow in the
breeze can be used to deter them as can garden ‘gazing’ balls that show
Others have utilized motion
detection lights and motion detection water sprayers to discourage
raccoons in their yards.
Keep your home secure and
repair any damaged areas that allow access to the inside areas (see
general wildlife proofing)
Have a contest to outwit the
raccoons from opening your secured garbage containers. No doubt they
aren’t dexterous and intelligent but you can devise methods to prevent
them from accessing your containers.
Try to deter them by spraying
or sprinkling your outside trash storage area with strong smelling
odours: ammonia or oil of mustard.
Ensure you’re dealing with a
raccoon. Use flour or cornstarch and sprinkle the area and look for the
tell-tale paw prints.
If you can see the entrance,
stuff a huge ball of newspaper or rags into the opening. If this is
pushed in or out, you know there’s someone living there.
Very often you can hear them
in attics. Hearing a loud fight that sounds positively spine chilling
is generally an indication that there’s an adult there, most likely a
mother with kits, whose space is being invaded by another adult.
The sound of chirping birds,
which progressively grows louder and more persistent is the sound of
baby raccoons who are likely orphaned. One thing mother raccoons do
well is keep their kits quiet.
Three key things must
be put in place simultaneously to evict them humanely. This effort must be
kept up for 3-4 days to achieve success.
Use a work light or flashlight
to illuminate the area or den.
If you use electrical lighting
please ensure that your placement of the bulb will not start a fire.
Replace the flashlight
batteries if they dim down
Place rags in empty margarine
containers, dampen them with ammonia and place the covers back on them
and punch holes in them for the odour to escape.
Place those at the entrance to
the den and around the den and in the den if you can toss them in there.
Before tossing ammonia
containers in, make sure that the babies, if there are any, can move
away from the container. These are strong odours and if a young baby
cannot escape from it, they may die, so be judicious in where you place
them. Also keep in mind that very strong odours may also affect you, in
your living space, so use your judgement in how much to apply.
Use just enough to annoy the
animals, not you.
If they have nested in your
chimney or fireplace, DO NOT LIGHT A FIRE to smoke them out. It is
inhumane to do this and you will either burn them or cause their death
through smoke inhalation.
If you have a mother with
babies in your home, remember that these methods will convince her to
move out and take the babies, however it may take her more than one day
to do this. Please have patience and allow her to get them all out.
Once you 'discover' her - she will want to get out of there more than
you want her to get out of there, so give it time.
It is generally best to not
attempt to evict a mother who has kits under three weeks of age. If you
can wait patiently until they are at least that old, you will have a
When you are certain they are
out (check by leaving a dusting of flour in the area, checking for
footprints) then discourage them from moving back in by placing ammonia
or bleach, or naphtha flakes in the den space, before you secure it up
to prevent re-entry.
Anytime you are dealing with
raccoon feces, ensure you are wearing gloves and if possible or in areas
of heavy accumulation, wear a facemask also.
Wear old clothing that you
will then dispose of. Scoop it up using a dustpan (you’ll throw that
out also) and something like a piece of cardboard or a wooden board to
Double and even triple bag any
feces you shovel up and seal the bags tightly.
These need to either be burned
or disposed of in a landfill.
Once the bulk of the debris is
removed, treat the entire area with boiling water and if possible,
Rinse and repeat with a second
application of boiling water only.
If you are dealing with
attics, and soiled insulation, remove the soiled areas, check carefully
(or have someone check for you such as an electrician) for any possible
damage to wiring) and replace the soiled insulation.
Removal By Trapping
When live trapping appears to be the
only way to remove a problematic raccoon, please keep the following in mind:
Contact a reputable and reliable,
experienced professional nuisance wildlife removal company when the animal
must be removed from between walls or from crawl spaces or when the home
owner is unable to remedy the problems.
Nuisance wildlife removal companies are not
licensed and may only have a license from the MNR as trappers. That’s
required for them to remove the animal from your property. Their ethics or
methods of dealing with that problem are not under any regulations at all
and this is where they differ.
Very few of these companies offer humane
Contact your local authorized wildlife custodian
or wildlife centre and ask them for a recommendation.
Contact the local Ministry of Natural Resources
for further assistance.
Whatever it is that is attracting raccoons to
your property, is what needs to be eliminated. Without that being remedied,
there will never be a long term solution for wildlife conflicts.
Trapping done by inexperienced homeowners, the
‘guy next door’ with a trap and so on, won’t solve the problem. It seems
like an instant solution but it isn’t. Those who fail to check if the
raccoon being removed is a lactating female, and if she may have babies in
the area will deliberately leave those babies behind to starve to death and
die. Imagine the smell of a litter of decaying bodies in your attic a month
later! You will be forced to deal with a second and more unpleasant
Trapping by a reputable, humane company that will
also repair the entrance point to prevent re-entry is the only choice if all
It is illegal to use weapons within city limits
to shoot animals, and it is illegal to use body gripping traps. Using
poison can result in criminal charges and fines up to $5,000. None of those
are viable options for a nuisance wild animal.
with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, if you live-capture a nuisance
animal, and do not humanely kill it, you must, within 24 hours,
either release it in close proximity to where you caught it (within 1 km of
point of capture for all adult wildlife) as directed by the Ministry of
Natural resources, or, if it is sick, injured or immature, turn it over to
an authorized wildlife custodian.
[Up] [Wildlife Proofing] [Coyotes] [Foxes] [Raccoons] [Skunks] [Squirrels]