Raccoons

 

 

 

 

 

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Raccoons

 

Raccoon Facts

  • 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 not.

  • 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 foraging trips. 

  • 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 predation. 

  • 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 memory.

  • 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 territories. 

  • 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 Ontario raccoons. 

  • 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 reintroduce the rabies virus.

  • 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.)

 

Raccoon Proofing

  • 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 their reflection.

  • 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.

Humane Eviction

  • 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.

 

    Sound

  • A radio set to a talk radio station, loud.

    Light

  • 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

    Odour

  • 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 successful eviction. 

  • 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. 

Raccoon Feces

  • 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 help you.

  • 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, diluted bleach. 

  • 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 solutions. 

  • 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 'removal' then.

  • Trapping by a reputable, humane company that will also repair the entrance point to prevent re-entry is the only choice if all else fails. 

  • 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.

REMEMBER

In accordance 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.

 

 

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Last modified: 11/19/13 03:43 PM