Raccoon

Raccoons can be found throughout southern BC and along the coast in a wide variety of habitats including forests, marshes, and farmland.
Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores, feeding on an extremely varied diet and continually exploring their habitat to exploit new food sources. Highly adaptable, raccoons can thrive in the densest urban centres. Since raccoons can cause significant damage to buildings and gardens in their search for food, it is best to ensure they do not become comfortable in your yard.
To reduce the potential for conflict with any wildlife, it is important to understand a bit about the life history and habits of the species. Read on to learn more about raccoons and how to prevent human-raccoon conflicts where we live, work, play and grow.

THE RACCOON (Procyon lotor)
• Raccoons are easily identified by their characteristic black eye mask and striped tail. Raccoons measure between 60-95 centimetres from nose to tail and weigh between 6-8 kilograms. Females tend to be approximately 25% smaller than males.

• Raccoons are usually solitary animals (except for females with young) but they will congregate if there is a good food source.

• Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores and are known to eat just about anything edible. Some preferred foods include nuts, insects, berries, clams and bird eggs.

• Raccoons in the wild have a relatively short average life span due to high mortality amongst the young. While wild raccoons have a life expectancy of 3-5 years, raccoons in captivity can live upwards of 15 years.

• Raccoons are primarily nocturnal, but may be seen foraging during the day.

• In much of their Canadian range, raccoons have a winter denning period where they sleep away the harsh winter months. This is not a true hibernation but rather a period of inactivity to survive a time of food scarcity. In warmer regions or urban cores where food is available throughout winter, raccoons may stay active year round.

• Raccoons enter a fattening up period in the fall to prepare for their denning season in the winter. They may accumulate a layer of fat up to 2.5 centimetres thick.

• Raccoon den sites vary widely and can be found in hollow trees, stumps, and abandoned burrows as well as in buildings such as barns and attics.

• Raccoons can breed from January through to June, but peak breeding occurs from March to April.

• Raccoons usually give birth to 2-3 young called kits, which are ready to leave the den by 7 weeks of age.

• Raccoons are excellent swimmers and very capable tree climbers.

• Raccoons have several predators including coyotes, cougars, wolves, and Great-horned Owls. Other threats include disease, vehicle collisions and starvation in harsh winters.

REDUCING CONFLICTS WHERE WE LIVE

Raccoons are normally shy, nocturnal animals but can easily become habituated to humans and our pets. When raccoons find food in our yards and communities, they quickly learn to associate humans with an easy meal.
Food-conditioned and human habituated raccoons become bolder around humans and when this happens, conflict often ensues. Raccoons can cause significant damage to gardens, buildings, crops, and livestock in their search for food and denning sites. They can also carry a roundworm parasite that is potentially dangerous to humans and our pets through contact with raccoon feces. It is better to keep raccoons wild by preventing their access to food and shelter on your property.
Please read on to learn more about preventing conflicts with raccoons and share the following with your neighbours:

Garbage

• Keep all garbage securely stored until the day of collection. Placing garbage at the curb before collection day is often illegal if your community has garbage bylaws in place.

• Ensure bins are tightly closed.

• Regularly wash all recycling items and clean the bins that contain garbage or recycling.

• Do not leave garbage in the back of a truck, even if it has a canopy.

• If you cannot store garbage securely, freeze smelly items and add to the bin only on the morning of collection.

Fruit trees and berry bushes

• Manage your fruit trees and berry bushes responsibly and pick all fruit as it ripens.

• Ensure windfalls do not accumulate below the trees or shrubs.

Birdfeeders

• Take birdfeeders down until winter. Birdfeeders can attract raccoons which can in turn attract larger predators.

• When birdfeeders are up, ensure fallen seed does not accumulate below the feeders.

Pets and Pet food

• Feed pets indoors, or if fed outdoors, take in any feed that is not immediately eaten.

• Store all food securely inside.

To prevent access to your home and outbuildings:

• Seal up any holes or potential entrances around the exterior of your house and other buildings. This is best done before March or after August to avoid separating family units that may already be inside.

• You may want to remove any potential den sites from your property, or distance them from your buildings. These include brush piles, hollowed logs and woodpiles.

• Encourage an unwanted raccoon to move out of your attic or chimney by placing a bright light or radio in or near the den site.

• If you discover an old raccoon den site on your property, exercise caution when cleaning up any feces left behind. Some raccoons carry a dangerous parasitic roundworm that can be transmitted to humans and our pets through contact with raccoon feces.

REDUCING CONFLICTS WHERE WE WORK

Since raccoons can thrive in such a wide range of habitats, people living and working in Southern BC or along the coast may very well cross paths with raccoons in the workplace. Whether working in the bush or at a café in town, the key to coexisting with raccoons is ensuring raccoons never access human foods. That means managing all garbage responsibly.

Workplace

• Ensure all garbage receptacles are securely stored with tightly fitting lids and are cleaned out regularly to reduce odours.

• Any dumpsters should be locked when not being used, especially overnight.

Wilderness work

• If you pack it in, pack it out. Never leave any garbage or food behind in the wilderness as even a half-eaten granola bar or apple core could lead to raccoons and other wildlife associating humans with food.

• Campsites should be kept clean and free of any food scraps or garbage at all times.

• Remember, you should never feed raccoons!

REDUCING CONFLICTS WHERE WE PLAY

Outdoor recreation is a big part of life in our province and often, our recreation brings us into raccoon habitat. Since raccoons are normally shy, nocturnal animals, chances of seeing raccoons while hiking or camping are slim, but care should be taken to avoid habituating raccoons to our presence. Once again, the key to preventing conflicts with raccoons is to ensure they never access human foods. By taking the following precautions, you can help keep raccoons wild and prevent conflicts:

• If you pack it in, pack it out. Never leave any garbage or food behind in the wilderness as even a half-eaten granola bar or apple core could lead to raccoons and other wildlife associating humans with food.

• Campsites should be kept clean and free of any food scraps or garbage at all times.

• Be aware of the activities of other campers – the food they leave out could very well bring a raccoon through your campsite. Report any inappropriate behaviour to the appropriate authorities.

• Raccoons living in campgrounds are often food conditioned from finding scraps at campsites and these animals may become bold. If approached by a raccoon, scare it away by clapping, yelling or making noise.

• Remember, you should never feed raccoons!

• Never attempt to approach a raccoon. Like all wildlife, raccoons can act aggressively if they feel threatened. Children should be taught not to approach any wildlife: serious bites and scratches may result from an encounter with a raccoon.

REDUCING CONFLICTS WHERE WE GROW

Raccoons can cause significant damage to gardens, orchard crops and chicken coops in their search for food. If you grow food or raise livestock, certain precautions can be taken to prevent conflicts with raccoons:

• Use a properly maintained electric fence if you keep chickens, bees or small livestock.

• Store all feed in a secure location and ensure feeding areas are clean and free of attractants.

• Seal up any holes or potential entrances to outbuildings and chicken coops and be sure to shut doors overnight.

• Keeping small livestock closed up overnight can go a long way in reducing predation by raccoons and other larger predators.

• Motion-activated lights, sprinklers or even radios may help deter raccoons from gardens and orchards.