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Raccoons in the Urban Environment

Maureen Sexsmith-West ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A

DON’T INVITE TROUBLE We have had repeated visits from a family of raccoons in the last month in our neighbourhood. This a real sign that our urban forest is expanding providing more habitat for this destructive and intelligent mammal.

Three Raccoon kits

Gardens are easy target at night but they will take advantage of trashcans, bird feeders and compost bins too. Raccoons will dine on virtually anything and are not deterred by a door or latch. They are very territorial and will attack pets or people if threatened.

They communicate using a variety of sounds. Raccoons can also be easily identified by their tracks (five fingers and toes).

The kits stay with the mother during their first summer and then in the fall go find their own winter home. If separated, the Mother can be quiet aggressive.

The ideal home or den for a raccoon is a large cavity in a tree. However, in the City, raccoons will also use man-made structures if nothing else is available.

Their dexterity and intelligence enable them to create a den by damaging soffits, vents, fascia or shingles to create a space if they can’t find one easily accessible. The can gain access via chimneys too. I have a client who had one in their chimney in the Spring. At the first opportunity the created a cap to prevent it from returning. They do not hibernate but will sleep for several days at a time in the winter. Raccoon Proof Your Yard

First, determine why are they there? Nesting and raising young, foraging for food or just passing through. The key is change their repetitive behaviour.

Inspect your home, sheds and garages for access points and secure them as needed. Avoid trapping kits inside.

Make sure that chimney’s are capped and attic vents secure.

Motion activated sprinklers can act as a deterrent.

Typical lighting has little or no affects on their patterns. A red light that mimics a predator’s eyes in the dark may cause them to avoid an area.

Monitor, Hang or secure Bird Feeders – Raccoons will tip them over to get at the seeds. Dogs instinctively will react to the presence of a raccoon. Just remember that they can carry rabies and put your pets at risk. Preventative vaccination is an inexpensive, effective means of protecting your animals from rabies. Have ALL your pets vaccinated.

If you suspect your tree offers nesting habitat, contact us for possible solutions.


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