Raccoon

Natural History:

Raccoons are known as “bandits”, both for the dark ‘mask’ across their face and for their ability to be destructive to property, crops and birds.

They are intelligent animals which contributes to their ability to be a problem. While the raccoon is mainly nocturnal, they are known to come out in the daytime for food. They swimwell and enjoy crayfish in their diet.

Contrary to popular belief, raccoons do not wash all their food. They may wash food to remove excess sand or grit. They are excellent climbers which allowsthem to access rooftops and attics, much to the annoyance of homeowners.

Raccoons will eat just about anything; vegetables, meat, fish, insects, eggs and berries to name a few items. Raccoons are fairly new to Saskatchewan, having come in from the south.

They are working their way north and have been found as far as Prince Albert. They enjoy wooded or swampy areas with enough food, water and available den sites. They have a litter in the spring of 5-6 young who often stay with the mother through the winter and disperse in the spring.

The males and females do not stay together outside of the mating season. The female raises the young on her own. If disturbed, the mother raccoon will move the young to a different den site. She has been known to return for her young even after 24-48 hours of separation due to a disturbance.

What to do when…

Raccoons keep getting into my garbage.

A. Overflowing or uncovered garbage cans provide an open invitation to hungry raccoons. If possible, the easiest solution is to keep your garbage can where the raccoons cannot access it and put it out for pickup in the morning when they have gone back to their dens for the day.

If the can is accessible, try a plastic garbage can with a tall (4′ high) twist-on lid which raccoons cannot open. A simple wooden box to hold the garbage cans with a hinged lid for human access is another option. Bungee cords often do not work unfortunately.

Raccoons are stuck in the dumpster.

A. If the lid is left open, and raccoons have found their way into your large garbage bin or dumpster, the problem is easily resolved. Place some strong branches or a plank of wood in the container so the raccoons can climb out. You may want to notify your neighbors or garbage collection company of the problem as well, so they remember to close the lids.

There is a raccoon in my house!

A. In spring and summer, mother raccoons often take advantage of chimneys and attics as denning sites for raising their young. The easiest and best solution is to wait a few weeks for the raccoons to move out on their own. As soon as the cubs are old enough to go on nighttime excursions with their mother, she will take them out of the “den” and find other resting places. Remember that mother raccoons clean their babies meticulously to avoid attracting predators. If you absolutely must evict the raccoon family, one option is to create the opposite environment than what they like (quiet, dark places).

In Chimneys:

A. Close the damper and put a blaring radio (rock or rap music works best) in the fireplace. Put a bowl of ammonia on a footstool near the damper. Apply these deterrents JUST BEFORE DUSK; mother raccoons will not want to move their young in broad daylight. Be patient. It may take a few days for the mother to move her young. Once they are confirmed to be gone, call someone to install a mesh chimney cap so they do not return next year.

In Attics:

A. Leave all the lights on and place a blaring radio (rock or rap is best) and rags sprinkled with ammonia around the attic. You can also sprinkle cayenne pepper around the attic or use a commercial repellent. Apply these deterrents JUST BEFORE DUSK; mother raccoons will not want to move their young in broad daylight. Be patient. It may take a few days for the mother to move her young. Once they are confirmed to be gone, call someone to seal any outside accesses to the attic.

Raccoons keep eating my cat’s food.

A. If you leave food out regularly for your pets, raccoons and other animals will find it. The solution is to take the food indoors at night when the raccoons come out and return it in the morning. The cats will become used to this schedule and dine accordingly.

Raccoons are eating my pond fish.

A. Raccoons enjoy sushi as much as anyone! One option is to maintain a water level of 3 feet and place cinder blocks at the bottom so the fish can escape and take refuge. If this is not possible, try running one electrified wire around the perimeter of the pond, placed 6 inches high. This can be turned on at night and off in the morning. This has been highly successful at deterring raccoons from the local sushi bar.