It’s raccoon birthing season and B.C. homeowners should be mindful the animals may try to seek refuge where they shouldn’t.
Lorinne Anderson, who runs Wildaid, a Vancouver Island wildlife rescue operation, said raccoons are known to breed between January and March, with a majority of babies born between March and May.
Damage to insulation is among the problems raccoons are known to cause.
“Nine times out of 10, what they do is they actually follow rats in,” said Anderson. “They will get rid of the rats, because rats are a threat to their babies. They will take an opening that a rat’s been using, enlarge that and then use that to access a crawl space or a shed or an abandoned vehicle, parked boat or whatever.”
According to Anderson, raccoons can use space as a “nursery den” for a finite period of time and almost always vacate the area by July. People may not even know raccoons have taken up residence.
“When the babies are little, they make little chirping noises, so people think they have a bird nest up there,” said Anderson. “It’s not until they’re older that you actually hear normal raccoon noises … we call it a ‘trill.’ They’ll also make almost like a guinea pig sound: ‘Neet!’ If the babies feel like they’re lost or separated, they’ll make that sort of a noise.”
Mothers can move babies and often, they will “park them somewhere” halfway between old and new locations. People may mistake the young ones as abandoned, but the mother often returns for the baby the following night, said Anderson.
She hesitates to refer to them as problematic, however.
“I’m sure some people view it as a problem,” said Anderson. “To me, they are not a problem at all. After raptors, they’re our No. 1 predator against rats. They’re not dangerous. They don’t kill cats … they’re one of the few animals that does much better in an urban environment than in a ‘forest environment.’ They are very prolific, but they’re prolific based on food source.”
Ken Gunderson, owner of Island Wildlife and Pest Control, recommends against leaving out food that attracts raccoons.
“The biggest thing is not feeding birds, not feeding other wildlife. A lot of people in the city here definitely do that,” said Gunderson. “The next biggest one is just making sure your roof is in good condition. In almost all cases we see, they’re accessing the attic through a weak soffit vent somewhere. It’s just a matter of getting up there and making sure everything’s sealed on the exterior.”
Both experts warn health concerns could arise from inhalation of particles from excrement.
“In most cases there’s not going to be any health concerns if you’re just living in the house,” said Gunderson. “If you’re actually going up in the attic and you’re breathing in the dust from the insulation and the droppings, they’re definitely health concerns. Ring worm is one of them. Leptospirosis (causing organ damage, meningitis and even death) is another one. All that stuff is very rare unless you’re doing a big cleanup and there’s a very large amount of droppings in a small area.”
Anderson said there are misconceptions about raccoons. People generally worry about three things in relation to raccoons, she said.
“They’re worried that the raccoon is going to attack them, or their child, or their pet … do all sorts of damage and then there’s the ones that just don’t think they belong in the city and they need to be moved back to the wilderness,” Anderson said. “Sadly, all of those things are false. The only time you’re going to have a problem with a raccoon is if you corner it. And frankly, I don’t care what you are, if anything corners me in an alley, I’m coming with teeth and claws.”
For more information on what to do if you suspect you have raccoons, click here.
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