Wildlife experts say there are 20 times more raccoons sharing human habitation space in North America than 70 years ago. In Toronto, where I live, this urban pest reportedly numbers up to 150 per square kilometre, mostly in residential neighbourhoods, not parks and ravines.
I haven’t counted for myself, but these numbers seem credible. As a resident of the “raccoon capital of the world”, I live in close quarters with these pesky masked bandits.
I have been cleaning up the aftermath of garbage bin raids since childhood. On more than one occasion I’ve had to shoo a well-fed raccoon away from the pet dish and out of my house! Battling and fixing their destruction of home and garden has cost me more time and money than I care to remember. And I learned long ago that raccoons cannot be toilet trained, so I have grown accustomed to scooping the poop left on my deck most summer mornings.
Toronto’s raccoon policy, like that of the state of Ontario, is live-and-let-live. The city suggests that homeowners discourage nocturnal visits by keeping trash locked up and “raccoon proofing” fruit and vegetable gardens, which I do. But when I discovered last spring that my eaves were being used for a maternity den, it was time to seek professional advice – so I tracked down a licenced trapper.
Trappers Understand Urban Pests
Of course, there is no shortage of “pest control” companies in the raccoon capital of the world. Their services invariably involve setting cage traps to capture, move and release problem animals. Unlike licenced trappers, however, people working for these companies do not require training in the use of humane-certified traps. Yes, even cage traps can be cruel when misused.
Over the years, I have heard some real horror stories about these services. One particularly gruesome tale involved bear spray (pepper spray to most of us) that nearly blinded the unfortunate raccoon.
I am not saying that all these companies follow bad practices, but I prefer to get my advice from the best experts available. So that’s where I went.
All I wanted was the name of a reputable nuisance-wildlife control company. What the trapper provided instead was a relatively easy solution that involved no traps at all. No raccoons were stressed in the process – although my acrophobic husband was required to climb a ladder several times.
The consultation began with a lesson in “Raccoon Behaviour 101”. The trapper explained that a mother raccoon will usually have 2-3 den sites. Persuading unwanted tenants to leave is much easier when they have somewhere else to go!
He also explained that, once the cubs are a few weeks old, the whole family will leave their den as a group to get water every day. So, following the trapper’s instructions, we covered the entry hole under our roof with a piece of loose cardboard. When the cardboard was moved, we’d know they had all left to get a drink. Then – using screws, not nails that raccoons can pry out – we boarded up the hole before they returned. It worked like a charm. My unwanted house guests simply moved (hopefully not to someone else’s house) and my problem was solved.
Anti-trapping activists often complain that trappers are only interested in using lethal methods to control urban wildlife. My own experience shows that nothing could be further from the truth.