Raccoon Stories

(Metro newspaper)
by Marni Andrews

When farmer Harvey Andrews of Huntsville, Ont. watched a raccoon chase his large dog into the lake on his property, he was worried but far enough away to be helpless. His dog was smart, but he also knew how crafty raccoons were. What came next surprised even the experienced farmer. The raccoon chased the dog into the water just deep enough so that it was over the dog’s head. Then the raccoon stood on the dog’s head and drowned him.

“I knew it was going to happen,” Andrews said.

His neighbour, Don Evans, was playing cards at the dining room table one night with a group of people. One of the women looked up to see a couple of raccoons looming large in the full-length window, intently watching the game. She screamed.

A woman in downtown Toronto called the Humane Society in a panic when she discovered a large raccoon in her kitchen eating cereal from the box. He’d entered through the cat door.

Such are the Raccoon Stories that people tell.

For those who’ve never seen a masked bandit, the first time can be startling. For one, they are much bigger than expected, as Evans’ card-playing guest can attest. Todd Spencer, owner of Wildlife Removal and Prevention Services in Toronto, says, “They can be as big as a dog.”

In the city, they have become completely at home. So much so in Toronto that it is called “the Raccoon Capital of the World,” according to Amy White, director of communications for the Toronto Humane Society. “There are a high number of them in Toronto,” she agreed, “but the City can sustain it.”

Why Toronto? The abundance of wooded ravines and parks in conjunction with proximity to all kinds of food is a winning combination for the masked creatures.

“It’s a similar problem everywhere in Southern Ontario in the urban centres,” says Jane Sirois, information officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Aurora, Ont. “They’re city inhabitants; they’ve taken up residence.” She adds, “In urban areas of Ontario, raccoons can number 8 to 20 per square kilometre. In the lush, treed ravines downtown near a good food source, there can be as many as 100 per square kilometre.”

InToronto, people with raccoon problems can contact the Toronto Animal Services Centre in their district. An officer will look at the site, provide advice on animal proofing the property, and determine whether trapping is the best solution. Commercial wildlife removal companies are more commonly called in when a raccoon must be removed from between walls or crawl spaces.

Spencer of Wildlife Removal and Prevention Services says that in spring and summer, half of his business is raccoons, from seven to 10 jobs a day on average. “Years ago we used to trap and remove. Now we use one-way doors and monitor the device for four to five days. We leave some peanut butter out to make sure the animal is out, then repair the hole.”

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, trapping and relocating mature raccoons is detrimental to their health and welfare and is not recommended. Using devices that are inappropriate or illegal to remove raccoons, such as leg hold traps, can result in a fine up to $5,000. Leaving poison out to kill animals can result in criminal charges.

White says that 6,000 raccoons were taken in last year by the Humane Society’s Wildlife Department. “Very frequently, people trap mothers and leave babies behind. Raccoons are very good mothers; they’ll tear your house apart trying to find their babies.”

In the prescient words of the Toronto Humane Society from their website, “Raccoons really are not smarter than we are; sometimes it just seems that way. Raccoons cannot cause problems unless people allow them to do so. Instead of blaming them, we should work together to find a solution satisfactory to both humans and raccoons.”



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