Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Opossum, where art thou opossum?

I overheard this one, but can guess what the circumstances were. An opossum, babies in tow, had found her way into a garage, or perhaps underneath someone's deck.

The best thing to do is leave her alone. Opossum's, our only North American Marsupial, are nomadic by nature and do not nest, even when they have young. They do however, take advantage of opportunities like open garage doors, open decking or even unused dog kennels, when morning comes and they need someplace safe to spend the day.

If letting her be is not an option try these tips.

· Leave a radio on - put it to a talk station, it only needs to be at a moderate level because the goal is to make her believe there are people nearby even when there aren’t.

· Turn the lights on - other than when the food is so scarce they are forced to come out during the day, opossums prefer the cover of darkness, so turning on a light will help to decrease their comfort level.

· Take up any and all food sources - opossums are scavengers and they actually provide a valuable (if grotesque) service. Any bird feeders, fruit trees, garbage, un-cleaned grills, outdoor pet food or pretty much anything else that is edible should be cleaned up, brought inside or placed into an airtight container to prevent from attracting them.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Let a sleeping raccoon lie

It was 3PM when I received a call from a gentleman. “When I got into work this morning there was a raccoon in the dumpster. We've tried to get it to leave, but I think it must be stuck or injured because it hasn't left yet.”

Dumpsters may not seem like nice places for most of us, but for urban raccoons they provide a number of life's essentials. Dumpsters not only provide a cozy dark place to hide out during the day, they are often filled with a veritable buffet as well. In the spring and summer months mothers may also see them as ideal places to stash their young while out foraging or perhaps snoozing in a nearby location. (We all need a break sometimes).

The likely reason this raccoon has not left yet is due to the fact that it is terrified that the awesome hideout it found turned out not to be so private. Given the tools it would need in the off chance that it was trapped (ie. A board for it to climb out on or a box or other object that it could jump up onto to reach the lid of the dumpster) it will likely leave on its own once the sun sets and everyone goes home, leaving him to feel much safer in making a decision to leave the area.

To ensure a visitor of this variety does not return, or in the case of finding young in a dumpster, try the following:

1. Place a portable radio, on a talk radio station, on the ground near the dumpster before leaving for the evening (the radio can be wrapped in a plastic bag to protect it from the weather).

2. Soak a rag in ammonia and place it in an empty can or yogurt cup. Place this either in the dumpster or just outside of it. Hopefully the scent will fool the raccoon into thinking that a predator has been in the area marking its territory. In a pinch you can try other offensive odors such as mothballs. For maximum effect try purchasing synthetic fox or coyote urine. Make sure you look for the synthetic varieties, as the means of procuring non-synthetic versions are often in-humane. You can find these at garden centers and hunting supply stores.

3. Leave the lids open. If there is a possibility of severe weather try leaving only one side open. The open lids will make the raccoon feel vulnerable and it will be less likely to return to a location that makes it feel that way.

4. IF you feel that the animal is trapped – if the dumpster was recently emptied and they may have fallen in for example – place a stick or pallet in at an angle that they may climb up in order to free themselves. You could also place a box or larger item in the dumpster that the raccoon will be able to climb on top of to leap to freedom.

In the case of young, it may take mom a couple of days to transport them all to a new nest, give her time and respect. If the animal is obviously injured or if you have other concerns, contact our office between 9AM and 5PM seven days a week for guidance.

And while on the topic of raccoons; and paying homage to those few brave blogging rehabilitators who have been at this for a lot longer than us... This is a sad situation, and unfortunately one that is not uncommon for all rehabilitators at some point and in some fashion or another.