Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Bad" Raccoons

“We have had problems with some ‘bad’ raccoons. They have been getting into the dumpster for our residential living unit and when employees leave at night they are on the porch sometimes and they don’t run away.”

Okay, although raccoons are notorious for being mischievous and opportunistic, I didn’t realize they had begun to form gangs. That said, I explained to her that because raccoons are so smart, part of the reason they have been exhibiting these behaviors is because the employees and residents of her building have allowed them to do so.

The first thing I recommended to her was to evaluate any possible food sources. The dumpster is an obvious target so I suggested they talk with management for the building and perhaps their waste disposal company as well, to look at fencing or locking options that would prevent or limit the access these raccoons have to the garbage within. If this were an individual residence, often the best solution is to put off putting the garbage out until shortly before it is to be taken away, but as this situation wouldn’t allow for this type of set-up we have to be creative. Sometimes just requesting a replacement dumpster with new lids and a clean exterior that cuts down on the smells attracting the raccoons is all that is needed.

Additionally, I explained that the most logical explanation for these animals hanging out around the buildings, aside from the plentiful food source, is that they simply feel comfortable there. Much of the year, especially in the colder months, raccoons live fairly solitary lives and usually only find themselves living in close proximity to other raccoons in urban settings which offer up much more varied and abundant food sources. This could also be a group of juveniles or a family whose kits were born unusually late in the season, but their behaviors were not uncommon to those that we hear of regularly. The fact remains that when the individuals within the building saw these raccoons on the porch – likely looking for food scraps – night after night, choose to stay inside rather than scare them off by turning on lights, making noise, or even just opening the door, they unwittingly made the culprits feel more at home. I explained that they could also try placing ammonia or synthetic predator urine scents in and around the frequented areas to make them feel uneasy as an added incentive to the other strategies to be implemented.

The final thing I suggested was that she speak with the other people who regularly encounter these animals and try to share with them the information I gave her. My philosophy is that once you understand how to live with your wild neighbors, you will begin to understand how to live without them – in your space that is. The raccoons weren’t the problem, the abundant and easily accessible food source coupled with areas where the animals felt safe made for an ideal habitat, urbanity aside. This is why we never recommend relocating animals. Not only is it almost never actually as humane as you would like to think (a large portion of animals that are relocated do not survive for any number of reasons in addition to the law prohibiting the release of wild animals without permission), it is almost never successful as most situations fall into the same category as the one I’ve just been describing. Once the “perpetrators” are removed, the territory is then left open for others to claim and the cycle will inevitably continue.

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