Preventing Raccoon Problems
Identification: The raccoon is a distinctly marked, stocky mammal with a prominent black "mask" over the eyes and a heavy furred, ringed tail. Adults are about 61 to 91 cm (2 to 3 feet) long and weigh 4.5 to 13.5 kg (10 to 30 pounds).
The fur is a grizzled salt-and-pepper grey and black, although some individuals are washed with yellow.
Distribution in British Columbia
Raccoons are found widely through the south coastal area, including Vancouver Island and parts of the Okanagan Valley.
Raccoons prefer hardwood forest areas near water. They den in hollow trees, ground burrows, brushpiles, barns and other buildings, dense clumps of cattail or rock crevices.
Raccoons are omnivorous (eat both plant and animal foods). One litter of 3-5 young is raised per year. Most litters are born in April-May, but some females may not give birth until June, July or August.
Raccoons are nocturnal. They do not truly hibernate, but they do "hole up" in dens and become inactive during severe winter weather. While raccoons are not normally aggressive and rarely injure people, they can be dangerous when threatened or cornered. They are wild animals and should be treated accordingly.
Raccoon Damage and Prevention
Poultry, gardens and lawns: Raccoons kill poultry. They can cause considerable damage to vegetable gardens, particularly sweet corn. Freshly laid sod lawns are often rolled up in search of earthworms and grubs. In all these cases, the best method of prevention is to deny them entry. Keep raccoons away from poultry with tightly covered doors and windows in buildings or mesh-wire fences with an overhang surrounding poultry yards. Raccoons are excellent climbers and can climb conventional fences or bypass them by using overhanging limbs. A "hot" wire from an electric fence charger at the top of the fence will greatly increase effectiveness. A one-wire to two-wire electric fence is best for large garden areas and lawns.
Raiding garbage cans: Keep smelly garbage in plastic bags indoors, or build a garbage shed. The lids on garbage cans should fit tightly. They can be secured with rubber straps and hooks, but these items should be removed before municipal employees collect the refuse. Putting a half cup of household ammonia in garbage bags also helps.
Raccoons in buildings: Raccoons cause damage or nuisance problems around houses and outbuildings when they try to enter attics, crawl spaces or chimneys. In extreme cases, they may tear off shingles or fascia boards. To keep them out, cover possible access points with heavy wire screening. Also, tree access to rooftops should be eliminated by pruning overhanging limbs and by placing a piece of tin loosely around the trunk, flaring it out like an upside-down funnel.
Fish ponds: Raccoons will eat fish in ornamental ponds. Wire screening is the best protection.
General comments: Do not put out food for raccoons or other wildlife and never leave pet food where wildlife can get it. Keep pets indoors at night. Dogs are not an effective method of keeping raccoons away.
Provincial conservation officers do not physically attend complaints on small problem wildlife unless there is a definite threat to the public. We offer advice and information on specific situations.
Raccoons are classified as furbearers under the Wildlife Act, and may be trapped in season by registered trappers who have a valid trapping licence. If you are in an area that is open to the discharge of firearms and you have a valid hunting licence, raccoons may be legally hunted. However, if you are in an area where the use of firearms is prohibited, raccoons may not be captured or killed without a permit.
The use of poison to kill any wildlife is illegal. Persons experiencing persistent or serious problems with raccoons should consider obtaining assistance from a professional pest control company to remove the animals. These companies are listed in the yellow pages of your telephone directory.
For further information, please contact the nearest Ministry of Environment office.