By Jen Mannas, Wildlife Naturalist
As the days become shorter and the nights become colder, many wildlife species in our area are preparing for winter. For some, that means getting out of town and migrating south, some are getting ready to hibernate, and others are just preparing for the cold and rainy weather ahead.
One of these species is the Raccoon. Although Raccoons do not hibernate, they are less active during extremely cold periods. This time of year they are out and about preparing for the winter, taking advantage of food resources currently available before they become less plentiful.
Raccoon patients in their enclosure at PAWS wildlife hospital
Young of the year are still with mom learning valuable survival skills that will help get them through this winter and others to come.
For those Raccoons who live in a more natural environment, that means learning to forage, evade predators and find suitable dens for sleep during the day.
For urban Raccoons, this may mean learning how to safely navigate our streets and exploit resources that we leave behind.
A Raccoon in their natural environment, where foraging and evading predators is key
Because Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores they can, and will, eat pretty much anything. In urban environments their natural food sources are scarce or not available at all, so they have learned to live off of our trash, pet food, scraps and vegetable gardens.
A Raccoon patient at PAWS enjoys a watermelon
They may even seek shelter under porches, in crawl spaces, or in attics. This can cause negative interactions with us and our pets. If you find signs of Raccoons raiding your garden or living under your porch and would like them to move on, there are a few things you can do:
- NEVER intentionally feed raccoons. They are very capable of finding their own food and do not need handouts. In fact, this is a good rule to follow for all wildlife. If raccoons are getting into your garbage, secure trash can lids with rope, chain, bungee cords or weights, or purchase cans that have clamps or other mechanisms to hold lids down.
- Do not feed your pets outdoors and be sure to shut pet doors that lead into your home at night. Raccoons have been known to enter people’s homes through dog doors in search of food. If you have to feed domestic animals outside, be sure to pick up all food and water bowls (including leftovers) each night. Also secure any compost containers.
- If you enjoy dining al fresco, be sure to clean up BBQ areas.
- If you have a Raccoon living in your attic, chimney or under the house you can prevent them accessing these areas by altering the structure slightly. Using metal or plastic spikes and aluminum flashing will prevent them from crawling up the sides of your house.
- To prevent Raccoons from getting into your garden try using bright lights, especially those activated by motion, or by creating noise disturbances when the raccoons are present. Building a perimeter fence may also deter them.
The main thing to remember is the Raccoon is just trying to do what it can to survive on the limited resources it can find. They do not want to cause any harm, and avoid conflict when they can.
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