Nobody wants a raccoon family living under their deck, but relocating the pesky critters can be a death sentence for the mother and her young.
At the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Metchosin, six orphaned raccoons babies are living in an incubator. They’re small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and need to be bottle fed until they’re old enough to find food on their own. It can take weeks or months to rehabilitate a young raccoon before it’s released into the wild, and if last year is any indication, the centre will see at least 100 pass through its doors over the course of the summer.
“It’s a huge strain on our resources,” said Wild ARC administrator Angela Kendall, one of the few paid staff at the centre. “It’s frustrating because these are animals that could have been raised by their mothers, had someone not interfered with them.”
Often the babies are bought in by homeowners who blocked off the hole a raccoon mother was using to get under a deck or into a shed, not realizing its young were there until it’s too late.
“The mother sees the entrance blocked and doesn’t know her babies are still in there, so she ends up abandoning them,” Kendall said.
Jeff Krieger of Alternative Wildlife Solutions specializes in humane removal of unwanted wildlife.
When he clears out a raccoon den, he’ll put the babies in a box with a heating pad and wait for the mother to retrieve them, a technique he learned as a volunteer at Wild ARC before starting his own business.
“Raccoons have a 15 kilometer range, and they keep multiple dens in that area,” he explained. “When you block off one den, they just move the family to another one nearby.”
That’s the right way to get rid of raccoons. The wrong way is to trap them and dump them in another area. That’s not only illegal when done without a permit, it’s also likely to kill the animal, according to Kendall.
“Raccoons are territorial, and they learn to find food in a specific area,” she said. “Scooping them up and dropping them in a new area is like putting a human in a place where they don’t speak the language—they know there’s food around somewhere, but they don’t know how to find it.”
She also stressed that for people who have problems with raccoons, relocating the animal is only a temporary solution.
“Whatever attracted the first raccoon there is going to keep attracting more in the future, unless you fix the root of the problem,” Kendall said, adding that raccoons are unlikely to become pests when garbage and compost is properly contained, and if properties are kept in good repair so raccoons can’t make dens where they aren’t wanted.
Kendall encourages people to call Wild ARC for advice on keeping raccoons or other wildlife off their property or to find out the best way to remove unwanted animals.
The centre can be reached at 250-478-9453.