TORONTO – There are conservatively 100,000 masked bandits roaming the city streets but experts say animal cruelty wont cull the growing infestation this spring.
Last week, police charged a man with causing unnecessary suffering to an animal after he caged a baby raccoon and left it in a bin of water to drown. He is slowly recovering at the Toronto Wildlife Centre.
Last month, a woman called the wildlife centres hotline on an untraceable cellphone to say she was in the process of drowning a litter of trespassing raccoons.
There are all kinds of cases going on behind fences in yards, said Nathalie Karvonen, with the wildlife centre.
This spring, the number of raccoon calls have double compared to 2016, at the Gates Wildlife Control.
Up until last year, we would have a 50/50 split between raccoon and squirrel jobs. This year we have had a banner year for raccoons – twice as many jobs – and we arent sure why, said Brad Gates.
So far in 2017, Gates has had 850 residential removal jobs with an average of six baby raccoons at each site.
It could be related to the weather. The (baby) season started early this year, maybe because of the mild weather. The season hasnt stopped since, Gates said.
The majority of the calls were to clear the mother and cubs from attics.
Gates says people do think of killing.
I can understand the frustration of lying in bed and having a ruckus in the attic. Killing isnt a good thought to have before going to sleep and its a knee-jerk reaction, Gates said.
Karvonen says homeowners have a responsibility to keep their homes in good order.
You do so, so the rain doesnt get in, she said.
Raccoons arent going away.
Gates says once a house is raccoon-proofed the mother is allowed to move her babies to a secondary location that she would already have.
If you do the prevention, it will keep them out, he said.
Homeowners can legally trap raccoon, but arent allowed to relocate them more than a kilometre from their home, which Gates says is ineffective.
Its not much of a distance and they would probably beat you home, he said.
You cant release them farther than a kilometre because there is the risk of spreading disease. In Hamilton, there is raccoon rabies and if that relocated to Toronto there would be hell to pay. Rabies spreads like wildfire.
When animals are more common people tend to value them less, but as a rational human being why would you treat a raccoon less than a kitten, Karvonen said, adding there needs to be more education.
There are people who feed raccoons and that changes their behaviour and elevates their population. If you go to any park you see people feeding the Canadian Geese because they get enjoyment out of it. Then they poop where people walk and they want them killed,
FUN FACTS ABOUT RACCOONS
– Raccoons have adapted well to city life and are healthier and live longer than their country relatives.
– Raccoons are attracted to lawns and gardens looking for grubs. To keep them away sprinkle pure soap flakes on the lawn and diluted Tabasco sauce over fruits and vegetables.
– Keeps areas where raccoons are a problem well-lit.
– Store garbage inside a garage, basement or bin until the morning of pick up and clean up after barbecuing.
– Using body gripping traps or placing out poison can result in criminal charges.
– Call 311 to report a raccoon displaying sick or abnormal behaviour.
– Rabies vaccinations for pets are required by law. There is always a chance they could come in contact with a rabid animal.
Source: Toronto Animal Services