No, this isn’t yet another column about my travel exploits. This week Peace River Wildlife Center admitted a raccoon in a pretty precarious position.
While emptying recycle bins in the Punta Gorda Isles neighborhood, the sanitation engineers made a startling discovery. They found a young adult raccoon at the bottom of a recycle bin with a tin can firmly stuck on her head.
Luckily for the raccoon and PRWC, they knew just what to do. They brought the entire construct to us—can, ‘coon, and all. Unable to simply pull the can off her head, we drilled a hole in the can through which the anesthetic gas was administered. Once the raccoon was asleep, we enlarged the opening at the top of the can, using a tin snip, until we could wrest the can off.
The raccoon was in pretty good shape, all things considered. She obviously had not been stuck in this predicament for long. She had no injuries except some minor abrasions, nor was she dehydrated or emaciated, as she would have been in short order if the can had not been removed quickly. She was treated and released to get back to the mischief of being a raccoon.
Whether we think of them as rascally scamps or the scourge of the earth, raccoons and many other wild animals are out there, in our neighborhoods, gardens, lawns—even in our attics. How can we diminish the potential damage to our property and help keep these innocent invaders safe?
The most important and easiest thing to do is limit food supplies. Keep trash and recyclables in secure containers. Rinse and crush containers before placing them outside. Do not feed animals outside—cat food, bird food, etc. If you must have food outside for pets, do not leave it out at night.
If you have fruit trees in your yard, remove ripe fruit from the tree and pick up fallen fruit daily.
Fish in ponds should be given a rock shelf to hide under so they do not become food for herons or raccoons.
Tree branches should be cut three feet from the house. Do not allow shrubs to get too thick and overgrown or touch the house.
Enclose the base of any decks or porches, extending the hardware cloth partially into the ground.
Place wire mesh over chimney caps, vent stacks, and gable, ridge, and dryer vents.
Keep your roof in good repair, check for loose shingles or holes in soffits or eaves. If you do find or suspect that you have a raccoon in your attic, there is a 90% chance that it is a female with babies. Do not exclude the mother without getting the babies out or giving her time to move them.
Often, making the space inhospitable for her will cause her to move her babies to an alternative nest site. Play loud music or talk radio, flash lights, and place a spill proof receptacle of something with a strong odor like an ammonia soaked rag near the nest.
If you obtain the assistance of a professional trapper or nuisance wildlife removal service, just make sure they are aware that removing one adult raccoon from the attic may not be the end of the problem. And ask them what they plan to do with the animals they remove. Some disreputable companies will drop trapped animals in water and drown them, even the babies. While some frustrated homeowners may not have an issue with that practice, many people are surprised to hear that this happens.
Simply removing animals from your property may not be the answer either. Obviously, you want to get them out of your house, but not wanting them to nest in nearby trees or other wild spaces is not feasible. If you remove a raccoon or young family from your yard, others will simply take their place.
Many people are frustrated by raccoons and other wildlife on their properties and in their homes. And while these wild animals can cause damage, killing or moving them is not the answer. We have invaded their space, so we must learn to be good neighbors to these native creatures. A few fairly simple practices can not only keep wildlife safe, but make our homes more comfortable for us and less attractive to wild invaders.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM