Perkins came to my family in late winter. He was immediately a handful, overwhelmingly curious and loud. Many of you have heard my stories about the chubby raccoon that stuck his paws into everything. One of my favorite memories is playing hide and seek with him on hot summer days. The game consisted of him covering his eyes with his paws. When he’d peek out we’d be there to squirt him with water and he’d run like mad in a circle that ended in another round of the game. He loved playing in the water. My memories of his inquisitiveness, soft belly and amazing feet are precious. Of course the hot days of summer are long gone, but calls concerning raccoons this time of year bring back good memories.
Incidentally, I know many of my biologist friends are sighing and rolling their eyes about now. Firstly, it’s illegal to keep wild animals without permits. Secondly, habituating a raccoon or any wild animal for that matter is usually detrimental to the animal. We don’t know what happened to Perkins after his release. However, looking back with today’s knowledge about these critters, I’m certain he did just fine. Raccoons are adaptable and most often benefit from human environments and therefore they are abundant. Although the Division of Wildlife reports stable populations over the past 15 years, the overall population of raccoons is thought to be far greater than during settlement times when fur trappers almost depleted this animal.
Raccoons learn quickly to associate humans with food. This time of year, I start receiving phone calls about raccoons and bird feeders. Who can blame any wild animal for stopping for an easy meal? There are a few things you can do to deter them. I use a good metal guard on my pole. It works great and I often find raccoon paw prints where they’ve tried but failed to pull it down. You can also add pepper (flakes, black or white) to your bird mix. The birds won’t mind but the raccoons and squirrels will. You can also simply take feeders in at night too. Although this might be a hassle it will certainly stop the night raiding raccoons.
If you do see a raccoon during daylight hours, assess the situation. Is it behaving oddly or sickly looking? Does it seem lethargic or injured? If so then the city will respond. If it’s passing through your yard or eating at a feeder then it’s probably fine. Many animals are out during daylight hours, especially during inclement weather when they’re in need of food. The best thing to do in this situation is to scare the animal. Look large, wave your hands above your head and make a ton of noise. Throw something in the direction of the animal and make it leave the area before you. Of course, above all else keep you and your pets safe. Call with any questions and add any suggestions you have in the comment section below!
For more information on raccoons, check out the state’s webpage.
I also watched a great documentary Raccoon Nation on PBS. It shares some very interesting scientific findings!