5 cool facts about raccoons on P.E.I. — including how to keep them out of your garbage

·3 min read
Raccoons have a reputation as a very pesky animal, says provincial wildlife biologist Garry Gregory. (Carolyn Ryan/CBC - image credit)
Raccoons have a reputation as a very pesky animal, says provincial wildlife biologist Garry Gregory. (Carolyn Ryan/CBC - image credit)

They're smart, they never turn their nose up at a meal and they made masks fashionable long before COVID-19.

They're also the last thing you want to see staring back at you when you open your garbage bin first thing in the morning.

The raccoon population on P.E.I. is well into the thousands, says provincial wildlife biologist Garry Gregory, but most people see them as nothing but a nuisance.

"They have a reputation as a very pesky animal," he said.

"That is mostly because they are so adaptable and they're so able to get themselves into situations that bring themselves into conflict with people. That could be getting into the garbage on a regular basis, or it could be getting into your attic or under your shed to den up to have a litter of young and those are things that typically aren't conducive to having a positive relationship with people."

That brings us to the first of five cool facts about raccoons on P.E.I.

jennyt / Shutterstock
jennyt / Shutterstock

They'll get into anything

It's very difficult to keep a motivated raccoon out of somewhere it wants to get into, especially a garbage bin, Gregory said.

"They are excellent climbers. They're very agile and able to get themselves in remarkably small holes," he said.

"They're able to access a lot of food sources in and around the urban context that you might not think they'd be able to get into."

Gregory suggests placing a heavy object like a cinder block on top of the garbage lid to help keep them out. Tying it closed with rope or a Bungee cord might also do the trick.

If you do find a raccoon in your garbage bin, Gregory's advice is to tip it over and the raccoon should just run away. If it is in distress — the heat can be intense inside a black bin in the summer — call the provincial wildlife department or the municipality. Charlottetown, for example, will pay a pest control company to have it removed for you.

City dwellers aren't the only people who don't enjoy a raccoon's company. They've been known to damage crops in farmers' fields, as well.

Carolyn Ryan/CBC
Carolyn Ryan/CBC

They'll live anywhere

Whether in forests, fields, dumpsters or under the deck, raccoons are highly adaptable animals.

"They been very successful on P.E.I. and it's probably a testament to their adaptability," Gregory said.

They usually set up shop close to a food source. Which brings us to our next fact.

Tom Middleton / Shutterstock
Tom Middleton / Shutterstock

They'll eat anything

Fussy eaters they are not. In the forests, it's mostly wild plants, berries, small rodents, bugs, birds and eggs.

"When seasonal runs of spawning fish like Gaspereau and smelt happen in the spring and early summer on P.E.I. they'll certainly take advantage of those," Gregory says.

In an urban setting, you name it, they'll eat it — without even checking the expiry date.

They have sharp teeth and claws. They can turn knobs and open lids with their hands. They also can eat with their hands.

Pakhnyushchy / Shutterstock
Pakhnyushchy / Shutterstock

They're not permitted as pets

Despite what you might see on the Disney channel — sorry Meeko and Rocky — raccoons do not make good pets. In fact, on P.E.I. it's illegal to keep raccoons or other wild animals as pets.

Some people have kept them as pets, however, including former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. His raccoon, Rebecca, wouldn't be the only nuisance to have lived in the White House.

Diane Greene
Diane Greene

They have few predators on P.E.I.

Baby raccoons are more vulnerable, but there aren't a lot of predators on P.E.I. that can take down a fully grown, 30-pound raccoon, Gregory said.

A coyote, yes, and perhaps a large owl and possibly a fox.

They can also be hunted and trapped for their pelts, but it requires some training and an official licence. Imagine rocking a raccoon skin hat? Hashtag Davy Crockett.

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