Riverview family struggles to evict wild raccoon that gave birth in their home

·4 min read
Tara Betts and her husband have been unsuccessfully trying to trap a raccoon living in their Riverview home.  (Supplied by Tara Betts - image credit)
Tara Betts and her husband have been unsuccessfully trying to trap a raccoon living in their Riverview home. (Supplied by Tara Betts - image credit)

While most people are fighting off other buyers to claim a home in New Brunswick, one family in Riverview is dealing with a different kind of foe: Eloise the raccoon.

Initially just living in their chimney, the raccoon and her young have found a way to the bedroom of Tara Betts's son, forcing him and her other children to stay elsewhere.

"They're all afraid, which I don't blame them. I'm afraid, too," she said.

It all started in April, when Betts and her family heard scratching in the night.

They woke up to the sound of loud growling, "almost like an animal fight going on," said Betts, adding it even woke her neighbours.

Tara's husband saw two raccoons on the roof. He yelled at them and they fell off; later, they were actually able to trap two of them.

"We thought that was sort of the end of it," Betts said.

But their raccoon rivalry was far from over.

Supplied by Tara Betts
Supplied by Tara Betts

The raccoon, whom Tara's family named Eloise, initially took up residence with her two babies in their chimney.

The family doesn't use the fireplace, and there's a barrier closing it off from the chimney. But eventually, Eloise found a way through and into a bedroom, bringing her babies with her.

Apprehensive about entering the room since mother raccoons can be aggressive, the family set up cameras to watch them through the glass door and monitor their traps.

What the video footage has shown them is that Eloise has no interest in the traps. Marshmallows, cat food, canned tuna — nothing has worked.

"This is just such a strange situation," Betts said.

'I've called a lot of people'

Betts said she's called many organizations — from the Atlantic Wildlife Institute to the Moncton zoo — and hasn't been able to find anyone to help her remove the raccoon and its babies.

A spokesperson for the Atlantic Wildlife Institute said the organization is a charity that takes in injured animals and rehabilitates them, so raccoon removal doesn't fall within its mandate.

"I've called a lot of people to try and get somebody," Betts said.

Rob Urke has been in the pest control business for the past 15 years.

His business, Critter Gitter Pest Control, is based in Saint John, but he serves all of the southern New Brunswick region.

Supplied by Tara Betts
Supplied by Tara Betts

Right now is the busy season for pest control, he said, because many mother raccoons are birthing their young.

He said he's been dealing with more raccoons this year than in previous years, but he was still surprised to hear that Betts and her family weren't able to find help removing the raccoon and her babies from their home.

"I'm stunned they can't find anybody up there to help them out. I'm shocked," he said.

In New Brunswick, he said nuisance wildlife operators are licensed by the province, and a list of operators by region is available online.

Operators have to pass a course to receive their licence.

Raccoon could be 'trap shy'

Urke said there's two possible reasons why the raccoon in Betts's house won't go near the live traps.

The first possible explanation is that when raccoons give birth, they become uninterested in food for a while, focused solely on nourishing and protecting their young.

The second possible explanation is that the raccoon has been caught in a trap before, making her what Urke calls "trap shy."

"Once it's been in the trap, it's traumatized by it, just like we would if you were in a jail cell," he said.

Like Betts, Urke thinks the mother will eventually relocate her young.

Since the raccoon birthed them in Betts's home, Urke said she'll move them once they're mobile, which usually takes a few weeks.

How it ends

On Friday, Betts posted an update on Facebook.

Despite advice from friends and a pest control company in Saint John, Betts and her husband still hadn't been able to trap the raccoons.

A local company had offered to use a pole to remove the mother and babies, take them outside and kill them.

"I knew I couldn't live with myself if we put her and her babies down, no matter how humanely it was done," Betts wrote on Facebook.

After 24 hours of no movement on their camera, Betts and her husband decided to finally go into the room, make a lot of noise, and move the furniture around to see if the raccoons were hiding.

The room was empty, and so was the chimney. Betts hopes this means the animals have finally left, and the family can cap off the chimney and start to deal with the damage left behind.

"We have lived in this house for 15 years and never imagined that something like this would ever happen to us."

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