The problem of urban vermin like raccoons and the destruction and chaos they can wreak on private property is not limited to homes that border greenbelts. Raccoons are pretty much everywhere in the Greater Vancouver and Fraser Valley area, and most people who have lived here for any length of time have had at least one encounter with the masked bandits. More often than not, they stay out of people’s way, and as long as you keep your garbage safely contained and secured, you won’t find them much of a nuisance. However, if you happen to have the misfortune of having raccoons settle inside your garage, outbuilding or inside your home, you might be in for a very long and frustrating battle.
Unlike coyotes, which construct their own dens, raccoons are squatters. They will simply settle in any spot that is vacant, has enough space (they don’t need a lot) and is in proximity to a reliable food and water source. Ideally, wild raccoons find shelter in hollowed-out trees or even move into dens that have been abandoned by other critters. But here in Greater Vancouver, we are well aware that more and more wildlife habitat is being taken over by humans. This encroachment affects different species in different ways. Some simply move further outward, going deeper into forest land. Others begin to die off in greater numbers because they are unwilling, or unable, to migrate to other locations.
Still others, like raccoons, are extremely adaptable. A 2010 PBS documentary called Raccoon Nation highlights just how unexpectedly resourceful raccoons can be. Raccoons are “far more elusive and wily than most people ever imagined, and more destructive. It seems that the more obstacles you throw in their way, the smarter they get.” The documentary explores the possibility that the more we humans try to create ways to keep them at bay, the more we actually push their brain development forward, making them an even smarter and more resourceful species. Raccoons are incredibly fascinating creatures, but many people find it hard to sympathize with these ornery creatures and their destructive habits and cantankerous attitudes.
So, instead of settling in a nice hollowed out dead tree, raccoons in the city often make their way into people’s garages and sheds, under their porches and even in their attics. (Yes, raccoons can scale walls made of just about anything, even aluminum siding.) Once inside your garage or home, they are inordinately difficult to get rid of. (Why would you sleep in a tree when you could live in a nice warm, dry garage instead?)
There is a lot of confusion and conflicting information in BC about the rules and regulations regarding the management of raccoons when they have settled in your home or property. Because it’s such a common problem here, we thought we would share some tips and resources and talk about laws and responsibilities regarding the removal of wildlife from private property. Here are a few facts regarding the control of raccoons in all parts of BC:
* The BC Ministry of Environment maintains a list of animals which are either not managed in BC, or are managed to a limited degree. Under its “Schedule B” of “Species Responsible for Management,” raccoons (along with several other animals) may be “captured or killed only for the specific purpose of protecting property unless an open season is designated by regulation.” (http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/lower-mainland/wildlife/species/species_lists.htm)
* In the Lower Mainland, there IS a designated open season for raccoons. According to the 2016-2018 Hunting & Trapping Regulations Synopsis, raccoon hunting season is from September 1 to March 31. Hunting areas are also defined in this publication.
* Raccoons which have taken up residence in a private home or garage can only be trapped by someone with a trapping licence. The rules for obtaining a trapping license are stringent, and can also be found in the 2016-2018 Hunting & Trapping Regulations Synopsis. All animal trapping must be conducted humanely, according to The Agreement On International Humane Trapping Standards which is outlined in the publication.
* There are specific and detailed regulations regarding the hunting and trapping of female raccoons with kits.
* It is against the law to poison raccoons (as well as most other types of wildlife). To do so is a punishable crime.
Raccoons in a garage or outbuilding are easier to chase away than those which have made their homes under your porch, inside your crawl space or, worst of all, in your attic. Sometimes all it takes is some loud, startling noises to scare them off. BC law states that you must use humane methods to rid your property of raccoons. Making noise is considered an acceptable method, although you may have to do this numerous times to drive them away permanently, since they will often return once the noise and human and activity has quieted. So are tricks like using (certain types of) raccoon repellents around their dens (although some of these methods may not be very effective). As already noted, it is illegal to poison wildlife of any type.
The exception to this is if you happen to have a mother with kits residing on your property. It is illegal to separate a mother raccoon from her kits, unless the kits are of weaning age (12 weeks). Once kits are weaned, the whole family usually leaves on its own. If they don’t, try one or more of the discouragement tactics previously described.
On the other hand, if you discover raccoons in your attic, you will most likely need some outside help to get rid of them. Even if you manage to drive them out, they will probably return. You’ll likely require professional help to rid your attic of the pests. Regulations regarding humane removal and discouragement tactics still apply, as does the law forbidding separating a mother from her kits.
The rules regarding dealing with raccoons (and other types of wildlife) are complicated, complex and sometimes sound contradictory. They can be difficult to interpret, and fines for violating wildlife regulations are expensive. The best thing to do if you have a raccoon problem is to call a company that deals with wildlife removal (there are a handful in the Lower Mainland). Such companies are familiar with all the wildlife regulations. They are also registered and licenced to trap and remove raccoons humanely and to put measures in place to keep them from returning. Often, these measures are all that will be needed to rid your home of the pests.
At Tailored Living, we can’t help you get rid of raccoons in your garage. We can, however, help you organize it. Whether you want to create more efficient garage storage or you want to transform it into a Man Cave, Tailored Living has an extensive variety of products and solutions to help you get the garage you’ve always wanted.