Alberta's raccoon population has traditionally resided in the southeast portion of the province. However, in recent years, raccoon territory has expanded to include central Alberta.
Raccoons are about the size of a house-cat. They are a grizzled grey colour with the distinct black ‘bandit’ face-mask and a tail marked by alternating black and brown rings.
Raccoons are very adaptable. They exist on a wide variety of foods and quickly take advantage of human activities to help with their survival. They tend to be nocturnal and may be seen near water bodies eating waterfowl eggs, frogs and insects. In farmyards, they take shelter under buildings eating spilled grain, garden produce, insects and farmyard scraps.
They co-exist with humans in an urban environment inhabiting backyards, green spaces and dumpsters. Raccoons mate in late winter and often den close to where food scraps are readily available to feed the young born in spring. They are noted for "washing" their food with water if available, but it is speculated it assists with dismembering food by their sensitive paws.
Raccoons may carry canine distemper, leptospirosis and raccoon roundworm. Care should be taken when cleaning up feces by wearing gloves and a mask. Keep your pet's rabies vaccinations updated. Even though rabies has not been found in Alberta raccoons, it is in eastern Canada populations.
Raccoons have expanded their range and have become very common in Strathcona County. They find their way in Alberta as unwanted passengers on moving vans, farm machinery, farm produce vehicles and railcars.
As raccoons may be a nuisance in the rural areas they may be hunted throughout the year. Electric fences 20 cm above the ground along a garden patch will deter the invaders.
You can also take steps to manage raccoons by:
- Keeping a clean yard site
- Blocking off access to hiding places around buildings
- Removing food sources
- Using ammonia-soaked rags or leaving a radio playing at night to discourage them from gardens and garbage cans in problem areas
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