Thursday, June 27, 2013

Raccoons in the Backyard

Northern Raccoon - Raton laveur

Ben Gadd's book (original 1986 edition), which has been my Alberta Nature "bible" for the last thirty or so years, notes that Raccoons are "rare" in the Canadian Rockies, and this was what I have always believed.

Recently, when my daughter suggested Raccoons were the culprits that pillaged one of my sunflower seed feeders, I didn't accept this as a possibility. Humble pie. She was correct. I have not seen these nocturnal critters, but I now have more than enough evidence of their presence.

Northern Raccoons were limited to the United States until about a hundred years ago, and these animals reached Eastern Canada first, then moved west, and over the last decade there have been lots of sightings in Alberta. 

Two months ago on April 12, 2013, I found some unusual poop in my backyard. I have never seen this scat before and when I looked in my library I could not identify the animal. Of course I didn't look under Raccoon scat. Why should I? Raccoons don't live in Calgary. Right? Turns out the poop is typical for Raccoons, perhaps a juvenile based on the diameter of the poops. Raccoon poop might contain Raccoon Roundworm eggs, which can be fatal if ingested (breathed in). I certainly was not aware of this and next time I will remove the poop with a mask and gloves. 
To confirm my new suspicion, several weeks ago I spread sand on the pathway from the garden to my patio, and yesterday, I finally found a perfect Raccoon paw print.
Raccoons are most abundant in urban areas. These animals are nocturnal and most active from dusk to midnight.

Males are territorial and in the prairie regions the males aggressively defend their home range such that there is usually little overlap. I suspect the Raccoon in my backyard comes by (patrols this part of his territory) about once every week or so, and the frequency likely reflects the size of his home range. If food is plentiful, Raccoons are not so territorial and several males might band together to forage.

Raccoons are omnivores and will consume almost anything that is organic. The tactile sense of a Raccoon is exceptional. Dexterity with their front paws is remarkable. These animals are able to untie knots, open doors, unscrew jars (this is how they took down the feeder, which was screwed into a post), and lift of garbage can lids.


Gadd, Ben. Handbook of the Canadian Rockies. Corax Press. Jasper, Canada. 1986. 

Naughton, Donna. The Natural History of Canadian Mammals. UofT Press. 2012.

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