Raccoon Biology and Behavior in the Outaouais area

Raccoons are intelligent and adaptable mammals that can be found throughout North America, including urban areas like Gatineau and Ottawa.  Understanding their natural behaviours and how they adapt to human environments is critical to identifying a potential infestation and taking steps to protect your property and your family.

Identifying Raccoons and Their Droppings:

  • Appearance: Raccoons are easily recognizable by their distinctive black facial mask, bushy black-ringed tail, and grayish-brown fur. Adults typically range from 23 to 37 inches (58-94 cm) in length and weigh between 12 and 20 pound (5-9 kg).

     

  • Droppings: Raccoon droppings, also known as scat, can be another sign of their presence. Raccoon droppings are typically 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) long and resemble those of a dog, but with rounded ends and a segmented appearance [2]. They may contain visible fragments of food debris, such as seeds or berries [2].

If you suspect a raccoon infestation, look for these signs in your attic, basement, or around your property.

Raccoon Habits and Habitat in Gatineau:

Natural World Influences:  Raccoons are nocturnal creatures in the wild,  active at night and seeking shelter during the day. They are skilled climbers and foragers, relying on their dexterous paws to find food sources like insects, fruits, nuts, and even small animals.

Urban Adaptations:  Gatineau’s urban environment presents challenges and opportunities for raccoons.  While natural food sources may be limited,  human waste, like overflowing garbage cans and unsecured compost bins, can provide easy meals.  Raccoons retain their nocturnal habits in urban areas, but Gatineau’s harsh winters can influence their activity patterns.

Seasonal Shifts:  As food becomes scarce in the winter, raccoons become more active at night,  searching for sustenance.  Attics, with their insulation providing warmth,  become beautiful den sites during these colder months, mimicking the hollow trees or rock crevices they would seek in a natural environment.

Den Building Instincts:  Raccoons are resourceful den builders.  In their natural habitat, they create dens in hollow trees, rock crevices, or abandoned burrows. In urban Gatineau and Ottawa, they readily adapt and utilize attics, chimneys, sheds, and even under decks as substitutes for these natural dens,  especially during the cold winters.

Health Risks:  Raccoons can carry diseases like rabies, distemper, and roundworm that can be transmitted to humans and pets. It’s important to avoid direct contact with raccoons and their droppings.

Potential Damage:  Raccoons can cause significant damage to your property while searching for food and shelter.  They can tear through soffits, vent screens, and roof shingles to gain entry. Once inside, they may damage insulation, electrical wiring, and ductwork as they explore and create their dens.

While a raccoon encounter in your home can be startling, staying calm and acting strategically is vital. Here’s how to behave depending on who’s with you:

  • Alone:  Make loud noises to scare the raccoon away.  Bang pots and pans together or shout firmly.  Slowly back away from the animal, keeping an eye on it and allowing it an escape route. Never corner a raccoon, as this can make it feel threatened and act aggressively.  Once outside, seal any potential entry points to prevent future encounters.
  • With Children:  Instruct children to stay calm and quiet.  Gently usher them to another room and close the door.  Follow the same steps as encountering a raccoon alone – make noise to scare it away and create an escape route.  Once the raccoon is gone, explain the situation to your children calmly and reassure them that professional help will be called to address the issue.
  • With Pets:  Leash your pets immediately to prevent them from approaching the raccoon.  If possible, remove your pets from the room and close the door.  Then, follow the same steps as encountering a raccoon alone.  It’s important to remember that raccoons can carry diseases that can be transmitted to pets, so avoid any direct contact.

 

Living with raccoons in the Gatineau and Ottawa region, where wildlife is abundant, requires vigilance and preventative measures.  If you suspect a raccoon infestation, contact a professional wildlife removal company to address the issue safely and humanely.