Early reports of settlers from Europe invading North America found raccoons in the south eastern portion of the continent, but didn’t mention raccoons in their travels elsewhere. It is thought that their populations began to increase in the decades before the start of the 20th century, and by now they occupy many urban areas.
First reported in an urban area near Cincinnati in 1902, urban raccoon are now everywhere. They are found from Vancouver Island to New York City, and as far north as Alaska. Samuel Zeveloff in his 2002 book Raccoons: A Natural History has estimated that raccoons have 15 to 20 times their population of the 1930s. A heavily invaded urban area such as Toronto has 50 times the number of city raccoons as in the country, with up to 150 per square kilometer.
Three factors probably account for this increase.
A raccoons natural predator such as the large cats and bears have been decimated with the spread of modern civilization in the last few centuries. The decrease in their natural enemies has allowed raccoons to spread into areas with numbers never before seen. City animals don’t pose much of a threat: listen to the dogs futilely bark as the raccoon jumps over the branches of the tree, and runs out of sight. Only humans pose a danger to them now.
Raccoons are smart, adaptable critters. They have been able to find a home within our human landscape, often a warm dry home in our or our neighbors land. Such nimble clever creatures can find entrances into our sheds, pull open doors, and find their way into places dogs can only dream of entering. Like your closed trash can.
Diet: Almost Everything
Perhaps the main reason raccoons have taken root where other species have disappeared is their omnivorous diet. They will eat a wide variety of foods, nuts, fruits, other animals, insects, etc. And most important to their spread along side us is their ability to eat our food. Many a tipped over trashcan and ravaged garden can be blamed on their tracks.
Raccoon and Farms
Raccoons have long been known to favor the same crops that humans do. Sweet corn is especially attractive to them, which can lead to a farmer cursing them out as he stands in a devastated field. A study by the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources of Purdue University found:
When available, corn is a primary food source for raccoons and can constitute over 65 percent of the total volume consumed by raccoons during the fall.The number of wildlife agencies reporting damage by raccoons increased from 10 percent in 1957 to 94 percent in 1987.
Raccoons and Your House
A farmers field is one thing, but when you wake up at three in the morning to scratching sounds in your attic, the problem of raccoon infestation has come home to roost. The best action is to scare the critters away immediately, with a barrage of lights and noise. Once the raccoon is driven away – and you should seriously check to insure there are no kits left behind – find how the raccoon got in and block it from returning.
If the raccoon has been settled for a while, you can’t seem to drive it away or you feel threaten by the animal, google ‘raccoon removal’ for your area and contact a professional.