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URBAN WILDLIFE BEHAVIOUR AND CONCERNS

Raccoon (Procyon lotor):

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  By far the smartest and most curious of all urban wildlife, raccoons are phenomenal problem solvers. Although they are primarily active at night time, raccoons are not completely nocturnal as most people assume and can sometimes be seen during the day. Raccoons are survivalists and have anywhere between 3 and 30 den sites within their territory. It is not uncommon for a raccoon to have a den in someone’s attic as well as in the neighbour’s chimney and under someone’s deck down the street for example. Raccoons frequently visit these den sites, and constantly search for new opportunities by investigating weak points on roof tops and at ground level. Although they are perfectly built for climbing, raccoons love to live under decks, sheds, additions, etc. as well as up high in attics and chimneys. The main concern people have regarding raccoons is the damage that they can cause to property. Ripping off shingles, roof vents, siding, soffit etc. are normal activities for a racoon seeking shelter. Once inside, raccoons pack down insulation, thus reducing the heat retention in your home and/or business. They also urinate/defecate inside creating odours and stains. There are several heath and safety concerns if raccoons are living in/around your property, including violent conflicts with you, your pets, or your children, and the risk of being infected with various diseases and parasites that can be transmitted through physical contact (a bite or scratch) or fecal contamination. Approximately 50 – 60% of raccoons carry Baylisacaris Procyonis, more commonly known as raccoon roundworm. This is a parasite that lives in the infected raccoons’ intestines and can be very harmful and potentially fatal to humans if ingested (eaten). Infected raccoons excrete the roundworm eggs in their feces where they lay dormant until ingested by another mammal at which point the eggs become larvae and the cycle continues. Raccoons typically pick a few places within their territory where they urinate and defecate. The danger to humans occurs when raccoons walk through their latrines and then track the feces across your deck, patio furniture, kids play area, etc. Cross contamination is the biggest threat because the eggs are invisible to the naked eye and are extremely resilient. Raccoon roundworm eggs can live in the environment for years, and even become airborne when the raccoon feces dry up. Although children are more likely to get infected because they constantly put things in their mouths, adults are also at risk when invisible fecal material accidently gets in their mouth when working, cleaning, etc. outside. There is no known effective cure for raccoon roundworm. 


Eastern Grey Squirrel (Grey, Black, Brown):

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  Squirrels are very busy animals, and females are extremely good mothers with very strong maternal instincts. Depending on the time of year, squirrels can constantly be seen carrying twigs, leaves, and any other suitable material they can find to build a nest. In fact, squirrels build multiple nests within their territory and can live in multiple areas at a time within the same neighbourhood. Squirrels feed on fruiting trees, nuts, bird feeders and any other available sources, including scraps from garbage bins. They build their nests in attics, chimneys, walls, vents, trees, and in or on virtually any structure that is not too exposed. Eastern Grey Squirrels hide their food by burying it or placing it somewhere they feel is safe and are not known to bring their food source into their nest site. With a very powerful jaw and sharp incisors (teeth that are meant for cutting) squirrels can easily chew through some of the toughest building materials, including metal. One of the main concerns people have is that squirrels are notorious for nesting in peoples’ attics, walls, vents, chimneys, etc. Once they gain access they begin creating a nest by bringing in foreign material that they have gathered, as well as using the existing insulation. Squirrels must constantly chew on things to file their teeth down because the teeth are always growing. This is a major concern for home and business owners because the squirrels can chew on wires and create a fire hazard, and even gnaw on structural support beams thus causing issues with the structural integrity of a house or building. In addition to these threats, squirrels urinate and defecate in and around their nest site, and this poses a health concern because they can carry diseases and parasites. 

Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis):

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  Known worldwide for their obnoxious smell, skunks are very good at digging and like to be active at night time, however they are not nocturnal. Skunks build their dens under sheds, decks, additions, porches and any other structure they can dig and burrow under. It is not uncommon for skunks to have multiple den sites in their territory and they are also known to occupy dens that have been abandoned by other animals. Humans’ front lawns and backyards within the skunk’s territory provide great feeding opportunities in the stealth of night time. Skunks dig for grubs and other insects, leaving behind an awful-looking landscape. The main concern people have regarding skunks is their extremely potent defence system, as well as property damage and the risk of human or pet contact with the skunk. Their capability to dig and excavate material at an alarming rate can compromise the integrity of the structure above their den (i.e. shed, house, walkway, etc.). Skunk spray is very difficult to eliminate and can permeate through walls and into structures (house, building, etc.)

Do you have questions regarding other species of urban wildlife?

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