As developments in North Winnipeg have expanded, so has the wildlife population in the new residential neighbourhoods. Raccoons and skunks have become common sights in trees, on fences, under decks, and crossing busy streets.
Specialists with Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship are not surprised by the increase of these masked visitors.
According to the agency, raccoons are the most common wildlife problem in urban areas of the province. The department receives hundreds of raccoon complaints each year in Winnipeg alone, a figure that is increasing steadily.
The raccoon is not native to the prairies. It made its way to our flat land in the early 1900s from British Columbia. Since they are very adaptable creatures, raccoons are able to live almost anywhere and their range continues to spread throughout the province. Dean Berezanski, wildlife biologist with Conservation and Water Stewardship, says the best way to deal with these pesky creatures is to understand their needs, and ensure our properties do not have the resources they need to set up camp.
Developments such as Riverbend are the perfect scene for wildlife like raccoons because our yards have everything they need to survive — water, food, and shelter.
"If they wander to an area that has everything they need, they’ll stick around," Berezanski says.
As residents, we have to ensure our yards are kept clean; remove any pet food kept outside and keep sheds and decks sealed. One of the biggest unknown attractants for raccoons is birdseed. Berezanski says birdseed is a high energy source for them, so keep the feed out of their reach.
Another generally unknown attractant for raccoons is sandboxes. Raccoons will defecate in sandboxes and owners do not even realize it is raccoon feces. It is thus important to keep sandboxes closed when you are not using them. The animals can carry the raccoon round worm; while this pest is not commonly transmitted to humans in North America, it is best not to take any chances.
If you find yourself face to face with a raccoon, try to remember that it is usually more afraid of you than you are of it, and it will typically run away.
However, if a raccoon finds itself cornered, it will defend itself. If you are worried about a confrontation between a raccoon and your pet, a raccoon will usually run away, unless it is cornered and feels threatened.
If you find yourself or your pet in a confrontation with a raccoon, or any wild animal, and you are not sure what to do, Berezanski suggests you call your local pest control company.
Berezanski does say that these animals are often just passing through looking for new territory, so if there is nothing to attract them or keep them in that area, they will simply move on. So make sure to keep yards clean and open shelters sealed.
Alisa Pihulak is a community correspondent for Riverbend.