The raccoons are coming, the raccoons are coming.
Thanks to a mild, bountiful winter and an abundance of foodstuffs, water and shelter, Winnipeg's raccoons have been thriving during the first half of 2017.
"This year is definitely a banner year for raccoons," said Taz Stuart, director of technologies for Poulin's Pest Control Services.
In all of 2016, Poulin's caught a total of 105 raccoons across the city. This year, they've trapped 84, and there's still more than six months to go, Stuart said.
The raccoon influx is all part of a natural cycle, Stuart explained. When the mammals have ample materials and manageable weather, raccoons are able to produce larger litters and more of their progeny survive, and once the season ends, kits leave their mothers and begin spreading out.
James Korosil, owner of the Cooks Creek-based Wildlife Control Services, said he normally sees litter sizes of about three to five kits, but this year he's seen some with six.
And while raccoon numbers seem to be on the rise, the critters don't intend on giving up easily, either. Korosil said he's noticed many raccoons becoming familiar with traps, which makes it much more difficult for his company to catch them.
Poulin's recommends sardines as bait, but Stuart has also noticed the raccoons catching on quickly.
Korosil doesn't use sardines, instead relying on a secret lure: Burger King Whoppers.
"Either that or a fish sandwich," Korosil laughed. "The more mayonnaise the better."
Most of Poulin's raccoon calls have been centralized in more mature areas of the city with greater tree cover and along the rivers, Stuart said. To prevent infestation, he suggests blocking any potential access points, sealing and securing compost and garbage bins, and making sure food isn't left out in yards.
Raccoons can carry transmittable diseases such as rabies or canine distemper, so people should not attempt to handle, feed or disturb the animals. Mother raccoons are extremely protective of their young, and protect them viciously.
Homeowners can purchase traps and set them up along the raccoon's suspected route — marshmallows also work as bait and will prevent a homeowner from catching another meat-loving animal — or can contact a professional pest-control company that specializes in trapping, removal and disposal (kill).
Manitoba Conservation's Wildlife Branch does not deal with raccoons and will direct homeowners to call a professional company.
Korosil and Stuart both expect to get more calls in the coming weeks, and advise the enlistment of pest-control professionals to deal with raccoon infestations, but say there is no reason to panic. The raccoons certainly aren't worried.
"Let's just say that raccoons are healthy and doing well," Korosil said.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
Updated on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at 12:35 PM CDT: Photos reordered.
12:54 PM: Corrects typo