While understandably reluctant, many big-city Canadians have become accustomed to sharing their environment with raccoons and skunks, but dog owners have additional reason to be concerned this fall.
Toronto city officials have recently released a warning to residents to be on the lookout for strangely-behaving raccoons, following a surge in canine distemper cases. The Toronto Wildlife Centre director Nathalie Karvonen declared for the Toronto Star that, “The disease has been raging through the [raccoon] population for a while, but we’ve seen a dramatic increase this fall.” She notes that the animal shelter has been receiving up to 20 raccoon-related calls a day.
Canine distemper virus (CDV) is a highly contagious and incurable condition that originates in dogs, but can be spread to other animals, including skunks and raccoons. While humans are not affected by the disease, in dogs, CDV is a severe, multi-systemic virus that can affect the animals’ respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems, causing harmful and potentially permanent damage.
With more than 200 raccoons per square mile, our city is rightfully called the raccoon capital of the world. Omnivorous, intelligent, curious, and highly adaptable, the masked bandits are turning out to be adept at overcoming every obstacle Torontonians put in their path.
A family of raccoons that chooses to make a property their home can move in unannounced into the attic, shed, basement, crawlspace, garage, or anywhere else on your property where they can sneak without being seen. They are aggressively territorial and attached to their neighborhoods, and if your property offers them the food and water they need, there’s little chance to ever see them leave.
And they don’t even need a lot of space to thrive. In the wild, raccoon ranges can be as much as 20 miles for males, while those living in urban environments will settle for a home range of about three square blocks.
Few people can resist the dangerous amount of cuteness of raccoons. The narrow, pointy muzzle, the large black eyes ringed with white, the front paw fingers resembling human hands, and the striped bushy tails make the little buggers hard to resist. Not to mention their extraordinary intelligence and ability to get into almost any place, pick locks, pull out drawers, and open door latches in search for food, rightfully earning their reputation as the “masked bandits.”
But as awesome little animals as they may be (sometimes competing with dogs and cats for people’s affection), raccoons remain wild animals with a destructive nature. Due to the major property damage they cause to the house and garden, they are usually not welcomed on people’s property and considered pests. Here’s why.