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. The virus often interferes with the immune system, as well, preventing the body from fighting off the infection.
Diseased raccoons generally act disoriented, lethargic, and unafraid of people – they may be seen directly approaching people or curling up to sleep in open areas close to people. Some can also exhibit signs of shaking or seizure and can become aggressive when cornered. A healthy dog can contract CDV by directly interacting with an infected raccoon, mainly through discharges from runny noses or tearing eyes, or with its recent urine and feces. The risk of infection is higher in areas where raccoon and skunk populations are high.
The following tips can help prevent your pet from contracting canine distemper:
Aside from the diseases raccoons can spread to pets and humans, they have a vicious personality and many other qualities to support their quest for food and shelter. Highly intelligent and resourceful, raccoons are capable of causing considerable damage to structures, lawns, and gardens. Using their manipulative paws and nimble fingers, they can open and close doors, rip up screens, grab food from shelves or pantries, scratch surfaces such as hardwood, or tear holes in insulation.
This time of year, forced by the declining weather, raccoons are putting their nimble hands at work to rip apart walls and ducts and chew wires on their way to build their nest in your attic, basement, or soffits. Raccoons entering structures are often females on the lookout for a place to give birth and raise their offspring, which can last until they are at least 3 months old.
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If a raccoon family is nesting in your house, they must typically be removed by hand by pest professionals specialized in wildlife removal. Setting up traps for the adults will not solve the problem, as it will leave the kits, which are too small to be trapped, to starve and suffer to death.
Every raccoon problem is different, and in order to safely and humanely evict them from your property, a thorough survey of the situation must be conducted. The type, size, and quantity of trapping tools will be determined by specialized technicians based on your observations and the clues the animals leave behind. Their feeding and nesting habits will help pest professionals customize control and removal protocols in order to effectively stop wildlife from taking over your property.
Most importantly, don’t be misled by their cuteness and seemingly harmless behavior. Raccoons are wild animals that can become dangerous to the health and safety of people, pets, and property. As soon as you notice the first signs of infestation, contact an experienced pest company in your area to dispose of them humanely and prevent any future occurrences.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.