Raccoons are one of the most clever, opportunistic, and charismatic species of animals found in Southwestern Ontario. They have a superb ability to adapt to and even exploit changing environmental conditions, so it's not too surprising that raccoons are now common residents in cities and suburbs. Technically, raccoons are carnivores. Their diet, however, is more accurately described as omnivorous. They readily consume both animal and plant matter, and their diet varies with locality, season, and availability. In addition to eating wild foods, raccoons are keen to raid gardens, garbage cans, bird feeders, and fish ponds. They have been known to use door knobs, and a pet door is an open invitation. Chimneys, porches, and attics are all attractive denning sites from the raccoon's perspective because they provide warmth and shelter. Add readily accessible trash cans or pet food and water bowls that are left outside and you've got the raccoon Hilton. Oftentimes, just removing their food source eventually solves the problem.
Luckily for both humans and raccoons, a little patience and understanding can go a long way toward resolving any problems. Humane methods of conflict prevention and resolution have proven to be less costly and less stressful than removal of a resident animal for both wildlife and homeowners. While removal may seem like a solution, it usually only creates an enticing vacancy for another animal in search of a ready-made home. The source of the problem needs to be dealt with to ultimately solve the problem. People can live in harmony with wildlife - you just have to know your wild neighbors!
Chimneys and Attics:
Raccoons will often use uncapped chimneys and attics for denning and for birthing and raising their young. Assuming the animals can leave on their own, harassment techniques can be used to encourage raccoons to move on. You might try leaving the attic lights on, and/or placing a radio in the denning area with an extension cord that can be plugged in from inside the house and tuned to a talk radio station with the volume turned up. Insulation in the attic will have a tendancy to deaden the sound so crank it up good and loud and as close to the nest as you dare. Unplug and plug the radio in often. The transition from quiet to a loud radio will do a much better job than just leaving the radio on all the time. The best time to use these strategies is right before the raccoon would normally leave for her nightly foray. Once you're sure the animals have left, prevent further problems by installing an approved chimney cap or repairing and sealing attic openings. Never use smoke or fire to drive animals out of chimneys. This will almost certainly kill young animals - whether raccoons, squirrels, opossums, or birds who are not physically able to leave on their own.
Yards and Gardens:
Discourage garbage raiding by placing cans at the curb on the day of pick-up rather than the night before. Place cans inside a shed or garage between pick-ups. You may also secure the lids with bungee cords, rope tie-downs, or weights. Raccoons are attracted to birdseed and suet and can cause considerable damage to garden fruits and vegetables, particularly grapes and corn. Garden plundering often occurs right before the foods are ready to be picked, so extra vigilance at these times (chasing animals away and using lights or radios to create disturbances) may drive them off long enough to harvest the crop. Fruit trees and bird feeder poles can be protected with conical metal guards that keep animals from climbing.