By Sina Safa and Turner Brown
The small community of Eagle Harbour in West Vancouver has seen a recent swell in the raccoon population. Residents are frightened, and concerned discourse among residents suggests that the situation is a major issue.
That any issue seldom arises shows the neighbourhood’s harmonious relationship with wildlife, yet the raccoons have caused tension. Avid dog walker, Jeanne Cady is fearful of the raccoons, stating “My little chihuahua was chased down by a group of raccoons just down by Park Verdun, and I don’t even let [our dog] into the backyard anymore. There are just too many raccoons.”
According to the Pesticides and Pest Management division of the British Columbia government, the rise in a raccoon population is often attributed to humans intentionally feeding the animals, or raccoons feeding off garbage. One resident, Laura Essery does not support the suggestion that the raccoon population has been fuelled by garbage since “Everyone in this neighbourhood, including myself, is vigilant about making sure their garbage and organic bins are secured properly.”
She also added that in her consistent observations of the neighbourhood, “I have never heard of nor seen raccoons get into any garbage bins.” In Ms. Essery’s final remarks, she suggested that “perhaps someone is intentionally feeding them because they think they’re helping out. I mean, the raccoons are really cute so it’s hard to not want to nurture them.”
This insight raises a question among residents: Is someone in our neighbourhood intentionally feeding the raccoons? If so, they ought to not be ousted or labelled a culprit; they may be innocently motivated by the cuteness of the critters or trying to ‘help out.’ Instead, discussion around the risks of feeding raccoons needs to take place among residents to discourage raccoon feeding. The BC SPCA outlines the risks:
- Wildlife may carry communicable disease and cause physical harm.
- Feeding creates a dependency on humans, which may cause an animal to be aggressive.
- Feeding artificially increases the population.
- An increase in population may lead to conflicts with pets and disrupt local ecology.
(BC SPCA, 2017).
One member of the community, Jack Rainer, suggests that “The raccoon population needs to be controlled in order to quell the community’s fear, ensure the safety of our children, and preserve our neighbourhood’s ecology.”
He is also urging the District of West Vancouver to take an active role in assessing the size of the raccoon population, spreading awareness that feeding wildlife is dangerous, and take lethal measures if the issue escalates. The use of lethal action is not favoured by most residents, but Mr. Rainer advises it be utilized as a last resort. The common sentiment in Eagle Harbour is that each resident needs to be reminded to take precautions as outlined by the District of West Vancouver:
- Clean garbage containers with ammonia or bleach, and ensure they have tight fitting.
- Do not place garbage out until 5am on garbage days.
- Use small wire mesh to seal off porches, sheds, and decks that provide opportunities for hiding.
- Keep petroleum products inside (e.g., paint, kerosene, and charcoal fluid), as they are attractants.
- Prune tree limbs and place a piece of tin loosely around tree trunks to prevent access to rooftops.
The raccoon issue in Eagle Harbour may parallel wildlife problems in other communities, and every community needs to assess their own relationship with local wildlife.
For the safety of communities and their residents, collaboration efforts are needed to reduce attracting raccoons to neighbourhoods, educate residents on proper garbage disposal, and discourage feeding.
Brown and Safa are member of the Eagle Harbour Service Association