Another Look at the “Humane” Alternative

Thousands of raccoons call our city home. Sometimes we don’t think about our wild neighbours until there is a problem: a squabble over who gets the garden vegetables, or an uninvited tenant taking up residence in the roof. While raccoons are only trying to meet their basic food and shelter needs, these conflicts can be very frustrating for homeowners.

So why not trap the raccoons and move them somewhere else?

Contrary to popular belief, live-trapping a raccoon and relocating it is not a good way to solve the problem. While trapping may seem like a humane option, it often ends in a death sentence for the animal and leaves your property vulnerable to ongoing wildlife conflicts. Here’s why:

There’s no place like home

Many people think that a raccoon can survive anywhere. You may even think that moving a raccoon from an urban backyard to a ravine, park, or forest will help them, since these spaces seem more “natural.” But the truth is, raccoons have specific home ranges where they are adapted to living.

A city raccoon’s home range is usually about 3 blocks. Within that range they learn where to find food, water, and shelter, and how to stay safe. A raccoon that’s spent its whole life living in a garden shed and foraging in green bins isn’t going to stand a chance suddenly transported to a conservation area. Not to mention that there are probably already raccoons living in the new territory who won’t be too happy about having a new neighbor.

Trapping a raccoon and moving it to a new, unfamiliar location – even one that looks nice to us – is stressful and bewildering for the animal. Relocated raccoons almost never survive more than a month or two in their new environment.

Babies get left behind

Most raccoon conflicts happen in the spring and summer, when mother raccoons are looking for shelter and extra food to raise their babies. These babies are quietly awaiting their mother’s return in attic nests or backyard burrows. When a mother raccoon is trapped and moved, dependent babies are left behind. Without their mother, they will die.

Toronto Wildlife Centre receives hundreds of calls a year about baby raccoons who have been “orphaned” because someone trapped and relocated a nuisance raccoon. Sadly, we don’t have the resources to take care of all of them, and many are turned away.

Trapping and relocating a mother raccoon with her babies also doesn’t work. Because of the stress and terror caused by relocation, faced with an unfamiliar territory with no way to find food or shelter, a mother raccoon will almost always abandon her babies at the new site.

Short-term fixes don’t work

There are no empty spaces in nature. If you get rid of one raccoon, it won’t be long until another animal finds that cozy den in your roof or delicious meal in your garden. More likely, you will do a lot of unnecessary work or pay a lot of money to an animal removal company with no long term results.

In fact, removing raccoons can sometimes even backfire and make the situation worse. Research has shown that raccoons will have larger litters in areas where there has been a lot of trapping in previous years since there is still plenty of food and shelter. New babies simply fill the gap left by the raccoons that have been trapped and relocated.

Conflicts with raccoons are best dealt with individually: what is the raccoon doing that’s bothering you, why is it doing it, and how do we get it to stop?

For tips on resolving raccoon problems, see our conflict resolution section.