Friday, May 14, 2010

The role of raccoons?

While planing for life in the backyard section I keep encountering questions of dealing with raccoons (Procyon lotor). There is something unspeakably cool about raccoons -- crafty, intelligent, versatile, fastidious, silent, lurkers. I don't like thinking of them as enemies. But I also don't want them nabbing my hens and such.

Their diet consists of about 40% invertebrates, 33% plant foods, and 27% vertebrates -- eating invertebrates is good, usually. Since raccoons are able to increase their rate of reproduction up to a certain limit, extensive hunting often does not solve problems with raccoon populations. Older males also claim larger home ranges than younger ones, resulting in a lower population density. The costs of large-scale measures to eradicate raccoons from a given area for a certain time are usually many times higher than the costs of the damage done by the raccoons.

In an enlightened world, what then is the place of a raccoon in the urban environment?


  1. I guess I'm not very enlightened. They don't just nab chickens--they rip the heads off an leave the carcass, wiping out whole flocks overnight. In a zoo or on someone else's yard, they're cool. On mine, they're candidates to become a HAT.

    See? Told you--very unenlightened.

  2. I'm not sure I have a problem with the raccoon-as-hat approach, except that as I understand it, that may not be a solution. Raccoons are territorial so killing one just opens up that territory for another. Now this new one may be better, or it may be worse.
    So, it would seem that if you could get "into the head" of the raccoon and "figure out what it wants, what is it's motivation" then maybe some truce could be had where that raccoon actually serves to keep other potentially worse raccoons at bay.
    Now I'll admit that this is largely uninformed speculation that there are grounds possible for such a truce. The lure of succulent hen-heads may just be too good to resist. And if you reach that conclusion after careful reflection, I look forward to seeing your dapper coonskin cap madam.

  3. (still laughing)
    If I get one, I'll let you know.

    We've actually been very fortunate that we haven't had losses to raccoons yet. We've had dead poultry from dogs and coyotes, but those are much easier to protect against.