There is now photographic evidence of raccoons in Fernie, ending any doubts that the masked bandits are well and truly at home in the Elk Valley.
The banded tail is a right giveaway that the family of critters captured on trail cams (pictured above) near Fernie are raccoons (procyon lotor) on the edge of town on Burma Rd in pictures snapped last year.
Species range maps online and other sources suggest raccoons shouldn’t be in the Elk Valley, but WildSafeBC has previously reported plenty of sightings in Sparwood and Fernie in 2020 and 2021, with raccoons simply going where the food is.
Local wildlife biologist, Clayton Lamb (who provided the images) said that raccoons’ range was changing.
“It’s likely been a bit too snowy and cold here in the past to support raccoons,” he said.
“Now seeing them show up in the valley. We’ve collected images of raccoons in Fernie, Sparwood, and near the BC/AB border in the last year.”
Raccoons will eat whatever they can get their little paws on.
The little blighters can cause significant damage to gardens, buildings, crops, livestock, small animals and maybe even you in their search for something to eat – food conditioned and human-habituated raccoons can become bold around humans and cause injury.
Local WildSafeBC coordinator, Andrea Fletcher said that it was important that locals locked up the easiest food source any raccoons could come across: Garbage.
“Raccoons are incredibly opportunistic, adaptive, and smart, and can therefore thrive in almost any environment on many different food sources, including chickens, vegetable gardens, garbage, and bird feeders. The best way to co-exist with raccoons, as with all wildlife, is to secure our attractants,” said Fletcher.
She said that efforts to reduce attracting bears and other wildlife can work for keeping raccoons away too, with all the typical advice being the same for raccoons: Secure your garbage, take down bird feeders, clean your bbqs, don’t leave pet food outside, secure your compost, and make sure your chickens are behind an electric fence.
“Besides food though, raccoons also often seek shelter in and around our residences,” said Fletcher.
“They may den underneath decks, in sheds, in crawl spaces … If you do happen to find yourself with denning raccoons, there are humane ways to make them leave, however if it is between March and August, you need to be sure there are no kits (baby raccoons), that are not able to leave the den yet.”
While they’re small, raccoons can pose a threat to humans and pets – especially when threatened, or habituated.
“We can mitigate this by giving them space when we see them, and by keeping our community free of accessible attractants.”
Fletcher said many would no doubt remember a time when there were no raccoons in the valley, but those times were now gone.
“How they got here remains a mystery, but it seems they are here to stay, and as with all our wildlife, learning to co-exist with them is essential for both the safety of our communities, our properties, and our wildlife.
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