Much Ado About Raccoons!


5 minute read

June 7, 2011

Yet another story ripped from the headlines last week – a man tried to (allegedly) kill a raccoon with some sort of sharpened garden tool(?)

While I don’t agree with this person’s actions, I do agree that raccoons are a huge problem for Toronto home owners.

Perhaps I can shed some light on the subject with a story of my own…

I’ll admit: when I was a six-year-old child at summer camp, I used to pull the legs off a daddy long legs just to see what happens.

But I was a kid!  Doesn’t that make it (sort of) okay?  Who amongst us hasn’t done something like this?

Have you ever crushed an ant with your foot?

Have you ever flushed a spider down the toilet?

Okay, so maybe pulling the legs off an insect takes things to another level, but I was SIX!

I could never kill a living thing.  Ever.

If I absolutely had to – I mean if a bear was threatening my family, then perhaps I could.  But then again, what chance would I have against a bear?  I digress…

Last week, every major Toronto newspaper (and all the minor ones…) ran a story about the man on Rankin Crescent who was arrested for allegedly “attacking” raccoons with a garden tool; a tool which has been much debated, but CBC claims was a shovel.

While some people came to the defence of the man, most readers/commenters were horrified.

There were 384 comments on the article on CBC’s website at the time of writing this post.

I’ll go on record as saying that I don’t think beating raccoons with a shovel is a good remedy for dealing with the unwanted pests, but I was shocked to see some people actually defend the accused!

I’ve had my own share of raccoon problems, and at the risk of offending the really, REALLY green-friendly tree-huggers, I’ll tell you my entire story…

Back when I was living at “the big house” in the summer of 2002, we had ridiculous raccoon problems.

My father appeared one day with a metal trap that looked like this:

He dropped it off at the house and said, “I want you to set this trap every night!  If I come by one night, and this trap isn’t set, there is going to be hell to pay!”

(Sidebar: I was living at the house with my brother and sister, sans parents…)

I remember the first night we set this trap.  It was a magical event!

We put some peanut-butter on crackers, and set it right in the middle of the trap.

The trap shown above opens at both ends, and when the spring in the middle is stepped on, both ends close, and they’re held shut so that no animal, no matter how strong, can get out.

A couple friends of mine were over that night, and we set the trap and ran inside and waited.

Within mere minutes, a trail of about six raccoons appeared in our backyard, and began to sniff around the trap.  We had our faces pressed up against the window, and while I can’t remember with 100% certainly – I’d say we were likely drinking beer…

One of the raccoons began to paw at the cracker from the outside, and he set the trap off.  No raccon was inside.

We went outside and re-set the trap, not knowing that this was a precursor of things to come.

That night, we set the trap about five times before a raccoon finally went inside and got caught.

That night, we also learned that raccoons have absolutely no fear!  When we went outside to monitor the trap with the raccoon inside, the other 5-6 raccoons guarded the trap and we had to shoe them away with brooms!

We put a garbage bag down in the trunk of my car, and put the raccoon trap down inside.

I drove across the Leaside Bridge (assuming that a raccoon couldn’t find its way back over the Don Valley Parkway or over the bridge itself), and let it out around Greenwood and O’Connor.

I know, I know…

Remember – the honesty in this blog post is supposed to somehow negate my actions of almost ten years ago.

I realize that I was taking my problem and making it somebody else’s.

But what are the other options?

A person I know in the real estate industry who has since moved up to farm country has a similar raccoon trap, although he did not employ the same methods as I did.

This person, who told me a story about six years ago, says that when he caught raccoons he would very simply submerge the trap in his fish pond (a tragic twist of irony since the raccoons used to eat the fish), and “after the bubbles stopped surfacing, I’d take out the trap, dump the smelly wet critter into a lawn bag, and leave it on the curb for the city to take away!”

He added, “I love how the city won’t address the problem, but they’ll pick up the dead raccoons from my street for free!”

I wonder if he has a bear trap up at his farm these days?

During the summer of 2002, I caught 33 raccoons and took them all over the Leaside bridge and into East York.

I’m not ashamed to admit this; not in the slightest.

Raccoons caused thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage to our home, and I feel that as a tax-paying home-owner, we should be allowed to do something about the problem.

I don’t think that crazy old men should be able to stab baby raccoons with tridents, but I do think that humane removal of raccoons has its purpose.

We had raccoons in our attic, in our garage, and eventually they made their way into space between the basement and first floor – in between the floor boards of the first floor and the ceiling of the basement.  They ate away at all the insulation, tore up the styrofoam that was covering the pipes, and eventually they began to rip out electrical wires and cause shorts in the lighting.

We called a “raccoon proofing company,” who did more damage than good.

Known back then as AAA Wildlife, and still in operation as far as I can tell, they “raccoon proofed” under our bay-window where the critters were getting inside, but they never replaced the bottom boards of the bay window, nor did they put the twelve-inches of insulation back into place.

After a few days, our basement was freezing cold, and our pipes had frozen.  We didn’t understand why.

After a couple more days, I was sitting in the basement one day and I heard a loud “POP,” followed by the sound of flowing water.

Our pipes had frozen, due to the -28 degree temperature outside that was flowing in through the un-insulated bay window, and then they’d burst and caused a flood of the basement, which cost us over $10,000 to fix.

I took AAA Wildlife to small claims court, but eventually when I realized they weren’t going to settle, I gave up.  Believe me when I say that it is incredibly easy to file a lawsuit in the Province of Ontario, and anybody can do it – themselves, for free!  (I mean free as in without a lawyer, not as in without the silly filing fees that the courts charge).

Okay, that was a tangent…

My point is that dozens of raccoon proofing companies in Toronto combine to make millions of dollars per year, but in my experience, they usually consist of a few stoners, one drunk, and somebody with enough intelligence to write up an invoice.

I think you’re better off dealing with raccoons yourself, and the trap shown above is easy to use, and very humane.

For those of you that believe raccoons have a right to live in our homes, eat our garbage, tear up our lawns, destroy our attics, etc., etc., well……I respectfully disagree.

I will never concede that humane removal of raccoons is still somehow “wrong.”  I think home-owners in Toronto are taxed to death, and ultimately, if animals are causing physical damage to the home that results in financial hardships, then home-owners have a right to remove these animals.

But do I think that last week’s media flurry about the man on Rankin Crescent deals with the very first case of somebody taking extraordinary measures to deal with a raccoon problem?


I think he’s just the first person in a long time to get caught.

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Anonymous

    at 10:58 am

    Since this is an anonymous post and forum I guess I can share my thoughts which will likely be poorly received.

    Growing up I watched my father trap dozens of raccoons up at our cottage, and not with a humane trap but rather a bear-like trap. He simply dumped them in the garbage dump and that was that.

    We could have put out a sign that said “no raccoons please” but they wouldn’t have responded. So after years of abusing the cottage and trying to tear it apart with their claws my father just started killing them.

    I know you can’t compare Haliburton and Toronto but I’m suprised at all the media attention.

  2. Kyle

    at 11:23 am

    Ever since the green bins have been forced upon us, the racoon, skunk, coyote and possum population has been on the rise. While i agree 100% with the concept of composting organics, could they not have come up with a bin that keeps animals out before buying hundreds of thousands of them and distributing them to every house in Toronto?

  3. Webb

    at 1:09 pm

    “…they usually consist of a few stoners, one drunk, and somebody with enough intelligence to write up an invoice.”

    You’ve also just described roofers.

  4. Laurie

    at 11:39 am

    We’ve discovered a perfect deterrent to keeping raccoons away from our green bin. At the very top, keep a nice fresh steaming pile of dog poo (nicely wrapped in a biodegradable baggie, of course). Since our dog provides us with a fresh sample every day, we’re always set and our green bin contents stay in our green bin. 🙂

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