What goes up must come down – eventually. Americans watched with great fascination this week as a raccoon climbed up a 23-story Minnesota building. A video of the little creature’s derring-do went viral as the social media universe lit up with interest. Millions wondered whether or not the raccoon would make it to the top, and thankfully, she did. The animal was trapped and moved to safety.
There was another case last year when a raccoon crashed through the ceiling in a Toronto office building, also becoming a media sensation.
There is no epidemic of raccoons scaling man-made structures or dropping out of the sky. But wild animals in our cities and towns undoubtedly capture our attention and – as with this raccoon – can so easily command our attention and our curiosity with their antics.
But, unfortunately, once the temporary interest abates, most of us go back to seeing these urban dwellers as pests and nuisances.
In some extreme cases, they are even victims of incredible cruelty. Not long ago, a schoolteacher in Florida drowned raccoons in front of his class, as punishment for reportedly killing chickens.
In reality, city raccoons are curious and intelligent creatures. They are great climbers and their ability to climb and use structures in our communities, towns and even innermost cities is extraordinary. They truly are North America’s answer to primates and not just in climbing ability, but also in intelligence.
Raccoons live the bulk of their lives right under our noses, usually invisible to us. They are well aware of us, however, and because cities and the proximity to humans offer an abundance of food and denning opportunities, they are truly our wild neighbors. When they do get into perilous situations occasionally, like climbing a building or falling through a ceiling, it is usually in an effort to get to food or trash. And they will get into structures when and where it is suitable for them to do so – which is rarely convenient or opportune for humans.
According to John Griffin, who heads the HSUS’s urban wildlife team, it is up to us to learn a little bit more about raccoons and their behavior and remove the attractants and access to den sites that might be a source of conflict later. John and his team work to help communities and animal care and control agencies develop better responses to dealing with conflicts when they arise – something we have been doing for more than 30 years. This is a remarkable program that helps homeowners and others avoid conflict with wild animals in their communities, and creates winning and humane solutions for all.
Many times homeowners, not knowing any better, think that the answer to animals being in their yard or house is to use a trap to remove them. And whether they attempt this on their own or through the use of a trapper, this often makes the situation worse by either orphaning dependent young or by closing animals up in structures by boarding entry points without proper precautions. But as John and his team show every day, better, humane alternatives exist.
The fact is, raccoons aren’t going anywhere and neither are we. So let’s take steps to better coexist. Find out more about how to resolve conflicts humanely in your community or learn more about these fascinating wild animals and how they live in the city and in our neighborhoods.
As for the raccoon in Minnesota, after a meal of soft cat food, she was taken to private land, according to media reports. She will next be released into the wild, hopefully putting her skyscraper-scaling days behind her.
— D.P. (@DPet_KARE11News) June 13, 2018