Cities throughout our nation are facing a problem with home invasions and a common thread has linked these crimes from New York to Santa Clarita.
The culprits wear masks, but their identity is easily noticeable by their ringed tails and nimble paws.
Raccoons can be found in every city around the United States, but Harry Morse, a Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Officer, says that a lot of urban areas are seeing an increase in raccoon populations.
One of the reasons for the growth in the population is our need to move farther and farther into the wilderness, encroaching on their natural habitat. Another reason is that we unknowingly provided an oasis for the animals by simply keeping a nice yard.
“There’s never a drought under a sprinkler. Ornamental fruit trees, trash cans and dog food provide a food base,” said Morse. “As you move into areas where they may not have had extensive habitat, you provide an opportunity for them to expand.”
Raccoons may seem mischievous and cute but can pose a threat to humans and our house pets because they are known to carry fleas, ticks, roundworm, and other illnesses. They have been known to carry rabies, but Morse says while the risk is low it is still a threat.
“People have this concept that these are Disneyland animals, they can pet them, they can handle them and that is not true. They are wild animals,” said Morse. “When people stop feeding them or they go to the hand and there is no food left and they bite down on a hand, they can cause a very serious puncture wound.”
While the population is growing Morse says that the DFG deals with them on a case-by-case basis, and refer residents having problems to licensed individuals who are trained to handle the animals.
The Castaic Animal Shelter says they, too, refer to any residents who have a problem with these animals to pest control. A local officer at the shelter said that animal control “no longer deals with wildlife, as of last year.”
Representatives from the County were contacted regarding the change in their policy but phone calls were not returned.
While the animals are here to stay and flourish in urban environments, Morse offers some precautions to limit exposure with the animals:
- The key element is to eliminate food sources, they are very fond of dog food
- Keep areas where they could build a den to have their young sealed up (attics, or basements, crawl spaces)
The animals are known to be destructive, and Morse says they will attack small dogs if they feel threatened.
The DFG says that at this time there are no statewide measures to control the growing population, but they are vary aware of the problem.