I’m sure that it’s not uncommon for Penticton residents to be visited by the occasional raccoon. Stealthy little bandits that like to help themselves to a plethora of food sources, such as fruit trees, gardens and fish ponds. When experiencing these visits once in a while, they can actually be rather entertaining. Their ability to problem solve is rather incredible and they can remember the answer to a problem for up to three years.
I’m also a Penticton resident, small business owner, mother and master of one cat and one dog. Until a couple of months ago, I also didn’t mind the occasional visit. I did make sure that I kept my pets in at night and closed off the dog door. I did grumble a little when I had to start replacing ruined items such as a pond pump and gazing ball. I did have to say a sad farewell to my fish as they were consumed as an early morning snack to a party of six baby raccoons. I counted.
As the past year has progressed the number of raccoons seems to have grown exponentially, creating an alarming stir amongst my neighbours and myself. I’ve counted as many as seven on my back patio while looking out my window at about 5:30 a.m. and on another occasion, four have made their way over my fence on an evening while I was entertaining out on my patio. We were less than 10 feet away.
Several weeks ago, another neighbour heard her dog yelping outside and gave a swift kick to the offending attacker that had her 70-pound dog pinned to the ground. Because it was dark she wasn’t able to see what the animal was, but it turned out to be a raccoon that bit her twice on the hip. She went to the hospital to get a rabies and tetanus shot.
I have had to re-route myself and my dog when heading our for a walk midday as I have been greeted by raccoons in my back parking lot, growling and hissing at me. I have been told that others have experienced this as well.
Many of us in my neighborhood have been scratching out heads as to where these creatures have been living. We have also contemplated having the raccoons caged and released, splitting the cost amongst ourselves. The cost of catching and releasing as few as 12 raccoons will cost approximately $800.
Following further investigations, it has become clear that the raccoons are living in an abandoned house just around the corner on Brunswick Street. Twelve raccoons were seen on the roof and three of them were seen looking out a window from inside of the house itself. The owner of this house is now living with her daughter in Kelowna. She was previously notified by the city to clean up the yard following a complaint by a neighbour.
When I found out this information, I too called the city and informed them of the raccoon issue in this abandoned house, as well as advised them that a neighborhood woman had been bitten. My concerns about public safety didn’t appear to hold any merit as I was told that the city would not get involved. I’ve received the same responses from the Conservation Office and Interior Health.
Each young raccoon, born this year will mate this coming winter and have a litter of 2-5 next spring. That’s a lot of raccoons. Why not? They have a nice safe place to live. Raccoons carry rabies, tetanus and a host of other diseases. A full-grown raccoon can kill a dog the size of a German shepherd. A woman has already been bit and I’m not the only person in the neighborhood that is concerned for my child’s safety and my pets or myself.
Although I’m grateful to the city for getting involved when it comes to encouraging homeowners to care for their yards, it does seem to lack common sense that the city won’t get involved when it comes to public safety. Are there not bylaw officials that are responsible for ensuring that unoccupied homes are kept up to city standards, and would this not include a regulation that ensures that the homes aren’t overrun by wild animals, particularly ones that are a threat and danger to the community? I believe the city needs to reassess their priorities.