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  • Raccoons, Skunks

  • What do I need to know about skunks?

    These unmistakable black and white animals are found in most urban environments in Canada. Of the four species in North America, the striped skunk and the spotted skunk are found in Canada. The most prevalent species, the striped skunk, is about the size of a cat with white stripes down its back meeting on the head. The spotted skunk is about half the size of the striped skunk and has white spots instead of stripes. Skunks have small heads and eyes, pointed snouts and short legs that make their movements slow and rather cumbersome.

    Skunks are burrowing animals that choose to make their dens under porches, decks, sheds, in wood or rock piles and are capable of digging a den a foot underground. They are nocturnal omnivores, feeding on plants, insects, small mammals, bird eggs and fallen fruits. They do not hibernate and several females may den together over the winter.

    Skunks are rarely aggressive unless cornered or defending their young. If approached or threatened and unable to flee, a skunk will usually fluff its fur, lift its tail, stamp the ground with its front feet, and growl. If these actions are not effective in discouraging the intruder, it will lift its tail up over its head and spray. The chemical skunks spray is a sulphur compound that is ejected from two small openings near the rectum. The glands that produce the chemical hold enough for five or six full-powered sprays that can be accurate to more than four metres. Skunks seldom spray without warning or cause.

    Skunks have adapted to urban habitats and have become proficient city dwellers. This often brings them into conflict with homeowners as the animals seek food and shelter.

    What do I need to know about raccoons?

    One of the most adaptable species of wildlife, raccoons are found throughout temperate North America and range as far south as South America. When conditions are favourable, they can live up to 10 to 13 years. They will produce one litter per year with an average of four or five kits.

    Raccoons are opportunistic feeders and being truly omnivorous, will eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, insects, eggs, small birds and mammals. They are usually nocturnal although may occasionally be active in the daytime.

    As raccoons are usually active at night, by day they retire to dens or resting sites. Dens are made above ground in tree cavities, chimneys and attics, as well as underground in old woodchuck burrows, storm sewers or crawl spaces under buildings. When they feel secure enough, raccoons may simply lie on open ground, in suburban yards, or on decks!

    Raccoons’ ability to adapt to different habitats, combined with intelligence and curiosity, have allowed them to become proficient city dwellers. This often brings them into conflict with homeowners as the animals seek food and shelter.

    Source: The Ottawa Humane Society