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Raccoons in the Big Apple

It seems that more and more urban population centers are having trouble with furbearers moving in.  I've noticed the past few years on my modest 'coon line that the little suburban woodlots I trap here and there are always more productive than the big, wide-open rural areas.  It seems that raccoons especially thrive in or near human population centers, being attracted by the easy meals from garbage cans and dumpsters, and grow in numbers because of little trapping or hunting pressure.  Suburbia may be the new raccoon trapper's paradise, not to mention the increasing demand for ADC work.

Case in point:  A bill has been introduced in New York that would require the city to trap raccoons upon request in any of the five boroughs.  "People have been calling my office complaining that they have been seeing a lot of raccoons," said councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, the originator of the bill.  Dozens of raccoons trapped in Central Park tested positive for rabies, a sure sign of an unhealthy overpopulation of the critters.  One wildlife specialist, Bobby Horvath, basically called it a losing battle: "They are in the city, and you have to learn to live with them.  They will have less contact with us if we don't invite them."  The full story is available here and also at the Camo Underground.

This year on your 'coon line try getting permission to scout and trap a few wooded lots in suburban areas.  The owners will probably be more than happy to have some raccoons removed from the area, and chances are you'll find a few little hot spots with big, concentrated populations.  You'll also be providing a valuable service to your community, even if your only reward is your fur check.

Edited to add:  Raccoons aren't the only problem in NYC.  Two more coyote attacks were recently reported in the suburbs.  Read the story here.


  1. Have you ever considered being a little proactive? Try educating people to not leave their garbage out, seal up their homes,feed their pets indoors and secure their trash cans with cement blocks or bungee cords. Deterrents is a much more civil ways to handle the situation. Live trapping and relocation is yet another means to resolve the problem.Your method of killing and skinning and selling the fur is for your profit only-you have no concept of conserving nature or assisting wildlife.

  2. Well, I disagree. I do not think the solution is to just batten down the hatches and let raccoons take over the neighborhood. Are you going to keep your kids indoors, seal your house, and become a captive in your own home because raccoons are cruising the neighborhood? Your methods may keep them out of the garbage cans for a while, but in the long run it will only make the wildlife bolder and bolder if they are not removed from the area.
    Also, you are misusing the word "civil." Civil means "of, pertaining to, or consisting of citizens." Raccoons are not people, much less citizens, and therefore can not be treated "civil."
    Live trapping and release is a valid method, but usually only relocates the problem from one area to another.
    Trapping and keeping wildlife populations in check is vitally important; the alternative is over-population, rabies, distemper, and human-animal conflict. And, if you think trappers are in it for the money, well, have you seen how much raccoon pelts are going for these days? There is VERY little profit to be had.
    In any case, thank you for your comments. I always welcome all points of view, even if I disagree!

  3. Sky Harbor, Inc, Avian & Wildlife Rehab CenterSeptember 6, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    First of all, let's see.....I imagine the raccoons are seeing more and more habitat destructive, greedy and non civil humans moving into their neighborhoods in the past few years. Maybe they are wondering what to do about human invasion. Most humans are not very civil and frankly I have much more respect for animals. They are very intelligent and have a much better sense of integrity than most humans!
    Of course they thrive near human areas...we have forced them to do so when we feel the need to consume every single spare acres of land for our greed.
    And CJ, wouldn't you safeguard your home against rain, heat, cold, burglars, so why not against coons and other wildlife? I mean it only makes sense to secure a garbage can, secure shingles, soffits against the elements, so why is it such a big deal to take simple precautions for wildlife! You don't need to be captive in your own home because of wildlife....as Ray says...find that alternative to LIVE with and appreciate wildlife as opposed to killing it.
    I am a wildlife rehabber in Florida and run a center for their care....have lived with and cared for raccoons and numerous other wildlife species for nearly 20 years now. I have gotten to know wildlife pretty well.....like anything else, unless you educate yourself about things, you will live in fear of it!

  4. Civil also means "of or in accordance with organized society, civilized." Some may not consider trapping raccoons for fur to be "civilized" behavior.

    I think New York City is a lost case. The city is overpopulated with people, which puts great pressure on the natural environment to recycle the waste that is produced. The animals that live in the city simply feed on what is left behind, which leads to their overpopulation, an increase in other types of waste, and unfortunately the spread of disease. You're dealing with a vicious cycle. Raccoons are not the only animals NYC has to be concerned about. I'd actually be more concerned about the rat and cockroach population, as they tend to have much closer contact with humans than raccoons and be major vectors for disease.

    At any rate, to live millions strong in 300 or so square miles is not the most sanitary way to live - not for the people and not for the raccoons - and you're just going to have those kinds of problems and the constant risk of a disease outbreak.

  5. Sky Harbor - If you think human civilization and activity is "greedy" and respect animals more than people, we are of two completely different mindsets. We are bound to disagree at every turn in this debate.

    mrbilal - Maybe we should start trapping and relocating PEOPLE from NYC? Just kidding, of course.

    I do think the responsible thing to do, for the sake of all the inhabitants of the city AND the raccoon population, is to reduce the number of animals. If you just "learn to live with them" the problem will only multiply, literally.

    Thanks to both of you for your interaction. I hope that we can continue to debate the issues while being respectful and appreciative of each other's views. You are always welcome here.

  6. It is my observation as a naturalist and an animal behavioral that most specie when over population develops will naturally control it's numbers. I would have to ask if distemper or perhaps some other viral or bacterial invasion might not systematically reduce the numbers naturally.It is known that when man reduces populations of wild canines such as coyotes and wolves, the female of the specie will naturally go into estrus and the resulting hopes of eliminating the population back fires and even more of the not-so-desired specie flourishes. This is true of Procyon as well and most other mammal specie. Perhaps one should consider to let Nature run it's course.

  7. Hi Ray. Regarding your comment about natural population control, I think it is a little ironic that you would advocate letting surplus populations die from disease and/or starvation, which is far more cruel and painful than trapping. One of the benefits of trapping is that we can figure out the optimal levels of furbearer population in a given habitat and only allow enough animals to be harvested in order to avoid the overpopulation and subsequent pain and suffering that comes from disease and starvation. If we manage the populations we can do it humanely and efficiently. Mother nature is not so humane.

  8. I have to question "humanely". Leg hold traps or drowning while in a hav-a-hart trap are certainly not humane. As for Nature's inhumanity.. it is natural selection that sets the health of any wild community to a more positive,genetically superior state. Diseased specie always seek seclusion,they do not feed & are not the individuals to be trapped. To cull the healthy, still foraging, still feeding and ambulatory animals from any specie is not good science. It would be Nature's way to remove those who are not fit as a better means of population control. Yes it sounds cruel, but in time the healthy population would prevail, the disease factor would subside and at least the healthy ones would be the ones to reproduce.

  9. I only want to say......National Geographic, a few months back had two pictures in their magazine, one was of NYC BEFORE it became a city....the second was of it today. It is beyond me that any living being with a heart could not look at those two pics and say gasp, OMG, and set themselves to thinking~!
    Sorry CJ, you are I are planets apart.....I grew up with family that hunted, I have eaten meats hunted from the woods and the fields, but I have learned a better respect of a life species other than ours and found a distaste for humans! (no, not a vegan or vegetarian)
    And no, Mother Nature is not so nice a lady, but I have watched wildlife, knowing they are dying,accept with dignity, their end and find a quiet place to exit life. Life is all about survival of the fittest.......humans, animals, plants......

    No matter what opinion we hold, I suppose a higher power will sort us all out in the end!

  10. Thanks again for the opposing perspective. While I disagree, this kind of interaction is what makes us think. I think that when we consider the workings of nature in regards to animal populations, we too are part of the equation and are meant to be. We are not only able to harvest other animals for wise, reasonable and necessary uses (which all predator animals do), but we can also think and plan what we are doing, so we do not harvest too many or too few. I do think it is US, the most intelligent predators, who can most wisely find our place in the food chain, and in such a way that benefits us and the animal populations we control. I don't see "nature" as an ideal that does not include people and people's needs. We are part of it, and we are the only ones within it who can reflect on what animal resources we use and to what degree we use them.

    Believe me when I say that I'm a big animal lover...really! I do not think we should be cruel or in any way excessive when we utilize what animal resources are available. But I do think that we can use those resources for our own needs, e.g. food, clothing, etc., and that we can and should take steps to optimize animal populations to avoid conflict. I am just of the view that we have that right and necessity upon us as people, and I do honestly think that human life is on a higher plane than animal life. I know a statement like that makes some people crazy, but I'm a religious guy and I think the Bible teaches us that people are made in God's image and animals are here for our benefit. I think we should respect animals and appreciate them as God's creatures, but still recognize that people and animals do not hold the same status on this little planet of ours. Obviously, I think trapping is within our interests and our rights.

    Sky Harbor - we definitely agree on this much: a higher power will sort things out in the end!

  11. Ray, the rats are a big problem as well in NYC. What I wonder would be your solution to culling thier population?

    Animal Integrity? You obviously have not spent enough time around wild animals to form a realistic view. A large male raccoon will kill a kit raccoon just to have less competition.Life is cruel in the animal world. I cringe each time i see another animated animal movie come out, where life is all fun and games. Imagine if each time you left your den it may be the last and accidents were not in the equation.

    A coyote or wolf will come into estrus when the number of hours of daylight in the spring are right. Photoperiodism. If they came in due to a death in the pack say in sept. the young would not survive. We need to educate ourselves.

  12. Kip - good point about the rats. I'm sure there is a double standard in the animal rights world and their sympathy is selective!

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  14. I think one major problem is we do not take just what we need to survive. We take that much and then some.

    Raccoons will only populate to the extent that their environment is able to support them. Human beings create environments that are much more capable of supporting higher populations than the environment was originally capable of supporting.