More skunks, raccoons likely around this year

FORT FRANCES—Although not monitored, Linda Wall, Rainy Lake area supervisor with the Ministry of Natural Resources here, said it’s possible there are slightly more skunks and raccoons in the area this year.
“I haven’t had any reports that would indicate to me that there are more than usual, but we do know with the mild winters, most populations of many small critters are blossoming,” Wall noted Tuesday.
“[And the increase will continue] until we have cold, cold winter conditions and poor summers in terms of providing the habitat they need,” she added.
Wall said people may be noticing them more this year partly because their gardens have been in the ground longer.
“I would suspect that if people are seeing them more, there’s probably a few more at least,” she said. “We’ve had such a warm, open spring. . . .
“Most populations of small animals are cyclical, so a lot of it is influenced by weather.”
But she also warned the small critters are still wild animals.
“People should not encourage them to be around their places,” Wall stressed. “The same things that will attract bears will attract raccoons and skunks—garbage, barbecues, any free and easy food, ripe tomatoes in the garden, corn.
“People should be picking things in their garden as they ripen, as quickly as possible, and ensuring they are not providing an attractant to bring those animals in.”
And Wall said these animals shouldn’t be handled.
“They have a pretty nasty little bite if you try to grab them,” she remarked. “They are a wild animal—treat them as such.”
As well, Wall noted people may be more apt to see skunks and raccoons at this time of year.
“Animals are foraging because they know it’s getting to be fall and food is going to become scarce, so they are eating a lot now,” she said. “And there’s a lot available for them.
“At this time of year, a lot of people have apples on the ground, so they are coming in to feed on those,” she added. “People should pick those up and put them in the dump, not the composter.”
Wall said one community in the province has seen benefits by doing these precautionary things, such as not putting out the garbage until the day of pick-up, cleaning the barbecue, not leaving their dog food out, and picking up ripe fruit and vegetables.
“Not only did they see a significant reduction in bears coming into the community, but they suddenly realized they had less skunks, less raccoons, less crows, ravens, and seagulls because they didn’t have anything for them to come in and feed on,” she noted.
“These animals are nuisances people always put up with because they are just there,” she noted. “But there is a huge benefit.
“It’s a really good idea to practice those kinds of habits that will eliminate a whole bunch of minor nuisances, as well as significant nuisances like having bears come into town,” Wall stressed.
(Fort Frances Times)