Residents seek guidance as they deal with raccoons

NILES — Masked bandits appear as the darkness falls over Niles. They find their way into porches and into dumpsters, making a mess as they find their feasts.

The furry culprits causing trouble for some area residents are none other than the raccoon.

Two Niles residents have been dealing with a higher number of raccoons on their properties over the past few weeks.

“We had one that was so persistent,” said Niles resident Brenda Hammond. “It would come all the way up to the door.”

Hammond said that on her and her husband’s enclosed porch, she would keep a box of food for her cats in the pole barn on their property. She came out one morning to find the box had been drug down the ramp attached to the porch.

The heist spurred the Hammonds to borrow a live trap from a friend. The offending raccoon was later caught and relocated from their property.

Hammond said she has seen more on their property, but they have not caused any further disruption yet.

Another Niles resident, Johnny Alvarado, said he has caught nine raccoons on his property so far this season.

Alvarado described setting his live trap with a treat inside around 6 p.m. in the evenings, and by 10 p.m. most nights, he will have trapped a raccoon inside.

Originally from Los Angeles, Alvarado said he has lived in Niles for six years.

“I never thought you could catch animals like that,” he said. “One of them must have been 18 or 19 pounds. They’ve been well fed.”

Rachel Leightner, wildlife outreach coordinator with Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division, said what most residents may be seeing are younger raccoons exploring their habitats.

“Young raccoons that were just born this year are starting to disperse from their parents right now,” Leightner said. “They’re in this teenager phase where they want to explore new areas.”

She added that raccoons, like most wildlife, are food motivated.

“The best advice we can give anybody is that these raccoons are looking for food,” she said.

She recommended limiting any access to foods raccoons and other wildlife may be attracted to. Sealing garbage cans at night and ensuring the cans cannot be easily tipped over or dumped out is one way to help eliminate environments that can attract the animals.

“Even a small food odor can attract them,” Leightner said.

She recommended bringing pet foods inside at night. Drips and small scraps of food from eating outdoors can be enough to attract a raccoon to the area.

Another point Leightner said might be something to consider was an increase in gardening, and a decrease in traffic, in certain areas.

“People are home. They are seeing more,” she said. “People are putting in gardens and putting up more bird feeders. People are growing vegetables or planting fruiting plants that raccoons like to eat. It might be driving wildlife.”

Eliminating food sources for raccoons is the first way Leightner said to help minimize raccoons on residential property.

“It’s important to know that raccoons are abundant,” she said. “We have a healthy population of them. They are extremely well adapted to urban environments.”

Leightner said the Michigan DNR does not remove or relocate wildlife. The DNR has a list of licensed, nuisance animal control companies its professionals recommend on its website.

She said it is unlikely that the DNR will relocate a raccoon. They try to help mitigate any spread of diseases an animal might be carrying from spreading to another area.

“Raccoons can be taken on private property in an area that is allowed trapping and hunting,” Leightner said.

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