Jared Houliston Answering Wildlife Removal Questions

Answering Raccoon Removal Questions on Wits and Pieces

It’s almost that time of year again when most of the calls wildlife removal companies get are for raccoon removal – because of the approaching raccoon baby season! By mid March and into April, raccoons start giving birth to their babies (also known as kits), and that’s usually when home owners are more prone to becoming alerted to raccoons living in their attic.

It’s a very busy time of the year for wildlife and pest control companies, and home owners with infestations, so Jared Houliston decided to answer some questions on, Wits and Pieces about the nature of his work, and specifically about the raccoon baby season quickly approaching.

Below is the video, but you can also read along in the transcript of the interview below:

Interviewer: Ontario Wildlife Removal! Thank you so much for coming back. This is your second appearance!

Jared: It is!

Interviewer: We talked last time about coyotes and stuff like that but we’re into the baby-making season my friend. I only know that because you told me but I don’t pay much attention to the mating season of raccoons. So for people at home, what’s happening? What should they be watching out for at this time of year?

Jared: Well what happens this time of year is that we start getting an influx of calls from people hearing something like fighting in their attic. So when we start getting these calls we know the mating season for raccoons (and incidentally squirrels too) has started. It’s not the sound of fighting, it’s the sound of love.

Interviewer: So it’s not squirrels. People often think it’s squirrels.

Jared: It might be squirrels, in just a couple of weeks we’ll get into the squirrel season too as well. They’re almost at the same time but right now we’re getting bombarded with raccoon calls. What this means to home owners is that raccoons are travelling all over different areas, leaving dens sites and breaking into new places and that’s why we’re starting to get those phone calls.

Interviewer: My question on that would be, do you already have raccoons in your home when this is happening or are they looking for new places?

Jared: Sometimes. I mean they have their winter dens, but in the course of the year in any given day or month, they’re always leaving and going to new den sites. Raccoons have about 3 to 5 den sites in an area because they get evicted; from other predators knocking them out; or from home owners coming home and kicking them out from under decks. They’re always roaming. We do this year round but typically now is the influx because they’re smelling out and looking for the females.

Interviewer: I was thinking raccoons have more property than you or Interviewer: So is it just raccoons right now?

Jared: Raccoons and squirrels. That’s our bread and butter right now – and mice all through the winter.

Interviewer: It’s much different I would imagine, having to assess the entrance of a raccoon compared to a mouse?

Jared: Yes, with mice we get a little more detail oriented. We’re out there getting really close seeking out entry points. With a raccoon, almost 90% of the time when I pull up into the driveway, I don’t even need to get out of my truck and I can see the hole in the soffit line, or a roof vent pulled off. Something like that tells us hey this is a raccoon.

Interviewer: Is there a common area that raccoons like to enter homes?

Jared: Ya there’s two. There’s what’s called the roof-soffit-intersection (RSI), where the soffit meets the roof-line. It’s a learned behaviour from mom. Typically they’re born in an attic and once they’re born there, they stay there. So basically what they do is they come up to the side of the roof and they push their backs up into the soffit, pop the soffit panel, and now they have free reign of the whole attic. They give birth to the next set of kits, and they train them to break into houses.

Interviewer: So raccoons are quite intelligent in that way then?

Jared: Oh they’re great! They have ambidextrous and feet, they climb straight up walls, they climb up down-spouts. I get many calls from people who have cut down all the trees around their home and still have raccoons in their attic. They can easily climb right up the down spout. They’re smart. They can open up jars, cans, rip open bungee cords, etc.

Interviewer: So why do a lot people have them as pets, that should be fun.

Jared: Yes (for good reason) a lot of the laws here in Ontario will restrict you from having them as pets. We want to keep them in the wild and keep them wild.

Interviewer: So they’re not to be domesticated.

Jared: No, you see it a lot in the U.S. but with raccoons as soon as they start maturing, they become aggressive; they want to seek mates and eventually people that want to have them as pets decide it’s best to release them back into the wild. Unfortunately it’s not the best scenario for them, they won’t acquire any learned behaviours.

Interviewer: What do you do then when you go into a home to remove wildlife?

Jared: We’re restricted in what we can and can’t do here too so but a lot of people think I’m the guy that comes and traps them and takes them. In fact we’re not allowed to do that. It’s illegal to trap and relocate in Ontario.

Interviewer: Is this for all animals?

Jared: Yes. For instance in trapping programs they’re there to kill – bears etc. but we don’t do any of that. Everything we do is typically urban, humane, and I guess you can say friendly to the animal. So if they’re inside the house we determine the entry point, we seal that area off, and install what’s called a 1-way door. We have one for raccoons, one for squirrels, one for mice, one for bats and so on – one for everything that we do. So they can come out but they can’t come back inside.

Interviewer: On the other side of that 1-way door, is it a cage that you trap them into?

Jared: No. So what it is, is basically they just come out, the spring loaded door closes behind them, and they can’t get back in. The eviction actually happens when we’re not even there – typically.

Interviewer: So it’s not so much that you’re going in and wrestling a raccoon out of the attic; you’re establishing an exit point within the attic that would allow the animal out and not in.

Jared: It’s on the exterior. We are in the attics – in about 63 days from now we’re going to be getting the calls, and we’re going to be up in the attics swimming in the insulation and grabbing the baby raccoons out. That’s when it gets a little dicey up there with mamma growling and attacking and what-not.

Interviewer: How many babies would they have in a little?

Jared: Typically it’s anywhere from about 3 to 8.

Interviewer: Like a cat or dog?

Jared: Yes. A lot of people think they’re cute, or they’re going to leave them there until they grow up. You don’t want that. With 8 or 9 raccoons in your attic urinating and defecating, it gets pretty messy.

Interviewer: So they’re not just living up there, they’re actually living up there. I mean I wouldn’t wouldn’t want my kids defecating and urinating on everything.

Jared: If you think about it, these guys are adults, sometimes 30 or 40 pounds – what goes in goes out and typically it’s in your attic. Not only are we in there getting the animals out but we do all the attic restoration and decontamination to – we get everything cleaned up.

Interviewer: Where does an attic dwelling raccoon forage for their food?

Jared: They’ll go out at night and feed on a 3 to 5 kilometer radius from where they live. They live in the house, but they’re going to eventually at night go feed and be back in before dawn.

Interviewer: So they’re using the attic as shelter?

Jared: Yes, it’s their bed.

Interviewer: Are there things home owners should be doing ahead of time to prevent intrusions? You always get calls after the fact but is there something they can do before it happens?

Jared: Once you’ve had wildlife in your house and you’ve contracted a wildlife control company, you’ve learned your lesson. In their past homes for instance they’ve learned that an intrusion can happen and so once they move to their new home, they call us and ask us to come and raccoon proof the house – even before they move in. We proof the house so wildlife can’t get in before hand too but unless you’ve already had a wildlife problem, you usually aren’t going to think about it.

Interviewer: So what about Sasquatches?

Jared: (Laughs) we occasionally do get some calls for Sasquatches but not all the time.

Interviewer: So for a typical person is there something they can look for or should they just call the experts?

Jared: There’s preventative things they can do. In the summer time a typical den site for a raccoon is under sheds and decks so if you can skirt the area or put objects around the bottom of the area to prevent them from going under, you’re going to keep raccoons at bay. Obviously keeping garbage locked in a bin that they can’t get to as opposed to garbage bags just thrown into a corner is going to hinder their presence. If you take away the food sources – bird feeders are huge – bird feeders attract all kinds of rodents including raccoons – take away the food sources and generally they’re not going to be around as much but it’s not a guarantee.

Interviewer: Am I right in assuming if I have a dog he’s going to scare away the raccoons?

Jared: No. Typically the raccoon don’t care about dogs unless that dog is consistently living outside but that’s not the case They’re usually let out to pee and poo and the raccoons just hinds in the corner or runs up a tree until the dog goes inside. Then he’s back to foraging for food in your backyard.

Interviewer: You mentioned bird feeders are a great way of attracting mice, squirrels and raccoons. I don’t have a bird feeder, but the neighbour’s house does. Guess where all the animals go when they’re done feeding at his place? They come over to mine. So there’s no by-laws that help me and protect my home relative to other people putting out food.

Jared: Correct. You can’t really do much. You’re going to protect your own house but you can’t tell the guy next door to stop feeding the animals. People think they’re “just feeding the birds” but they’re not. They’re feeding the mice, raccoons etc. So if you see a bird feeder, it’s not if, but when you’re going to see that problem come into your house.

Interviewer: You mentioned catching and releasing and the regulations behind that. For a company like yours, what is the largest animal you can actually catch and release?

Jared: Well we’re not going to catch and release the animal as I mentioned earlier but the only time we can do that is within a corporate environment where we have to remove the animal from a common or living area. In that case we just take it off site and let it go. When it comes to which animals we deal with it’s any size up to a raccoon. We’ve dealt with some foxes and coyotes but anything related to trapping we don’t touch. If there’s a coyote on someone’s property they SPCA will deal with catching him. They’ll consider relocation but there are strict guidelines in place especially with the rabies outbreak in this area. It’s a big no no to trap and relocate.

Interviewer: So what you’re saying is that feeding the animals will attract more?

Jared: The biggest thing we see like when we were growing up as an example was throwing out stale bread to the animals. What happens is those squirrels get accustomed to a good source being there so they’re going to be more likely to set up a habitat close by. When you start feeding them you may not become victim to an intrusion right away but the chance of an intrusion is more higher when you feed the wildlife. You also do a disservice to wildlife by making them not feed of their natural environment by giving them a good source.

Interviewer: Sometimes when people see turtles on the road they want to help them back over this way, and other people say not to do that because we don’t know where their family is. So in your case if you’re removing the animal from the attic, you’re not just removing the one animal, you’re removing the whole family together correct?

Jared: If you see a turtle crossing the road, stop, if you can pick him up from behind, and put him on the other side of the road but in the direction that he’s facing so he will continue to go in that direction. But when it comes to raccoons and squirrels there’s babies and a whole family there. What we do is go into the attic, physically remove the babies by hand. They come out with us. We put them near the exit point in a special heated warming box especially made for baby wildlife. What this does, is during the cold months of March and April the box is heated to keep the babies safe, and when the mother comes out the 1-way door she’s instantly reunited with her kits that are inside the warming box. She actually can go in, nest in there for a while, get comfortable and relaxed and when she’s ready, she can actually grab her kits one by one and relocate them to another den site. So if we have set up the 1-way door and warming box let’s say on a Monday, sometime by Tuesday afternoon or even in the morning all the babies will be gone. From there we can remove our baby box, remove our 1-way door, fix the damage, and by then the mother and family have relocated. We don’t actually do the relocation. We just do the removal and the mother goes off on her way by herself.

Interviewer: So what comes next? Is mice the next seasons or are mice an all year problem?

Jared: Mice are a year round problem but starting in about late October until even right now (January) we get a spike in calls. A lot of people think that mice are ground-dwellers, but they’re actually not. I have a lot of video of mice climbing to high places just to get to a food source. They can get into virtually anywhere of a home. They’ll climb up tree, cross over the branches, and land on the roof and get in through the roof-line.

Interviewer: It seems these animals are all trained to go to the roof.

Jared: Most are. They’re opportunists. Given them an opportunity and they will find it.

Interviewer: I’m thinking that if I have mice in my house that I’ll be looking on the floor looking for holes etc. and things like that but I may not be looking high enough correct?

Jared: So how it works is if you have a mouse problem in the living space I can guarantee they’ve been living there for at least a month or two before they were discovered in the living space. 90% of the time they enter through the brick-soffit gap. So where the brick meets the soffit, it’s never really fully finished so if you have mice, you can probably see grease stains from where they are actually climbing up the brick and getting in through the soffit. Mice also like getting in a home through the gaps on weeper brick. Once they get in through those common areas, they have free reign through the whole house. In an average home there’s all these opportunities for mice to get in, and they eventually will. What we do is take those opportunities away from them. We seal, add caulking all around potential entry points, we put custom made screens in between the weeping brick so when we’re done, the house is mouse-proofed. We don’t add any traps or poisons. We don’t have to hurt them or kill them. It’s a long term fix rather than a short term one.

Interviewer: So where can people get a hold of you if they think they’re hearing the mating sounds of raccoons.

Jared: Well you can get a hold of us on our website. You can follow all our adventures and videos on our Facebook page or Youtube. We post there a lot – a lot more in Spring when there’s a lot of interaction with wildlife or give us a call at 226-802-9453.