Sunday, July 22, 2012

Feeding Wildlife in Stanley Park, the Raccoons

We recently took a holiday to Vancouver, Canada. Our hotel was within walking distance of Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre park, surrounded nearly all the way by ocean. On our first night we walked to the Aquarium, and on the way we saw a family of raccoons, a mother and her two youngsters, raiding a garbage can.

The following day we walked around Stanley Park and sure enough we encountered more raccoons, including another mother with three youngsters and an adult who was missing a tail. There was a man feeding them what appeared to be fried chicken. A short time later a woman arrived to feed them grapes and cat food. Other people fed them cookies. 

To note, I am aware that grapes can be toxic to dogs, but not sure how they affect raccoons.

We spoke to many of the people who were feeding the raccoons and many said they made daily trips to feed the raccoons and other animals in the park. The people said that the park's people did not like them feeding the animals. They also told us that the parks people trapped and killed many animals every year.

Raccoons normally would eat fish (there are ponds in the park), crabs (from the ocean), insects, worms, as well as nuts, berries, and eggs.

We did not confirm if the parks people did trap and kill raccoons or not, but clearly there was a dilemma.
The parks people want the animals to be “wild” and to fend for themselves, feeding them can cause problems as their fear of people can turn them into pests. Normally raccoons are nocturnal but these were out in the day. 

If one bit a person there would be a rabies panic. The people felt terrible that the animals were being killed to control their populations, so were thinking that feeding them would mean animals would not be killed.  One persons said they thought the raccoons were being killed to stop them from eating the goose and duck eggs, but we also heard that duck and goose populations were being controlled too (supposedly people were shaking their eggs so they would not hatch).

Additionally a problem was occurring in that some people were feeding very unhealthy foods (cookies) to the animals. The people said they have gotten in trouble many times for feeding the animals but refused to stop.

I am not suggesting people do feed wild raccoons, however clearly some people are not going to stop doing so. It would be better if the people simply fed the animals a better diet, and did so later in the day so the animals could live more naturally.

Raccoons can eat cat food, ferret food, most vegetables (not onions, garlic, avocados), eggs, and fish. They should not have cookies, greasy foods, salty foods, and so forth.

Maybe the park's people could do the same as is done in some areas to control feral cats, they could trap the animals, spay or neuter some, and release them. Perhaps this is already being done and people are just not aware. Or the park's people could arrange for the raccoons to be relocated to wild areas, or to zoos.

As tourists we enjoyed seeing these animals, and hope they continue to inhabit areas of Stanley Park.

Click here to see more pictures of the Raccoons in Vancouver's Stanley Park.


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