Raccoons can be fun to watch but they can also cause property damage and become a nuisance.

The number of raccoons in your area depends directly on the number of food sources and den sites that are also available. Raccoons are nocturnal animals with five fingerlike toes on each paw which they use to pry things open, turn knobs and handle objects. They are especially adept at opening garbage and compost bins. 

Find out what you can do to wildlife-proof your property and discourage unwanted visitors.

Normal raccoon behaviour includes:

  • sleeping, playing, or foraging in trees
  • sleeping on or under a deck in urban areas
  • walking about during the day if they have been frightened out of their hiding place or if it is breeding season

Unless they have a nest, most raccoons will move on within 24 to 48 hours. If they return, you can frighten them away with noise or water from the hose in summer.

Feeding raccoons is prohibited under the Lot Maintenance and Parks By-laws. Never approach or feed raccoons. Raccoons may become aggressive if cornered.

Raccoons will consume almost any food item, plant or animal. As omnivores, raccoons usually feed on insects, small animals, eggs, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Raccoons will dig small round holes and in some cases, roll up large chunks of sod to reach the grubs in your lawn. The grubs feed on the grass root system, destroying the grass. To prevent raccoons from digging up lawns, apply natural remedies from garden stores (ex. microscopic worms called nematodes, which are effective in killing grubs).

They will also eat from garbage and compost. To avoid raccoons getting into your garbage and compost bins you can:

  • Ensure garbage cans are fitted with tight lids, or secure lids with bungee cords and secure the cans so that they cannot be tipped over.
  • Place your garbage bins at the curb in the morning on pick-up day.
  • Store garbage bins in an enclosed space such as a garage or shed.
  • Use enclosed-style backyard compost bins.

Learn more about wildlife-proofing your property.

Raccoons are found in urban, rural and wilderness areas in almost all parts of Ontario. They are found primarily along streams and lake boarders near wooded areas or rock cliffs. Raccoons have adapted well to life in the city since food and shelter are plentiful, and natural predators are limited.

  • Material contaminated with raccoon feces should be removed carefully and burned, buried or sent to a landfill.
  • Use gloves and a facemask when cleaning up raccoons feces to help prevent cross contamination.
  • Treat decks, patios, and other surfaces with boiling water.
  • Always wash hands well with soap and water to help reduce possible infections.

Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) is a viral disease affecting animals in the canine families in addition to some other mammals. It affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. Distemper is often present in the raccoon population although at low levels with cases tending to spike in the fall. Skunks are also predisposed to the virus. The disease is most often fatal and those that recover may display permanent neurological damage. 

This virus does not pose a threat to human health, but it may be transmitted to dogs who have not received vaccinations if they encounter a raccoon with distemper. Most dogs are vaccinated as pups against distemper and regular booster shots may be given. If you are not sure, check with your veterinarian. To keep your pet safe, it is best to keep your dog on a leash when on walks and scan your backyard before letting your dog out.

Raccoons with distemper may display abnormal behaviours and symptoms including:

  • staggering, appearing drunk or disoriented and falling over
  • paralysis of hind limbs
  • approaching people
  • curling up to sleep in open areas near people
  • moving slowly or acting lethargic
  • mucus discharge around the eyes and nose which may be accompanied by coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, seizures or chewing fits

If you notice a raccoon displaying abnormal behaviour and suspect that it is affected with distemper, please contact the Oakville & Milton Humane Society's Animal Services line 24/7 at 905-845-1551 and give them the location and time of the sighting so they can locate and pick up the raccoon. Raccoons that are behaving normally or acting healthy will not be picked up.

Raccoons can carry the rabies virus and transmit it through their saliva. Main symptoms of illness in an animal, include:

  • aggressive behaviour
  • impaired mobility
  • a sickly appearance, and
  • abnormal vocalization.

Never approach a raccoon that appears to be sick or injured. Contact the Oakville & Milton Humane Society for support. 

For more information about the rabies response program in Ontario, visit the Ministry of Natural Resources website.


Report raccoons displaying abnormal behaviour to the Oakville & Milton Humane Society's Animal Services line at 905-845-1551 and give them the location and time of the sighting so they can locate and pick up the raccoon. This line is available 24/7. Raccoons that are behaving normally or acting healthy will not be picked up.

Report dead raccoons on town property to the Oakville & Milton Humane Society by calling 905-845-1551.

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