Though raccoons have become the mascots of urban wildlife, they are still quite common in forests. You might come across one when you go camping in Ontario. They aren’t particularly dangerous, but raccoons will very happily get into your food and cause trouble. It’s best that you keep your distance.
Raccoons are arboreal mammals that are smart and agile, with dexterous paws that are great for gathering food and climbing trees. As omnivores, they will eat whatever they find in the woods, such as berries, nuts, insects, eggs, frogs, and mice. Raccoons are opportunistic creatures with a strong sense of smell. If you have food at camp, they will come looking for it, come nightfall.
Here are some tips to keep raccoons away from camp:
1. Store food in sealed containers
Be as tidy as you can, when it comes to food. Prepare your food ahead of time and store things in sealed plastic bags and containers. You can find odour-proof bags, as well, which help to make your site less attractive to wildlife. Store everything in a cooler, in the car, or in bear-barrel that you can hang up at night.
2. Keep the site clean
Don’t throw apple cores and other organic materials around camp. Keep the site clean of any food or debris. Collect all your garbage in a sealed plastic bag throughout the day, then dispose of it properly, as per the park’s guidelines.
3. Clean up after every meal
Wash your dishes after every meal, or at the very least, at the end of the day. Leaving dirty dishes around while you go to the beach risks attracting raccoons. They’re mostly nocturnal, but you can’t guarantee that they won’t come looking. Use a biodegradable dish soap and follow the rules of the park. Do not pour dirty dish water anywhere near your site. Pour it 200m away from camp or wherever the park requires.
4. Throw out the garbage every night – properly
Car camping sites usually have a raccoon-proof garbage disposal nearby. Gather all of your garbage at the end of the day, put it in a sealed bag, then throw it out in the correct bin or hang it in your bear bag. Do not burn your garbage or it will attract raccoons. You should also try to limit the amount of packaging you bring with you, so you have less to throw out.
Do raccoons attack tents?
No. Raccoons are skittish creatures. They are highly unlikely to come near your tent while you are sleeping. However, you should never keep food in your tent since there is always the chance that they come looking for it while you are away. Keeping your food in a bear barrel, away from your tent, is a good rule of thumb. Close the barrel before bed and hang it 12 feet off the ground. If you are car camping, you can keep your food in a cooler, in the trunk of your vehicle.
The bottom line is to keep your site as free of food as possible. Raccoons are beautiful animals that deserve their space in the forest – just not anywhere near your stuff.