Trapped between the BC Wildlife Act and “gangs” of hungry raccoons, residents in a small Richmond sub-division are at a loss how to protect their pets.
The Sea Island community of Burkeville, it seems, is being terrorized by a growing number of apparently larger than normal and aggressive raccoons.
Despite the creature’s reputation as being nocturnal, pets are routinely attacked during the day, people are scared to let their kids play in their backyards and adults take evasion action when walking home at night.
There are also stories of raccoons getting trapped underneath people’s houses and ripping shingles off their roofs.
However, as they are protected by the BC Wildlife Act, municipalities, including Richmond, are relatively powerless to deal with the critters.
And, due to the same regulations, the provincial government’s BC Conservation Officer Service is unable to get involved, unless the raccoons are attacking people.
The impasse has left Burkeville residents, such as Leanne Taylor and Shane Alexander, demanding to know how they can protect their three dogs.
“This is a big problem. Last Wednesday, the dogs were out on the deck there for their nighttime pee. They didn’t even leave the patio,” recalled Taylor, who has lived in Burkeville for 14 years.
“I could hear them making a horrible noise and I realized something was wrong. Murphy (a one-year-old Yorkie/Maltese) was trying to get in through the cat door and was pulled back out by the raccoons.
“When I opened the door, Tazmo (a five-year-old schitzu Yorkie) was in the clutches of one of the four raccoons. They had them trapped out there.”
Taylor said Padme, her 12-year-old mini Australian sheepdog, got the worst of it.
“Padme had blood everywhere. I managed to get them in. The floor was covered in blood.”
Thankfully, the dogs had relatively minor injuries and the vet bill only came to around $800.
However, Taylor has learned, through the community’s Facebook page, that dozens of other residents in the small community have had similar experiences.
“The two Pomeranians a few doors down were attacked last year, with $2,000 worth of injuries,” added Taylor.
“These don’t seem to be regular sized raccoons, they are bigger than Padme. I’ve been cornered by them before. They reign the neighbourhood and there’s no way to stop them reproducing and getting larger. We’re on an island here, so they’re not going anywhere.”
Her roommate, Shane Alexander, who’s not exactly diminutive at around six foot, three inches tall, said even he has to give the raccoons a wide berth.
“I walk home at night down the back alley there. They will follow me or block me off,” Alexander said.
“I’m a big guy, but they’re not scared at all. I have to turn back and go home another way. It’s a problem.”
Barbara Rowland and Norman Hopkins, who’ve lived in Burkeville since 1985, said their current dog, Lola, has been chased around their garden by raccoons.
And their previous dog, which was actually a raccoon hound, got chased – by the raccoons.
“If I’m with the dog, I’ll go another way because I’m not convinced they won’t attack the dog,” said Rowland.
“Sometimes, in the early hours of the morning, the dog will be going crazy and looking up at our skylight. There they are…the raccoons, looking down on us.”
Taylor said neither the city nor the BC Conservation Officer Service seem willing or able to get involved.
“(The Conservation) office said it has to be a bear or a cougar, something like that, before they will come out,” said Taylor.
“There seems to be a big gap in how to deal with raccoons. This is not a rat problem, these things are 40 pounds and can tear your eyes out. They seem to be free to wreak havoc.
“What should we do? Should we kill them? No one seems to want to help and someone is going to get hurt.”
Sgt. Don Stahl, of the BC Conservation Officer Service, told the Richmond News that raccoons are considered wildlife and are protected.
However, when there are negative interactions, then some action can be taken, said Stahl.
“If they’re injured on the side of the road or something, people can call a wildlife rescue centre to come help,” he said.
“But if they’re attacking people, we can be called. Not, however, if they’re attacking pets.”
Stahl added that, under the law, people can “live trap” raccoons without a licence or permit.
“They can go to hardware store, get a live trap, or call a humane pest control service.
“If they do manage to trap a raccoon, they can only be kept in there for 24 hours, then they can be released, within 10 kilometres.”
Clay Adams, spokesperson for the city, said if a resident feels threatened, they should call the Conservation Officer Service.
“If it’s a pest issue, they need to contact a company that can deal with the problem humanely. It’s illegal to harm them. It’s no different than a bear,” added Adams.