Raccoons are well established in many Canadian cities, but thanks to the weather in Edmonton, the city has been spared from an abundance of the animals.
However, raccoons have been caught on camera within the urban limits and researchers are keeping an eye on whether the animals are learning to adapt to Edmonton’s cold and dry weather.
“I think that they are so adaptable that they will figure out how to make due with what Edmonton can offer,” Colleen Cassady St. Clair said, a biological sciences professor at the University of Alberta.
“Once they’re here in sufficient numbers to begin that adaptive behavioural process, I think they’ll figure out a way to cope with our winters.”
St. Clair is part of a team of researchers working with the City of Edmonton and the international Urban Wildlife Information Network to study urban wildlife. The group has 60 cameras throughout Edmonton to monitor wildlife.
“Raccoons have been detected in Edmonton for at least 20 years, but they’re not common and most people have never seen one,” St. Clair said.
Since the project began in 2018, the cameras have captured a raccoon twice.
The most recent sighting was in September 2020 in the Blackmud Creek Ravine, near the intersection of 111 Street and 12 Avenue.
“It was well within the city of Edmonton, near South Edmonton Common, near a residential neighbourhood. Our previous sighting was way out in the fringes in more a rural area,” St. Clair said.
Since speaking out about the latest raccoon sighting, St. Clair said she’s been inundated with raccoon stories from people in Edmonton.
“Quite a few people have seen raccoons.”
Global News received viewer video of a couple of raccoon sightings within Edmonton. One sighting was June 26, 2020, north of 23 Avenue near Whitemud Creek. Another sighting was in the MacEwan neighbourhood on Sept. 17, 2019.
St. Clair suspects raccoons are making their way to Edmonton via train, truck or by foot. She warns that raccoons are considered pests and that they can be destructive and are prone to carrying rabies.
“If we were to learn from other cities, we would not make our city friendly to raccoons. Other cities spend a tremendous amount of money trying to control raccoons,” St. Clair said.
The three-year research project ends in the spring of 2021. St. Clair said the cameras have also captured other animals uncommon in cities including badgers, elk, moose and cougar.