Wednesday, January 8. 2020
Raccoons make smart decisions!
Prior to giving birth in an attic of a home, most pregnant female raccoons will choose to push back the fibreglass insulation and tear the plastic vapour barrier away from the drywall ceiling. The mother will then give birth directly on the flat drywall surface. Alternatively, very few females will choose to give birth directly on the fibreglass insulation. The choice to do one or the other does not seem to be a result of trying to avoid the itchiness of the fibreglass insulation. It does not have any noticeable effect on the animals skin as it has on human skin.
As a wildlife biologist I am immensely intrigued by wildlife behaviour and I often ponder whether specific actions are conscious decisions made by the animal or are they acting on instinct. For instance, do the majority of urban raccoons make the decision to have their babies on a flat surface over an irregular shaped surface? In the wild, their den of choice would be in a hollow tree which would be anything but flat. Why does this behaviour change once they are in an urban environment?
Raccoons are a highly intelligent species that are instinctually curious. It is believed that raccoons are capable of having ideas that result from thinking things through. As possible proof of this I would like to suggest that the majority of pregnant female raccoons have curiously pulled back the fibreglass insulation away from the drywall ceiling to see what might be under it. In the process of doing so their extremely sensitive front paws discovered that the surface of the drywall was much warmer than the surface of the insulation above. Therefore they make a conscious decision to have their babies on the warmer surface. Largely beneficial, especially when we consider that the attic temperatures can be anywhere from 0 to -30 degrees Celsius during their birthing season.
This behaviour speaks to why raccoons are so successful in an urban environment. Of course the abundance of city food plays a huge part in their success but placing their newborn babies on a warm surface does as well. Extreme cold outside temperatures would not prevent a city mother raccoon from leaving her den to forage for food when her wild counter part might not take the risk and having her babies freeze to death. Therefore, the city mother and her babies could directly benefit from her being able to forage during extended cold periods, ultimately being both stronger and healthier.
In conclusion, the conscious decision of the mother raccoon to place her babies on a warm drywall ceiling could possibly result in an improved survival rate for herself and her offspring.
By Brad Gates, B.Sc.
Brad Gates is the owner and president of AAA Gates Wildlife Control. He has over 35 years experience in the humane wildlife removal and prevention industry.