A raccoon has turned a basement window well in Greater Victoria into a rather unusual nursery for her new litter of babies.
Mike Gibson, an animal control officer for Saanich police, discovered the animals Sunday when responding to a caller who said the animal had not moved for four days or so.
“Of course, my immediate concern at the time was that she was probably either injured or sick or perhaps dead,” he said. “So I went over there to take a look.”
Expecting a recovery, Gibson arrived to discover an animal anything but dead.
“When I looked down there, she was big and fat,” he said. “And as soon as she heard me, she stood up on her hind legs and started growling like a dog and hissing like a snake. And of course, as soon as she did that, I saw this squirming pile of babies under her. ‘Okay, that explains it.’ That also explains why she wasn’t going anywhere.”
The window well, made of smooth concrete, is about four feet deep and difficult to scale.
“We did see her try to get out and it was extremely difficult for her,” he said. “It’s a long jump, straight up.”
Gibson then consulted with the home owner, a discussion that led to the construction of a climbing post made out of a lumber and some old Tatami mats. “I wanted her to be able to go out and forage,” said Gibson. “Although she may be fat now, as she nurses her babies over a period of days or weeks, she is going to need to forage to get food for herself. She will be able to climb that easily.”
This raises the question: why did the raccoon chose the window well? Gibson said he is not sure, but he had heard of a raccoon being chased off a neighbouring property a few days earlier and thinks that raccoon is now living in the window well.
“I suspect she was looking for a place to have her babies,” he said. “She probably didn’t have a lot of warning and when she got chased out, it suddenly became urgent. So she found out that one spot that reasonably out of the public eye, just in there and had her babies. She probably had little or no warning at that time. And of course, once she is there, she is there, because the babies are too small to move.”
With the climbing post in place now, the mother raccoon can come and go while her babies, their eyes still closed, remain safe.
“I expect in a week or two, once they are old enough to follow her, she is probably going to leave there, take them with her, and find [another place],” said Gibson, adding that a nearby forest offers better protection and foraging opportunities.
Until then, individuals looking out of the window can get a pretty close view of the raccoon nursery were it not for a screen.
“Because she was pressed against the screen, I didn’t want to remove it to get a better picture,” said Gibson, chuckling. “She is very protective of her babies. Normally, raccoons are not aggressive at all towards people. If you corner them and they are afraid, they may lash out, but generally they just want to avoid contact with people. But moms are protecting their babies, that is a different story. Like a mama grizzly bear.”
Or in this case, a mama raccoon.
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