The Art & Science of Raccoon Removal in Toronto Derick McChesney is a charismatic raccoon removal expert at SWAT Wildlife, one of Toronto’s busiest wildlife removal services, and he’s a real character who should be famous.
If people only knew what Derick did for a living, he could sell subscriptions to a live feed and folks would pay to watch him work. He could have his own TV show, and it would be a big hit. Audiences would find it hard to ignore a guy whose job is so interesting, and someone who is so good that job. The would pay to study the art and science of raccoon removal.
At nine am in the morning, our first call of the day was to a residence in the Don Valley Parkway and Lawrence area where Derick was asked by the homeowner to do a comprehensive search of the attic to find the source of the strange animal sounds she was hearing at night.. First thing Derick did was have a look around outside, and he had no trouble finding an animal’s entrance on the exterior of the house. He made some interesting observations about what appeared to be a previously installed patch of the aluminum under-hang by another wildlife removal company years earlier..
The patch was flimsy; only four screws, one in each corner had held it in place. It was so shoddy the animal was able to hold onto the hydro pipe on the wall and work the tin loose with its other paw. “The animal has come in here before” Derick observed, “It knew there was a hole above the aluminum patch, and this could be because it was born there, or had previously occupied the attic in its lifetime. Raccoons are very smart and won’t give up a warm attic easily”.
The animal was using the hydro meter pipe to climb the wall and enter the house. The foamy wooden insulation membrane underneath was cut in a square which makes the entry look man-made. The hole was cut by humans and improperly sealed against animal entry (and heat loss!).
Now the task remained to find the raccoon and remove her, and also to remove any babies she may be nursing in the attic.
Inside the house, Derick and his assistant Mike ventured up into the attic crawlspace through a hatch in a bedroom closet. They had on goggles and masks and headgear with lights on top which they tested before they set out on a mission to find the mother raccoon and her babies. Derick was certain they would find offspring because this is raccoon birthing season. March and April is when most raccoons have their young, and in these months four out of five house calls Derick makes include removing baby raccoons from the domicile.
But much to Derick’s surprise, and the homeowner’s disbelief. there were no signs of life in the attic. They did not see a mother raccoon or babies and there was no logical explanation for not seeing ‘the den’.
Were there raccoon babies hiding somewhere in the attic?
Derick had to be sure, so he checked twice because the homeowner continued to insist she had heard crying and whimpers and tiny voices which coincide with the sounds of a mother raccoon raising a family. But nothing else could be found.
After combing through all the attic crawlspaces (which he reported to me later were filled with the worst type of insulation; the blown-in loose, itchy, green, clumpy kind) Derick didn’t give up trying to solve the mystery. With the homeowner trailing behind, he went out and climbed around the upper reaches of the garage inspecting the wall joints and roof trusses, looking for another attic access point or whatever he could see. But there were no signs of any raccoons living out there either.
Leaving nothing to chance, Derick informed the homeowner they would put a one-way door on the hole so if there was still an animal hiding inside it could leave but would not get back into the building. The temporary one-way door was the best possible solution for the homeowner, in order to be sure they weren’t sealing an animal up in the attic forever, but it requires Derick return to the property in three days time to recover the door and seal the hole properly. And this time he will very securely fasten the metal back over the gap to prevent the same animal from entering the attic yet again. The whole call took about ninety minutes and the homeowner paid a few hundred dollars service fee – it would have been more if Derick had found babies.
Help, There’s a Raccoon Under My Hot Tub!
The second call of the day was truly fascinating; a real estate agent in the beaches called SWAT Wildlife to have Derick come out right away and look at his hot tub. There were strange sounds and smells consistent with a stowaway in the surrounding deck structure.
The homeowner called SWAT Wildlife to come poke around his deck which he claimed was infested with raccoons. He knew by the growing dung heap at the corner of the lot, and the corn husks and the new pungent smells in the area that something was living in the woodwork. Raccoons are amazingly cunning and industrious creatures and they’ll often try to find their way into warm places for the winter months. Hot tubs steaming away inside a wooden box during the coldest winter nights are dream homes for these hibernating animals. Even as he approached the site, Derick sniffed the air and remarked,, “Oh yeah, I can smell them.”. No sooner had he removed the wooden panel on the side of the hot tub enclosure and one large animal jumped out and ran across his out-stretched legs to disappear under the deck behind him. “They’re some live ones’ was all he said. He does this everyday.
To break into this hutch, the animal had chewed a hole right through a painted plywood panel. And once inside the creature had borrowed through the foam insulation toward the heat source. After flushing out one raccoon, Derick went around the tub and beat on the sides to encourage any other animals that might be present to flee the structure. He removed another panel and peered inside to try and see cavities that might contain a nursery. But the rest of the tub was solid; the insulation appeared intact so the expert concluded the animal was just about to have its young, but had not yet committed to the tub enclosure. He could see no other signs of life in the wooden box and so he sealed it up as best he could and called it a easy job. David the homeowner was left with a small service charge for his time and his skill as a carpenter.
Help, Raccoons Are Ruining my Rental Property!
The last call of the day came in around 2;30 pm. A rental property association in the Annex just north of Bloor and Bathurst called SWAT to investigate some issues reported by their tenant. The attic-loft occupant of a three story apartment had been woken up in the middle of the night (again) because of loud animal noises just above his ceiling. He knew it was raccoons because he’d seen two or more such animals on his porch the night before.
Bandit-masked raccoons are a familiar sight just about everywhere in the city because they will eat just about anything. These ubiquitous mammals are are highly adaptable and use their dexterous front paws and long fingers to find and feast on a wide variety of foodstuffs. The ring-tailed animals are equally opportunistic when it comes to choosing a ‘denning site’. In nature they may seek out and inhabit a tree hole, a fallen log, or stump. But in the city they gravitate toward warm attics in human houses and chimneys are a favourite access point. Raccoons in Toronto are hungriest in the springtime and spend their days looking for food to build up the body weight they lost sleeping through the coldest months of the winter. Apparently the tenant was slowly loosing his cool over the increased sounds of the animals at night, and frequent sightings outside on his porch. There was something up there keeping him awake at night, and the landlord was beginning to lose sleep over it too.
Once again, Derick McChesney the master wildlife control expert and his trusty assistant Mike went to work outside, scouting around the back of the building first, looking up and down the sides and looking particularly closely at the flat roof up top. They went scouting for raccoon access points. Finding holes in the attics of these old brick brownstones can be tricky if they’re adjoining structures because in some cases its possible for animals to run through several attic spaces. But one whiff of the chimney and Derick knew he was hot on their trail. When he stuck his head deeper down the shaft and his eyes adjusted to the dim light below he saw an animal’s eyes reflecting in the darkness; a mother raccoon was staring back up at him. Was that her den he could just see down there behind her? Was that whining and mewing noise the sound of her young? One thing was certain, no self respecting wildlife removal technicians would ever go head-first down the chimney to remove the animal from above, blocking her only means of escape and cornering her in her den. That approach would get ugly real quick. Instead of playing out that ill fated scenario, Derick preferred to cut a hole in the ceiling below the den and come at the problem from behind.
Years of experience told Derick that he had no choice but to cut through the ceiling to get at the pocket of raccoons he had spotted from outside atop the crooked chimney. As soon as he cut through the plastic membrane underneath the drywall, the brick dust started falling into the room and a profound thick musty ammonia smell made us choke and breath through our mouths. .”That’s the smell of a long term raccoon habitat.” Derick said, ” I smell that everyday.” The homeowner watched with some trepidation as Derick cut deeper into the plaster to make a square big enough he could stick his head through. As soon as he turned off the saw, we heard Mike yelling above. The young assistant was still up there standing over the crooked chimney and he told us a large adult raccoon had just exited in a hurry to run past him on the roof and over the side. “That was the mother raccoon and her babies are right here” Derick said. He called Mike down and asked him to bring in the hamper which is a pink diaper box with a little window rather crudely cut in the side.
Derick had located the den and recovered the baby raccoons in less than thirty minutes, and the rest of the job was just tidying up, capping the chimney off completely and sealing up the hole in the ceiling.
There were five cubs in the litter, which is about average. Female raccoons have one to seven cubs in their litters. The infants are born blind and are utterly helpless for the first three weeks or so until their eyes open. Young raccoons spend the first two months of their lives in the den and then their mother will move them down to the ground which is when they begin to explore the landscape on their own.
SWAT Wildlife Removal Service Does Not Harm Animals
The raccoon babies will be reunited with their mother in the safest area closest to the den. In this case i watched as Derick left the pink diaper box they call a hamper below the main tree by which the animals were accessing the upper reaches of the property. Derick left the young in the hamper while he finished off the outside patches, and then transferred the animals to a shoe box he had in his truck when he left the site.
In a follow up meeting with the landlord, Derick outlined more preventative measures to ensure wildlife will not re-enter through the crooked chimney or anywhere else on the roof; he also offered to repair and protect the area that was damaged. I’m not sure if the owner accepted, but its a mark of a true professional to offer a total solution. SWAT Wildlife’s prevention applications are backed by a written guarantee; he looks out for the property owner for one year or more. But Derick also looks out tor the animals’ well being and sometimes feels like that’s his true calling – he’s an agent for urban animals. Derick McChesney is a necessary entrepreneur helping humans and critters coexist in Toronto’s increasingly complex and ecologically hostile habitat. And he really should have his own cable TV show.
Guest Author Bio Rob Campbell
Rob Campbell is a freelance nature writer and author living in Toronto, Canada. Son of a beekeeper, Rob is keenly interested in using technology to improve conservation and the preservation of our natural world; he funds projects that use gadgets to study and improve the lives of insects (honeybees) and animals around us, especially those unfortunate creatures that are, like so many of us humans, stuck living in the city.
Rob is actively involved in Toronto’s business world and the city’s cultural art scenes.
Blog / Website: SmoJoe.com
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