Those who have seen him say he is “huge”, cunning as a fox and hungry. A raccoon is causing a stir in the alleys of Limoilou, where it attacks urban chicken coops at night, leaving behind a trail of feathers and many questions.
“He left with one of the chickens. I never found her. I just found his feathers on the ground,” says Gaëlle Damestoy, heartbroken.
The Quebec resident raises chickens in the city like thousands of Quebecers. The popularity of this practice has exploded in recent years. More than sixty municipalities now allow the raising of laying hens.
These new city dwellers have not only captured the playful attention of the neighborhood children. The raccoons have also noticed their arrival in town.
In the Limoilou sector of Quebec, in the space of a few weeks in September, a raccoon attacked at least three chicken coops. Is it a single individual or are there several? Impossible to know. But those who have seen it describe a remarkable specimen.
“I slept with the window open. Around 4 a.m., I heard the chickens screaming. I ran out and saw the raccoon coming out of the chicken coop. It was huge, I took a step back! », says Gaëlle Damestoy, remembering the events of the night of September 14 to 15.
The chickens defended themselves. He scratched and bit them. They are traumatized. We no longer hear them, they hide, they try to recover from these wounds. Some are damaged. That does something.
Gaëlle Damestoy, resident of Limoilou
One of the chickens was never found. The mother recounted the event on a neighborhood Facebook page. In response, several residents reported having experienced the same thing recently. “My neighbor’s two chickens were killed last night,” said a lady.
Three weeks ago, another resident of the Limoilou neighborhood experienced a similar scenario: chickens screaming in the night and a raccoon in the henhouse.
“I saw it come out. It’s huge, it looks like a dog, that doesn’t make sense,” remembers Sophie Grenier-Héroux. She was luckier: she didn’t lose any poultry.
Following advice, she sprayed the area around the chicken coop with vinegar and cayenne pepper. When she heard about M’s misadventureme Damestoy, who lives at the other end of the neighborhood, said to herself that the raccoon had gone further away.
“But here, he came back three days ago,” says M.me Grenier-Héroux. I’m afraid for my chickens. »
An inevitable cohabitation
Raccoons are regulars in cities, as many city dwellers have noticed when they found their trash cans ripped open. They also represent one of the most important predators of chickens in urban areas.
“Poultry often have their heads cut off, their breasts opened and chewed, the entrails are eaten,” lists the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks of Quebec in an explanatory sheet, as all indications of an attack of raccoon in the henhouse.
The City of Quebec does not have data on the number of raccoons on its territory or on incidents of this type. “If a citizen experiences problems living with a raccoon, they will normally be referred to private services with expertise in urban wildlife management,” indicates a spokesperson for the City, Jean-Pascal Lavoie.
But according to the DD Caroline Kilsdonk, veterinarian and ethicist, moving raccoons is a Sisyphean task.
“If we decide to eliminate raccoons in certain areas of cities, then the raccoons in the surrounding areas will reproduce more and repopulate the areas where they were eliminated,” she says.
There is no other solution than to accept that they are there and deal with it.
The DD Caroline Kilsdonk, veterinarian and ethicist
The advantage of raccoons – if we can put it that way – is that they attack at night, when the chickens are normally in the henhouse. It is this small installation that must therefore be transformed into a fortress.
“You need good doors, good closures and well-locked latches for the night,” note DD Kilsdonk.
Smarter and smarter beasts
This is the path that M intends to takeme Damestoy, who called on the DIY talents of local residents on social networks. But the raccoon is tenacious. And even a good handyman can, when night comes, experience his Waterloo.
On specialized sites, advice abounds, but is not simple. One recommends surrounding the henhouse with a six-foot-high fence, with an 18-inch portion buried underground…
Scientific research has bad news for urban breeders, warns DD Kilsdonk.
“Researchers believe that urban raccoons are becoming more and more resourceful and go-getter. It’s not that they can reason with their brain to understand how a latch or handle works. No, it’s more that they try, they try, they try… And at some point, it works. »
The victims of the recent attacks in Quebec intend to secure their chicken coop. But they do not hide their fear.
The attack last week left Mme Damestoy, bruised and pensive: will she be able to succeed in protecting the three hens she has left? She wonders if she wants to relive such an episode for her daughters aged 8 and 12, who had become attached to the chickens. The one who disappeared was the most sociable.
“It’s bloody, a raccoon attack. There are feathers all over the place, blood, it’s violent, she says. We don’t want to experience it frequently. It can slow people down. »