Battling the neighborhood bandits: Raccoons
Keep these critters from trashing your home and terrorizing your pets by following a few basic guidelines.
Who was that masked critter that just darted under the street lamp as you walked the dog, sending Fido into fits?
It was the elusive neighborhood raccoon. And he likely has plenty of friends: Raccoon populations may be near an all-time high across the nation right now. In states like Missouri, raccoons average 20 per square mile — “but that was an average, so you might have some areas of 50 per square mile,” says Bob Pierce, extension wildlife specialist for the University of Missouri.
There are just a few problems with them living so close: Raccoons often trash attics, crawl spaces and gardens in their search for easy food and nesting sites. They can spread disease. They can get aggressive if they don't get the food they expect, or if they run into Fido. Avoid run-ins by keeping them away from your home. (Bing: Is it legal to trap raccoons?)
First, meet the neighbors
Raccoons are about three feet long, including their bushy, ringed tail. They’re often 10 to 30 pounds, but have been seen as large as 60 pounds. They’re also very intelligent — they come out higher than domestic house cats in some testing, says Sam Zeveloff, chairman of the Department of Zoology at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, and author of “Raccoons: A Natural History.” That intelligence and five dexterous toes on each front foot make them formidable opponents.
What's more, "raccoons are basically everywhere," Zeveloff adds. Just about the only places in the nation that don’t have them are parts of the Great Basin and elevations above 5,000 feet. One reason is that they have piggybacked on the growth of suburbs.
The night-loving creatures aren’t dangerous so long as they’re kept out of homes, not fed and not cornered, experts say.
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Trouble is, raccoons have adapted well to the world we've created. (Your reporter recently spotted one among some trees in New York City’s Central Park.) They're omnivorous. (Zeveloff has a picture in his book of about 10 raccoons sharing a found pizza.) And they really like our homes — potentially nesting in them, having offspring in hidden places such as attics, tearing up insulation and defecating there, says the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management Program.
Raccoons also can carry a form of rabies that's particularly dangerous to humans (mostly in the East and Midwest), as well as distemper (in the same regions). Raccoon feces may also contain the eggs of roundworm, which can be harmful and even fatal, especially to children.
Keeping the critters out
Don't feed 'em. Some folks think it's cute to have raccoons around and will feed them, says the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, in a good primer on dealing with raccoons. But the animals very quickly become used to getting food from humans and will lose their fear of them and possibly become aggressive if they’re not fed. So don’t start.
Also, make sure you’re not feeding raccoons by accident. “Feeding pets outside is not a great idea,” says Gregg Granger, operator of Wildlife Ranger in Orlando, Fla. If you do, “don’t leave full food bowls on a porch or patio” for an extended period of time, Granger says. Zeveloff adds: “They will be very bold and aggressive in coming right up to the back door if you don’t have the food out for your pet that you usually leave out.”
Tighten the lid. Raccoons will keep returning to a food source such as a garbage can that they can open. If food isn’t easily obtained, that will encourage them to move on. So buy trash cans that lock or are otherwise secured. “A $2 bungee cord will save you a ton of hassle,” Granger says.
If the raccoons are even more aggressive at going after the trash, buy garbage cans that sit in a carriage and won’t tip over. Or drive wooden stakes into the ground to prevent them from tipping over, the wildlife department says. Or, simply put out the trash in the morning after raccoons have gone back to their nests.
Don't feed 'em, part II. Raccoons will look everywhere for food, so think again what opportunities you’re giving them: Don’t put food in open compost piles. If you are putting any food scraps in any compost bins, cover the scraps with at least eight inches of soil, the wildlife department says. Clean barbecue grills completely after use.
I'm researching an article for the Trumpet Vine of the Ohio State University Extension's Cleveland branch of the Master Gardener program that's all over the United States. Our job is to teach and serve as information sources for large and small gardeners including public, charter and parochial schools.
Watching the recent Nature program on PBS I see how they can spread disease through their feces and use protected and unprotected compost piles to get food and defecate.
I need information from all reading this about your experiences with them. I know they eat all sorts of birds and pets, but do they also eat what you grow? When you compost without meat, poultry, fish or dairy, do racoons still use your piles to get vegetable, fruit and other kinds of scraps? What are you doing to protect your compost and crops? How effective is that? What kinds of crops do they eat or damage? They're nocturnal, but have you or someone you know ever been attacked while you were gardening possibly because you disturbed a den? Do you use breathing masks and protective clothing when you clean up their feces and how do you dispose of that? Last in the list is how do you trap or kill them and what do you do with their remains?
Again, I'd appeciate whatever you can give me and I'll get it out to those who need to know. Please e me whatever you can.
Thanks very much.
OSUE, Cuyahoga County
1. Live trap racoon
2. Place trap in vehicle and drive outside city limits.
3. Open trap and release racoon.
4. Put 4-5 rounds from any available handgun into it's sorry ****
If you have ever seen first hand the damage they can do to a house, you will understand the reason for posting the above instructions.
Number 1: A smart raccoon would definitely rather be in your attic than a tree.
- There are no predators there. The family is safe.
- There is no wind to knock anybody out of a nest.
- There is no rain or hail or snow.
- Compared to life out in a tree, it's paradise.
Number 4: Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators can be found in your phone book under Animal Removal as well as Pest Control. Many will also do clean up and repairs - and that's as important as removing the "critter" from your home. If one critter found your home inviting, others will as well.
As for the clean up, keep in mind that "critters" aren't housebroken, They're up in your attic peeing and pooping. And they usually have some sort of parasite - fleas, ticks, worms, etc. Best to let the professionals do a professional clean up.
And a good professional NWCO will guarantee repairs. A NWCO knows how to do a repair so it looks good AND it's going to keep out other critters. A general repairman might not know the best ways to do it. Some general contractors believe all you need is to make it "to code" but if "code" was enough, the animal would never have gotten in in the first place. Code is a MINIMUM standard.
Number 5: A reputable NWCO will also alert you to other potential areas of interest to a raccoon and other critters. No sense fixing one corner of your roof when the other corner is equally intriguing. Better to address the entire home at once and make it safe.
Number 6: Watch that Raccoon Mayhem commercial from Allstate. You can watch it on Youtube. It's remarkably accurate.
You don't get that life on this planet is clearly interconnected--the fruits and vegetables humans require are pollinated by other species, and starting with plants there is a web of life that humans are PART OF. There is no TOP. We need the other species to be ALIVE or we won't last either. Right now there is a disease decimating the bat population. If we lose bats, we lose the plants they pollinate that YOU eat, we lose the seeds they disperse in the rainforest where plants that could cure YOUR disease grow, and we gain an out-of-control mosquito population that will eat YOUR blood.
Gayle, your uncle learned a hard lesson--wild animals are not suitable pets. The raccoon attacked your uncle for some reason--unlike humans, other animals don't attack just for fun. He may have seen your uncle as a threat in some way--maybe once the raccoon came into maturity he saw him as a threat to mating. Animals will fight when it comes to mating, territory, protecting young, or over food.
This article stinks for portraying raccoons as "pests." Humans call animals pests when we can't easily outsmart them or get them out of our way. When they get into "our" space. Duh, the space belongs to ALL. It's not a battle, other beings aren't our "foes" or "enemies." Learn about them, learn how to coexist with them.
So raccoons might go to "your" pond and eat frogs, fish, etc.? WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY DO IN THE NATURAL WORLD? Raccoons need water, and some of their major food sources are related to water. You don't want raccoons around, DON'T HAVE A POND.
Hillary, you're willing to murder (the article uses the words "dispose of"--wow, what a euphemism--they're living beings, not napkins, you are murdering them) one group of animals so you can BRING IN to the habitat another group of animals for your pleasure. Brilliant. You use the words "battle" and "assault." Really?? You put prey animals out there and then complain of an "assault" from some smart animals. You obviously enjoy murder, b/c you haven't found a solution--just a reason to take out your inner crap on some animals doing what they're supposed to be doing. People have always managed to have chickens and livestock even though there are raccoons, wolves, etc. Do some reading.
Raccoons would MUCH rather nest in a tree than in your attic. Hmmm, who's cutting down the trees? Who's letting trash and dog food lie around? This article overstates everything. Oh, and puppies and dogs get roundworm, too. We get 99.99% of our diseases from other humans.
Violent people like to ridicule anyone who expresses tolerance, concern, and even love for other species. Guess it's threatening to have other people showing you another way to look at the world. Easier to knock us down than take a look inside.
Man you folk's just don't get it. Trying to make animals sound like humans. They are not nor should they be put on a pedestal above humans. And animals were put here for man's use not to be worshiped or treated like a human. And unless all of you animal saviors are vegan and do not use any animal product, don't condem other's way of putting food on their table or their way of life.
And Be Kind to All you are a flipping hypocrite, in one sentence you say to be nice to all animals and then condone the killing of a human. Talk about a major phony. And Big Trouble Little China I suppose that your raccoon talks english or that you talk raccoon other wise how could you understand it. You should really get out with people and get a life.
Easy bait for raccoon for live traps, marshmallows and molasses. Put cage trap against building lean piece of plywood over it. Put a few marshmallows on outside of trap and a bunch in back of trap with molllasses. Cat's don't go for it but mr.raccooon does. Bon appetite.
I have been battling raccoons for at least a year. At first I had the attitude of live and let live. Then I decided to get a small flock of 4 chickens. If I did not have the chickens securely locked in the henhouse at sundown, the **** attacked. Despite my best efforts, I lost 9 chickens in 6 months. So my attitude underwent an adjustment.
The traditional leg traps did not work well. Despite having a semi-professional trapper help me set the trap. The critters outsmarted the trap every time and stole the bait. But the box trap is very effective. I placed the trap in a 5 gallon bucket with bait in the bottom. (canned salmon a favorite). I caught several raccoons this way.
I also hung a fluorescent drop light near the coop. I would watch at night for the raccoon assault. A .22 hollow point with 4x scope worked well and I used this method to dispatch 2 more raccoons.
After killing 4 **** in about 2 weeks the assaults diminished and I have not lost a hen since. But I have a trail camera out back near a deer feeder. Recently it took a picture of 2 raccoons copulating. I assume the battle will resume.