Those ring-tailed invaders have outsmarted every homemade trap and are showing no signs of halting their pillaging of your neighborhood waste bins. Your family and/or neighbors have had enough, but perhaps calling pest control may not be an option, or you seek to solve the raccoon invasion yourself.
By informing yourself of basic behavior physiology of raccoons and state hunting laws, you can trap, remove and/or even kill those furred thieves with maximum safety and efficiency. Understanding the risks, such as the manifold parasites/pathogens which raccoons carry will enable you to protect yourself while cleaning after their waste or while handling them personally.
Arguably, the most important things when dealing with the animals are the preventative measures taken before they show up in the first place, which this article will discuss in detail.
How to Identify the Handiwork of Raccoons?
Possessing human hands and human-like appetites, raccoons are the masked pandas of suburbia without the “protected” labels and innocent cuteness, causing havoc everywhere they appear, the least alarming being their gorging themselves upon our leftovers.
Knocking over trash cans, and threatening our pets are some of the more well-known mischief that they incur, not to mention how they become a seasonal threat during a wave of rabies. But what if you’re unable to catch the furred perpetrators red-handed?
At night, you may be able to hear the tampering of your garbage bags or the chittering of raccoon young. Some pets such as cats or dogs can be particularly sensitive to raccoon intruders, who will pitch in loud protest at the ring-tailed trespassers.
Having a motion-activated camera with night-vision presiding over your backyard will enable visual confirmation that you have a raccoon on your hands.
Occasionally raccoons chew through important electrical wires, which can cause denial of power at least, and fires at their worst. Other damages raccoons wreak upon homes are the loosening of drainage pipes and even destruction of air conditioners. Contact your insurance agency to inform them about a raccoon’s vandalism and see if they provide services to cover the damage.
The easiest method to identify signs of the perpetrators, aside from catching a glimpse of the raccoon in the act, is through examining the droppings left behind. Take great care not to inhale from the odor of raccoon scat, in order to avoid inhaling possible airborne pathogens within the stool (see “diseases” below).
Wearing a respirator mask, you can examine that raccoon poop is usually two to three inches long, tubular in shape and containing undigested food (such as berries). Being omnivores means that meat is part of their diet, so the stool will smell foul and appear dark-colored.
How to Trap a Raccoon in Your Backyard?
The first thing you need to know before attempting to trap a raccoon anywhere on your property is whether it’s legal at all to trap raccoons in your state.
Contact wildlife authorities; animal control and consult state game and hunting laws.
Once given the legal OK or the proper license(s), the first priority is to remove any and all raccoon attractions, from outside pet food, garbage to even an undrained swimming pool.
Obtain the appropriate trap, preferably a live cage— a container usually made of steel with a trip pan that uses bait— and place it on a flat surface away from important objects. The reason the trap has to be clear is because a panicked raccoon will reach out and claw at anything nearby once encaged in a trap.
To prevent the trap itself from tipping or getting knocked over, you can place a brick or other heavy object atop of it. Be aware that raccoons have been able to tip over excessively heavy objects, however.
You can create a trail of bait leading towards your trap, but proper placement and handling is arguably far more important. The final bait itself should be placed far into the cage so that the raccoon will fit its entire body within the cage in order to be trapped.
Raccoons are nocturnal animals, so sleep on your work and check the traps daily to release unwanted animals and to change the bait every two days.
Once trapped, take care not to handle the cage too close to your body to avoid scratch/bite marks. The raccoon may later be either humanely put down or released a couple of miles/kilometers from your property, depending on the laws of your state.
How to Trap a Raccoon in Your Attic?
Tell-Tale signs of raccoon odor, feces and chittering above your bedroom indicate that you have unwanted squatters in your attic. If, upon inspecting the attic, that you are unable to locate the raccoon or raccoons hiding in your attic, or if you do not want to immediately capture the raccoon(s) yourself, the usage of traps is essential.
Search state laws to see if you it is allowed to trap a raccoon by yourself without a permit, otherwise call a wildlife technician.
Place a live, steel cage large enough to contain a raccoon on a flat surface that doesn’t wobble (place multiple for optimum results).
The bait you use should never be meat, as it can attract other animals. Instead, use marshmallows or white bread, and place it behind the trip pan.
From there it becomes a matter of waiting and changing the bait within the cage every two days.
Multiple raccoons in the attic are most often a case of a mother in her babies, looking for a nesting place. In this case, removing raccoons requires first the removal of the pups, then the trapping of the mother.
Depending on your local laws, the young may or may not be trapped, and have to be removed by hand, with something durable like a thick leather glove and relocated into a pillow case.
Capturing the mother entails either mounting a trap near the entrance or to scare her into the trap. Once set up, it’s imperative that you check your traps daily to release a wrongly-captured species or to prevent the stink of a rotting corpse underneath your roof.
If she was/is attacking during the removal of her pups, grab her with a snare pole and then put her in a cage.
In the case of raccoons dwelling in the ceiling, or even behind walls, listen to the chatter of baby raccoons, then cut a hole in the wall to remove them.
You can use the captured pups as bait to lure their mother out. After the successful removal of raccoons, it is imperative that you seal the entry hole.
What Diseases Do Raccoons Carry?
Raccoons carry a variety of parasites on their body (fleas, ticks) and internally within their digestive system. Even breathing the smell of their feces is dangerous as roundworm eggs can become airborne.
Other diseases that can be passed through the animal’s scat and/or urine are salmonella, and leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can be contracted in other mammals through open wounds or direct contact with waste.
Most alarming of these ailments is the dreaded virus rabies, which manifests commonly in the animal frothing in the mouth; displaying aggressive, violent behavior or languid, “drunken” movement and unbalanced posture.
Just a bite or scratch can infect pets or their owners, so in most situations, if you encounter a raccoon or its waste, it’s best to call for wildlife control and a medical professional immediately rather than attempting to deal with the animal yourself.
What Attracts Raccoons to Your House?
Since Raccoons originated from the tropics, water is the one thing that they cannot be without, therefore a constant source of it such as a freshwater stream or even stagnant collected water would enable the flourishing of these critters.
Drain your tin cans and empty flower pots that collect rain water, as well as anything else in the vicinity that could provide constant water to raccoons (and you’ll minimize the breeding of mosquito larvae as well!).
It can be safely said the same stuff that would attract a bear— your leftover food or barbecue that haven’t been properly “bear-proofed”— would bring a masked panda to your neighborhood porch or backyard as well. Since they’re omnivores, everything from overripe fruit to bins of rotting meat might as well be a raccoon buffet advertising itself to become a permanent base for these critters.
Shelter is another aspect that would invite raccoons to stay not only overnight, but for weeks and months. Their flexible bodies enable them to hide in the most unlikely of nooks and crannies, including cracks in the rooftop shingles and even drainage pipes!
Finally, a poorly-lit neighborhood or vicinity enables raccoons to feel safe and in their element, as their eyes have no trouble navigating the dark.
How to Raccoon-proof my Garbage Cans?
Raccoons (particularly the city dwellers), are unbelievably intelligent, having bred and adapted generations of outsmarting traditional traps and garbage-sealing mechanisms that thwart even bears. Having a lower center of gravity enables them to push over objects that they don’t seem to be able to, such as a fully loaded garbage can.
It may be necessary therefore, to tether the garbage to the ground with stakes before garbage day, or simply tie the garbage can to a nearby pole to secure it upright.
Other solutions to keep the garbage from spilling out, in the event that a zealous raccoon should tip it over, is to keep the garbage lid tightly shut. There exist many specialized products on the market for cords which tie specific trash cans shut, though tying a strong, unchewable rubber cord from one handle of the lid to the other handle could suffice.
You can also buy certain trash bin locks on the internet which can allow a garbage man to open, but render it almost impossible for raccoons to raid.
Preventative measures can be some of the most creative ones, although their reliability is questionable.
Using ultrasound or hanging blinking Christmas lights around trash cans has a hit-or-miss chance to frighten raccoons off. They quickly learn to overcome their fear of electronic devices having a modern “scarecrow” intention behind their function.
Sprinkling ammonia onto each trash bag dropped into the can may act as a chemical deterrent to mammals. The basis for this practice is the notion that raccoons have a powerful sense of smell. Coyote urine and male raccoon urine have been reported to produce mixed results in fending off other raccoons.
What to Do if a Raccoon Approaches You?
Due to the aforementioned risks of diseases in raccoons, in the unlikely event that a raccoon does approach you, NEVER feed it food.
Feeding raccoons and other wild animals acclimate them to being near humans, which may cause them to attack during an encounter where a human lacks food to feed them. If you know a neighbor who may be feeding the raccoons willingly, kindly inform them the risks and dangers of feeding wild animals.
It should be a general rule of thumb that any wild animal approaching a human should be treated as one being sick with rabies, as the virus engenders behavior in infected mammals that it wouldn’t exhibit otherwise— namely, being in close proximity to humans. Your main goal should be to drive it off.
Make yourself appear larger by standing to your full height, shouting and raising arms. Throw rocks or any nearby objects. If children are nearby, have them stand behind you or atop your shoulders.
If anything makes you suspect the animal may be injured or sick, such as displaying usually aggressive behavior or having a staggering gait, call the local wildlife department or a wildlife management professional.
If a raccoon is within your house, however, close the surrounding doors, make sure all family members are out of the room and let the animal find its way back out through the back or front door.
Do not attempt to corner a raccoon, as doing so may trigger the animal to desperately defend itself. Using a broom or long object to gently coax the ring-tailed invader may be necessary.
Do Raccoons Bite Humans?
Raccoons have sharp teeth betraying their omnivorous tendencies, four of them canines which they use to tear and render flesh for both consumption or self-defense. If you agitate a wild raccoon, it will most certainly try to bite you if you try to restrain or corner it.
A raccoon mother may arch her back, giving loud audial warnings such as a growl or fox-like “whoof,” and even lunge at an individual approaching too close to her young.
Regardless, raccoons infected with rabies may bite humans without provocation, depending on what stage of progression the virus has developed.
There have been accounts, however, of hungry raccoons attacking dogs out of hunger or territorial dispute, along with said dog owners attempting to protect their pets during the attack.
Physically handling a raccoon that has not been properly tranquilised would make it likely that the raccoon would bite in reaction to feeling threatened. If you are bitten by a raccoon, seek immediate medical attention and call the wildlife authorities and hospital in order to get the necessary shots to ward off rabies.
Are Raccoons Aggressive to Humans?
While a raccoon may demonstrate boldness in its curiosity towards humans, it is rare for raccoons to display aggressive behavior to humans. Raccoons are naturally curious but shy animals, who are wary of beasts and humans who are much larger than they are.
If it does somehow go out of its way to pursue, seek a human out, or even attack, it may be due to one of the diseases listed above. Be advised that approaching a healthy, uninfected raccoon can still prompt it to become vicious, especially if it has a litter of young to protect nearby.
Raccoons are naturally cautious and therefore should not be comfortable in the open view of humans. Their first instinct is to freeze and stare in the presence of a human, but rarely, they can bluff! This warning may express itself in a fox-like bark or even charging at you, but it’s just an attempt to tell you to “back off”.
Is it Legal to Kill a Raccoon?
Certain jurisdictions in the United States and Canada do not allow the killing of raccoons under any circumstances. However, there are some states and seasons where the killing of raccoons is permitted year-long, particularly in the South. It is therefore wholly dependant on your state and local law whether it is legal to kill a raccoon or not.
- The capital city of the US, Washington, D.C. does not allow the killing of raccoons within its territory, but allows the trapping of raccoons that do not result in injury (“coon cuff,” dog-proof traps forbidden).
- Toronto, Canada, allows the capture of raccoons but only allow the animal to be taken to a professional veterinarian for the euthanization of the animal.
It is vital to read hunting regulations completely and carefully. Some hunting violations can result in major fines and/or charges of animal cruelty and abuse. These include rules concerning hunting hours, seasons, lighting, permits, and the type of weapon used.
Sometimes simply having a firearm is illegal, for example.
The usage of poisons, from home-prepared antifreeze and lethal, potent ones are also considered inhumane and illegal methods to kill raccoons in many states.
Who/What are the Raccoons’ Natural Enemies?
Raccoon populations can run amok if unchecked by the existence of an enemy species. Case in point, the raccoon situation in Kyoto, Japan, is particularly disastrous since they have no natural predators on the island.
In Europe and the Americas, coyotes and certain species of foxes make the occasional meal of raccoons.
Although they hunt in packs like coyotes, a single wolf can make an easy and quick sport of raccoon.
Large felines such as bobcats, mountain lions, cougars and pumas also make raccoons their meals.
Then there are the unlikely predators of raccoons: large birds such as eagles, hawks, or the Great Horned Owl can hunt juvenile raccoons, but have been reported to eat and even kill adult raccoons.
Big reptiles such as boa constrictors and crocodiles would devour a raccoon if given the opportunity.
And of course, none hold a candle to humans who hunt raccoons for sport; their pelts; or to rid themselves of a nuisance.
As of this writing, little is known about cat-raccoon and dog-raccoon interactions in the wild, although it has been noted that cats would never disturb a raccoon during its meal, implying the latter’s dominance.
What are the Racoon’s Favorite Food(s)?
In the wild, raccoons enjoy everything from snails to crayfish in a stream. Their main diet consists of insects, fruits, nuts and amphibians, and varies with the seasons, as well as the environment of their territory.
Pinpointing the exact favorite meal of the species, however, narrows down to discerning the preferences of an individual raccoon.
The taste buds of a rural raccoon will differ from those of his urban cousin, although the former’s tastes can be developed to acquire those of the city!
Therefore generic groups such as sweets, dog and cat food, and peanut butter can be determined as the species’ favorite food provided by humans.
Raccoons are renowned omnivores and scavengers, whose stomachs are able to enjoy everything ours can digest and more.
If you live in a neighborhood known to be scavenged by raccoons, it may not be the best idea to leave your small pet such as a small dog or guinea pig outside overnight.
Traditionally, raccoons have posed a threat to livestock, as the occasional nightly raid by raccoons have revealed missing or mutilated chickens to many a farmer’s dismay.
What Is the Best Raccoon Bait?
Specific bait doesn’t matter when it comes to a raccoon’s indiscriminate palette. When it comes to baiting and catching a raccoon however, prioritize not accidentally catching a possum or neighborhood cat instead.
Avoid using pet food or meat, which spoil fast and are a hassle to clean after.
Raccoons have shown a preference for sweet carbohydrates. Therefore, sweet treats such as sweet corn or marshmallows hit the perfect compromise, exploiting the raccoon’s sweet tooth and being inaccessible to other animals.
Vegetables coated in honey, or fruits like watermelon are strong temptations for raccoons as well.
How to Handle and Dispose of a Captured Raccoon?
If you have successfully trapped a raccoon within your trap, take great care not to frighten the animal. Take quiet footsteps, speak softly when approaching and handling.
Drape a cloth over the cage so that the raccoon won’t be alert to what’s occurring. When carrying the cage, hold the cage at arm’s length, with heavy gloves.
If relocating, take the raccoon at least five miles away from your property into a wooded area, otherwise it can find its way back, especially when it’s a mother.
The farther you can sequester the raccoon, the better. Some exterminators recommend even driving as far as fifteen miles to banish a raccoon from its territory.
If it’s legal to kill the raccoon in your area, you can use either an air-rifle or poison serum to finish off the raccoon in its cage. Neither methods are recommended as the methods will release blood, and possibly vomit and feces, which are all vectors for diseases. Again, consult with animal control and game centers on legal, humane methods of dispatching raccoons.
As exhausted as you may be, your work is not done after the removal of a raccoon. Take preventative action by eliminating food and water sources, washing the interior of garbage cans, closing entry-holes/gates/fence gaps/chimneys, or fixing broken vents and window screens, everything to convince the animals that your property is not a welcome place to call their home.
You can scare raccoons off by installing automated/motion-activated sprinkler systems when they come within proximity of the sensors. Remove any potential hiding spaces such as used tires, or holed logs in your yard that can serve as shelter for them.
Constructing a low-voltage, electrical fence can prevent other raccoons from entering your property.
If the raccoon was in your attic, make sure the feces have all been removed and discarded in plastic bags— or preferably, burned. You can fog and decontaminate the attic with a cleaner called Bac-Azap, which can also remove the odor of raccoon remnants.