What are Raccoons?
Raccoons are mammals native to Northern America, although today they can be found also in Europe and in Japan. These fuzzy animals are easily recognizable thanks to their bushy, ringed tail and the unique black furry mask that covers the eye area. Raccoons, also known by their Latin name Procyon lotor have an average lifespan of 5-6 years. These fox- like animals are roughly the size of a small dog. They mate around December, producing a litter of 3-5 young in the springtime. Don’t be fooled by their cuteness, when approached raccoons can be very frightening. In fact, some animal experts caution against feeding wild raccoons or keeping them as pets.
What does a raccoon eat?
Raccoons are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and plants. When it comes to plants, raccoons are happy eating all kinds of fruits and nuts. Their meat diet consists mainly of insects and vertebrates like bird eggs, fish, frogs and rodents. When food is scarce raccoons turn to very resourceful misfits that will eat anything they can find in the garbage cans. Though raccoons may look like nasty troublemakers, they are actually very clean animals known for washing their food.
Raccoons are creatures of the night. They sleep during daytime and more so in the winter when they live off stored body fat. As very curious and highly adaptable animals, raccoons can be encountered in many different ecosystems. Their homes called dens are typically found in caves, trees, barns or abandoned homes and vehicles. Raccoons are pest species known for their mischievous nature, especially when they are foraging for food in highly populated areas. These anti- social mammals prefer to live in attics, beneath porches or in the chimneys. The first signs of raccoons outside the house are damaged lawns and crops, raided trash cans and poop in the swimming pool. Once inside the attic, they make lots of noise and mess of tearing off the insulation paper and leaving a crazy amount of droppings. Raccoons are known for stealing pet food and their presence can alarm dogs and other household pets. These and many other reasons make raccoons a nuisance animal. Naturally, people wish to have them trapped and removed from their properties.
Diseases and Concerns
Raccoons are known as of the most common carriers of rabies in the United States. They can transmit rabies to people, other raccoons, squirrels and dogs from biting them. Rabies is a potentially fatal viral disease that affects the central nervous system. The first symptoms of rabies are anxiety, seizures and aggression. Raccoons also carry roundworms and leptospirosis that can cause serious infections. Dog owners should be extremely careful because raccoons carry canine distemper, which can kill dogs.
To keep your family safe follow these 3 simple rules:
- Never feed raccoons in your yard. That will only encourage them to return;
- Make sure your pets get the proper rabies vaccination;
- Cover all your trash cans and never leave pet food outside.
The safest way to deal with a possibly sick or injured raccoon is to call a professional wildlife control technician.
Efficient Ways to get rid of Raccoons
If you are absolutely sure that you are dealing with adult raccoons only, you can start small and try to get them to leave on their own. These techniques include using bright halogen lights, loud noises (turning the radio on or ultrasonic noise makers) and obnoxious smells (white vinegar). They work best when combined together at the appropriate time- at dusk. You can sprinkle Epsom salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper or garlic in the ground in areas where raccoons are not welcomed.
After they leave make sure to close all entries to keep them from entering again. Cover all entries with wire mesh with ½-inch openings or any hard material. The places where raccoons have lived are potentially harmful, so ideally, they should be cleaned by a professional service.
You will read all over the internet that the following can get rid of raccoons effectively;
- Using bright lights
- Setting up noise deterrent (turning the radio on or ultrasonic noise makers)
- Sprinkling cayenne pepper or garlic in the ground in areas where raccoons are not welcome
- Moth balls and scent pellets will repel them
- Raccoons can’t bear is the smell of ammonia or vinegar
- Predator urine will make raccoons think that a predator nearby
Trapping is by far the most efficient method for removal of raccoons. Hire a professional removal expert that will set the right type of trap and will be extremely careful when removing a female raccoon with pups in the attic.
The most efficient way of raccoon removal is by having a professional trapper trap and remove the animal. Once removed, make sure to eliminate the source that attracted the animal in the first place, whether is an open garbage can or a leftover pet food.
General Information On Raccoons
The raccoon is a native, medium-sized mammal. It has a fox-like face with a black mask, a ringed tail and an average body length of 3 feet. The animal has a body weight of 5 to 26 kg depending on habitat, age and available food. In addition, males are typically larger than females. The raccoon has a bushy tail which is about 1 foot in length. Raccoons appear hunched when they walk or run because their front legs are shorter than their hind legs. Each of their front feet is featured with five skillful toes that allow them to grasp food and other items. The raccoon is characterized by a dense fur that protects it against severe circumstances. Raccoons’ preferred habitats are mixed forests where there are streams or water sources. However, they have adapted to a multitude of habitats, including mountains, coastal marshes, and urban areas.
The life expectancy of a typical raccoon living in the wild ranges from 2 to 3 years, whereas that of a captivated raccoon can reach 20 years. The reasons behind this high life expectancy in urban areas are the legislations put to restrict hunting and trapping raccoons, the shortage of predators, and the rich food supplied by humans. Therefore, the population of raccoons soars there. Furthermore, Raccoons show some intelligence in that they can remember solutions to tasks they have been given long time ago. They engage in a gender-specific social behavior, in which females share a common area while males live together in groups. Males protect the group against foreign attacks and also against other males during mating.
There are some facts that set raccoons apart. For example, they can almost eat anything—from garbage and pet food to birds and dead animals. Raccoons’ gestation period is about 65 days, before which two to three youngsters are born. Parents then keep their kits until they can walk, run and climb. Raccoon predators include cougars, dogs, and large owls. They die from starvation, encounters with hunters and trappers, and disease.
Raccoons can be dangerous animals. Without modifying the habitat around your home, serious conflicts might arise. They can eat from your garden, your fish pond, and your garbage can. They can even devour chicken from your yard. Raccoons can also dwell on your attic or chimney. To avoid such conflicts, there are some strategies that one should follow. Feeding raccoons is undesirable. When they are fed by people, they lose their fear and may attack people. They expect to be fed regularly and not doing so may lead to them being aggressive. Keeping your garbage can tightly-closed is the most effective method to keep them away from your home, as they almost always scavenge. Furthermore, raccoons can attack your pets and their attacks may result in disease transmission, so keeping your pets indoors is encouraged. Finally, eliminating access to denning sites, sites where raccoons can hide, is the best way to close all the doors in front of them. As mentioned, they can live in attics, chimneys, and even spaces under your house. Therefore, evacuating them from your house and closing entries is essential.
Beyond mere intrusion into homeowners’ lives, raccoons can further spread diseases. Canine distemper, for example, is a common disease that increases the rates of raccoon mortality. This disease is fatal to other animals, including domestic dogs, coyotes, foxes, otters, weasels, and skunks and is spread when the bodily secretions of infected animals touch other healthy ones. Thus, the presence of raccoons around your pets is a sheer threat. In addition to Canine distemper, roundworms are another cause of severe problems. They parasitize raccoons, usually without affecting raccoons’ health. However, the eggs shed in raccoon feces are one of the main reasons for animals and humans’ infection with serious illness. Never touching these droppings, using gloves and masks, and keeping children away is the best way to avoid hazardous diseases.
Raccoons are a primary carrier of the rabies virus in the US. Rabid raccoons are recognized by their staggering gait, erratic wandering, discharge from eyes or mouth, wet and matted hair on face, repeated high-pitch vocalization, and self-mutilation. Fortunately, rabid raccoons die within 1 to 3 days after infection. Contacting your physician and calling your local animal control or police department is the key to preventing unfavorable consequences.
In areas where raccoons are widely spread, learning how to effectively avoid their bites and get them away from your house is intricate. If your pet is bitten by a raccoon, scrubbing the wound with soap and water and flushing it with tap water would be helpful. However, contacting a veterinarian is better and safer.