Raccoons, those cute, bandit-faced, twitchy-nosed creatures, make adorable stuffed animals, cartoon characters, and the central roles of children’s stories. Easily personified, with hand-like paws and expressive mugs, raccoons, at first sight, in a zoo, or game ranch, elicit exclamations of “aww and ooh” for their adorable appearance.
But, don’t be fooled. Those cute little bandits can rob you of plenty! Naturally nocturnal, raccoons are scavengers, demolishing your garden at night, riffling through your trash and making quite the mess. Their vandalism increases in the spring, as they become more active, breeding and increasing their population.
These adaptable creatures are known to take over burrows made by other creatures, including anything you may have in your yard or near your home. Only the female nests with the young, and once the litter of kits arrives, dear old dad takes his leave. Spring means increased activity as the male begins to search for accommodations, and the female looks for a place to make her nest.
As the human population grows, suburban homes are encroaching more and more on the raccoons natural habitat. Your home and your yard can easily be taken over by a raccoon family or two, as they burrow and nest in your mulched garden beds, sheds, insulated attics, basements and any other areas in and around your home which the raccoons may find to their liking.
As wild animals, raccoons don’t make for ideal neighbors, and they are even worse house guests. The evidence is apparent. You wake up in the morning, go out to grab the paper, or take the dog for his relief, and find your trash strewn all about your yard. The cans have been spilled over and it appears “someone” has been determinedly pawing through your garbage in search of something vital.
Unless you’re the subject of an intense government investigation, the culprit is more than likely a raccoon, or, more to the point, several raccoons. Raccoons are carnivores by nature (although many feast just as grandly on vegetables, and, in the wild, freshwater creatures are the preferred fare), so the aroma of last night’s rib bones, chicken carcass, or meatloaf are quite appetizing.
An opportunistic raccoon and his pals, or a hungry mother raccoon seeking sustenance, can easily dismantle a trash can and paw through the remains of your feast, purged property of your refrigerator, or any food refuse that’s in there. Outdoor grills that haven’t been cleaned or the remnants of meat burnt away are another source of appealing aromas to a hungry raccoon. When you feed your cat or dog outside, you’re encouraging others to make themselves at home as well.
Your Yard and Garden
Fruit trees, berry bushes, and backyard gardens entice the suburban and urban raccoon with the promise of food. Some raccoons won’t stop at stealing a few peaches, plums, cherries, or apples. They may just make their home in your fruit tree, knowing they’ll enjoy a constant supply of food.
That prized tomato you’ve had your eye on for weeks, watching as it goes from a perfect green globe, to orange, to red, ripe and ready to slap between two pieces of mayonnaise slathered bread, suddenly disappears, or has been gnawed just enough to render it ruined. Your squash blossoms have vanished. Even your turnips and radishes have been dug up, sampled and cast aside. Raccoons are no friend to the backyard gardener.
Your Home as a Habitat
As pesky and disruptive as these small vandals can be, their destructive yard antics can’t compare with what they can do to the inside pf your home. Areas such as attics and basements provide a fairly hospitable home for raccoons. Especially if there isn’t a whole lot of human traffic in and out.
Attic and wall insulation is easily shredded and turned into a cozy nesting place for raccoon mothers-to-be. Once the babies arrive, they will do what all babies tend to do, which is poop, pee, and eat. As they get slightly bigger, the tots will scurry around your attic, making noise and alerting you to intruders, if you haven’t yet heard mom bustling about.
Upon discovering the raccoons in your home, you’ll likely find plenty of destruction has already taken place. You’ll notice air ducts torn apart, insulation where it shouldn’t be, and, in some instances, you may find stripped wires, or completely destroyed vents which were used to gain access to their new “digs”.
The destruction doesn’t stop there. As this uninvited house guest graduates from nuisance to a real threat you may find wires which have been stripped or chewed through, that can pose a fire hazard to your home. The droppings and urine left behind creates a bio-hazard as raccoon droppings can contain roundworm, quite harmful to humans and pets. Additionally, raccoon waste carries a slew of known diseases and viruses which can pose a threat to you and your family.
Your Chimney can be Inviting
Raccoons are known for their dexterity, especially their ability to climb. Burrows and trees provide ideal nesting sites, and hollow trees are prized real estate among raccoon populations. Any long hollow area is very attractive to raccoons, and that makes your chimney an easy mark.
As a raccoon accesses your roof, and, eventually finds his way through an attic vent and into a great place to live, so, too, is he able to access your chimney. Once inside your chimney, the raccoon adapts to his new home in much the same way he or she adapts to your attic. The protection offered by your chimney is inviting and even a nesting mother finds your chimney a comfortable abode.
Preventing Raccoons from Trashing your Trash
If you find a raccoon is wreaking havoc in your yard, or garden, causing you sleepless nights as you imagine the wild parties being held in your trash cans, there are quite a few things you can do, before calling on wildlife experts to eradicate these ring-tailed vandals. Obviously, your first line of defense, as far as your trash cans, is to make them inaccessible. There are some cans on the market that claim to be impenetrable. They lock in such a way that there are no gaps and critters can’t get in to cause damage.
These types of trash cans may not be an option for some city-dwellers, or those living in municipalities with commercial garbage pick up and trash removal. Very often, these trash companies will require you to use specific models which correspond with their truck system. What that means is that the tops are easily opened (for ease of dumping into the refuse trucks).
You can still prevent raccoons from getting into your trash-or recycle bins-by simply duct taping the top shut, placing heavy cinder-block type weights on top of the can or bin, or locking the cans in a trash can shed (very common in rural areas where bears and more threatening animals can be a nuisance).
To deter raccoons completely, you can sprinkle moth balls around the area beside your trash cans, but be aware of the danger these chemically-laced, poisonous pest deterrents can pose. You don’t want children nor pets to come in contact with moth balls and you certainly don’t want them in your garden, or near any food.
Keeping Raccoons Out of your Yard
For raccoon problems in and around your yard and garden, the best way to control the problem is by preventing entry. Put a fence around your garden. An easy way to fence out potential invaders is by erecting a chicken wire fence that’s at least 36 inches high and goes a minimum of a foot below the ground. The depth prevents burrowing, and the chicken wire at that height, isn’t secure enough to encourage climbing.
Light up your garden, or yard to discourage these four-footed creepers from coming around and pilfering produce. Nocturnal raccoons enjoy the nightlife and if your yard is bright, it’s very uninviting. Don’t feed Fido or Miss Kitty outside. At the very least, provide food and water-and a set meal time-in an enclosed area. A garage, or secure dog run, makes a safe place to feed your outdoor pets, if they are forbidden to be fed inside.
A great way to deter raccoons, and many other animals, from your flower beds and vegetable gardens, is by planting a prickly ground cover. Vines, bushes, and shrubbery that are naturally thorny are a fine natural deterrent for many different invaders. They aren’t very comfortable and make it even more difficult to get in and sample your crops.
Video: Humane Raccoon Removal and Exclusion from an Attic
Trapping Raccoons for Relocation
Once you’ve exhausted all the ways of preventing access to your yard, flower beds, and garden, and you’re still enduring the problem, you may decide to simply get rid of the raccoons. Be advised that it is illegal, in nearly every state, to a). discharge a weapon in a community of homes, and b). shoot wildlife without a license.
The better option for a do-it-yourself raccoon removal is to trap the raccoon and relocate to a better area for him-and you. Many big box home centers and pest control stores have humane traps for raccoons. If you aren’t able to locate a trap in a retail establishment, contact your local department of wildlife, or animal control. They may assist you, in most cases, free of charge.
Once you’ve removed the animal, take steps to shore-up your property, or, at least, your garden, to prevent the raccoon from finding his way back. You also need to realize, if one crafty critter found his way in to wreak havoc on your homegrown tomatoes, or mini-orchard, more of his kind could be lurking about. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure.
Preventing Home Invasions
When it comes to your home, prevention is the only DIY way of not having the problem of a raccoon invasion. If you suspect raccoons in your area-as could be evidenced by garbage can raids, and nightly garden thievery- or if you’ve seen raccoons around your immediate area, take a walk about your home and look for points of entry. Check the basement area as well as your roof line.
Once you’ve inspected your home, take steps to block entry by putting repairing any holes in and around vents, chimneys and anywhere raccoons could gain entry. Go up into your attic and make sure there are screens in place over open ended vents, pipes and any opening leading to the outside. make sure you don’t block vents from maintaining air flow. But, leave no opening unshielded.
Trim back your trees and take care to ensure no easy access to your roof. If necessary, remove those trees which sit in close proximity to your house. They will provide the path to a perfect home for a raccoon family, as well as many other pests. Using additional deterrents, such spiking around your roof line might seem like overkill, but if you suspect a real threat, it might not be a bad idea.
If you think you may have a raccoon coming and going, you’ll need to find the opening through which he or she is gaining access. An easy way to do this is by crumpling some paper-newspaper, or grocery bags work well-and stuffing it into the opening. In 24 hours, you should find the paper intact. If it has been disturbed in any way, you now know the location of the entryway.
Don’t attempt to block the entrance at this point, nor should you try to trap the raccoon. Remember, the likeliest culprit is a female raccoon with a nest. If you take the mother away from the young, it’s not only cruel, it’s illegal in many states. Always assume that any raccoon who’s gained access to your home is a nesting female with a litter of kits nearby.
It’s imperative, once you confirm a raccoon has made a home in your attic, basement, chimney, or anywhere inside your home, that you contact either your local wildlife department, or a professional in wildlife removal. To go any other way could be illegal and you could end up paying more in fines and court costs than you ever would to a professional wildlife removal expert.
Repairing the Destruction Left Behind
Getting rid of the destruction left behind by raccoons is no small-nor inexpensive-undertaking. For the safety of you and your family, you must remove every bit of detritus left behind by your uninvited squatters. In order to accomplish this task, you’ll need to contact an expert in wildlife repair.
If you’ve hired a wildlife removal company to eradicate your raccoons, the company probably offers clean-up as part of , or as an additional, service. It’s their job to know how to safely remove the mess the raccoons have left behind, including any destruction, as well as effectively cleaning away any hazardous waste such as feces and urine.
You may want to contact your insurance company to inquire about coverage for this type of invasive destruction. Some homeowners policies provide for wildlife removal, and, possibly, clean-up, repairs and restoration. You may not be covered, and might have to pay for this task out of pocket, however, it’s worth a phone call to your insurer.
A word of caution: You may be doing all you can to keep raccoons from your yard, garden and home. However, your neighbor may not. Some individuals will actually encourage raccoons to come into their yard, and even up on their deck, porch, or patio. At the risk of starting a quarrel, you may alert the offender to the fact that feeding and encouraging wildlife is more harmful than not.
Welcoming wildlife poses a danger to the animal. As he begins to equate humans with food, he may come to expect all human beings of being benevolent. This isn’t the case, and could end up costing the animal his life.
Another concern, in and around communities such as subdivisions and home allotments, is the threat of rabies. Raccoons, and many other wild animals, are known carriers of this highly infectious and deadly disease. As raccoons are, for the most part, nocturnal, seeing one in the daylight hours is unusual.
Anytime a wild mammal is acting “out of character”, parading around fearlessly in the open, and appearing to approach a human being, run for cover. Don’t let your pets or children outside until animal control has been notified. In many communities, the sight of a raccoon in the daytime warrants a call to 9-1-1.
Now that you understand the threat these “adorable” animals pose to your home and happiness, you understand the need for immediate attention. Never ignore a raccoon problem in the hopes that it will simply “go away”. In all likelihood, it will not. Raccoons are crafty and if they find a source of food, or a cozy place to live, they’re staying put.
Follow the general guidelines listed in this article for prevention, even if you haven’t seen any raccoons around your home. Take steps to keep raccoons in a more affable environment, and away from your immediate area. It’s worth the extra effort to keep your home from being invaded and preserving your tomatoes for their intended spot-your sandwiches.