Raccoons In the Neighborhood
Have you noticed an increase in raccoons in your neighborhood lately? Raccoons are attracted by food sources, and in the warmer months, by a snug place to have their young.
Why are there Raccoons in My Yard
The fastest way to answer this question is to take a look around your yard. All of these will attract raccoons into your yard:
- Fruit trees and fallen fruit
- Open vegetable gardens,
- Bird seed fallen from bird feeders and rodents,
- Outdoor pet food dishes and water bowls,
- Overwatered lawns,
- Open compost piles,
Feeding raccoons creates problems for wild animals and for people. Raccoons do not need our handouts, they are excellent foragers for food.
Cleaning up fallen fruit, protecting your vegetable garden - the same way you would protect it from the neighbor's cat using it as a latrine - cutting back on how much seed goes into the feeder, and feeding your pets indoors will remove raccoon attractants. Ask your neighbors if they will remove raccoon attractants from their yards also.
A Raccoon Is Under Your House, InYour Attic
Raccoons usually retire to dens or resting sites. Dens are made above ground in tree cavities, chimneys, and attics, and underground in old woodchuck burrows, storm sewers, or crawl spaces under buildings. Raccoons often make use of openings in buildings as temporary shelter or a place to keep their young safe. If rats, squirrels, or simple disrepair have provided an entry point in crawl spaces, attics, or under decks, raccoons and many other species of wildlife may take advantage of it. Raccoons have also learned to use pet doors to find food and water.
Raccoons typically occupy a home range. The size of their home range depends on how much food and water is available in the area. Due to an abundance of food in unsecured trash receptacles and accessible pet food, cities and suburbs can support small home ranges and larger numbers of animals than would be normal in unpopulated areas.
Raccoons do not have permanent dens, rather they occupy whatever hidden space is most readily available when daylight ends their nightly foraging trips. High in a tree is a favorite daytime sleeping place.
In the spring, however, a mother raccoon must have a secure place to leave her young until they are old enough to begin traveling with her at night. Between eight and ten weeks of age, they will leave the nest with their mother and begin to use other hiding places within her territory.
Raccoons and Gardens
Garden problems caused by raccoons almost always involve food and water sources. These nocturnal, opportunistic foragers can cause damage to lawns while searching for grubs, especially newly installed sod, which they roll back with their dexterous hands. Like skunks, they may also dig in lawns, but the holes will be shaped differently from those made by skunks. They are attracted to decorative ponds that contain fish and fruit trees bearing ripe fruit, especially in the autumn when young animals are learning their mothers’ territories.
In most cases, solutions to these situations require simple problem solving. Raccoons are smart and adaptable, and they have been shown to teach one another, especially when food is abundant. Learning what attracts them and eliminating access to food will help solve the problems.
Raccoons and Pets
Raccoons are formidable adversaries when attacked by dogs or aggressive cats, but they are often very tolerant of other species if competition for food is not the defining factor.
The real danger to pets is that raccoons share some of the same diseases. Keeping your pets’ vaccinations up to date will protect them from contagion.
Raccoons and Rabies
Due to the epidemic of raccoon rabies in eastern North America, people are worried about rabies in raccoons. In California, where wildlife relocation is strictly prohibited by law, there have been only a few cases of raccoon rabies in the last 10 years. However, any mammal – including humans and raccoons – can contract rabies from the bite of infected carrier animals, so touching a raccoon is never advised.
A raccoon seen during the day is not necessarily sick or dangerous. She may be foraging longer hours to support her young or moving to a new location.
Raccoons and Disease
Raccoons are susceptible to canine distemper virus, feline panleukopenia virus, fleas, ticks, and a particularly aggressive roundworm called Baylisascaris procyonis.
The roundworms cause little harm to raccoons, however eggs from this parasite, like those from the canine and feline roundworms, are shed in raccoons’ feces. Raccoons use communal latrine sites located at various places within their home range. These latrine sites pose a danger to pets and children who may ingest soil containing roundworm eggs. The best way to protect your family is to limit food sources and prevent large populations of raccoons from developing.
Raccoons and the Law
California state law makes it illegal to keep a raccoon – or any wild animals – as a pet. Classified as furbearers, there is a limited season when hunting them is permitted, however strict regulations dictate how, where and when this may occur.
Under depredation laws, homeowners have options if a wild animal is damaging their property (following strict regulations for humane treatment), however removing an animal rarely solves the problem, because if the attraction remains, another animal will take his or her place. Relocation is strictly illegal.
Raccoons and Relocation
State laws prohibit the transport of raccoons into California and make it illegal to trap and relocate wildlife within California. Relocation can cause problems for other people and can spread wildlife diseases into unaffected areas.
Relocation is NOT a humane solution. Young animals are orphaned and starve to death if their mother is trapped. Displaced adult animals most often do not survive in a new, unfamiliar territory, where they are likely to be attacked by resident raccoons. Removing the attractant and excluding the animals is humane and effective.
Humane WildLife Removal Services in California:
Contra Costa County:
Los Angleles County:
- SF ROMP
San Mateo County:
- WildCare Solutions North
- Humane Pest Control South
RODENTS & INSECT Removal
Bio-Pest - Rodents & Insects: Marin
Pestec - Rodents: SF, South Bay
While some wildlife species are being driven to extinction by the effects of human development other species thrive in our company. Inevitably the species we most often refer to as “nuisance” are those who have learned to live with us and benefit from our behavior. Scientists refer to these as commensal species. Within the last 100 years raccoons have learned to thrive among humans.
Knowing the raccoon’s natural history can help you find ways to humanely exclude unwanted intrusions without causing death or creating orphaned young .
Wild animals all seek food, water, and a place to raise their young. A humane exclusion calls upon knowledge of the biology, behavior, and natural history of wild animals to humanely resolve conflicts between people and the species we most commonly come into contact with.
It is cost effective to humanely evict unwanted animals from crawl spaces, attics, under decks and other areas, and then prevent future problems by sealing up the entry points.
The Humane Exclusin difference
- Experience in managing wildlife, especially mothers with young
- Licensed home inspectors, contractors, and trappers on staff
- Commitment to humane solutions; never euthanizing or relocating healthy animals
Watch First Night Out on PBS Nature.
More About Raccoons
Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are intelligent, social, and highly adaptable mammals. While they prefer mature woodlands, raccoons are found in almost every major habitat, able to tolerate a wide range of habitats throughout North America, with the exception of those where water is scarce. Their range is expanding as they take advantage of sheltering opportunities that human beings provide. The average adult male weighs approximately ten to fifteen pounds, with the female between six and twelve pounds. Their diets are highly varied, however the mainstays of their diet are fruits, vegetables, acorns, and earthworms. Nocturanl animals, raccoons have excellent night vision and a developed sense of touch.