Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
Adult body length (without tail): 18 to 28 inches
Adult body weight: 5 to 35 pounds
Gestation period: 63 days
Litters per year: 1
Litter size: 2 to 7 young (usually 3 to 5)
Breeding season: February through March
Birthing season: April through May
Age at which young are weaned: 2 to 4 months
Activity period: Night
Range: 3 to 20 square miles
Primary foods: Meats, fish, pet food, seeds, insects, fruits, vegetables
Even though they are normally easily frightened from one's garden, raccoons can be fierce fighters when cornered; in such instances, they have been known to inflict fatal wounds on even relatively large dogs. Raccoons, like skunks, can be destructive to lawns and other grounds landscaped in cultured turfgrass due to a propensity for grubbingÂ behavior, as they dig for scarab beetle larvae on which to feed. Multiple, large areas of sod in a lawn can be torn up overnight as a result of raccoon grubbing.
Raccoons often gain access into attics, basements and crawlspaces by forcing open loose or broken vent covers, louvers, windows and carpentry. Female raccoons readily invade attics or enter uncapped chimney flues and occupy the smoke shelf above the damper door to birth and wean their litters of pups. Since raccoons often are infested with ticks and various fleas, including cat fleas, human occupants and their companion animals are readily infested secondarily by the introduction of these ectoparasites via fireplace hearths and attic entrances. Raccoon feces accumulate in the above-mentioned areas, thereby giving rise to odor and secondary pest problems, as well as serving as a potential source of raccoon roundworm infection. Raccoons have been implicated in several other infectious diseases transmissible to humans including leptospirosis, Chagas disease, tularemia and, most notably, rabies.
Besides invading human dwellings and commercial buildings, raccoons also take up residence in barns, stables, and various outbuildings.
Habitat modification and sanitation. Food sources attractive to raccoons should be made inaccessible whenever possible. Pet food dishes should be brought indoors at night. Trash cans and bins containing food garbage should be secured: Lids of garbage cans should be secured to prevent removal, and the cans should be placed in racks or otherwise anchored to prevent being toppled. Where fruit trees are growing near dwellings, fallen fruit should be cleared away from beneath trees.
Where feasible, troublesome raccoons should be discouraged by exclusion. They are usually easy to exclude from dwellings by blocking entrances, although exclusion for some outbuildings is not always practical. Every residential chimney flue should be topped with a chimney cap that is firmly secured to prevent raccoons from accessing the fireplace or a female from having her litter on the smoke shelf.
Ornamental garden pools stocked with fish can sometimes be fitted with removable frames over which wire mesh, nylon, or plastic netting has been stretched. Frames can be submerged horizontally just below the surface of the water to discourage raccoons from entering and catching goldfish and other species.
In a few situations, special fences can be useful for protecting backyard vegetable gardens and family-sized fruit orchards, but ordinary fences will not exclude raccoons for they are agile climbers. Cone-shaped metal guards 18 inches or wider wrapped around trees 5 to 6 feet above the ground can sometimes be used to deny raccoons access to the roof of a house or other building.
Live-catch wire cage traps (24Â x 8Â x 7Â or similar) are probably the best method of control for most urban situations and are utilized by Rottler technicians. Traps set on lawns and roofs are either sleaved or secured to a 36 Âx 16Â piece of 1/4 inch-thick plywood, masonite or 1/2 inch mesh hardware cloth to prevent trapped raccoons from tearing up sod or shingles around the base of the trap. Traps are set to intercept a raccoon as it approaches the garden or garbage cans. They usually follow established trails, fence lines, buildings, or other cover as they move from the woods.
Effective bait items include pieces of apple, melon, peanut butter, fish, fish-flavored canned cat food, sardines, cooked fatty meat, or fried bacon. The bait is placed at the rear or closed end of the trap, but protected so that the animal cannot reach in through the side of the trap and steal the bait.
Raccoons are clever and may be difficult to lure into a live trap. This is especially true for raccoons that have been trapped before and then released, resulting in trap-shy animals. The doors of live traps can first be tied open for several days to permit the animals to become accustomed to the traps and to feeding on the bait (i.e., prebaiting) in situations involving bait-shyness. Once the bait is being accepted, then the traps are set. Specially designed live-catch traps are available which can be placed over chimneys to capture raccoons that have taken up residency there.
Control pole capture and trapping by herding. A raccoon that has entered the living or work space of a building must sometimes be captured quickly to prevent personal injury and property damage. This can be achieved using an animal control pole (catch stick) and suitably-sized live trap. A single-door cage trap is placed on its closed end with the door facing upward and propped open. Once the raccoon is secured about the neck with the control pole, it can be lifted and stuffedÂ into the trap. Once the trap door has been sprung, the noose can be relaxed and the pole withdrawn from the trap. This measure may require two people if the raccoon is large or difficult to handle. Alternatively, one or more live traps can be set directly along the walls of the room occupied by the raccoon. The raccoon usually can be herded or guided in the direction of the nearest trap, especially if the top of the trap is covered with a towel or blanket so that appears to be a hiding place for the excited animal.
Rottler technicians do not employ use of repellents in raccoon or other wildlife management practices. Raccoon grubbing behavior in lawns may be alleviated by hand-scattering or applying by fertilizer spreader, MilorganiteTM over the lawn.
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