Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are opportunistic, intelligent creatures that have adapted well to our urban and suburban landscapes. A general lack of predators combined with easy to access food sources such as garbage cans, compost bins, gardens and outdoor pet food bowls have allowed raccoons to proliferate even in the most developed of areas.
Raccoons are primarily nocturnal animals but can be seen at any time of day. Adult raccoons in the Pacific Northwest typically range in weight between 10 and 25 pounds but can get larger.
They are omnivorous and consume a highly varied diet that includes fruit and vegetables, insects, small rodents, fish and human handouts, as well as pet food and garbage when available.
Raccoons typically den above ground in tree cavities and under downed logs, but will substitute chimneys, attics and crawlspaces where available. Breeding season in the Pacific Northwest extends from early March through early fall. Litters can range from 1-7 kits. Young are weaned at about 2 months of ages but may remain with the mother through the first winter.
Tips for Reducing Human-Raccoon Conflicts
Do not feed raccoons: Deliberate feeding of raccoons makes them more comfortable around humans and more likely to get into situations where they are unwanted or in danger. It also encourages unnaturally high population levels within a small geographic area, which creates a higher risk of disease transmission among the raccoons and increases the likelihood they will become pests.
Feed pets indoors: This will eliminate a raccoon attractant and will diminish the likelihood of an unwanted encounter between your pet and a wild animal.
Tightly cover all garbage cans. Use bungees or other methods for securing the lids if necessary.
Seal up all potential denning locations within your home: Placing caps on chimneys and blocking outside entryways to basements, attics, and under porches will reduce the likelihood that you will wind up sharing your home with a raccoon.
Naturescape for wildlife: Plant native vegetation and leave snags standing. Making natural food and shelter available will reduce the likelihood of unwanted human-raccoon interactions.
Raccoons are not pets! Raccoons do not make good pets. Like all wild animals, raccoons can carry diseases and parasites. When they reach sexual maturity, they can become territorial and aggressive. It is illegal in the State to take a raccoon out of the wild to be kept as a pet.
A “nuisance” raccoon
Raccoons are a fact of urban living. In many cases, tolerance and prevention (eliminating unnatural food sources, sealing up potential denning locations) is the best approach. If you do find yourself in conflict with your local raccoon population, the first thing to consider is identifying the source of the problem. What is attracting the raccoon to your property?
Raccoons are raiding my garbage cans!
Raccoons will take advantage of any available food source and are well-known garbage raiders. Garbage cans should be secured tightly to prevent a raccoon’s access. You can fasten the lid securely with rope, bungee cords or weights. Garbage cans can be secured to a wooden stake or wall to prevent being knocked over. Commercial repellants can also be sprayed directly onto garbage cans to deter raccoons.
The raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) is the common large roundworm or ascarid found in the small intestinal tract of raccoons. Adult worms measure 15 to 20 cm in length and 1 cm in width. They are tan-white in color, cylindrical and taper at both ends.
B. procyonis has been reported from numerous states, but probably occurs wherever the raccoon inhabits. Prevalence of infections ranges from 3.4% to nearly 100% of all raccoons sampled
TRANSMISSION AND DEVELOPMENT
Transmission of B. procyonis can occur either directly or via an intermediate host. Naturally infected raccoons shed eggs (millions daily) in their feces and, under adequate temperature and moist conditions, a larvae will develop within an egg (embryonated) and can be infective (2nd stage larvae) in 11-14 days. Raccoons, especially young ones, become infected directly by accidental ingestion of these eggs. This may occur via the mother’s egg-contaminated body or from the local environment of the den (soil or vegetation). When an intermediate host is involved, embryonated eggs are ingested, the eggs hatch, and the larvae penetrate the intestines and migrate through the liver and lungs. The larvae then enter the pulmonary veins, pass into the left side of the heart and are distributed throughout the body especially the head, neck and/or thoracic areas. The larvae become encysted in small, firbous nodules in the affected tissue. If the intermediate host is eaten by a raccoon, the encysted larvae are released and migrate to the small intestine where they develop into the adult stage.
CLINICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL SIGNS
In raccoons usually there are no clinical or pathological signs observed. In heavy infections, intestinal obstructions or a rupture of the intestinal tract may occur, due to the large number of parasites present.
The animals usually seen with clinical and pathological signs caused by Baylisascaris are the intermediate hosts (mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, and birds). Migration of large numbers of larvae may cause liver and lung damage. Usually changes in behavior are seen due to central nervous system disorders. This is the result of damage caused to the brain and spinal cord by the larvae. Larvae may also cause eye disorders by migrating through the ocular tissues. If small numbers of larvae are involved in the migration, there may be no clinical signs observed.
How to Spot a Raccoon Infestation and What to Do About It
For many homeowners, the worst thing possible is having a rat or cockroach infestation. These pests can spread diseases, and they can find their way into homes using only the smallest holes. They leave droppings all over the home, and let’s face it: They’re disgusting to find face-to-face in your home.
So if you were to find that you actually have a raccoon infestation in your home as opposed to a rat infestation, you may think you’re better off for it, but that’s not quite true. Having a raccoon infestation can be quite serious, and as cute as they may be, raccoons can cause serious damage to your home. While it’s less likely, they can also carry diseases, and if your pet happens to find one, a racoon could harm your pet.
What to know about raccoons
Raccoons may look adorable with their mask-like faces and cute little paws, and when they’re outside, they’re fun to watch. It’s when they come into your home that it becomes a problem
Raccoons are nocturnal mammals that are known for eating just about anything. They’re omnivores, and in the wild, they’ll eat crawfish, frogs and anything else they can catch in a river as well as plants, fruits and eggs stolen from other nests. Around your neighborhood, you’ve likely seen raccoons poking around trash cans, trying to find their next meal from your scraps.
signs of a raccoon infestation
As mentioned, raccoons look to make their dens in warm places where they can last through the winter. They spend those cold months usually sleeping, so it can be difficult to know whether you’ve got a raccoon infestation until spring. As you’ll note from previous blogs, female wasps can lay dormant all winter in your attic and then wake up and start a colony in the spring. If you don’t go up to your attic frequently, then you might not notice an infestation before it’s too late.
How to Get Rid of Raccoons
Raccoons are cute to watch on TV, but they’re not so cute when they leave your trash strewn all over your backyard. The good news is that you can use humane techniques to get rid of raccoons around your house. Make your trash cans unattractive or impossible to enter. Remove or prevent access to any potential food sources from your yard. Finally, block any areas that would allow raccoons to enter your home.
Secure trash can lids. Use a rope, chain or bungee cord to tie the lid into a secure position. Alternatively, you could weigh down the lids with weights, bricks, or other heavy objects. Aim for about 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of weight to prevent the strongest adult raccoons from getting in.
Clean out your trash cans. Wash them out with the hose every week or so. Sprinkle the inside with baking soda to remove any lingering food odors. Tip them upside down so they don’t store water for mosquitoes or for raccoons to drink
Don’t put out the trash at night. Raccoons are active at night, and trash cans are among their favorite “hunting grounds.” To prevent them from breaking into your trash, store your cans in the garage or other indoor location. Take them out to the curb the morning of your scheduled pickup
Double bag food scraps. Raccoons have a very keen sense of smell that allow them to detect food sources from far away. Double bagging will help to contain food odors. This is especially helpful if you absolutely must keep your trash outside the night before the next garbage pickup
Spent $31 million to fend off a raccoon invasion. Here’s why cities can’t get rid of them.
Between the 1930s and 1980s, the US raccoon population increased twentyfold, and it’s still going strong. From 2014 to 2015, raccoon complaints in nearly doubled, so how are these masked bandits making it in big cities?
Well, for starters, they can digest just about anything from fish and acorns in the forest to dog food and pizza on the street, and just like humans, raccoons usually prefer the pizza, which is why they flock from city in the first place.
It’s just about impossible to stop them, as discovered after it spend millions on raccoon-proof waste bins. Unlike traditional bins, the lids had special gravity locks, which open when a garbage truck arm turns the bin upside down. The idea was that if you cut off their major food source, they would skip town, but that didn’t happen. In fact, one year later, a wildlife-control business reported that raccoon-related work had doubled.
Finally, a clever raccoon was caught on camera jailbreaking the new bin. How did she outwit an entire city? Well, study after study has revealed that raccoons are considerably smarter than your average medium-sized critter. Turns out raccoon brains have more neurons packed into their brains than other animals of the same size.
In fact, they have the same neuron density as primates, who are notoriously smart, and their clever brains help explain why raccoons can open complex locks, solve puzzles with ease, and even come up with solutions to problems that scientists didn’t think of. Add to that their ultrasensitive hands, er, paws, which have four times as many sensory receptors as their feet. This helps them to feel subtle textures like special trashcan lids and even open locks without looking.