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I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and specialize in orphaned raccoons. I understand the frustration that occurs when raccoons (and squirrels) invade garbage cans and bird feeders. Raccoons are incredibly intelligent, and very dextrous with their little paws. I would like to impart a few ideas that may help you coexist with these marvelous little bandits. However, as you know, nothing is foolproof.
Securing the garbage can lid with a bungee cord can work wonders. I have never had a raccoon get into my can, and I live in a very wooded area. I also tuck a few unused fabric softener sheets in the can, since the sheets help mask the odor of food. The stronger smelling the sheets, the better.
Raccoons (and squirrels) do love bird seed, especially sunflower seeds. My bird feeders are on a tall pole and have a long piece of stove pipe secured under the feeder platform. Just make sure that the feeder is far enough away from trees, porches, etc. that a raccoon or squirrel cannot climb or jump to the feeder. I also only put out enough food each morning to last the birds throughout the day. That way if a raccoon or squirrel does get to the feeder, you are not losing as much food.
I discourage people from using the cayenne pepper type repellents, since the pepper gets onto the paws and can get into the eyes.
If you have planted annuals and perennials and come out the next morning to find them dug up, it is probably raccoons. However, skunks and opossums do also dig in the fresh dirt. They are looking for worms and grubs in the newly dug soil. I just try to make sure and check my new plantings early in the day, and tuck the plants back into their holes. I don't think I have ever lost a plant because the raccoons have "helped me", but I still do a bit of grumbling under my breath.
One more thing; please, please, do not live trap raccoons and "relocate" them. If the raccoon is a female, her babies will be left without a mother and cannot survive in the wild. My raccoons are not ready for release until they are around 22 weeks old. I receive quite a few raccoons that probably have had their mothers moved to another area. If they are orphaned in the wild, they are left to a horrible fate, even though they may look large enough to be on their own. The lucky ones manage to make it to a rehabilitator to receive a second chance.
It is not unusual to see nocturnal animals during daytime hours, when they are pregnant and nursing their young. They do prefer to be out at night, however, they are hungrier during these times and need to forage more. The possibility that an animal is ill is always a concern and humans should never approach a wild animal. However, seeing a nocturnal animal in the daytime can just be the animal foraging.
As we are invading more and more species habitats, there are more instances of wildlife and humans having a hard time living together. We just need to be the smarter species and try to find ways to coexist.
By Lilly M from NW MI
I agree with everyone else, thank you for this article. When I was a little girl we had a pet raccoon that raised a litter of baby skunks my dad brought home one day, then again when I was a teenager I had another raccoon that that I had for about 2-3 years.
Tasha grew up to weigh around 45 lbs and was a wonderful pet. She came and went out the door like my dog and cat did. Today as an adult I have a family of mom and 4-5 babies that come up on my front porch every night and eat dog food. I just leave them alone and let them eat. That's all they bother and it is late enough at night that I don't feel in any danger of getting bitten. They are wonderful creatures.
Thank you for your wonderful advice. We live in the country and have given the coons a barn to themselves. I have yet to see them damage anything of ours yet except the sweet corn. They love sweet corn. I just try to beat them to it. One year we put up a low wattage electric fence around our sweet corn and that seemed to help.
I love all of the wildlife even the deer that eat our blackberries, and their share also of the sweet corn. I have even had them in the melons. But there is enough for all of us...so that's OK.
Like you said we need to co-exist. Thanks so much for your advice and bless you.
Hello everyone! Keeping raccoons from getting on the roof and breaking into chicken coops, etc. is a difficult problem. Trimming tree limbs to make access more difficult usually helps. Raccoons do not seem to be very discouraged with products such as fox/coyote urine.
I am wondering why they are attracted to the roof, since they usually tear into things when they smell a food source or are looking for a nesting area. As far as raiding chicken and rabbit coops they are definitely looking for a food source. In the wild raccoons are pretty much omnivores, however, they are definitely carnivores.
Using a low-voltage electric fence does seem to work, however, depending on the size of the area the cost may be prohibited. Having dogs patrolling the area is a good way of discouraging any predators (foxes, coyotes, etc.). Most dogs will avoid raccoons, since they seem to instinctively realize that those claws are extremely sharp.
The barking does frighten raccoons and can be a good solution. I definitely understand your frustration and would be equally frustrated if in the same situation. Raccoons generally do not establish a set territory as some species, however, they will stay in an area if there is a good food source. I hope that they decide to move on from your areas. Thank you for trying to find solutions and thank you to everyone for their nice comments. Lilly
Hello, I wanted to impart a bit more information on the situation with raccoons on the roof and with chickens. I asked a good friend who is the head of the raccoon division of a large wildlife rehab center in California and she is extremely knowledgeable on raccoon behavior. They rehab 80 to 100 raccoons every year.
Raccoons generally will not chew or claw into a roof, but if there is some damage (usually squirrels) they will "inspect" the hole. They usually leave their scat "calling cards" and tend to take the blame for the damage. Raccoons will raid chicken coops, however, they prefer the eggs and not the chickens.
Weasels are the biggest offender and they can squeeze through very small holes. Foxes also are a big predator of chickens (and rabbits). Using 1/2 inch hardware cloth for the enclosures is the biggest deterrent to the predators, however, it needs to be on the top, all sides and especially the bottom.
Since raccoons are very curious and very dextrous with their little paws, they will investigate any hole in an enclosure. I hope this helps. Have a great day, Lilly
People should know that raccoons carry a parasite that is dangerous to humans. If a person unknowingly ingests racoon feces, they can get infected by this parasite. Baylisascaris procyonis is the scientific name, and it will cause a great deal of damage. Many times it gets into the brain and causes death, but it also can get into the eyes and other parts of the body. Be careful when cleaning up raccoon feces and keep children away from it. There is no known treatment for it when it enters the brain.
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Your Pet's Age
Your Pet's Breed
How and when did you get your pet?
The mother died and we had 4 orphaned babies. We bottle fed them and gave 3 away.
What does your pet like to do for fun?
He loves to eat hotdogs.
Do you have anything else to share about your pet?
After he was a year old we released him. He still came up to the house at times. He would "scratch" at the door and I'd give him a hotdog. He was happy to be free, as he should be.