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Coexisting with Raccoons

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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August 26, 20111 found this helpful
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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.

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August 26, 20110 found this helpful
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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.

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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.

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August 27, 20110 found this helpful
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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.

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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

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August 31, 20110 found this helpful
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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

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February 6, 20130 found this helpful
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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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Anonymous
April 23, 20170 found this helpful

My nephew got raccoon roundworm around 18 mos old and died a horrible death before the age of 3. The cause wasn't discovered until postmortem. He lived in a large city and raccoons had been nesting in the garage before they moved there. It's a rare but fatal disease.

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Anonymous
August 26, 20110 found this helpful

Wonderful advice and Bless you!

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August 26, 20110 found this helpful

What a great article. Racoons are given such a bad rap! They really are beautiful creatures just trying to survive in this world like the rest of us. Lori

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August 26, 20110 found this helpful

Thanks for putting the word out with some common sense advice. Too many people are just willing to shoot these creatures over some bird seed or a spilled over garbage can.

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August 26, 20110 found this helpful

Thank you so much for your wonderful article, I have few families of Racoon roaming around my back yard at night, big ones and little ones, they are God's little Creatures. I am so lucky that they choice my back yard as their playground.

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August 26, 20110 found this helpful

So, what do you recommend as a good method to convince raccoons to move elsewhere? We farm, and they have killed hundreds of chickens, ducks and rabbits, raided our feed supplies (haven't found a latch or container yet they can't open - we even had them open freezers that we had feed stored in).

We have tried everything short of a padlock--but I bet they even have a locksmith who could open a padlock. They have eaten the wood around a window of a chicken coop because they couldn't open the window, and did over $3000 of damage in a house attic. Any suggestions? We have tried everything, and even the conservation officer is at a loss.

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August 26, 20110 found this helpful

We just invested over $11,000 for a new roof because the little "bandits" chewed 5 holes in our roof, going through shingles and plywood to get inside. Now we have lived here for over 30 years and this is the first year we have had trouble with animals. We have tried coyote pee sprays, ammonia, have had to resort to trapping (caught 2 big males) and it's getting quite costly. We don't know what else to do to protect our expensive repair due to these critters.

Our roofer suggested a fake owl, greasing the drainpipes, to installing motion detector lights. We have cut back trees that were close to the house to keep them from getting on the roof from them. We have housing development going on nearby that has been wooded for years and now we have an invasion of animals. What else can we do? They have also chewed holes in the neighbors homes also.

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August 27, 20110 found this helpful

Ooops...forgot one thing. As far as locking up food sources, a chain and padlock does work. Just be sure to not keep the key anywhere that is accessible to the raccoons. One of our veterinarians volunteered at a rehab center and one of the volunteers had placed the key further down on the cage door.

Well, they managed to get the key and actually opened the lock and the door! I only use combination locks on my enclosures, however, I have seen them reach through the small opening at the door and try to turn the combination. We are talking about highly intelligent creatures.

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August 27, 20110 found this helpful

This is wonderful information. Thanks for posting it. I too am a wildlife rehabilitator in Louisiana. I wish we could get this out to more people.

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February 4, 20130 found this helpful

Since I posted on this over a year ago, I have had to sink several more thousand dollars into repairing damage racoons did in my rental house-they got into the attic. The renters caught them on video and they are they ones doing the damage, not squirrels or other animals. They have also killed 43 more of my chickens, despite our coon proof pen and hutch. We are now shooting them. Our conservation agent says they are worse then ever and if we relocate them, they find their way back. None of the chemical deterents have worked either, and we can't electrify the fence as that will kill our poultry. Any other suggestions?

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June 15, 20130 found this helpful

I have been feeding catfood, grapes and bread to the raccoons in an urban area for 10 years. This year, however, there are alot more babies, to be exact, 15 plus 2 juniors and 8 adults. They are very trusting. This spring they ripped off the roof ridge vents.

Just a couple of weeks ago, they decided to destoy the exterior frames to my french doors and the vinyl around the wall of large windows. I have decided to not feed. This is the first night. They are on my patio and I feel so guilty as they are dependant on me, but it is a life choice! I am a prisoner in my home after hours. The damage will be several thousand dollars.

Up until 3 weeks ago, I have 2 different moms coming in the morning and afternoon to feed. I accidently scared one mom and she ran into my large dog run and my lab treed her. All were safe. We were very lucky.

What I am trying to convey is: stop feeding the raccoons. I have not turned the exterior lights on as I don't want to see their adorable faces, especially one mom and her babies. A sad lesson.

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