What are Raccoons?
These mammals are also nicknamed “coons” for short, and are rarely seen during the day because of their nocturnal habits. They are found throughout the United States but are more common in the wooded eastern portions of the country than in the more arid western plains.
- Color: Salt-and-pepper gray and black with a prominent black “mask” over the eyes
- Legs: 4
- Shape: Stocky with a heavily furred, ringed tail
- Size: About 2 – 3 feet in length
- Antennae: No
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Raccoons and Rabies
While not all raccoons have rabies, raccoons in general, are major hosts of rabies in the U.S., especially in the eastern part of the country, where their populations are increasing. A common misconception people have is that raccoons seen active during the daytime most likely have rabies since raccoons are nocturnal animals. This is not necessarily true, and is not a good indication of a rabid raccoon. There are some symptoms to watch for pertaining to rabid raccoons, however.
Key symptoms of a rabid raccoon include confusion and disorientation, leg paralysis or difficulty walking, wet and tangled hair, significant aggression, and the production of very loud, unusual noises. Rabid raccoons may also foam at the mouth and have watery eyes.
Signs of an Infestation
The key signs of an infestation are both visual and audible. Damage to a home’s insulation, wood, shingles, electrical wiring, walls or other parts of the structure is a telltale sign that one has taken up residence inside. Another indication of a raccoon infestation is the presence of droppings, urine stains, or built-up materials from creating a nest.
Additionally, they will often raid and can make a mess of contents in garbage cans while searching for food. If a homeowner notices trash dispersed on the property, raccoons could be to blame. Paw prints may also be visible in the yard.
Raccoons sometimes kill poultry, destroy bird nests, and damage gardens or crops, so any signs of these types of activities can also indicate raccoon activity. Loud thuds and noises of movement are also indications of raccoon activity.
Racoon activity can be handled expertly by a PMi wildlife professional.
How to Get Rid of Raccoons
There are various precautions that homeowners can take to try to prevent an infestation from taking root. First, raccoons can find access into homes through broken vents, holes, uncapped chimneys, and other openings along the roof, which is why homeowners should regularly inspect, repair, and seal any of these or other potential points of entry. Loose siding and shingles should also be repaired, and it’s also helpful to install a mesh cover or cap over chimneys and other exposed openings to prevent entry.
Homeowners should store trash in sealed areas, ideally as a locked shed or outhouse. Raccoons are very adept at learning how to open garbage cans, so if trash cans are kept out in the open, it’s best to use tightly fitting, animal-proof lids to avoid unwanted attention from hungry raccoons on the prowl for food. Birdseed, bird feeders, and fountains should also be removed, as they are sources of sustenance for these mammals and other wildlife.
Likewise, built-up debris, brush, and leaves can serve as perfect hiding spots and dwellings for raccoons, so it’s important to regularly rid the yard of these piles. Also, consider storing firewood, which raccoons may use to help build a shelter, at least 20 feet from the house during the cooler months.
If an infestation is suspected and you need additional information regarding how to get rid of these pests, contact a PMi Licensed Pest Professional to inspect the property and formulate a plan. Homeowners should not attempt to address an infestation themselves, especially since these wild animals may be carrying rabies, raccoon roundworm or other diseases.
Habits and Diet
They are omnivores, meaning they will eat both plants and other animals. This includes fruits, berries, nuts, fish, frogs, mussels, crayfish, insects, turtles, mice, rabbits, muskrats and bird eggs. They usually have one litter per year, which is usually born in late spring or early summer. One litter may contain between three and five young. These mammals can live as long as 12 years in the wild. They do not hibernate but do become inactive during severe winter weather.
In addition to rabies, there are other harmful diseases they can carry and potentially transmit to humans, including raccoon roundworm, which is an intestinal parasite. Humans and pets can contract roundworms from raccoons by accidentally ingesting roundworm eggs from an infected raccoon.
They also pose a serious property threat. They can damage homes and outbuildings, especially when they try to enter through attics or chimneys that they target as denning sites. In some cases, they have even torn off shingles or boards to gain access to an attic or wall space.