Raccoons (Procyon Lotor) are medium sized animals, 12 – 35 + lbs. and 20 – 40 inches long, including a bushy tail with 4 to 7 black rings. The fur has a salt and pepper appearance with the black mask marking on a whitish face characteristic of the species. The tracks of the raccoon are very distinctive. The hind foot is long, narrow, and rests flat on the ground like those of a bear. The front paw is hand-like, with toes that are long and well separated. This permits the use of the front paws with almost the facility of a monkey’s hands.
Raccoons can cause substantial damage. In urban areas, raccoons damage building (particularly attics and roofs), gardens, fruit trees, lawns, garbage cans and trash containers. They are also attracted to pet food left outdoors and will attack pets. Occasionally, one or more raccoons will establish a communal toilet area resulting in time of the deposition of a large number of scats. At a recent job in Toronto, raccoons were able to enter a house while a family was on vacation for three weeks. They were able to open faucets, tear apart foodstuffs and furniture, defecate throughout the house, essentially destroying the house from the inside. Damage was estimated to be over $100,000!!
Raccoons breed mainly in February and March, but matings may occur from December through June. The gestation period is about 63 days. Most litters are born in April or May, but some late-breeding females may not give birth until June, July, or August. Raccoons produce one litter per year. The average litter size is 3 to 5 young. The offspring are weaned between 2 and 4 months of age and usually stay with the female until the following spring. Yearling females do not always breed but adult females normally breed every year, especially if food is plentiful.
The diet of the raccoon is extremely diverse. They will eat fruit, berries, grain, eggs, poultry, vegetables, nuts, mollusks, fish, insects, rodents, carrion, pet food and garbage. Individual animals may learn to use specialized foods such as poultry, fruit crops, small livestock, or garbage by watching other raccoons. Contrary to popular myth, raccoons do not always wash their food before eating, although they frequently play with their food in water.
Raccoons are nocturnal or night-time active animals. Urban raccoon populations are frequently underestimated because people seldom see them traveling during the daytime. They are also territorial, particularly the males. Adult males may occupy areas of 3 to 20 square miles; females have a much smaller territory of 1 to 6 square miles. Raccoons den up in hollow trees, drain pipes, homes and buildings,under decks and storage buildings,brush piles and abandoned burrows.
Since free roaming wildlife does not receive veterinary care, all wildlife species can carry diseases and parasites. Raccoons are known carriers of rabies, canine distemper, encephalitis, histoplasmosis, trypanosomiasis, coccidiosis, toxoplasmosis, tularemia, tuberculosis, listeriosis, leptospirosis, roundworms, and mange. They are also infested with fleas, ticks, lice and mites which are known transmitters of disease. Children and pets are particularly at risk. Raccoon feces also carries significant amounts of parasites and disease. If seen, it is best to wash down the area and then use a bleach solution to kill any remaining parasites and bacteria.
Raccoons are attracted to urban areas by the easy accessibility of food, water, and shelter. Reducing or eliminating the availability of all of these factors will encourage raccoons to leave. Tight fitting lids should be kept on garbage cans; pets should be fed during daylight hours and any leftovers removed immediately; water bowl should be emptied or taken in a night; gardens should be frequently harvested and windfall fruit picked up. Food should never be intentionally left out for wild mammals.
To prevent raccoons from entering your home, please check your roof including areas that have overhangs which sometimes the builder will leave open for air circulation within your attic. Check all soffits, look for anything has been pushed in or extreme circumstances pulled right out. Ensure that all vents have mesh to prevent entry of younger raccoons. Look around your decks for wood that’s been pulled away, and look for signs of oil on the wood which indicates that the raccoon has been rubbing up against it with it’s fur.
What will PPC do to eliminate your raccoon problem?
The first choice is to trap and remove the raccoons in a humane manner. They must be taken far enough away to ensure that they do not return to your home.
The next method to remove raccoons if they are in a difficult area to either trap or capture is to install a one-way door, such that the raccoons can leave your home but not come back. This method however, means that the raccoons are still likely to be near your home.
With either method it is imperative to exclude your home, whether it is under your deck, in your shed or in your attic. Typically we will use stainless steel mesh to cover the areas where the raccoons have entered your home, therefore ensuring that they cannot enter your home and give you peace of mind.