Raccoons in the attic, garage, or strange noises in your chimney? Raccoons living under your home? Those scurrying sounds in the attic, crawlspace and noises in a chimney may well be a raccoon. Call your local Critter Control office today at 800 CRITTER for effective raccoon removal and exclusion services. Description Raccoons are nocturnal mammals common throughout North America, especially in the wooded eastern regions of the United States. Besides the native northern raccoon, there are six other existing species, most of which live on tropical islands. These clever creatures have nimble hands and are intelligent problem solvers capable of opening latches, turning doorknobs, climbing, swimming, and running at speeds of over 10 miles per hour. Appearance The small, stocky animals are covered in gray fur with distinctive black markings in the shape of a bandit's mask around their eyes and rings along their fluffy tails. Raccoons have black eyes, short ears, and small black noses at the end of their short, narrow snouts. The animals appear hunched as they walk because their back legs are longer than their front legs. Habitat Raccoons like to live in woodland areas near water sources such as streams, marshes, and rivers. Much of their food supplies comes from aquatic invertebrates such as clams, crayfish, turtles, and snails. The masked creatures also eat a large variety of plant-based foods, such as acorns, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and corn. Urban areas, farms, and suburbs likewise make good homes for raccoons, who have adapted to city life by learning to scavenge from garbage cans, gardens, and crop fields. Wild raccoons typically nest in tree cavities, rock crevices, underground burrows, and the abandoned dens of other animals, such as muskrat lodges. In suburban areas, the animals have been known to seek the shelter of unoccupied buildings. Entry Are raccoons known to enter homes or yards? Yards containing easily accessible sources of food, such as outdoor pet food containers, vegetable gardens, unsecured trash bags, and compost heaps, often attract raccoons into residential areas. Female raccoons, known as sows, may build nests in empty buildings, attics, garages, sheds, and chimneys to raise young kits during the spring. If a raccoon is fed or becomes comfortable living around humans, it may attempt bold moves such as entering homes through pet doors to raid kitchens for food. Damage Do raccoons harm people or property? In an effort to access the shelter of chimneys or attics, raccoons may damage wire coverings and even tear up roof tiles. In residential yards, stalks of vegetable plants may be broken and fruits or vegetables stripped by raccoons overnight. Corn farms may experience widespread destruction as the mammal enjoys eating sweet corn off the cob and other grains. Raccoons have also been known to dig through watermelon plants and scoop out the fruit with their paws. Chicken coops often face danger in the wake of raccoon presence, as hungry raccoons capable of opening fence latches can find their way inside and destroy birds, nests, and eggs. Control and Safety To keep the small, furry animals away from homes and property, be sure to eliminate food sources that draw them near. Trash bags should be placed in secure bins with tight-fitting lids, and pet food should not be left outside overnight. Cleaning up after barbecues and grills will also help to eliminate the enticing scents of meat. Placing guards on top of chimney openings and sealing up all gaps along the exteriors of attic walls also serves to keep raccoons from gaining entry to homes. Gardens may be secured with tall, outward-leaning fences. Trapping and Removal Raccoons are protected furbearing animals and receive additional legal protections as game animals in most states. Live trapping and relocation may not be an option, since it is illegal in some states to transfer and release captive animals in locations other than the original capture site. Only certified wildlife specialists and licensed trappers may remove and dispose of problem raccoons outside of specified seasons.