Meg Pearson, Training ManagerMeg Pearson, Wildlife Training Manager

Raccoons, like most animals, are attracted to homes and yards that provide water sources, food sources or shelter. Raccoons will drink water out of puddles, bird baths, buckets, or water bowls.

Raccoons are omnivorous and are not picky when it comes to food. Your yard provides plenty of food sources. Raccoons are attracted to vegetables gardens (especially sweet corn), fallen fruit, birdseed, compost, outdoor pet food dishes, or, most famously, unsecured trash cans.

Other sources of food for raccoons are grubs in your yard, fish ponds, and chicken coops (raccoons will eat chickens and their eggs). If you have any easily-accessible sources of food in your yard it is likely you will run into nuisance raccoon issues at some point.   

What are some signs that a raccoon has been on your property recently?

 The telltale sign is damaged or overturned garbage cans, garden damage, or holes in your yard. Homeowners can also find damage on the siding of their house, in the eaves, soffit, and along the roof. 

What kind of damage can raccoons do both indoors & outdoors?

Raccoons are very strong and can quickly cause damage to both indoor and outdoor areas of the home.

On the exterior, Raccoons can ruin vegetable gardens and tear up lawns looking for food like insects, grubs, and earthworms. Additionally, they can cause damage to crawlspaces and sheds if they decide to use them as a denning space.

Raccoons will use their intelligence and know where to use their strength to exploit your home’s weaknesses. If raccoons cannot find easy access inside, their paws allow them to grip and rip into materials commonly found on homes to create access points.

Raccoons are excellent climbers and can climb onto your roof. They can tear up the shingles in your roof to get into your attic and, once inside, they can destroy vents, soffits, insulation and much more, while establishing their dens.

What dangers should homeowners be aware of when dealing with a raccoon problem?

Raccoons are very dangerous to interact with. Though they are typically shy animals that retreat when they sense nearby humans, many of them are growing more and more accustomed to human interaction, as their natural habitats are threatened and decrease. Raccoons can be aggressive. They are most likely to behave aggressively if backed into a corner or are in a situation where they are protecting their young.

Before attacking, they will try to intimidate you by rounding their backs, sticking their fur out, elevating their tails, jumping repeatedly and showing off their claws. They’ll also growl, hiss and shriek at you, in an effort to get you to back off, before they’re forced to physically engage.

Even if a raccoon seems cute and friendly, homeowners should never approach them inside or outside their home (and definitely do not keep them as a pet!).

Do raccoon deterrents work?

 Deterrents can be hit or miss; it all depends on the raccoon. Remember: these are very intelligent wild animals; what works to deter them one day might not work the next. If they want to get into your house, they might try several different ways and look for many different entrance points, so deterrents, both natural and manmade might not always be effective.

Homeowners can try repellents like peppermint oil, spicy peppers, garlic, vinegar, citrus peels, ammonia, and fox or coyote urine, but, again, these likely will only work in the short term, if at all.

 How do you actually keep raccoons away?

If you want to stop them from hanging around your house altogether, you need to have them rule out your property as a potential shelter, food and  source. So, homeowners should:

  • Secure their trash cans
  • ​Remove any pet food during the overnight hours
  • Remove birdfeeders
  • Empty standing water
  • ​Block areas under porches 

 The most effective way to keep raccoons out of your house is to:

  • Seal all vulnerable areas such as roof returns, any loose soffit, and holes that a raccoon might see as a way to enter your home
  • ​Secure vents, chimneys, crawlspaces and basements
  • Install tree and roof barriers to prevent climbing
  • Keep all tree limbs trimmed back away from the house

At the first sign of a raccoon infestation, it is recommended to reach out to a wildlife control professional right away. The more established an adult raccoon den is on your property or in your house, the more damage it causes. A wildlife removal professional will use a combination of raccoon traps and exclusions to get rid of the raccoons.
About the author

Meg has over 13 years of experience in the wildlife industry. She started as a wildlife technician and was district manager and technical training manager supporting the Southeast Region.  She currently is one of the company’s wildlife training managers. As one of the training managers, her primary focus is special projects and leading Women in Wildlife.

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