Raccoons have become more common in urban and suburban areas than out in the country. They have adapted well to feeding out of trash cans, dumpsters, and pet dishes while denning in attics, chimneys, sewers, and abandoned buildings. Fortunately, in the Richmond area we see fewer problems with raccoons than in many other parts of the country. When we do face them though, they prove to be formidable foes.
Raccoons in Attic
Finding out there is a wild animal in your home can be frightening. Especially if it is a raccoon. Raccoons are curious, strong and mighty destructive. If you have a raccoon in your house, chances are there is plenty of damage too. Damaged ductwork, soiled insulation and chewed on wires are all potential hazards.
Critter Control of Richmond has trained professionals that can safely and humanely remove raccoons in the attic, raccons in the crawl space, raccons in the yard. We thoroughly inspect your home to detrmine points of entry and can seal holes and repair damage. Call our office today to schedule an inspection!
Biology and Habits
Raccoons breed in late winter or early spring. Young are born from April through June. Only the mother raises the young, which typically number from 3-6. Young are kept in the den and nursed until they are 8-12 weeks old. At that age, they will begin to follow their mothers on nightly foraging trips. By the end of summer they are old enough to be on their own. The family may split up in fall or may remain together during the winter, and then disperse in early spring. Some yearling females will mate, but most wait another year. Older females tend to have larger, healthier litters. Mother raccoons will typically have a backup den site to move young to if something goes wrong at the main den, however, young females may neglect to plan this far ahead. Male raccoons and females without young typically live alone, although there is sometimes some communal denning during the winter.
Damage and Hazards
Raccoons will enter buildings to use them for dens. Most commonly they use their great strength to tear up loose or rotted boards, roofing, or vents to enter attics. Raccoons can easily climb in and out of chimneys and will use them as dens. Occasionally they also live in crawl spaces under houses. Most of the raccoons that den in buildings will be females which enter in the spring to raise young.
Raccoons are fond of raiding trash cans to look for a meal, often tipping cans over and strewing trash around. Once this begins it often continues nightly. Raccoons love pet food and will readily eat any left out at night. They will also enter pet doors to reach food inside. Raccoons sometimes wade into small garden ponds to hunt the fish in them. They will roll back newly laid sod to snack on worms under the sod and will sometimes tear up established lawns to get at grubs and worms. Raccoons are a carrier of rabies, and while unprovoked attacks are rare, they do happen. Raccoons can also transmit raccoon round worm to humans. The eggs of this parasite are shed in the raccoon’s feces, and to be infected, a person would need to eat something contaminated by the feces. This is sometimes a problem with small children. (For more information on possible health risks contact your local health department, or the Center for Disease Control).
Raccoons are most commonly controlled by trapping the offending animal(s). This is done by placing baited cage traps at the damage site. In cases of raccoons entering buildings, the traps are placed on the outside, at the entry hole. Some raccoons, due to past bad experiences, or simply natural caution, will simply refuse to enter cage traps. In the case of a raccoon entering a building, a kill trap can be mounted over the hole to catch the offender. In the case of raccoons causing problems outside (raiding trash cans, rolling sod, etc.) it may not be possible to catch every raccoon in every situation. State law requires that captured raccoons be euthanized.
Mother raccoons with young babies denning in buildings pose a real challenge. While the mother raccoon can be trapped at the entry hole, the young are likely to be hidden away in some unreachable, unknown location. Without the mother to care for them, they will die and rot. In these cases we try to convince the mother raccoon to take her young and abandon the building. This is primarily accomplished by applying a predator scent (bobcat or coyote) to the area being used as a den to try to convince the mother that a predator has invaded the den and that her young are in jeopardy. Most mother raccoons react to this by moving their babies out within 48 hours. Some require further harassment before leaving. Some are extremely stubborn and refuse to leave. In these rare cases the mother raccoon may need to be trapped, and babies then searched out, a process which can be very difficult.
Once raccoons have been removed, steps need to be taken to discourage future problems. All reasonable efforts should be made to prevent raccoons from taking advantage of loose, rotted, building materials or other easy entry opportunities. All chimneys should be outfitted with quality chimney caps. In cases of chronic problems with raccoons raiding trash cans, consider placing trash cans inside sheds or garages, or inside a cage built specifically to hold them. Do not leave pet food out, especially at night. Do not feed pets in the room the pet door leads directly into, and do not leave food out at night. If raccoons are stealing fish from a small pond, give the fish someplace to hide, such as by sinking 3 or 4 cinder blocks, with the holes lined up such that it creates a cave.