Many homeowners are advised to hire pest control specialists to get rid of raccoons. But if the $500 to $5000 fee for raccoon removal is too much for your budget, these ten essential raccoon control tips will help.
1. It is more important to keep raccoons out of your attic or basement than it is to keep them off your lawn or garden.
Raccoons sometimes come indoors to nest. They are more likely to convert an attic or basement into a latrine. Raccoons are usually solitary animals, but groups of raccoons urinate and defecate in the same place to avoid spreading their scent across their feeding range. Fecal matter is often contaminated with eggs of roundworms, which can cause potentially deadly heart, lung, liver, eye, and brain infections in humans, especially in infants and the elderly. The scat can also carry E. coli and Salmonella. Raccoons can transmit leptospirosis and tularemia (to learn more about these two infections, follow these links LIC & CDC), and they can shed ticks, mites, and lice that can creep and crawl to other parts of the house. In the process of entering your house, raccoons may tear up shingles, insulation, fascia boards, and roof vents.
How can you keep raccoons out of your house? Make sure that there are no tree limbs that give a raccoon a perch from which to jump to your roof. Tree limbs need to be cut at least 5 feet (150 cm) away from the roof.
Cover chimneys with a spark arrester, and make sure the screen is securely attached. Take down arbors and trellises that lead to the roof. Make sure exterior attic doors and windows are always closed. Install 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch (10 to 15 mm square) wire mesh underneath porches, decks, and tool sheds, dug at least 6 inches (25 cm) into the ground covered with dirt.
2. Don’t feed the animals.
Another important step in controlling raccoons is making sure that they don’t confuse your lawn or garden with an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you have outdoor pets, bring their food bowls indoors before nightfall, putting them out again every morning. Make sure garbage receptacles are covered with heavy lids that are kept closed. Place trash cans on a rack and keep them off the ground.
Pick up fallen fruit and nuts on which raccoons might feed. Never feed raccoons, and try to persuade your neighbors also to allow raccoons to find their own food.
3. Frighten raccoons to get a few days of relief.
Raccoons can be dissuaded from entering your property by motion-activated flashing lights or radios. They are repelled by the scent of bloodmeal or bonemeal, which can do double duty as fertilizer for your plants. Scarecrows, water sprinklers, and flags waving in the wind will also deter raccoons from entering your property. Unfortunately, none of these methods is effective for more than a few days before raccoons lose their fear.
4. Make trespassing into your yard a shocking experience.
Electric fences deliver a painful but harmless jolt of electricity to raccoons seeking to enter your property. To set up an electric fence, you will need electric fence posts, which are usually iron rods about 1/4 inch (6 mm) in diameter, plastic insulators, electric fence wire, and a charger. The fence is set up around the entire perimeter of the property you wish to protect, the first wire strung onto the insulators at a height of about 6 inches (25 mm) and the second wire about 12 inches (50 mm) off the ground. Never connect an electric fence directly in household current. Either use a solar battery or an approved step-down transformer to power the fence. Some states and cities require that you attach a plastic warning sign to the fence.
Electric fences only need to be powered form dusk until dawn. They are no danger to pets or people, although accidentally brushing the fence, or even holding a hand near the electrified wire, can deliver a painful jolt. An electrical fence connected into household current, however, is deadly.
Electric fences are an especially practical and economical method of protecting freshly laid sod from raccoons looking for grubs and worms.
5. A raccoon is as likely to catch and kill a dog as a dog is to catch and kill a raccoon.
Using dogs as a deterrent against raccoons is usually a very bad idea for pet owners. Pound for pound, a raccoon is approximately three times as powerful as a dog. Raccoons are also excellent swimmers. They will sometimes lead dogs on chase through water long enough that the dog becomes too tired to swim and drowns.
There are several breeds of dogs especially bred for hunting raccoons. The first American President, George Washington, introduced the French breed Grand Bleu de Gascogne hounds specifically for hunting raccoons. Modern descendants of this breed include Black, Tan, and Blue Tick coonhounds, which are among the few breeds of dogs that can win a fight with a raccoon.
6. Almost all methods of trapping raccoons require dealing with live animal.
Although there are snap traps that can kill raccoons on the spot, these traps also capture and kill dogs, cats, and desirable wildlife. Most of the methods of trapping raccoons involve dealing with a trapped, angry animal later. The Duke Dog-Proof Coon Trap holds bait in a cylinder into which raccoons can reach but dogs cannot. (The Duke Dog-Proof Coon Trap is not also house cat-proof.) If the trap is properly staked to the ground, this coon trap holds the animal until it can be killed. The Coon Dagger Trap by Sudden Valley Supply holds the raccoon even more securely, and can be adjusted to catch other types of wildlife.
Humane catch and release raccoon control requires the Havahart traps. These traps are made of steel mesh with one or two trap doors leading to a bait pan. The raccoon enters the trap to get the bait and the door snaps behind it. Havahart also makes two-door traps for wary animals that will not enter a trap unless they see an escape route; both of the doors snap shut when the trap is sprung. Havahart traps can be transported, raccoon inside, to release points at least 5 miles (8 kilometers) away from the point of capture.
Choosing the right size Havahart trap is essential. Homeowners in California, the Pacific Northwest, and along the Atlantic coast of the US and Canada need traps that are at least 10 x 10 x 22 inches (25 x 25 x 66 cm). Homeowners in the rest of the United States and Canada, where raccoons grow larger, may need traps as large as 15 x 15 x 32 inches (38 x 38 x 80 cm).
7. Killing raccoons is legal under special circumstances.
Most states of the United States and most provinces of Canada classify raccoons as fur-bearing animals that may be killed by trappers outside of city limits. Killing a raccoon inside urban limits, however, may require a special license. If you do not qualify for the license, you may be required to trap the animal and then take it to a vet for euthanasia (in Ontario) or you maybe required to shoot the animal yourself (most US states) but only in a location where shooting is legal (again, outside of most city limits and never on someone else’s property without permission). Outdoor snap traps for killing raccoons are almost always illegal because they are large enough to endanger pets and children.
Do not kill raccoons by any method that can be interpreted as cruelty to an animal, such as bludgeoning baby raccoons with a shovel. In most of Canada and in parts of the United States, cruelty to animals is a criminal offense. In Texas and in some states of the southern United States, cruelty to an animal only applies to animals that are "owned," but cruelty to your own animals is grounds for a criminal charge. Ironically, cruelty to animals off your own property usually is not, although you could be charged with criminal trespass. See an attorney when you need legal advice.
8. Shooting is almost never the answer for raccoons.
Even where shooting is legal, raccoons are active at night when shooters cannot see them.
9. Chemicals for controlling raccoons are almost always illegal and almost never work.
Cyanide baits are legal in some parts of the United States for controlling predator animals. They probably won’t work for raccoons, and they are considerable danger to dogs. The cyanide gun is buried into the ground and covered with rotten meat. When a passing animal bites into the rotting meat, a cyanide pellet is fired into the mouth of the animal and the animal slowly suffocates to death. Raccoons usually avoid rotting meat and are not likely to set off the cyanide gun unless they are extremely hungry. The pungent odor of rotting meat, however, is highly attractive to dogs. Cyanide should never be used where animals other than coyotes are likely to find it.
10. Never handle dead or live raccoons or their unwashed cages with your bare hands.
In parts of Canada, up to 67% of raccoons tested carry roundworms, parasites transmissible through their feces to humans. There are even higher rates of infection in parts of Germany where released raccoons have established large populations. Roundworm infections usually result only in allergic reactions, but in the very young and the very old they can cause death. Raccoons can also transmit bacterial infections, ticks, lice, mites, and fleas.
Never hold a raccoon with your bare hands. Be sure to rinse traps with hot water and detergent after every use, especially before they are put away for storage.