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Pest Profiles - Vertebrates


  • About

    Photo: Karen Gideon
    Photo: Karen Gideon
    Smart, dexterous, and can become vicious when cornered. When searching for den or food, they can be extremely destructive to homes and gardens. Communicate using a variety of sounds including purring, growling, hissing, and whistling. Eat plants and animals, including berries, nuts, acorns, pet food, birdseed, fish, snails, and insects. They are especially fond of chicken eggs. Predators include coyotes, wolves, fox, bobcats, mountain lions, and owls. Raccoons can carry fleas, lice, and rabies.

  • Signs/Symptoms

    Look for evidence of feeding, tracks, and droppings. Listen for noises on roof, in chimney, or in attic. When seeking out nesting spots, raccoons will rip off roof shingles, fascia boards, and roof ventilators to gain access to attic. They destroy crawl space doors or screens to get under houses, and tear up insulation, heating, and air conditioning ducts. They leave an unpleasant odor and stain wood and sheet rock when using a nesting site as a latrine. Raccoons destroy vegetable gardens. They destroy lawns when looking for worms and grubs. They eat koi and goldfish from backyard ponds (but they will not dive for food so ponds with steep sides over two feet deep are typically safe). 

  • Where

    Urban and suburban raccoon populations can become quite large. Raccoons prefer wooded areas near water. They live in hollow trees, ground burrows, brush piles, or rock crevices.

  • When

    Active all year in mild climates. Nocturnal, but often seen during the day, especially in spring when raising a litter. Because raccoons are active mainly at night, they can go undetected for some time.

  • Prevent

    Use metal trash cans with secure lids for garbage and storage of any potential food source such as birdseed. Place trash cans in a rack or tie them to a secure post to prevent raccoons from tipping them over. Use bungee cord or wire to secure lids. Remove pet food and pet dishes left outdoors before nightfall. Secure pet chickens before sundown. Pick up fallen fruits and nuts. Remove woodpiles or other possible nesting materials. Trim back tree branches overhanging rooftops; if possible, leave a five-foot gap between the roof and the tree. Relocate trellises and arbors attached to your home to limit access to your roof.

  • Manage

    Chimneys: Cover with spark arrestor that meets your local fire code. Attach chimney caps to prevent raccoons from pulling them loose. Be sure there are no animals in your chimney before covering the opening. If raccoons have already started to nest in your chimney, hire a professional to remove them. 

    Screening: Tightly screen all open spaces beneath structures, such as porches, decks, garden and tool sheds, with 10-gauge one-quarter or one-third inch galvanized hardware mesh. Bury the bottom edge of the wire at least six inches deep, extend outward for 12 inches, and then back-cover with soil. 

    Fencing: Ordinary fencing does not keep raccoons from entering your garden because they will either dig under or climb over them. Raccoons locate weaknesses in fences and will rip off loose boards or enlarge holes in wire fences for easy access. Electrified fences may be effective. Consult a professional. 

    What doesn't work

    Devices meant to frighten raccoons might be effective for a couple days, but raccoons quickly learn there is no threat associated with things like scarecrows, flashing lights, loud noises, and water-squirting units. Repellents are ineffective.

  • More Information

    Learn more about raccoons