Raccoons are garden bandits and they can be a real problem.
The iconic bandit masked face of a raccoon should be fair warning to gardeners and homeowners. Raccoons are smart, strong, and tenacious. They will devour zucchinis and tomatoes, harvest prized koi, steal eggs, and kill chickens.
Raccoon, the animal
Raccoons (Procyon lotor) can reach 3 feet in length and weigh up to 55 pounds. They are mostly nocturnal and they hole up in brush piles, ground burrows, hollow trees, under decks, and in attics and garages. Raccoon litters, of 3 to 6 kits, are usually born in late spring and early summer. Raccoons are very quiet, and they are often intelligent enough to not be seen, so detecting them can be difficult. Until they start to eat.
Raccoon, the thief
Raccoons eat just about anything. They will scrounge your garbage cans and compost piles, wreak havoc on outdoor worm bins, and eat pretty much everything you grow in your garden. Corn is their favorite garden vegetable, but berries, tree fruit, nuts, and your other crops are all fair game to a raccoon. Like squirrels, raccoons are problem solvers. Research has shown that raccoons can recall the solution to a task for at least three years.
Raccoon, the destroyer
As mother raccoons feel the urge to create a den, they often look to buildings and uncapped chimneys as nesting sites. As she decorates the nursery, mother raccoon will often damage fascia boards, rip off shingles, shred attic insulation, dislodge heating and air-conditioning ducts, and dismantle rooftop ventilators. She will also designate one area as a personal port-o-potty, creating a nasty stench and staining the building materials. Even if the den is under a deck, the damage and smell can get bad.
Many parasites catch a ride on raccoons. This act of phoresy can bring fleas, ticks, and other pests closer to your home. Raccoons can also carry roundworm, distemper, tetanus, rabies, and nearly a dozen other pathogens. Roundworm can be spread by inhaling infected feces and cases are on the rise. Raccoons infected with rabies may not show any symptoms at all, but they are responsible for over 1/3 of all human rabies cases in the U.S.
In order of importance and/or effectiveness, raccoon controls include:
In California, raccoons are classified as furbearers that can be harvested at certain times of the year. Nuisance raccoons can be taken by legal means at any time. It is illegal to relocate trapped raccoons without written permission from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Uneducated relocating of wildlife causes far more problems than many people understand. Check with your local Department of Fish and Wildlife for the rules in your area.
Research has not shown that chemical raccoon repellents work, so save your money. The same is true for home remedies. The bottom line in raccoon control is to reduce the food and shelter appeal of your yard.
Raccoons are strong and can be vicious if cornered. If trapping is necessary, it is better to hire a professional.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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