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Raccoon are common in urban areas and have adapted well to finding food in bird feeders, pet food bowls, garbage cans, and gardens. They can also make a home in a chimney, attic, or other unwanted area of your house.
Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are native only to the North American continent. Adults weigh from 12 to 25 pounds, are distinctly marked across the eyes with a black mask, and have a bushy tail with alternating rings of light and dark fur. Their coat is a mixture of grizzled gray, brown and black. There can be considerable variation in color even among litter mates. Some appear almost solid black, and others may have a yellowish cast. A few albino raccoons also occur. Raccoons are nocturnal and usually spend daylight hours at rest.
Raccoons are opportunists. A variety of plant and animal foods are eaten. Raccoon are adept frog hunters, relish crayfish, and dine on turtle and bird eggs, insects, small mammals and sometimes domestic fowl. Their raids on sweet corn patches are legendary. If these foods are not readily available, corn, beechnuts, hickory nuts, acorns, sunflower seeds and other bird seed, and even food scraps found in garbage will be eaten. If water is nearby, the raccoon will appear to be washing its food; however, the animal is actually kneading and tearing at the food, feeling for matter which should be rejected. Wetting its paws enhances the raccoon’s touch. If water is not nearby, the raccoon will forego this ritual.
Raccoons occur statewide. They are most numerous where a good mixture of woodland, cropland, and shallow water are found. The northeastern section of Indiana, blessed with numerous glacial ponds, is a raccoon stronghold. The fertile farmland of central Indiana is also home for many raccoons.
Most mating occurs in January or February, and the male assumes no part in family life. Raccoons are often born in cavity-forming trees such as maple, sycamore, or beech. If den tree sites are not readily available, a female may utilize abandoned barn lofts, rock outcroppings, ground burrows or even the attic or chimney of someone’s house as a place to give birth to her young. Litters are usually born in April or May and range in size from one to nine, although the average is four. By mid-June, most young raccoons accompany their mother on food searches and begin to learn survival skills.
Prevention and Control
For gardens, a single strand of electric fence can be strung 8 inches above the ground around the perimeter of the garden.
Turn the radio on at night, place it under a garbage can overnight, and it may discourage raccoons from approaching.
Keep bird feeders and garbage cans inside at night. Place a small dish of ammonia in the bottom of an empty garbage can to help discourage them.
Resident landowners and tenants can live-trap a raccoon that is causing damage on their own property without a permit from the DNR. The raccoon must be euthanized or released within the county of capture on property in which you have permission to do so. In order to prevent the spread of disease, the DNR encourages homeowners to safely and humanely euthanize the raccoons, if possible. Live-traps can be purchased from hardware stores and garden centers. If you do not want to trap the raccoon yourself, contact a licensed nuisance wild animal control operator.
Occasionally, raccoons may enter a house through a pet door. Close all doors that provide access to other parts of the house, and open windows and doors to the outside to the animal can exit quietly on its own. Wait quietly and patiently for the animal to escape, then close all of the openings, including the pet door, to prevent the raccoon from returning.
If the raccoon is already in your chimney or attic, place bright lights or a pan of ammonia in the attic to encourage the raccoon(s) to leave. If the mother has had her young in your chimney already, contact a licensed nuisance wild animal control operator for professional assistance. Once the raccoon leaves the chimney, install a chimney cap. Also, identify and seal other attic entries after evicting the raccoon.
Trim overhanging tree limbs to prevent easy access to your roof and attic.
Raccoons can carry a variety of diseases and parasites that can be transmitted to domestic animals and to humans. Canine distemper is fairly common in areas where high densities of raccoons are known to exist. Raccoons can also carry raccoon roundworm, rabies, and parvovirus.