Raccoons, Unmasked


November 18, 2015


A raccoon dug up the soil around this trap and pulled in the trap cover. This is why you want to use professional-grade traps.

Because this pest can be found in the city, suburbs or country, managing raccoons can help boost business.

With their black burglar-style mask and striped tail, raccoons are among the most recognizable native species in the United States. Tips for recognizing the presence of, and dealing with Procyon lotor are:

Identification tips
⦁ Inspect structures carefully. Raccoons only need a 1-in.-thick overhanging branch to access a roof. If there are no branches available, raccoons will just climb a downspout or the corner of a building. Look for the telltale smudge marks and scratches. Although they prefer heights for their dens, raccoons will use ground-level dens under porches and sheds, and even in abandoned woodchuck holes.

⦁ Clients often complain of birds chirping and chattering in their attic or fireplace. This sound is usually indicative of raccoon young. Ensure your technicians know what it sounds like (a search of “chattering raccoons” on YouTube can offer examples) because raccoon births are not restricted to the spring. By contrast, grinding noises are indicative of chimney swifts, a federally protected species.

⦁ Raccoons tend to defecate repeatedly in the same location, creating what is commonly called a raccoon latrine or toilette. Check the roof, attic and other open areas for piles of dark feces that are tubular in shape, segmented and approximately 0.5 in. wide.

Treatment tips
⦁ Always use professional-grade cage traps because their sturdier doors and treadles, and tighter mesh (0.5×1 in.) reduce a raccoon’s ability to reach and damage the trap and nearby objects.

⦁ Always set at least three traps per site, and position them as close as possible to the den entrance or along the raccoon’s travel route. Multiple traps provide the opportunity to use various baits.

⦁ Don’t translocate — move and release raccoons outside their home range — unless your state regulations mandate it. Translocated raccoons suffer terribly trying to reorient themselves to their new environment, and translocation risks moving diseases to new areas. Additionally, translocated raccoons learn to avoid cage traps, forcing you to employ alternative (and often riskier) methods to capture them.

⦁ Never secure access points until you’re certain raccoons are no longer using them. Place movement indicators over holes — such as duct tape in an “X” pattern or use wads of newspaper as a plug. Monitor the holes for at least three days of fair weather to verify the opening is no longer used.

Dr. Stephen Vantassel runs Wildlife Control Consultant LLC, a company that educates the public about wildlife damage issues. Contact him at stephenvantassel@hotmail.com.


About the Author

Contact Vantassel, founder of Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC, at stephenvantassel@hotmail.com or 402-489-1042.

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