Wildlife: Raccoon

Are you experiencing an issue with wildlife in your area?  If you have an urgent concern, please get in touch with us right away.  If you are looking for more information, please click on one of the questions below to expand the content and find your answer.  If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at DFW Wildlife Coalition.

A baby raccoon should never be out of the den by itself.  A few exceptions may be an inquisitive juvenile that ventures to a puddle of water or to the base of the tree while the mother is napping.  Typically, in this situation, when you approach the juvenile it will run to the den where mother is present. If the baby does not lead you to the den, it is orphaned and requires rescue.  If in doubt, cover the baby with an inverted laundry basket and wait a couple hours to see if mom retrieves the baby. If she does not, contact the hotline or a wildlife rehabilitator.

Always rescue a baby that is vocalizing out of the den.  An adult wearing gloves should gently cover baby and pick up and place in a secure container for transport.  Mother raccoons are excellent mothers. If the mother does not return, the babies will begin vocalizing and leaving the nest 24 to 72 hours later.  If you know a raccoon was trapped and relocated or hit by a car or some other misfortune, please proceed with rescue when you hear the babies.

For more information please read the following FAQ:

  • If the animal has been hit by a car, attacked by a cat or dog, and, an adult can safely do so, a helping hand is appreciated.
  • Your personal safety is first and foremost.  Gloves are recommended. If you do not have gloves use fabric such as a towel, T-shirt, or whatever fabric you may have on hand.  Cover the injured animal as this will reduce stress and assist in protecting yourself.  
  • When a mammal is covered, depending on the species, they may still move or struggle, however it will be reduced as compared to not covering the animal as you are reducing the fear of the animal by blocking their vision.  
  • Never pick an animal up by the tail.
  • If the animal is an adult rabies vector, raccoon, fox, coyote or skunk please contact authorities for assistance.
  • An injured animal will try to defend itself.  Do not pick the animal up unless you can safely do so.  If you are bitten or scratched, and the animal is a rabies vector it will have to be tested for rabies.  So, do not risk yourself as you are also jeopardizing the animal’s life.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Remember if you cannot contain safely, contact authorities for assistance or call the hotline at, 972-234-9453.
  • Read FAQ: How to contain and prepare wildlife for transport
  • Read FAQ: Ways to provide heat for orphan or injured wild animal
  • Read FAQ: How to locate a wildlife rehabilitator

Thank you for being a caring person and for taking the time to save wildlife! Once you have identified an animal in need of care, it will be necessary to contain the animal so that it can be safely transported to a permitted animal rehabilitator. Only adults should handle wildlife, provided it can be done safely.

Steps in the Transport Process:

  1. Choose an appropriate container for transport.
    Containers need to be chosen based on the wildlife being rescued/transported. For tiny to small animals, a shoe box with a few extra air holes poked from the inside out works well. For medium to older babies, use a small to medium pet carrier or larger box. If using a pet carrier, cover the carrier to make the inside dark.  For adult animals, be sure the container has a lid and that the animal cannot chew through or get out of the container. Remember darkness helps the animal to relax. Never transport with an open container!
  2. Prepare your container
    Provide soft bedding. An old T-shirt or similar fabric is ideal. Avoid fabrics with large loops or an extremely open weave. Towels, terry cloth, and similar fabrics have threads that can get wrapped around little toes and ankles and cut off circulation.
  3. Placing animals in the container
    For baby animals, use an old T-shirt or wear gloves to gently pick up and place the baby wildlife in the container.  Older wildlife will definitely require gloves and the T-shirt or a towel In order to have adequate fabric between you and the terrified animal.  The towel serves two purposes: aids in protecting your hands and covers the little animal’s eyes to make it less afraid as you pick up and place in the container.
  4. Provide heat source.  Read FAQ “Ways to provide heat for orphaned or injured wild animal”.
  5. Reach out to a professional.
    Contact DFW Wildlife Coalition hotline 972-234-9453 or a permitted wildlife rehabilitator for instructions and information on when and where to transport. The hotline is staffed by volunteers and rehabilitators might be caring for animals when you call. It may take an hour or so for a return phone call. Until then, keep the container in a quite dark place away from family pets and children.
  6. Be prepared to transport as soon as possible.
    If you are personally unavailable, check with friends, family, or neighbors.  Often there is someone willing to participate in the rescue. If you still are having difficulty check with your HOA, neighborhood app or Facebook.  Uber is an option as well.
  7. During the transport process:
    ** Please refrain from using the radio while driving. The little life you are transporting is very afraid and the radio will only add to its stress.
    ** Please do not transport in the bed of a pickup truck! Wind, road noise, and extreme temperatures could further compromise the animal.
  8. Meeting the Rehabber:
    When meeting the rehabilitation professional and handing off the animal, please remember to give details of the rescue to the rehabber.
    ** A donation towards the care of the animal would also be deeply appreciated by the rehabber. Rehabilitators do not receive assistance from city or state agencies.

Thank you for being a caring person and for taking the time to save wildlife!

Saving a life begins with making sure an orphaned or injured animal has heat. Begin by providing soft bedding for the animal you are rescuing. An old T-shirt or similar fabric is ideal. Avoid fabrics with large loops or an extremely open weave. Towels, terry cloth, and similar fabrics have threads that can get wrapped around little toes and ankles and cut off circulation.

Once you have provided bedding, the next step is to supply warmth. Holding or placing an animal in your pocket is not an adequate or safe way to keep the baby warm.  It is also terrifying for the animal. Remember, to the animal you are rescuing, you are a predator!

Warming techniques:

  • Place 1 cup of uncooked rice in a sock and tie or rubber band the open end. Place in the microwave for 1 minute. If not warm, heat another 30-60 seconds until the sock is warm but NOT HOT. If you don’t have rice, try lentils or similar product.
  • Put hot water in a bottle and place the bottle in a sock. This is a good solution if you are traveling or at the office.
  • If it will be several hours until you can transport the animal to a rehabilitator, use a heating pad set on low.  It is very important to place heating pad under one half of the container only so that the animal can choose the side of the container it prefers.  When checking on the baby, it should be warm but not sweaty or hot.
    • CAUTION: Newer heating pads have automatic shut offs that you may need to monitor if you are keeping the animal overnight.  

The rice sock or hot water bottle will travel with the animal as you are transporting to a wildlife rehabilitator.  Each can be reheated as needed and normally they will each hold the temperature long enough to transport the animal to safety.

There are several options for you as you begin your search for professional help for an animal in need. Remember, the wild animal you have rescued should be respected as such. Please keep children and pets away from wild animals

 

  • DFW Wildlife Coalition telephone hotline 972-234-WILD or 972-234-9453
    Hours of operation are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days per year.  Our 100{376de46712742e812dd3d98559fb34c156542d2d9d295b06b04bc04c2527f5a7} volunteer operated hotline will assist in finding a wildlife rehabilitator that specializes in the wildlife or type of injury, orphaned, and or conflict or concern you may have.  
  • Animal Help Now (www.ahnow.org)
    If you have called the DFW Wildlife Coalition and it is after hours, you cannot reach a volunteer, or you live outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and surrounding counties, you may find a wildlife rehabilitator at Animal Help Now website (www.ahnow.org).  Animal Help Now is a national database of wildlife or veterinarian professionals.

 

You may download Animal Help Now, free application for either iPhone or Android called “Animal Help Now”.  This app will work on GPS lists wildlife rehabilitators or veterinarians based on hours of operation.  You may need to search in surrounding cities or counties. If you are searching late at night, you may want to check again in the morning in the event there are other options.  

If you cannot locate a rehabilitator or transport the animal immediately, provide heat all night and do not attempt to feed.  Most animals will not eat when in pain and you can do more harm than good by force feeding or providing food. Please refrain from handling needlessly. Remember, you are a predator and may be causing undo stress and fear.  Prey species can die from stress.  

As tempting as it might be to keep the animal and attempt to care for it yourself, please remember that it is illegal to keep a wild animal. Delay in transporting may be the difference in life or death and the animals best chance at survival rests with being placed with a permitted professional.  If you delay, you might compromise the recovery of the animal you have rescued.

 

ONCE YOU HAVE LOCATED A REHABILITATION PROFESSIONAL

  • Be prepared to transport as quickly as possible once you have located a rehabilitation professional.  If you know that you cannot do so, please reach out to neighbors, family and friends for help in transporting the life you have rescued. Wildlife rehabilitators have their hands full providing feedings, medical attention, and husbandry to the animals in their care; they typically do not have the time or volunteers to pick up wildlife.  If you still cannot locate transportation, please reach out to friends in your HOA, neighborhood app, or Facebook. Uber might also be an option for transport.
  • Once you have placed your animal with the rehabber and provided information about its history with you, please donate to the wildlife rehabilitator as they do not receive assistance from city or state agencies.

Thank you for being a caring person and for taking the time to save wildlife!

  • Wildlife that is nocturnal will on occasion, especially while lactating, forage during the day.
  • If you observe a wild animal traveling from point A to point B, this would be considered normal healthy behavior.
  • Behavior to be concerned with is an animal that is lingering and not alert of the dogs or humans nearby.

Raccoons, skunks, fox, and coyote are susceptible to canine distemper and parvo.  Bobcats, raccoons, skunks and fox are susceptible to panleukopenia. Responsible pet owners vaccinate their pets annually for these diseases.  However, wildlife does not have the benefit of vaccines. Often an animal that is lingering and unaware of activity is suffering from distemper. Symptoms include:

  • Out during the day.  The difference is the animal is just lying in the yard and does not care what is happening around them such as barking dogs or people.
  • dragging hind legs, twitching, seizures, symptoms of nervous system disease
  • appearing to be tame
  • staggering   
  • matted eyes, or nasal discharge

These symptoms can also be rabies.  In Texas, there are very few incidences of rabies in the raccoon, coyote, fox, or bobcat however eastern states do see a greater incidence of rabies in the raccoon.  In the DFW area, we see an occasional skunk with rabies.

A sick animal needs to be removed by your city animal services and euthanized.  Distemper is not curable and is an air borne virus that is contagious.  People cannot contract distemper. Removal protects the rest of the wildlife.  Euthanasia is humane as the sick animal is suffering a lingering death. Most wildlife rehabilitators do not have the resources to euthanize for the public and do not want to introduce viruses to their existing animals in their care.

Please do not feed wildlife such as raccoons.  The transmission of distemper usually occurs when someone is intentionally feeding, and unrelated raccoons dine together.  The results are devastating as neighborhood populations die off. Show respect by not feeding wildlife.

For more information on rabies please the visit Center for Disease Control; https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/location/usa/surveillance/human_rabies.html

For the annual report documenting cases of rabies in Texas:

Texas Health and Human service annual report

Mammal predators in our cities include, bobcats, coyotes, and to a lesser degree raccoons, foxes, skunks and opossum.  Their diets consist of a wide range of insects, lizards, frogs, snakes, mice, rats, rabbits, squirrel, and ducks. All except the bobcat are omnivores which extends their diet to also include plants such as fruits, berries, and nuts.  A quick look around in your neighborhood, you will understand there is plenty of food. We have made those food sources even denser with accessible dumpsters and feeding of wildlife such as ducks at the park, bird or squirrel feeders in our yards.  In fact, food is so plentiful that hunting is not always a requirement when you can quickly dive into a dumpster and dine on our leftovers.

As our cities grow, we have encouraged developers to build green areas and water features in our planned communities.  We enjoy a daily walk or run or a visit to the greenbelt to watch the birds, ducks and squirrels. Often, we are willing to pay extra for those experiences.

Many have worried that continued encroachment of our cities might be devasting to our wildlife.  Our mid-range mammals have successfully adapted and our thriving in our cities. Basic needs of food, water and shelter are abundant.  

As our wildlife has adapted, many studies have been conducted and revealed that traditional trapping of wildlife does not solve the urban wildlife conflict.  Because food, water and shelter are so plentiful the removal of an animal just leaves the remaining animals larger territories to raise their family successfully. Another consideration is when the predator prey balance is disturbed there is an increase in rodent and rabbit populations.  Increased rodent population can be a health risk. Our urban predators naturally avoid human contact. Studies have also revealed that our urban predators are territorial and when relocated rarely survive.

Conflicts can be resolved with removal of the basic three needs of food, water, and shelter.

  • First rule:  NEVER FEED WILDLIFE!
    • Remove and or secure all food sources such as garbage, bird and squirrel feeders, pet food, or fallen fruit or nuts/acorns.
    • If you want to feed the birds, please put a day’s portion of seed when you can enjoy the songbirds.
    • Place your garbage out the morning of pick up.  If you must place out the night before, put half a cup of ammonia in the can to discourage rummaging.  Keep dumpster doors and lids closed.
    • Do not keep pet food out.  If you must feed your dog outside, please pick up any remaining food after 30-40 minutes.  Consider feeding indoors to prevent fire ants and flies in your pet’s food.
    • When feeding feral cats, alter the time of feeding frequently.
    • Do not store pet food or seeds in your garage or out buildings unless secured in a container that cannot be opened or chewed.
  • Manage pets.
    • When outside, supervise small pets and keep on a leash by your side when walking.  Keep small pets indoors.
    • Vaccinate your pets annually.
    • Bobcats, coyotes, hawks, eagles, and owls do not typically search for pets, however smaller than a rabbit size pet could be mistaken as prey.
    • Recommendations are to keep cats indoors as there are multiple dangers in our communities such as cars, disease, cat fights, dogs, hawks, owls, coyotes and bobcats.  
    • Cats are the major cause of song birds, rabbits, baby opossums, and baby squirrels admissions to a wildlife rehabilitator.
  • Water your lawns during the day. Adjust sprinkler systems to prevent pooling of water.
  • Avoid allowing landscape to become overgrown.  
    • Thin brushy areas.  
    • Don’t keep junk piles or accumulate debris.
  • Seal areas that could become den sites such as under a storage shed, a deck, or under a pier and beam home.
  • Teach children to respect and never approach or touch wildlife.  Explain the wildlife’s role in our cities and to always get an adult to help if wildlife is in need.  Small children should always be supervised as there are many dangers in our cities.
  • Most conflicts are a result of feeding wildlife which causes habituation that leads to unnatural behavior and conflict.
  • Share this information with your neighbors, family and friends.  Through education and responsible behavior, animals and humans can coexist in our cities.

A good video showing predator prey in an urban eco-system

If you already have a raccoon occupying your home, it is easy to evict the raccoon. Trapping is not recommended as babies are very often left behind. Territorial animals rarely survive relocation, especially a mother raccoon with kits that will be forced to abandon her family to survive. Raccoons are a rabies vector species and the law states they may not be relocated more than 10 miles as a prevention to stop the spread of rabies. In the Dallas Fort Worth area, we experience canine distemper in the raccoon every few years, relocating raccoons just contributes to the spread of canine distemper.
Eviction is a simpler solution because you do not have to relocate or tear into walls or other tight areas where raccoons prefer to den. With deterrents you encourage the raccoon to vacate and take her young which prevents orphaning. Eviction is the most humane solution.
To evict, first identify where the raccoon is gaining access to your home. Inspect for damaged vents, soffits, and or flashings. The entry may have fur around the edges. To evict you will need a light (possibly an extension cord), a portable radio, apple cider vinegar and some rags. A utility clamp light purchased at your local hardware store is very handy to use.
  • You must do the eviction at dusk because you are evicting a nocturnal animal.
  • At dusk light the den area.
  • Turn the radio on a 24-hour talk or rap station and place near the den.
  • These two deterrents are normally enough.
  • You may add the third deterrent the apple cider vinegar-soaked rags at the den, especially if it takes more than one night to complete the eviction.
  • You must turn these deterrents off at dawn.
The raccoon will be alarmed at these deterrents and will move to another den site. The mother raccoon is a single mom and these deterrents are a threat to her babies when she is out hunting/foraging. Remember they prefer quiet dark locations and you just created the opposite conditions. If there are babies the mother raccoon will begin to move her babies one at a time like a dog or cat. Often moving babies will take more than one night.
  • At dawn when you turn the deterrents off, plug the entry hole with paper or tape a plastic trash bag over the hole. The purpose is not to restrict entry, it is to alert you as to activity coming and going.
  • If the plugged entry is left untouched for 24-hours the raccoon has moved. If there is still activity repeat the deterrents as above and include the apple cider vinegar-soaked rags for the second night. Dawn of the second morning, again turn deterrents off and plug the hole to monitor for activity. When babies are involved it may take two nights for the mother to relocate the babies.
  • Once there is no activity, immediately repair or at the very minimum cover the entry with hardware cloth and a ¾ to 1-inch sturdy staple.
  • A special note, if there are adverse weather conditions that may limit the mother’s activity, wait to begin the eviction as you do not want the mother to become accustomed to the deterrents.
Remember prevention is the best solution. Keeping wildlife babies with their natural mother is the most humane solution. The simple use of deterrents is effective. If you are having difficulty or need advice, please contact the wildlife hotline. If you suspect the mother left a baby behind, call the hotline.

When considering a removal company, please check references and ask questions regarding practices as most removal companies will gladly take your money. However, they may have no regard to preventing orphaning or inhumanely killing the animals or may just relocate the family which will not survive at this delicate time in their life. Some removal companies orphan the young and then take to local rehabilitators with no concern of the expense and time required to rehabilitate these babies. It is very difficult for rehabilitators to say no to these babies in fear of how they may be disposed of. Be an informed consumer, ask questions or you may call the hotline for referral of a humane exclusion services.

The following video shows removal of a raccoon family by a trained humane exclusion company.

“How to Evict your Raccoon Roommates”

 

For more information read:

Urban raccoons will den in a variety of locations such as, under sheds and decks, under pier and beam homes, in chimneys, attics, barns, wood piles or similar locations. Studies of the raccoon have shown that they may have as many as five den locations. They will seek out quiet dark dens and do prefer small areas where they can feel secure. Once they locate a preferred den, they will return and may remain until you encourage them to move.
The preferred solution is to be proactive before the birthing season which can begin in Texas as early as January, however, is typically March through May. Weather changes such as cold temperatures also increase the activity of raccoons denning in homes as they are seeking shelter. Look for decaying eaves and soffits around your home. Repair permanently or at the very least, cover concerned areas with hardware cloth and a strong ¾ to 1-inch staple. A raccoon’s hands can remove and embellish an area if they are intent on occupying. Inspect or install a chimney cap. Inspect tree growth that is extending over your roof, or a trellis giving roof access. You may want to trim or relocate such landscaping as it gives raccoons and squirrels access and opportunity to get on to your roof and in to your attic through vents or decaying wood.
If you have a deck or outbuildings that an animal could dig under you may want to secure by building a skirt around the base. Secure by constructing a “L” shape barrier of hardware cloth. The horizontal of the “L” will be at a 45-degree angle away from the structure at least 12 inches width from the base and submerged four to six inches. An animal that typically digs to gain access will quickly be discouraged from this barrier and will move on. Any erosion around foundations can be an invitation for an animal to embellish and gain entry.
Prevention is the best policy when co-existing with our urban wild neighbors. The urban wildlife is here to stay, therefore maintenance and modification of our yards and homes to make them less desirable is the best lasting solution.
For more information read FAQ: Ways to discourage wildlife in your yard.

Many of our urban neighbors, such as skunk, opossum, raccoon, or armadillo enjoy dining on grub worms.  Normally, this takes place after a lot of rain or overwatering from a sprinkler system as the moisture causes the grubs to rise to the surface.  Eating of the grubs is beneficial and free pest control.   Once the grubs are eaten the wildlife will continue their journey.  Patience and tolerance are recommended, however there are those times you may want to encourage the wildlife to move sooner.  Following are recommendations.

    • Mix 1 cup Castor oil, 1 cup liquid dish soap, and 1-gallon of water.  Put is a garden sprayer and spray the area of concern. You will need to respray as needed due to rain or sprinkler system.
    • One longer-term solution is a product called “Milky Spore”, (not effective in Texas for the white grub), this is a natural non-toxic bacterium that will kill grubs and can be purchased online or your local garden store.  
    • Beneficial Nematodes is another long-term solution for grubs and can be purchased online or at garden stores.  In Texas, commercially-available nematodes have shown a 50{376de46712742e812dd3d98559fb34c156542d2d9d295b06b04bc04c2527f5a7} reduction of grubs. Carefully follow instructions for the best results.  
    • According to Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension the repeated use of spiked sandals (sold for aerating) over the infested turf may reduce grub population by 50{376de46712742e812dd3d98559fb34c156542d2d9d295b06b04bc04c2527f5a7}.  
    • Other ways to prevent grub worms are as follows:
      • In late spring to early summer, reduce outdoor lighting which attracts the June bug and other beetles.  This may reduce egg laying in your yard.
      • Do not cut your lawn short as this makes a more attractive site for laying eggs.  Let it remain taller.
      • Over seed your lawn in the spring and fall.  A thick lawn is too dense to accommodate the beetles.
      • Use an eco-friendly fertilize for your lawn in the spring and fall.  A healthy lawn is more resistant to pest. A good comparison with tips at this site:  http://www.greenhome.com/blog/cut-the-crap-making-your-own-eco-friendly-fertilizer-is-easier-than-you-think
  • Practice deep watering of your lawn especially in August. The grub eggs require frequent moisture to hatch.  By limiting the frequency of watering, the moisture reduction will reduce the number of eggs hatching.

It will take some preventative measures to reduce and prevent grub worms, the results will be a healthy lawn and less wildlife digging.

Resources:

To gain insight on the raccoon and its intelligence view these documentaries,

The Intelligence of the Raccoons

 

Raccoon Backyard Bandit