Wildlife: Raccoons

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, when you approach, the juvenile 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 and the baby is not in distress, place an inverted laundry basket to contain and wait a couple hours to see if mom retrieves the baby. If she does not, contact the hotline or a raccoon wildlife rehabilitator.

A baby raccoon needs rescuing if:

  1. The kit is continually vocalizing.
  2. Fire ants or flies are present.
  3. Obvious injury.
  4. You have observed a dead adult in your neighborhood.
  5. You are aware that an adult was trapped or killed in your neighborhood. Babies will begin to leave the den 24-72 hours if mom does not return.
  6. You or your neighbor have used rat poison.
  7. The kit is lethargic and very thin.
  8. Eyes are closed, and the baby appears to have crawled out of a den.
  9. The den is flooded.

An adult wearing gloves should gently cover baby with a T-shirt, pick up and place in a secure box or pet carrier for transport.  Proceed to our “QUICK TIPS” for additional rescue instructions.

Please reference our “Quick Tips” located in the upper right corner of our website for instructions on containing, transporting, providing life saving heat, and finding a wildlife rehabilitator.

Nocturnal wildlife will, on occasion, forage during the day. This is common with lactating mothers or wildlife that have been accustomed to dining on reliable resources of pet food.

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 aware 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. Symptoms include any one or a combination of the following:

  1. 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.
  2. Dragging hind legs, twitching, seizures, symptoms of the nervous system.
  3. Appearing to be tame.
  4. Staggering.
  5. 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 report 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. As the sick animal lingers, it spreads the air borne virus. Animals with distemper can spread it to others 12-15 feet away. Removal protects the rest of the wildlife. Most wildlife rehabilitators do not have the resources to euthanize for the public, as well, do not want to introduce viruses to the animals in their care.  People cannot contract distemper. 

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

 

First an understanding of why we have wildlife in our cities.  

As our cities encroached on fields and woods the wildlife adapted. Our greenbelts and water features in our planned communities, provide shelter, water, and a place to hunt. The wildlife moves around our cities freely, utilizing our creeks/streams, greenbelts, and storm drainage systems. Further adaptions were made as smaller territories were required as an alternative food supply of garbage was consumed instead of exclusively hunting. Den choices became plentiful as wildlife discovered our homes/decks were great dens.

Two species who have adapted extremely well are the raccoon and opossum. Their populations in the cities are known to be 5 to 8 times greater than their country counterpart.

Mammal predators in our cities include, bobcats, coyotes, and to a lesser degree raccoons, foxes, skunks and opossums.  Their diets consist of a wide range of insects, lizards, frogs, snakes, mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, 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.

Life in the cities is indeed easier for the wildlife.

It is understandable that wildlife and humans will have conflicts.  As we learned to live with our wild neighbors, studies have revealed that traditional trapping of wildlife does not solve the urban wildlife conflict. With abundant resources of food, water, and shelter the remaining animals will absorb that vacant territory in a very short time. In many cases, such as the coyote, when a resident pair are removed the surrounding coyotes absorb the vacant territory allowing for the success of larger litters.  The results are a larger coyote population than prior to removal.  Studies also reveal that relocated trapped animals seldom survive, as most are territorial.

Another consideration for trapping and relocating is to keep the predator prey balance. When this delicate balance is disturbed there is an increase in rodent, rabbit, and deer populations. Increased rodent population can be a public health risk.

To effectively resolve wildlife conflicts long term, address the basic needs of life; food, water, and shelter.

FOOD

If you want to feed the birds, please put a day’s portion of seed when you can enjoy the songbirds. An overflowing bird feeder attracts rodents, rabbits, and squirrels. The prey eating the seed on the ground attracts the opossum, raccoon, skunk, bobcat, fox, or coyote. You are responsible for creating this food chain in your backyard.

Don’t allow fruit, acorns, and nuts to accumulate.

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.  Consider purchasing animal proof containers. (see our PRODUCTS PAGE in the upper right menu) Place your containers away from walls or fences to discourage access.

Do not keep pet food out.  If you must feed your dog outside, please pick up any remaining food after 20-30 minutes.  Consider feeding indoors to prevent fire ants and flies in your pet’s food.

When feeding feral cats, put out enough food for the cats, remove any food not eaten within a short-designated time.  Any time wildlife joins the feeding, alter the time so that the raccoons, opossums, etc. arrive late for the buffet.

Do not store pet food or seeds in your garage or out buildings unless secured in a container that cannot be opened or chewed.

Compost.  Don’t put food scraps in your compost pile. When using a compost bin keep the doors closed.

Manage pets. Coyotes, bobcats, hawks, and owls consider our small pets (rabbit size or smaller) to be fair prey.  We must be responsible for their safety when outdoors.  When walking, keep your pet on a six-foot leash.  Small pets should be housed inside. Vaccinate your pets annually.

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

Water your lawns during the day. Adjust sprinkler systems to prevent pooling of water.

The use of motion detector devices using either/or a combination of light, sound, and water can reduce visits to your pools or ponds. Visit our PRODUCTS PAGE (located in the upper right of the menu) for several recommended deterrents. Shopping on our site, supports the hotline.

SHELTER

Avoid allowing landscape to become overgrown.  Trim overhanging limbs to discourage roof access. Thin brushy areas.  Keep your grass maintained.

Don’t keep junk piles or accumulate debris.

Compost piles create heat that could attract wildlife seeking shelter from the cold. If using a bin keep the doors closed.

Seal areas and/or correct any erosion that could become den sites under a storage shed, a deck, or under a pier and beam home.

For pier and beam homes check your foundation vents and replace with a sturdy hardware cloth to prevent entry.

Decks should be constructed so that wildlife cannot get under. The base can be wood, rock, brick or hardware cloth to ground level. To prevent digging bury wire from the base “L” shaped attached at a 45-degree angle with the base extending at least 12 inches away from the sides. The 12 inches will discourage digging. Buried depth is recommended to be 4 to 6 inches.

Cap your chimney.  Keep your roof and eaves in good repair to prevent entry by rodents, squirrels, or raccoons.

Our urban predators are naturally fearful of humans.  Don’t allow a food source to create a conflict inviting unnatural behavior from your wild neighbors.

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.

Share this information with your neighbors, family and friends. Through education and responsible behavior, wildlife and humans can coexist in our cities.

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

If you have a raccoon occupying your yard, under the deck, storage building, in your attic or chimney, it is easy to encourage them to relocate.

Trapping is not recommended for many reasons.

  1. Often the homeowner is unaware of babies, until they have already trapped/relocated the mother raccoon.
  2. An inexperienced or stressed mother may (when trapped) eat her babies.
  3. The raccoon is a single mother as the male will kill the kits.
  4. Territorial animals rarely survive relocation, especially a wild mother with babies.  Stress of relocation or lack of mobility of the young may cause her to abandon the young.  The resident wildlife may feel threaten and kill the defenseless young.
  5. Relocation contributes to the spread of disease such as rabies, canine distemper or panleukopenia. There are state laws restricting the relocation of raccoons within 10 miles.
  6. Allowing the mother to relocate her babies prevents the homeowner from having additional cost associated with cutting into walls to retrieve the babies. It is much cheaper to let mom get in those tight places and move the babies.

Often the discovery of the den is enough for the mother to move her family.  If it has been a few days since you discovered the family, some encouragement may be required.

An eviction is a simple solution.  Requires no relocation.  Family will remain intact. The use of deterrents encourages the raccoon to vacate by disrupting the quiet, dark den.  Eviction is the most humane solution and wild babies stay with their mother.

FIRST, to evict 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.

An eviction must be deployed at dusk. This is when the mother becomes active and leaves the den to hunt. Upon leaving the den, if she feels a threat to her young family, she will begin relocating. This may be immediately, take one or two nights, depending on the size of the family and the mobility of the babies. 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 accustom to the deterrents.

Deterrents target the senses:  sight, smell, and sound. The deterrents (light, radio, and Apple Cider vinegar) are turned on at dusk and off at day break.  Do not leave on during the day, as the mother will get accustom and determine there is not a threat.

  1. Day one at dusk, provide light to the den.  Depending on the location, you may need to use additional lighting such as a utility light with a clamp (extension cord, if needed) to flood the den site with light. Mothers prefer a dark den.
  2. Add a portable radio on a 24-hour Rap music or Talk station at the den, creates an additional threat to the family, as the preference is to have a quiet den.
  3. Place Apple Cider vinegar on some rags around the den opening.
  4. Turn deterrents off the morning of day two. If you are unsure that the family moved, repeat deterrents at dusk again.
  5. On the morning of day two or three (depending on when you believe the family departed) turn the deterrents off. Seal the entry of the den with newspaper, plastic garbage bag taped to the edges, or other barrier that can be easily removed by the mother if she is still in the den. The purpose is not to trap. The goal is to determine if the mother is still using the den. Monitor for activity for 24 hours. Listen for babies as the mother can’t be at both den locations. She may have partially relocated the family.
  6. If after 24 hours the opening is still sealed as you left it, proceed with permanent repair to prevent another raccoon or wild neighbor from taking up residency.

A minimum repair would entail hardware cloth applied to the opening and secured with a 1-inch sturdy staple.

For a chimney install/reinstall a chimney cap.

If the den site was under a deck or building, 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 in width 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.

Pier and beam homes check your foundation vents and replace with a sturdy hardware cloth to prevent entry.

Don’t kid yourself that another animal won’t occupy the abandoned den! Follow through with the repairs.

If you are having difficulty or need advice, please contact the wildlife hotline.

If you want to hire a professional, the hotline can provide referral for a humane exclusion company. Proceed to FAQ, “I want to hire someone to remove a raccoon and or a family of raccoons. What should I consider?”

If you suspect the mother left a baby behind, call the hotline before you act.

Deterrents work.  A humane eviction prevents orphaning.  Remember to maintain your homes and yards to discourage unwanted wildlife.

To discourage wildlife on your property read FAQ, “Basic Conflict Resolution of our Urban Predators”.

Considering a wildlife removal company, be an informed consumer.  Ask questions.

  1. Ask and check references.
  2. Ask how they intend to trap the animal.  Will it be specific to the target animal(s) location?  Be wary if the trap is just located in your yard.  Any animal can walk in the trap, most likely won’t be the animal you are targeting.
  3. Is the trap humane?
  4. What will they do with the trapped animal? Most of the urban wildlife trapped are territorial.  Relocating to another animal’s territory compromises the ability to survive.
  5. What will they do with babies?  Will they donate to the wildlife rehabilitator?
  6. What form of euthanasia will they use?
  7. What is the state and city laws regarding the wildlife and or its’ relocation?
  8. How can a mother survive with her babies when relocated?

When considering a wildlife removal company, please ask questions. They will gladly take your money. However, will they prevent orphaning or inhumanely killing the removed animal(s).  Relocation sounds humane; however, studies reveal most animal’s do not survive and it is next to impossible for a mother with babies. If they are taking the animal(s) to rehab, will they make an appropriate donation. 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.

Read the FAQ’s on eviction, how to discourage wildlife and many other topics.  Most conflicts can be resolved without hiring a wildlife removal company.  Call the hotline with your specifics and we will be happy to advise and empower you.

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

“How to Evict your Raccoon Roommates”

Skunk, opossum, raccoon, or armadillo enjoy dining on grub worms.  Digging activity is usually noticed after a lot of rain or overwatering from a sprinkler system.  The moisture causes the grubs to rise to the surface.  Wildlife eating grubs is beneficial and is free pest control.   Once the grubs are eaten the wildlife will continue their journey.  Patience and tolerance are recommended.

To Encourage the Wildlife to Move Sooner, adopt these changes to your lawn maintenance.

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.

In late spring to early summer, reduce outdoor lighting which attracts the June bugs 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 fertilizer for your lawn in the spring and fall.  A healthy lawn is more resistant to pests. 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

Attract birds to your yard that may dine on grub worms and other insects.

These Products are Recommended for the Treatment of Grubs.

Your purchase through our product page supports the DFW Wildlife Coalition Hotline.  

Mix 1 cup Castor oil, 1 cup liquid dish soap, and 1-gallon of water.  Put in 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% 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%.

Apply Neem oil as a botanical pesticide.

Adopt the lawn care recommendations.  Encourage those insect eating birds.  And if needed the products recommended to reduce the digging activity in your yard.  Remember the wildlife are beneficial in keeping our rodent populations under control..

Resources:

To gain insight on the raccoon and its intelligence view this documentary.

Raccoon Backyard Bandit