Raccoons are stocky, medium-sized, omnivorous mammals in the order Carnivora. They are primarily nocturnal, and wild raccoons rarely venture out in the daytime unless they are ill. They are easily recognized by their “masked” eyes and ringed tails.
Raccoons are among the most versatile and adaptable animals in nature. They are very intelligent and have remarkable problem-solving abilities, even including a rudimentary ability to use tools. They also have extremely dexterous front paws, great physical strength for their size, and excellent senses of smell, hearing, touch, and balance. They have fairly good night vision, but they’re believed to be color-blind and to have poor distance vision.
Another interesting thing about raccoons is their habit of rubbing their food while holding it underwater. This “washing” or “dousing” behavior is where the raccoon’s taxonomic name, Procyon lotor, comes from. Roughly translated, it means “a bear who washes.” We now know, however, that the sensory nerves in a raccoon’s front paws become much more sensitive when they are wet. Some biologists believe that the dousing behavior may help raccoons identify and avoid spoiled food.
In nature, raccoons are preferentially arboreal. Given their choice, they’ll take a hollow tree over any other dwelling. But they’ll also live in caves, underground burrows, natural lean-tos formed by fallen trees, and other similar areas. But when threatened, they take to the trees.
Raccoons as Nuisance Animals
Human society having dramatically affected the hollow tree real estate market, raccoons frequently seek homes in human-occupied buildings. Given a choice, they like attics best; but they’ll also happily move into crawl spaces, voids under porches, shed, barns, and so forth.
It bears mentioning at this point that raccoons, despite their “cute” appearance and tendency to keep to themselves, are dangerous animals to have in or around your home. They are very strong, very unfriendly, very unpredictable, and not at all hesitant to attack if they feel threatened. They’re capable of seriously injuring, or even killing, an adult human; and children are even more at risk because they may try to pet or tame a raccoon.
Raccoons also are susceptible to rabies and distemper, and carry many other diseases. They also have parasites that carry diseases of their own. Like most animals, raccoons with late-stage rabies may exhibit behavioral changes, such as becoming lethargic, coming out in the daytime, and appearing tame or friendly. This is when most human bites by rabid raccoons occur.
Long story short, avoid contact with raccoons at any time, but especially avoid raccoons if you see them in the daytime or if they appear tame. They’re probably very sick.
Raccoon Damage to Homes
The physical danger and disease considerations are two very good reasons why you definitely don’t want raccoons living in or near your home. Another reason is that they are very destructive animals. They’ve very strong, very smart, very good climbers, and are able to use their intelligence and rudimentary tools (such as using tree branches to unlock latches that they can’t reach) to get into homes.
The physical capabilities of raccoons are impressive, as is their determination. If a raccoon wants to get into your home, they’ll look for the slightest vulnerability, such as a loose shingle or a construction gap under the roof eaves. Then they’ll work on that vulnerability until it’s big enough for them to get inside your home.
Raccoons do damage to homes getting into them, and they continue to do damage once they’re inside. They also create a serious health threat with their urine, droppings, and shed parasites. They also can create a fire hazard when they build dens in chimneys, or even unintentionally fall into the living quarters.
Raccoon Trapping, Removal, and Exclusion
Raccoons are among the most common animals we’re called upon to trap and remove. This typically is done with live traps placed in or near the area where the raccoon is living. In cases where there are more than one raccoon, multiple visits may be necessary. Most often, when multiple raccoons are present, they are a mother and her young. But sometimes adult raccoons, especially young adult siblings, may spend the winter together.
A raccoon control job isn’t finished once the raccoons are removed. That’s just the first step. The next steps are to clean up the mess, repair the damage the raccoons did, and make the house raccoon-proof. This last step is known as “exclusion,” and should be performed by wildlife management professionals. Like, well, us, for example.
The reason for this is that DIY raccoon exclusion almost always fails, and raccoon exclusion by handymen doesn’t fare much better. Most folks simply don’t appreciate how strong, smart, and determined raccoons can be when they want to get into a building. That’s why at Bugaboo Pest Control, we offer professional raccoon damage repair and exclusion throughout our Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington service areas.
We also tidy up after the raccoons and disinfect the areas where we’re living to remove raccoon filth and contamination. If needed, we can also replace contaminated insulation, install chimney caps and animal-resistant vents, and do whatever else is needed to keep the raccoons out of your home for good.
Please contact us for more information about raccoon trapping, removal, or exclusion or to schedule an appointment.