Raccoons

About Raccons

Common raccoon
  • Alberta's raccoon population has traditionally resided largely in the province's southeast. However, in recent years raccoon territory has expanded to include central Alberta.
  • Raccoons have a highly developed sense of touch. They use water - not for washing - but to soften the tough bristles on the bottom of their paws. This makes the bristles better able to pick up and transmit information about the object that the raccoon is handling.
  • Like bears, raccoons must spend the warmer months fattening up for winter dormancy. Though not true hibernators, raccoons still become inactive enough to lose up to 50% of their body weight.
  • Raccoons are omnivores that can easily adapt to whatever food sources are available.
    • In the wild, raccoons feed on fruits, nuts, berries and insects, and foods that can be found near water such as fish, birds, eggs and frogs.
    • Near human habitation, raccoons will eat whatever we deliberately or inadvertently provide, such as garbage, chickens, corn, compost, bird seed or pet food.
  • Raccoons are nocturnal, though they may also roam in the day. They make their dens in culverts, attics, chimneys, outbuildings, tree hollows, barns, abandoned buildings or rock crevices.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can raccoons be a nuisance to people?

  • Raccoons can leave a mess when they root through poorly secured garbage or compost.
  • Raccoons may raid gardens and damage or partially eat the vegetables within it.
  • When attempting to gain access to the attic or crawlspace of a house, raccoons may tear at broken shingles, soffits and fascia boards. Once inside, raccoons can be noisy. There’s also a risk that they'll chew wiring or block exhaust vents, creating a fire hazard.

Can raccoons carry disease?

  • Some raccoons in Alberta may be infected with diseases or parasites of concern, such as raccoon roundworm, canine distemper, or leptospirosis.
  • Although we do not see raccoon rabies in Alberta, any raccoon that is unusually aggressive or approaches people and other animals without fear should be avoided.
  • If you see such behaviour in a raccoon, bring in children and pets then notify the nearest Fish and Wildlife office or municipal animal control organization.
  • It is always a good idea to keep your pet's rabies vaccinations up to date, especially if it's allowed to roam.
  • Raccoons use a designated latrine area outside of their den. If it’s necessary to clean up such a latrine, keep in mind that raccoon roundworm (a parasite in the intestines) can be transmitted to people through the eggs shed into raccoon feces. Be very cautious – wear gloves and a mask, and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Cover outdoor sandboxes to prevent raccoons from using them as a latrine site.

What can I do about the raccoons on my property?

  • Removing individual raccoons will only create a vacancy for another animal to fill. To prevent wildlife from visiting your property, you must remove the food or shelter the animals are seeking.
  • Before closing off the space that raccoons are using as a den, you must be sure that no raccoons are still inside. This is especially important in spring or early summer, when the young are still too dependent to leave the den.
    • To test whether the raccoon still resides inside, or whether young remain, find the hole that the raccoon is using as an entrance.
    • After the sun sets, when the raccoon has left the den to find food, plug the hole with a loosely wadded ball of newspaper.
    • Monitor the plugged hole. If the paper remains intact after about a week, the raccoon has likely vacated and there are no young inside
    • If the paper is removed, that space is likely still being used by the raccoon and its young.
    • Be patient as you monitor. Raccoons may rest inside for days at a time, especially if the weather is inclement.
  • Removing shelter:
    • Clear out brush piles, stacked lumber and debris piles that raccoons can use as cover.
    • Look around your property for spaces underneath sheds, porches, decks and crawlspaces. These spaces should be closed off with a ¼ inch hardware cloth. Again, make sure there are no raccoons inside when you close off the space.
    • Raccoons need a hole of only about 4-6 inches to gain entry to the attic or crawl spaces of your house. Replace broken or rotten boards and nail down any piece that may be loose.
    • If a raccoon finds that its den has been discovered, it may be uncomfortable enough to relocate. Spend more time near the den opening, or leave a radio playing loudly. It may be put off by your persistent presence or the noise of the radio.
    • Trim back the tree branches that hang close to the roof. Raccoons can use these branches as bridges to cross from the tree to your house.
    • Gable vents and mushroom vents should be covered with ¼ inch hardware cloth, and secured with screws and washers at corners and mid-points.
    • Chimneys should be covered with professionally manufactured chimney caps.
    • Raccoons that have already taken up residence under a building or other location on your property may also be deterred by the harsh smell of mothballs or rags soaked in ammonia.
  • Removing food:
    • Secure your garbage:
      • Keep your garbage in a shed or garage until it can be removed from your property.
      • If you live in bear country, buy a bear-resistant garbage can. Using a bear-resistant garbage can will help prevent problems with bears, raccoons and other kinds of wildlife that are attracted to human places by improperly stored garbage.
      • Other garbage cans should be closed with tight-fitting lids and fastened in an upright position so that raccoons cannot knock them over.
    • Feed your pets indoors, or remove their food and water dishes immediately after feeding. Store the pet food inside.
    • Remove your bird feeder until winter, when raccoons are dormant.
    • To protect your garden, consider adding electric fencing

Contact

Call a Fish and Wildlife officer if you need specific advice on raccoon problems on your property, or to discuss removal techniques.

To find contact information for a Fish and Wildlife office near you, see:

Related Information

The Agriculture and Rural Development website offers information for agricultural producers to help manage conflicts with raccoons. Visit:

To download in-depth information about raccoon control from The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, published by the University of Nebraska, see:

 

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Updated: Feb 20, 2014