Raccoon Facts

Raccoons are a distinctively marked, stocky animal. They have a prominent black mask over their eyes and a heavily furred, ringed tail. Body fur color is a salt and pepper gray and black. Adults are about two to three feet in length, and weigh from 12 to 30 pounds. There are occasional large specimens weighing from 36-38 pounds.

The raccoon lives throughout the United States, with the exception of higher elevations in mountainous regions and some areas of the arid southwest. They are also common in southern Canada and all of Mexico.

Raccoons are nocturnal, although they are sometimes active during the daytime, especially on cloudy days and in the spring. They usuallystay in thier dens during the winter, but will come out during warm periods.

They locate their dens in hollow trees, ground burrows, rock crevices and brush patches.

Raccoons fear nothing and will live close to people. In rural areas, raccoons will stay in barns and other outbuildings. In cities, they live in storm sewers and other subterranean places.

Raccoons are very good climbers and are often seen high in the branches of a tree on a moonlit night.

Beware of a raccoon's temper. They have a nasty disposition when cornered or caged, so do not provoke them.

Raccoons are omnivores, which means they will eat most anything. They are also a very curious animal with an endless appetite. They investigate every smell and every unusual sight for something to eat. In the wild, their favorite foods are nuts, berries, corn, carrion and any animal the raccoon can eat. Fish is a favorite of raccoons, as are eggs.

Signs

Raccoon PrintsRaccoon tracks are very distinctive. They resemble the hand and foot prints of humans. Look for tracks in muddy areas or along travel ways the raccoon is using. Often, the only noticeable sign left by a raccoon is the disturbance they have created. Garbage cans tipped over and garbage strewn about, sweet corn patches stripped of ripe corn, and poultry kills with dead birds partially eaten near the spot, are some common signs left by nuisance raccoons.

Raccoons often cause problems in residential areas because a house chimney can replace the cavity in a tree that they normally live in. This is a problem because the raccoons can get stuck and when a fire is lit, or a furnace is running, carbon monoxide fumes can back up and suffocate the occupants of the building.

In domestic gardens, raccoons damage far more than they eat. They ransack corn stalks, pull back the husks and eat the ears. Raccoons will break holes in watermelons and scoop out the insides.

When raccoons raid poultry pens, they leave telltale signs that identify them as the perpetrator of the damage. Heads of the birds are usually bitten off and left some distance away from the body. Several birds may be injured or killed by raccoons reaching through the cage wires and attempting to pull them back through the mesh. Eggs may be removed completely from the nest or they may be eaten on the spot.

Trapping Tips

Set cage traps for raccoons along their pathways, and near their living areas.

In situations where raccoons are causing problems with domestic fowls such as chickens, it is best to locate cage traps directly along the side of the building or pen the raccoon is raiding.

In barns, conceal cage traps directly among bales, and other agricultural stock.

To capture raccoons living in chimneys, it is best to devise some way of attaching the cage trap to the top of the chimney. Then, go inside and drive the raccoon up and into the trap. If attached to the chimney, make sure the trap is stabilized, level, and secure for the trap to work properly.

With the exception of chimney top sets and trail sets, all cage traps must be baited with a good, visible, enticing bait. The odor of the bait is important. The use of a good prepared bait or lure with a strong, sweet smell is recommended.

Be sure to anchor all raccoon traps securely.

Good baits for raccoons are fish, sardines, herring, crayfish, frogs, or something sweet like honey. Some cage trappers have good luck using sweet rolls for bait. Eggs are a good visual attractant. A piece of bread with peanut butter and honey also works well as a bait. There are commercial baits available that work well, particularly if used in combination with some other visual type of a bait.

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