It happened again. You took out the trash last night and it didn’t quite fit. You decided to chance it and leave the lid just a tiny bit open. It wasn’t supposed to be windy tonight. The trash collectors were coming in the morning. It should have been fine. But now you’re picking up scattered trash out of your lawn in a frantic rush before you drive off to work. The raccoons got into your trash can.
Raccoons are interesting animals. Their nocturnal lifestyles and distinctive facial markings fit their reputations as raiders in the night perfectly. They’re notoriously clever. There is some debate about exactly how clever a raccoon is, but some scientists believe they are comparable to primates. Maybe that explains how they always seem to be able to figure out immediately when a trashcan is just a tiny bit unsecured.
The big reason why raccoons cause so much trouble is a combination of urbanization and their own adaptability. Raccoons are able to shift their diets depending on what’s available in the area. That means that as towns and cities go up where forests used to be, their diets change from wild berries and river trout to the tomatoes in your garden and the Stouffer’s Original in your trash. Worse, they’re also more than content to adapt from living in a burrow to building a den in your attic.
Most of the time, raccoons are just a nuisance. Scattered trash in the lawn is frustrating, but that’s really all it is. But raccoons are a threat6 if they’ve taken up living in a human home. For starters, even though raccoons are not particularly aggressive, they can and will attack if provoked. Pets like dogs and cats can wind up in bad shape after a skirmish with a raccoon. Raccoons also carry the threat of rabies. Rabies is a rare disease, with total reported cases across all carrier species being reported in the low thousand. But raccoons make up about a third of all of those reported cases. More commonly, raccoons are a host to several forms of bacteria that can make human beings sick.
Removing raccoons from your home can be tricky. If you live in an urban area, it’s likely that local laws prohibit killing or relocating raccoons without a permit. And raccoons are highly social creatures with fantastic memories. To put it simply, raccoons have told their friends how much they like living in your attic, and they know how to get back. After removing a raccoon, you will need to work to make sure that the infested space is no longer a comfortable den for a returning raccoon.
Raccoons look like bandits. They act like it too. They’ll raid your trash and break into your home given the chance. Consult a pest control expert if you’re worried about these furry little thieves in the night.