Racoons may look and act friendly, but they're not. They get into your trash, damage your property, and carry rabies, which is a danger to you and your pets. If you live in an area plagued with raccoons, here are a few tips to keep these pests away.
Don't Invite Them Home
Raccoons are aggressive nocturnal omnivores, which means they come out at night, eat almost anything, and won't let anything get in their way to do so. Your first line of defense is prevention. Raccoons are usually drawn to your trash. Metal cans with sealing and secure-locking lids are best, as they cannot be eaten through or opened.You can improve the seal and closure on most cans by attaching a piece of slit rubber tubing around the top edge of the can and putting a cinder block on the lid. Pet food and water left out overnight are irressistible to raccoons. They like to wash their food, so even a single water dish can attract them, as can standing water. Bring your pets and their dishes inside at night. And make sure your pet's shots are up-to-date.
Keeping the Critters At Bay
Putting a radio tuned to a talk station near the trash can keep them away. Raccoons don't like to be around humans, so this will repel them, but they might soon realize there's no real threat. Also, a bit of ammonia in or around the trash keeps them away, as will bright lights on a motion-activated sensor. They're bold critters, so it may take several floodlights in different areas of your property.
There are several types of electronic devices for warding off raccoons outside. Some are for general critter repellent, not just raccoons. One emits ultrasonic sound that scares the animal, and another is a sprinkler system, for warding off crows, but would do the same to raccoons. These products are also motion activated and can cost from $65 to $300. There are other products such as poisons and other chemicals, but they aren't recommended, especially if you have pets or small children.
They Don't Knock
Another hazard is raccoons in the house; that is, the attic or the chimney. Mothballs or naptha flakes can drive them out, as will the radio or ammonia. But if you hear squealing sounds, chances are there are young involved. In this case, wait as long as possible before taking action. You might chase off the mother and leave the young behind to possibly perish. Or the mother might come back, causing more damage trying to get back in. And don't use the chemicals close to the nest as they may harm the young. After about 6 to 8 weeks, the young are more able to travel, and the mother will likely move the nest by then, at which point block the entrance so she can't return and renest.
If none of these removal methods work, it's time for a call to your local Animal Control officer.