If you feel like your encounters with raccoons have become increasingly common, you’re not alone. Though raccoons were once confined to the rural areas closer to their natural habitats of forests and wetlands, recent decades have seen a great raccoon migration to urban and suburban areas increasingly farther from their ancestral homes.
This shift in habitat has been anything but detrimental to raccoon populations. Zoologist Sam Zeveloff estimates the North American raccoon population grew between 15-20 fold from the 1930s to the 1980s and is still on the rise, especially in urban and suburban areas where the creatures were once less common.
In this article, we discuss ways to identify raccoon-related property damage if you’ve yet to spot these unwanted visitors and ways to keep raccoons away from your home. We’ll also cover why raccoons are thriving in residential environments, so you can better prevent raccoons in the first place.
Why Are Raccoons in Cities and Suburbs?
One of the best methods to prevent raccoons is to understand the survival habits that influence their behavior, which reveals why urban areas and suburbs are seemingly perfect habitats for raccoons.
At first glance, it can seem surprising that a creature adapted for life in forests and wetlands has transitioned to life in commercially developed areas like cities and residential communities. Raccoons are omnivorous, and while they are both predators and scavengers in the wilderness, cities and suburbs offer a bounty of food sources to rely on for scavenging. They can feed off everything from discarded human food to birdseed and pet kibble, and the abundance of small rodents in urban areas provides a great fallback in case of well-secured garbage cans.
Additionally, raccoons are nocturnal and possess excellent night vision, making late-night trash can raids easier. Combine raccoons’ feeding habits with the abundance of food, daytime shelter via attic, crawlspaces, and porches and a relative lack of natural predators in cities and suburbs (humans not included), and you have an ideal habitat.
With these factors in mind, it’s time to get into the best ways to keep raccoons away from your house and prevent future raccoons from taking up residence.
Property Damage Caused by Raccoons
While the extent of outdoor damage caused by raccoons is largely limited to toppled trash cans, trampled gardens and droppings, the risk of interior damage is much more severe. Raccoons are often aggressive in looking for nesting sites and have been known to damage roofs by removing shingles to gain access to a potential nesting area. If a raccoon gains interior access, most commonly in attics, chimneys, garages and crawlspaces, your home’s insulation, electrical systems and ventilation can sustain damage.
You can also be exposed to infectious diseases such as roundworm, giardiasis and salmonella found in raccoon droppings, with roundworm eggs from raccoon feces capable of becoming airborne and infecting humans. If you suspect a raccoon has gained interior access to your home, contact a wildlife removal company immediately.
How to Keep Raccoons Away From Your House
As mentioned above, the two most important factors to keep raccoons away from your house are eliminating access to food and shelter. Techniques for doing this include the following:
1. Don’t Feed the Raccoons
Like with any wild animal, providing a regular source of food for raccoons encourages dependence on humans for food and can lead to overpopulation. As raccoons often live in and develop family groups, feeding them can leave a well-intentioned homeowner with a much larger problem on their hands in the long run.
2. Secure All Garbage Cans
Raccoons are master scavengers, and their enhanced night vision allows them to easily feed at night. Raccoons also sport incredibly dexterous paws and can squeeze into the tightest spaces, so effectively securing your trash cans may require more ingenuity. Popular methods include using bungee cords to secure lids, adding weights on top of trash can lids or investing in a garbage can shed that can be secured with a lock and key. Additionally, many manufacturers produce trash cans specifically designed to prevent pests.
3. Feed Your Pets Indoors
Leaving food and water bowls to sit outdoors for your dog or cat isn’t a good idea for your pet — or for deterring pests. Not cleaning your pet’s food and water bowls can create breeding grounds for harmful bacteria, a risk that’s only amplified by exposure to the elements, while also providing a regular food source for neighborhood pests.
4. Raccoon-Proof Your Garden
If you have a hunch that raccoons are wreaking havoc on your garden, take steps to raccoon-proof your garden area. Take bird feeders indoors at night or hang them from a narrow pole, preferably 1/2-inch or less in diameter, 5-6 feet from the ground. While fencing is not enough to deter raccoons, many homeowners have had success coupling garden enclosures with motion-activated sprinklers.
5. Use Scents to Keep Raccoons Away
Raccoons have an incredible sense of smell, and utilizing this trait can be a great deterrent to keep them away from your home. Keep in mind that repeated application of these scents in problem areas can be more time-consuming compared to other methods.
What scents will keep raccoons away from your property? These include:
- Hot pepper: This potent spice does a great job of irritating a raccoon’s sense of smell and makes it much harder to locate food. Through repeated use, it can drive a persistent raccoon to look elsewhere for foodstuffs. Cayenne pepper is great for this, though it will need to be applied regularly to any and all locations raccoons visit for food, as its scent dissipates over time.
- Onion and pepper: A variation of the previous entry, this combination utilizes cayenne pepper’s irritating qualities while providing the unpleasant scent of onion. This mix can be a good choice if cayenne pepper alone is not effective. Boil a chopped onion in water with cayenne pepper, and spray the liquid around potential food sources and nesting areas. This scent will only last a few days, so you will need to reapply it regularly.
- Peppermint essential oil: Many animals despise the scent of peppermint, so using an essential oil or peppermint-derived wildlife repellent spray is another great method to help deter raccoons from your property. As with all scent-based methods, the spray will need to be reapplied regularly to maintain its potency.
Before taking any pest deterrent action, always remember to research the toxicity of the method you’re considering, as many popular deterrent solutions such as blood meal and mothballs are toxic to raccoons and other animals.
Get Rid of Raccoons With Urban Jungle Wildlife Removal
If you suspect a raccoon is nesting in your home, contact a wildlife removal service immediately. Attempting to remove a raccoon on your own can be dangerous. It’s best to call the professionals sooner rather than later to minimize any property damage and reduce the chances of a nesting mother raising her young in your home.
Urban Jungle Wildlife Removal LLC has qualified and fully insured professionals who possess bachelor’s degrees or higher in biology or related fields. Our raccoon trapping and exclusion services remove raccoons from the premises so you and your loved ones can remain safe without experiencing property damage. If you’re having any issues with raccoons or other wild animals, contact us to see how we can help.