Category Archives: Raccoons

Raccoons, Rabies, and You

Because raccoons are wild animals and, like any other wild thing, can put up a vicious fight if they are cornered, some people think they will just get a cage and try and trap the animal themselves, thereby saving themselves some money. You should know, however, that it is probably illegal for you to trap a raccoon and then take it somewhere else and release it. If you can’t trap it and then take it somewhere else, then that means you have to kill it. Very few people know how to humanely euthanize trapped wildlife, so for your safety and to be humane, you really need to have someone involved who is licensed and is able to handle the animal humanely and, if necessary, safely dispose of its remains.

One reason many states do not allow people to trap and release raccoons is because, as we noted in a previous blog, they are the animal most often reported that is infected with rabies. In fact 40% of all reported rabies cases now come from raccoons, with skunks and foxes coming in second and third.

In fact, it is thought that the rise in the number of rabid raccoons on the east coast of the US was because some hunting clubs in Virginia wanted to restock their local raccoon populations and did so with some raccoons that had been caught in Florida. Some of these had rabies, but did not yet exhibit the symptoms. Since that time, increased rates of raccoon rabies has spread across the East and all the way up into Canada.

In fact, before 1960, most reported rabies cases were in domestic animals, but now almost 90% of the cases involved wild animals. Rabies in humans though is pretty rare; and there are only about 2 cases a year in the whole US. Of these more than half were due to contacts with bats, not raccoons.

The Increasingly Common Pest: The Raccoons

Each pest has its own separate list of annoyances. The most common complaints about raccoons is that they are either living in someone’s attic or, believe it or not, in their chimney! Raccoons are also notorious for getting into garbage cans or dumpsters and spreading trash all over. They also sneak in through pet doors and will eat your cat’s or dog’s food. Raccoons are bold little creatures with no fear of cats and dogs and little fear of humans.

Raccoons have been known to tear open screen doors to get to unprotected bowls of pet food on the kitchen floor or even on the far side of the house. Because raccoons are nocturnal, that means most of their mischief happens at night when no one is around to see it happen.

Besides food, another major cause of a home invasion is to make it their home as well. It is a big scary neighborhood out there with lots of dangers and the attic of a house is a quiet, well protected space that is warm in the winter and where no one hardly ever comes. It not only makes a good home, but an ideal nesting spot too.

Raccoons in the Attic

My daughter thought there were ghosts in the attic. At night from the corner of her ceiling would come these intermittent scratching and scraping noises. It was so occasional, it was days before I heard it too. To me, it sounded like branches from the oak tree scraping against the house and I shrugged it off. Then the wailing started. Shrill, high-pitched, LOUD, it jolted us from sleep in the middle of the night. It was relentless — never-ending banshee cries coming from the ceiling!

In the cold light of morning, I dragged the ladder out of the garage, wedged it against the closet door and prepared to investigate. All was quiet as I nervously edged open the 2-foot plywood square that served as the gateway to our attic crawl space. Balancing precariously on the top rung, I peered into the twilight space. Two eyes glinted from the corner. Then with a low, menacing growl, the huge raccoon charged. I barely had time to slide the plywood home before I felt her angry thump. Unfortunately, I didn’t tumble down the ladder fast enough to entirely avoid the shower of urine with which she announced that the attic was now hers!

In search of a cozy nest, Mama raccoon had somehow squeezed her gigantic body through the attic vent cap, ripping out the protective screen and bending the steel fan blades. In the corner over my daughter’s bedroom, she had ripped huge three-foot shards out of the rafters sharpening her claws. We found three hungry, squint-eyed babies nestled in the insulation near the attic door. For several yards around the nest, the insulation was soaked with urine which had started to permeate the ceiling wallboard. Raccoons always have an alternate nest we learned. It turned out to be our chimney. While my young daughters were fascinated by the baby raccoons, repairs kept the local handyman industry solvent for the next couple of weeks.

Raccoons are nothing to mess with. Fierce and aggressive, they can cause powerful damage to your home. They are a major carrier of rabies and distemper and harbor fleas, ticks and mites. Removal is a job for professionals. If you have raccoons nesting in your attic, getting cozy under your porch, or hiding in your storage shed, call the professionals at Stern Environmental Group. Click the post title for more information on our wildlife removal services. Visit our website to find out more about our extensive pest management and pest control services. You’ll sleep well tonight,when you get “Stern” with your pests.