Living with wildlife: Raccoons

As humans continue to expand their developed areas, wildlife must either leave an area, adapt, or perish. There is wildlife that are very good at adapting to human presence. This wildlife includes generalists, or those that can eat more food types than others, live in more places than others, or are willing and able to live in close contact with humans. Generalists include white-tailed deer, raccoons, opossums, coyotes, and groundhogs.

These are the type of animals that people come across in their surrounding environment. If you live in an area where there are fields, forests, and water sources, then you are likely to encounter this wildlife from time to time. However, there are things you can do to help keep wildlife safe and help to keep them wild.

Let’s focus on raccoons. 

Raccoons have some of the most dexterous hands in nature. They can get into things that many wildlife is unable to get into. They also have built-in night vision; their black eye mask helps to reduce glare and let them see better at night. Raccoons eat seeds, fruits, eggs, birds, fish, and insects in a natural setting. 

Raccoon populations will increase exponentially if there is a food source provided. Make sure that you are not inadvertently feeding raccoons. Are you feeding the birds? Raccoons are attracted to bird feeders. Many people report raccoons damaging bird feeders. Make sure that you are not leaving pet food out overnight or in a container that is accessible by wildlife because raccoons are attracted to any type of food left outside at night.  You should also make sure that your trash receptacle is closed tightly. Raccoons are good problem solvers, so they may figure out a way to get in, however, they can become trapped inside and die if they are unable to get out. By eliminating non-natural food sources, raccoons are less likely to cause damage and encounter humans. 

If you see raccoons out during the day, watch them to see if they look healthy or if they are acting normally. Raccoons are typically out between dusk and dawn, so they may be sick if they are out during the day. If they appear sick or acting odd, contact your local DNR or conservation officer to have them assess the situation. Raccoons can transmit diseases to humans including leptospirosis, rabies, and raccoon roundworm. Rabies and raccoon roundworms can be lethal in humans. Rabies is transmitted through bites or scratches, while raccoon roundworm is spread through contact with eggs that are spread in the environment via feces. Children are especially susceptible to raccoon roundworms due to their tendency to put things in their mouth. 

By having an environment that is not attractive to raccoons, you are less likely to encounter them and have any potential problems with them. Help keep raccoons safe and wild by removing food or water sources in your own yard.