Raccoons are common throughout much of the United States and are an important fur-bearer. They are a medium sized animal usually weighing 10 to 30 pounds and are easily recognized by the black mask across the face and black rings around the tail. In the wild, they prefer living in areas near streams, rivers, lakes and marshes. They also require trees, brush and other cover. They usually make their home in hallow trees, logs, rocky crevices or abandoned armadillo holes.
Raccoons are opportunistic feeders eating whatever is available. Fruits, berries, acorns, insects, fish, mollusks, grasshoppers, mice, birds, snakes, eggs and crayfish make up the bulk of their diet. They also feed on corn, sorghum and other cultivated farm crops. Since raccoons are omnivorous, there is a wide variety of food available to them in urban areas. Dog and cat food, fruit on trees, vegetables in home gardens and trash can garbage supply an easy meal.
Their breeding season occurs anytime from early spring to late summer; however, it normally takes place in February or March. Usually, three or four young are born after a gestation period of 63 days. The young are weaned from 2 to 4 months of age, although many stay with the female until the following spring. Raccoons are intelligent and can adapt readily to living in close association with people. They are common in urban areas, but since most of their foraging is done at night, they often go undetected. In urban communities, raccoons live virtually any place that offers protection. Attics, chimneys, under houses and woodpiles are the most common sites.
Raccoons can cause considerable damage. In rural areas, they may raid hen houses or feed on farm crops. In urban areas, damage occurs mainly to attics and roofs, but other damage may include ruining gardens, eating fruit on trees, digging up yards or exposing people or pets to a communicable disease. Several different types of parasites and diseases affect raccoons such as fleas, ticks, lice, roundworms, tapeworms, distemper, tuberculosis, mange and rabies.
Trapping is the most satisfactory way to remove raccoons. In urban areas, it is advisable to use live traps because a dog or cat, if accidentally caught, can be released unharmed. Bait these traps with fruit, chicken parts, sardines or meat When placing the traps outside, use fruit for bait, as the likelihood of catching cats is reduced. Place the trap on a sheet of plywood or similar surface because raccoons normally dig all the grass or anything with in reach and pull it into the trap. Once trapped, Carrollton Animal Services can assist with relocating the animal.
Where raccoons are a problem, several things can be done to discourage them. Screen chimneys and attic and foundation vents to prevent animals from getting in or under the house. Reducing the food and water supply also helps to discourage raccoons. Feed pets in the morning and clean up all leftovers. Empty water bowls at night or place out of the raccoons reach. Take bird feeders in at night or place on toll poles and away from trees. Remember the four basic rules for controlling raccoon damage:
- Remove the food supply
- Remove the water supply
- Destroy or alter his shelter
- Trap intelligently
Raccoons are classified us fur-bearers in Texas; however, it is legal to trap them. Under state law a person may take fur-bearing animals at any time if it is for any purpose other than sale of the pelt. Fur-bearers include wild beaver, otter, mink, ringtail cat, badger, skunk, raccoon, muskrat, opossum, fox or civet cat. Before initiating control measures, check with local law enforcement officials to determine if any other ordinances are in effect in your area.