Mike and Dorothy live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mike is a nature photographer, and Dorothy has written several e-books on wildlife.
Squirrels Aren't the Only Problem at Birdfeeders
There's an unsolved mystery surrounding raccoons. How do they keep getting into people's trash when steps are being taken to keep them away?
Well, for one thing, people find it hard to believe how smart and crafty these little nocturnal guys are. I'm pretty sure they are smarter than most people. They are as brilliant as they are determined, and it seems that no matter what you do to keep them away, if you have something they want, they are going to find a way to get it.
Paul White of Dallas, Texas, said that when he was a young boy, a raccoon crawled through an open window and ate one of his pet snakes. Their dexterity is simply amazing, and these ring-tailed bandits are willing to devote all of their time to outsmart you.
Even raccoon babies are feisty and smart. Anna Taylor of Roswell, New Mexico, said: "My hubby is a farmer and was out baling one night . . . . He saw a tiny baby on one of the rows . . . . He jumped out to grab it, [and] it turned around and ran at him hissing!"
Don't ever underestimate these guys.
I kept seeing little dug up spots in the lawn. I couldn't figure it out, then I connected the muddy water in the dog bowl with grubs that the raccoons had harvested and washed off before eating. It made me laugh.
— Richard Clinton, Photographer, Santa Monica, California
The Problems They Cause for Humans
Urban and suburban homes alike are likely places for raccoons to hang out after dark, during which time they will terrorize your birdfeeders, dig through your flower and vegetable garden with their human-like hands, make holes in your lawn, kill your chickens, and attack your cats and dogs.
Raccoons have become somewhat reliant upon humans for their food source, and most outdoor garbage cans are kept out in the open and close to a home so that if you were to take your garbage outside at night, you could very well come face-to-face with them, and they can become very aggressive when threatened. Their sharp teeth and claws can cause a significant amount of injury, especially if they are protecting their young.
They can be dangerous because they are common carriers of rabies and other serious diseases, which means if you or your pet has been scratched or bitten by one of these cute, agile terrors, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Raccoons Have Their Own Problems
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Raccoons
Raccoons are more often seen around homes in the springtime, according to the CDC. They are waking from their winter dormancy with increasing activity, namely searching for food and a mate, but it is possible they could be infected with Baylisascaris procyonis, a dangerous roundworm. While infections in people are rare, they can be severe or even life-threatening.
Infections occur when a person accidentally ingests water, soil or objects that have been contaminated with raccoon feces. Children, who are more likely to put dirt or animal waste in their mouths, are the ones most likely to become infected.
In nature, away from people-inhabited areas, raccoons will make their homes in burrows, trees or even caves, often attempting to stay near water, but they have discovered that humans can provide them with everything they need—food, water, shelter (under homes, in attics, etc.)—so urban and suburban homes are becoming more attractive to them.
I was hiking in southern Vermont, in 1973 or so. Stopped at a campground, where the attendant warned us of the intelligence and persistence of the local raccoons. Previously, a hiker had stopped overnight, with his prize possession of a giant jar of peanut butter (aka, hiker fuel). He went away for an hour or so, and came back to find a raccoon, belly busting out, just leisurely wiping out the bottom of the PB jar with his sticky paw...
— Matthew Fay, Placitas, New Mexico
Cute but Often Dangerous
Deterrence and Preventing Access Is the Solution
Attempts to prevent access is the best solution for reducing chance encounters with raccoons. Remember, if they want it, they will probably get it. It's best to stay away from them while they are doing so.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Mike and Dorothy McKenney
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on July 06, 2019:
Pamela, you did the right thing. They can be pretty vicious at times...but aren't they just the cutest things?
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 06, 2019:
I had a raccoon that got into my bird feeder a couple of years ago. One night I wanted to chase him away and he stared at me with what looked like hatred. So, I left him alone that night as I did not want to get bit. They are smart for sure. I learned some new things in this article. Thank you.