RACCOONSRaccoon (Procyon lotor) (Procyon lotor)

Edward K. Boggess
 Wildlife Program Manager
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155

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Fig. 1. The distinctively marked raccoon (Procyon lotor) with water.

Damage and Damage Identification

Raccoons may cause damage or nuisance problems in a variety of ways, and their distinctive tracks (Fig. 3) often provide evidence of their involvement in damage situations.

Raccoon (Procyon lotor) tracks. Figure 3.

Fig. 3. The five long rear toes and the “handlike” front print are characteristic of raccoon tracks. Except in soft mud or sand, the “heel” of the hind foot seldom shows.

Raccoons occasionally kill poultry and leave distinctive signs. The heads of adult birds are usually bitten off and left some distance from the body. The crop and breast may be torn and chewed, the entrails sometimes eaten, and bits of flesh left near water. Young poultry in pens or cages may be killed or injured by raccoons reaching through the wire and attempting to pull the birds back through the mesh. Legs or feet of the young birds may be missing. Eggs may be removed completely from nests or eaten on the spot with only the heavily cracked shell remaining. The lines of fracture will normally be along the long axis of the egg, and the nest materials are often disturbed. Raccoons can also destroy bird nests in artificial nesting structures such as bluebird and wood duck nest boxes.

Raccoons can cause considerable damage to garden or truck crops, particularly sweet corn. Raccoon damage to sweet corn is characterized by many partially eaten ears with the husks pulled back. Stalks may also be broken as raccoons climb to get at the ears. Raccoons damage watermelons by digging a small hole in the melon and then raking out the contents with a front paw.

Raccoons cause damage or nuisance problems around houses and outbuildings when they seek to gain entrance to attics or chimneys or when they raid garbage in search of food. In many urban or suburban areas, raccoons are learning that uncapped chimneys make very adequate substitutes for more traditional hollow trees for use as denning sites, particularly in spring. In extreme cases, raccoons may tear off shingles or facia boards in order to gain access to an attic or wall space.

Raccoons also can be a considerable nuisance when they roll up freshly laid sod in search of earthworms and grubs. They may return repeatedly and roll up extensive areas of sod on successive nights. This behavior is particularly common in mid- to late summer as young raccoons are learning to forage for themselves, and during periods of dry weather when other food sources may be less available.

The incidence of reported rabies in raccoons and other wildlife has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. Raccoons have recently been identified as the major wildlife host of rabies in the United States, primarily due to increased prevalence in the eastern United States.

Economics of Damage and Control

Statistics are unavailable on the amount of economic damage caused by raccoons, but the damage may be offset by their positive economic and aesthetic values. In 1982 to 1983, raccoons were by far the most valuable  furbearer to hunters and trappers in the United States; an estimated 4.8 million raccoons worth $88 million were harvested. Raccoons also provide recreation for hunters, trappers, and people who enjoy watching them. Although raccoon damage and nuisance problems can be locally severe, widespread raccoon control programs authorities before using any lethal con-are not justifiable, except perhaps to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies. From a cost-benefit and ecological standpoint, prevention practices and specific control of problem individuals or localized populations are the most desirable alternatives.

Editors

Scott E. Hygnstrom; Robert M. Timm; Gary E. Larson

Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage 1994 Logo

PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE — 1994

Cooperative Extension Division Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources University of Nebraska -Lincoln

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Damage Control

Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Committee

 

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