Unit 4 Lesson D
Inspecting for Raccoon Damage
This lesson consists of key facts and clues that will help you decide
if the damage you are seeing could have been caused by this animal.
These are key clues but they aren't necessarily complete. (Humans are
learning more all the time and animals change their habits too). But it
should give you some pointers to at least help you rule out this species
as a suspect in your situation.
Biology: Weight: 9-26lbs.
Diet: True omnivores. They will eat whatever is available provided
they can kill it, including but not limited to, ants, fish, birds, eggs,
small animals, carrion, grubs, worms, trash, etc.
Habitat: All over. Raccoons can be found in wooded and urban
environments. They are highly adaptable. They live in trees, chimneys,
sewers, attics, under sheds and porches etc.
Activity: Nocturnal/dormant periods during winter months when weather
is at extremes.
Procreation: Mating occurs once a year in January and February. 3-5
young are born 6 weeks later. The father does not assist in raising the
young. In fact, if a male finds young raccoons, he will eat them.
Symptoms: A. Attic: Owners will complain of something heavy in the
attic that moves during early evening and early morning.
B. Chimney: When raccoons are in a chimney, the owner will complain
of bird like chirping noises emanating from the flue. This will occur
during the spring months when the young are born.
Signs: Avg. Hole Size: 4 inches in diameter minimum.
vent photo below. Photo by Stephen Vantassel.
Access: Raccoons will typically enter a building somewhere high at
least one floor off the ground. Attic vents are most common entry ways.
Look for the metal louvers to be bent (see top photo) . You will also
find dark smudge marks made by the animalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s body oils rubbing off on the
wood/metal. Smudge marks on gutters/ scratches on wood will give
positive sign of raccoon.
If an overhanging tree branch is at least 1 inch in diameter, then that
will be the way the raccoon accesses the building. Look for scratch
marks on the tree. During warmer months they have been known to live
under porches. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t forget chimney flues. Females especially like to
raise young in the chimney smoke chambers. Look for black smudges on the
flue tile. Also pay attention to cob webs. If they are present, then you
can be reasonably assured that no raccoon has entered that flue.
Sometimes even looking down the flue with a light will reveal eyes
staring back. If you know a raccoon has been in the chimney but are
unsure if he is still there, this simple screen will quickly tell you.
Just make sure that you are not dealing with birds or bats when using
Damage to House: Raccoons typically donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t damage houses except for
creating an entrance. They have been known to damage roofing tiles. They
will mash down insulation as they walk around the attic. Occasionally
they will actually enter a building though the shingled roof. Usually
there is no damage to the flue tile when entering through the chimney.
See feces below.
Damage to Lawn/Garden: Raccoon like grubs (and worms) as much as
skunks do. However, raccoons tend to peel the sod off the soil to get at
the grubs. Skunks, by contrast, just dig a hole where the grub is. I
also understand that raccoons can strip a corn husk like a human. Sweet
corn is a special favorite.
Fish Ponds: Raccoons can and do raid fish ponds. This damage will
generally occur during the night and you may notice damage to the plants
caused by the raccoon's struggle to get the fish. If the fish disappear
during the daylight hours, think of Herons, especially if there is no
damage to plant life.
Feces: Raccoons will often create toilet areas, which may be found
inside or outside the house.
The photo at right is of a toilet found on a roof. Photo by Stephen
Vantassel. Often raccoons living in attics will
defecate on the roof before entering the home. You will find the feces
on the flat portions or in the drainage area between two roofs (See
photo) . Otherwise, the feces may be found inside the attic usually well
away from the nesting area. The toilet areas may also be identified by
the brown staining on the ceiling. Be sure to take appropriate
precautions when in close proximity to these toilets. Isolated droppings
like the photo to the right will look similar to a dogs. Look for
evidence of raccoon food particles in feces such as hairs, corn, etc.
(Be careful when handling feces. They may contain eggs of the worm
Baylisascaris procyonis which can cause severe injuries to people).
Gnaw Damage: Raccoons have sharp pointed teeth. So when they bite you
will see definite indentures in the item. In contrast, rodents have four
major front teeth. You will see items scraped more than bitten with a
ridge line (which is the gap between the front teeth) noticeable. Note
photo of a piece of wood which was bitten by a raccoon.
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel
Tracks: Get a book on animal tracks.
Special Abilities: Raccoons have an incredible ability to climb. They
have been known to climb, downspouts, steel I beams (Wayne A. Langman
gets credit for the last one), cables, ropes, corners of buildings.
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t underestimate their ability to climb.
Safety: Raccoon feces can harbor eggs of
rather dangerous roundworm. To learn more visit
disease pages on http://icwdm.org Raccoons are also a vector species
©2005 Stephen M. Vantassel
Unit 4 Lesson E