Raccoons

CHARLOTTESVILLE AND RICHMOND VIRGINIA RACCOON REMOVAL AND RACCOON CONTROL

(434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975

Virginia raccoon removal can be tricky and dangerous. Pound-for-pound raccoons are one of natures strongest animals. The last thing you want to do is tangle with a raccoon, particularly a female raccoon with baby raccoons. Raccoons are very intelligent and adaptable. Let our top rated and Virginia’s best raccoon removal technicians safely and humanely trap and remove raccoons that are in your attic, fireplace, walls, soffit and other areas of your home or business.

raccoons

Identification

The raccoon (Procyon lotor), also called “coon,” is a stocky mammal about 2 to 3 feet (61 to 91 cm) long, weighing 10 to 30 pounds (4.5 to 13.5 kg) (rarely 40 to 50 pounds [18 to 22.5 kg]). It is distinctively marked, with a prominent black “mask” over the eyes and a heavily furred, ringed tail. The animal is a grizzled salt-and-pepper gray and black above, although some individuals are strongly washed with yellow. Raccoons from the prairie areas of the western Great Plains are paler in color than those from eastern portions of the region.

Range

The raccoon is found throughout the United States, with the exception of the higher elevations of mountainous regions and some areas of the arid Southwest. Raccoons are more common in the wooded eastern portions of the United States than in the more arid western plains.

Habitat

Raccoons prefer hardwood forest areas near water. Although commonly found in association with water and trees, raccoons occur in many areas of the western United States around farmsteads and livestock watering areas, far from naturally occurring bodies of permanent water. Raccoons den in hollow trees, ground burrows, brush piles, muskrat houses, barns and abandoned buildings, dense clumps of cattail, haystacks, or rock crevices.

General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior

Raccoons are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal foods. Plant foods include all types of fruits, berries, nuts, acorns, corn, and other types of grain. Animal foods are crayfish, clams, fish, frogs, snails, insects, turtles and their eggs, mice, rabbits, muskrats, and the eggs and young of ground-nesting birds and waterfowl. Contrary to popular myth, raccoons do not always wash their food before eating, although they frequently play with their food in water.

Raccoons breed mainly in February or March, but matings may occur from December through June, depending on latitude. The gestation period is about 63 days. Most litters are born in April or May but some late-breeding females may not give birth until June, July, or August. Only 1 litter of young is raised per year. Average litter size is 3 to 5. The young first open their eyes at about 3 weeks of age. Young raccoons are weaned sometime between 2 and 4 months of age.

Raccoons are nocturnal. Adult males occupy areas of about 3 to 20 square miles (8 to 52 km2), compared to about 1 to 6 square miles (3 to 16 km2) for females. Adult males tend to be territorial and their ranges overlap very little. Raccoons do not truly hibernate, but they do “hole up” in dens and become inactive during severe winter weather. In the southern United States they may be inactive for only a day or two at a time, whereas in the north this period of inactivity may extend for weeks or months. In northern areas, raccoons may lose up to half their fall body weight during winter as they utilize stored body fat.

Raccoon populations consist of a high proportion of young animals, with one-half to three-fourths of fall populations normally composed of animals less than 1 year in age. Raccoons may live as long as 12 years in the wild, but such animals are extremely rare.

Usually less than half of the females will breed the year after their birth, whereas most adult females normally breed every year.

Family groups of raccoons usually remain together for the first year and the young will often den for the winter with the adult female. The family gradually separates during the following spring and the young become independent.

Damage and Damage Identification

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

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 by hiring a Wildlife Control Operator (WCO) are the most desirable alternatives.

Source: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Editors, Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm, Gary E. Larson. 1994. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2 vols.

(434) 270-0488 or toll-free at (888) 893-1975

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