The "masked bandit" has adapted well to the urban landscape. Raccoons are usually classified as furbearers or game animals, and special permits are usually required to control these critters when they get themselves into a nuisance situation.
Raccoons carry ecto-parasites such as fleas, mites, and ticks. They are also host to more serious diseases like raccoon roundworm and rabies. Raccoons are considered high to moderate risk vectors of rabies. There is currently an outbreak of raccoon rabies in the northeast United States. Raccoon roundworm is spread via microscopic eggs in raccoon feces (droppings). Feces should only be cleaned up by trained personnel with the proper safety equipment. Ectoparasites can be controlled by an insecticide treatment after the raccoons are evicted.
Raccoon damage includes raccoons preying on birds, nests, and feeders. Garden crops are often raided (especially sweet corn), as are garbage cans. Raccoons will roll sod for worms, grubs, and insects. Raccoons enter dwellings for shelter in the winter and to raise young in the spring and early summer. They often cause damage to vents and shingles when entering attics. They will enter chimneys (both fireplace and furnace) and rest on the smoke-shelf behind the damper in the fireplace. Typical entries are roof vents, louver vents, soffit vents, construction gaps, rotten fascia boards, and chimneys. Raccoons may even rip through the roof if the wood is soft.
Biology and Habits
Raccoons are nocturnal (active at night), average 2' to 3' long (including the tail), and weigh 10 - 20 lbs. They are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal foods, such as fruits, nuts, berries, grain, bird eggs, nestlings, insects, amphibians, small rodents, etc. They usually breed in February or March and have a 60 day gestation. A litter can be from 1- 8 pups, with 4 or 5 being the average. Young are born from March to June and open their eyes at about 3 weeks of age. The pups are usually weaned at 8 - 12 weeks. Raccoons nest in tree cavities, chimneys, ground burrows, sewers, attics, garages, etc.
Raccoons do not truly hibernate in winter, but "hole up" for days, weeks, or even months, depending on the weather. Their home range is 3 - 20 square miles for males, 1-6 square miles for females. Home ranges may be less in urban areas where there is easier access to life requirements.
Critter Control uses sheet metal, hardware-clothe, or wood to board up raccoon entry holes. Raccoons in the fireplace or raccoons in furnace chimneys can cause severe damage if they get loose in the home. Be sure to have your local Critter Control technician cover the chimneys with NFPA 211 and BOCA code approved chimney screens or rain-caps. These are available in galvanized or stainless steel and come in a wide range of sizes.