Bandits of the night
Chickens have been slowly disappearing from our barn. Recently, I found the culprit: a young mother raccoon and her eight little ones. Although some may find raccoons cute and funny, I find them aggressive and menacing.
Raccoons can be a real problem in the garden. They dig in vegetable beds, eat fruit off trees and vines, pillage corn, destroy lawns and ransack bird feeders. They are active during the night and eat fruit, vegetables, eggs, birds, insects, carrion, fish and other aquatic animals, not to mention pet food and garbage.
Residential areas are raccoon magnets due to abundant food, water and shelter. They den in hollow trees, buildings, drain pipes, brush piles, abandoned burrows and under decks. They typically weigh 15 to 25 pounds (but can be larger) and can kill an attacking dog twice their size.
Raccoons can carry both canine and feline distemper. Distemper is a common disease and is usually fatal. Raccoons with distemper act tame or confused and eventually lose coordination, become unconscious and die. Distemper cannot be transmitted to humans or immunized pets.
Although rabies is rare in raccoons in Minnesota, no bite by a wild carnivore should be ignored. Raccoons are normally not aggressive but will defend themselves if captured or cornered.
If you are bitten by a raccoon, every attempt should be made to capture or kill it (without damage to the head) so it can be tested for rabies by the Minnesota Department of Health. Medical treatment and advice should also be sought.
Raccoon roundworm infects most raccoons at some time. The roundworm rarely causes the raccoon problems, but they pass large numbers of eggs to the environment through feces.
State law allows property owners to control raccoons that are causing damage or injury on their property. They may control these animals without a trapping license or permit. If the animal is killed, it must be reported to the local DNR conservation officer within 24 hours.
Thinking about trapping a raccoon? This can be a problem. Make sure you have a plan for dealing with the animal once it’s captured. Raccoons are wild animals and no attempt should be made to pick them up or pet them, even if they appear tame.
● Bring pet food/water bowls inside at night.
● Use tight-fitting trash can lids or bungee loose ones.
● Harvest garden produce as soon as it is ready; pick up wind-fall fruit promptly.
● Trim tree branches away from roofs.
● Block foundation vents.
● Use a two-wire electric fence with wires 5 and 10 inches above ground to protect fruit/vegetable beds.
● Install wooden lattice to keep raccoons from living under your deck. Be careful not to trap any inside.