Raccoons - My Experience With This Predator & Additional Information

Raccoons - My Experience With This Predator & Additional Information
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(Sneaky raccoon hiding in the bushes. Picture by @LateBirdFarms)

Basic information:
A raccoon is a mammal with dextrous, hand-like front paws and dark markings on its face that look like a mask. You might see a raccoon trying to get into your trash at night, looking for a midnight snack. They also try to get into chicken coops and pet food bags. Raccoons live in North and Central America, and they're commonly found in urban areas.

Food:
Nuts, berries, fruits, insects, eggs, mussels, crayfish, garden vegetables, grain, rodents, chickens (and other poultry), rats, squirrels, snakes, birds, small livestock, frogs, worms, + more that is not common food for them. Additionally, raccoons will eat pet food (including chicken feed), carrion, and human garbage.

Size:
Body 16-28" long; tail 8-12" long; stands 12" high at the shoulder; weighs 15-40 lbs.

Habitat:
Wooded areas near fields, rivers and ponds.

How long to raccoons live?
Raccoons in the wild are known to live between 2 and 3 years old. But in captivity they can live up to 20 years old.

Mating:
February to June; gestation of 63 days.

Den:
Found in hollow trees, woodchuck burrows, culverts, and other buildings.

Young:
2-7 young are born blind, with a light fur covering, a faint mask, and ringed tail; 4" long; 2 oz. each; eyes open at 21 days; nurse for several weeks; leave den at 10 weeks; fully independent at 4-6 months.

Predators:
Coyote, fox, fisher and bobcat.

Tracks:
Small hand-like prints.

Did You Know?
The raccoon is an excellent climber and swimmer. Contrary to popular belief, it does not wash everything it eats, though it is often seen fishing with its paws for freshwater mussels and crayfish. Clever and agile, the raccoon is highly adapted to gathering and eating a great variety of foods. In the fall, it develops a thick layer of fat.

_______________________________________

Last night I had 3 or 4 raccoons in my chicken area. It was my very first real chicken predator encounter! You can read my full story in this thread. I ended up killing two raccoons and severely injured one that crawled away when I wasn't watching, though I'm pretty sure he is dead close by.

Things I have learned:

1. Raccoons can and will come to your chicken area only for left over food, not the chickens.
2. They are way smarter than I expected and easily got into my run. (The pen attached to the coop or hen house.)
3. If you know you have a raccoon problem (or any predator really), be prepared. I only had a few pellets for my high power pellet gun left, which made the "event" last much longer than it should have.
4. Don't get too excited. You need to aim correctly. Last time I tried to shoot one I was too quick to pull the trigger. Missed, and before I could reload, he was gone.

Items to have on hand:

1. High power flashlight! If the raccoon scurries up a tree, this will save you! :bow It did me!
2. Extra pellets, BBs, or whatever your using. I learned that the hard way.
3. More than one person always helps.

If you don't want to shoot...

You don't have to shoot a raccoon that is causing you trouble. You can also trap the raccoon. Lots of people use what is called a "Have-A-Heart" trap. After they trap the raccoon, they can either let someone else dispatch it, or re-home it.

The problem with re-homing is this: If you don't go far enough away, the raccoon will probably return to its home. Also, if you do choose to re-home your raccoon, make sure you put it somewhere where other people don't live. If people do live around where you are releasing it, you will just be giving your problem to them - which isn't a very nice thing to do.

But, re-homing in most states is illegal. And I strongly recommend you don't even try to re-home. Some people say it is more humane to dispatch them, and I think I agree. If you're going to take care of a raccoon problem, your best bet is to dispatch it.
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(Raccoon caught in a Have-A-Heart trap. Picture by @cavemanrich)

These are the two raccoons I shot. It was a terrible situation so I had to get it done quickly. (The raccoons were in the run with the coop door OPEN! I got out there just in time.)

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WARNING: Some raccoons carry rabies. They also can carry a parasite in their droppings witch can be fatal to humans. To avoid getting any of these things, do not touch raccoons, raccoon droppings, or raccoon blood. Especially without gloves.

Which species carry rabies?

Any warm-blooded mammal can carry or contract rabies, but the primary carriers in North America are raccoons, skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes.

  • Raccoons suffer the most from this disease in the eastern U.S.
  • Skunks are the dominant rabies victims in the north- and south-central states, although skunk rabies also occurs in the East.
  • Bats suffering from rabies are not limited to any particular area but scattered widely.
  • Foxes in western Alaska, parts of Arizona and Texas, and the eastern United States are victims more frequently than foxes in other areas.
  • Coyotes with rabies have been found in southern Texas in the past but rarely in recent years.
  • Rodents (squirrels, chipmunks, rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs), rabbites and hares rarely get rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States. Squirrels may suffer from the fatal roundworm brain parasite, which causes signs that look exactly like rabies.
  • Opossums are amazingly resistant to rabies. Hissing, drooling and swaying are part of the opossums bluff routine. It is intended to scare away potential predators, yet it looks just like rabies and is the reason people can be convinced they're seeing rabid opossums when they're not.
To read more information on rabies, click on this link.

I hope you learned something in this article. Thank you for reading it! If you have any questions feel free to comment below. :)

- Clucky

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(Picture by @LateBirdFarms)
About author
cluckmecoop7
I currently own 8 chickens, 1 rabbit, and 2 fish, and 2 kittens. Thank you for reading my article! I hope you enjoyed it!

If you liked it please leave a rating and review! :frow

- Clucky

Latest reviews

Excellent article on raccoons, how they live, what they feed on and how to get rid of them to protect your birds.
Two things i like to add here:
  1. Once a raccoon has tasted your birds, it will come back for more bird. It will no longer be satisfied with the feed or with scraps. Once they've tasted blood they turn into serial killers.
  2. Do. Not. Catch. And. Release. - EVER!
    Not only are you exporting your problem to somebody else, but a raccoon that was captured once will never enter a life trap again, e-ver. I am dealing with a nasty raccoon here for almost a year, can't trap it, he just ignores the bait, even old rotten fish. And the moment he sees me he's running for the woods, so i can't shoot him.
Great article on raccoons.
Great article! Very informative about the raccoon and what you can do about them. This really helps me understand these animals a bit more, and I love how you shared your story and added some precautions. :) Overall, very easy to understand and well thought out and organized. Thanks for writing this!

Comments

@Starburst - I've lost five 50lbs bags of feed last year when the 'coons broke into my storage. The smallest one squeezed through a tiny crack in one pallet and chewed through the strap that held everything together to let the other's in. Raccoons are intelligent and skillful predators. Now i store the duck-feed in a steel shelter and the door is secured with a carabiner.
And you need to secure your trash-can too! We now have a model with a metal bracket to secure the lid. Trash-Pandas!
 
So I have a raccoon problem
I do not want to hurt the raccoon but I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to get rid of it
do you know anything that raccoons tend to stay away from or don't like?
 

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