Most people already know that raccoons are opportunistic feeders that will take advantage of loose garbage can lids, pet food being left outdoors and fallen fruit that's left on the ground. However, keeping neighborhood raccoon populations down involves more than simply ensuring that the masked marauders don't have easy access to food sources. Raccoons also invade human habitat looking for places to den, particularly female raccoons who are seeking secluded places to raise their young. Following are five ways that you can keep raccoons from denning on your property.
Cap Your Chimney
Raccoons are attracted to chimneys as denning places because they are high off the ground as well as secluded. A well-fitting chimney cap can prevent a situation in which you end up with a family of raccoons in your chimney. If you've already got raccoons in your chimney, don't try to remove them yourself -- they may look cute and cuddly, but they've got sharp claws and teeth and know how to use them, particularly if they feel that their young are threatened. If you discover that a family of raccoons is living in your chimney, try banging some pots and pans next to your fireplace or playing loud music. If this doesn't convince them to move on, call a qualified animal control service to safely remove them.
Trim Your Trees
Raccoons often access roofs from the branches of nearby trees. They're excellent climbers, so keep them off your roof by keeping tree limbs and branches trimmed at least four feet from your roof's surface. If you've got foundation shrubs around your home, they should also be kept trimmed so that they don't offer raccoons and other wildlife access to your roof. Raccoons may also be able to get to your roof by climbing any vines, such as English ivy, that are climbing up the sides of your home.
Seal Up the Outdoor Opening to Your Crawl Space
Raccoons are attracted to spaces under houses because they're dark, cool, and secluded. Sealing up any possible openings will prevent this area being used for denning purposes by raccoons. This should be done during late fall, winter, and very early spring. If you seal up any openings during spring, summer, or early fall, you run the risk of trapping animal families under your house. Keep in mind that because raccoons are nocturnal, you may not be aware that they are there.
Raccoon-Proof Your Yard
There are many places in the average yard where a raccoon can make a den, including:
- Brush piles.
- Hollowed logs.
- Abandoned vehicles.
Basically, anywhere that offers fairly secluded shelter is attractive to raccoons seeking denning options. Keep in mind that raccoons don't establish permanent dens -- even females with young tend to move their dens every few weeks or more frequently if they sense that their den isn't secure. During cold spells when temperatures fall below freezing, raccoons may den together for the purpose of staying warm, but they disband as soon as things warm up.
Limit Water Sources
Even if you've done everything right and have a tight lid on your compost bin and trash cans and never leave any sort of food outdoors, raccoons can still be attracted to your yard and garden area if they have plenty of access to water. Making certain that you limit possible water sources in your outdoor living space will help limit raccoon activity in the area. Be particularly careful if you've got a fish pond your property because racoons will catch and eat small fish if they are given the opportunity. Covering the pond at night will keep the fish safe.
Do not attempt to trap raccoons yourself. Regulations exist concerning in many areas concerning trapping or hunting these creatures. If they need to be safely removed, you should consult an experienced animal control specialist.