Raccoons are as intelligent as dogs and cats, and they possess far greater manual dexterity. They prefer a woodland habitat but have proven to be very adaptable to urban and suburban environments.
They make their nested almost anywhere -- in tree cavities, brush piles, abandoned burrows, chimneys, attics, crawl spaces, storm sewers, haystacks, and barn lofts. They usually have more than one dening site available for use at any one time.
Most active at night, raccoons sometimes also forage for food by day. Their diet includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, and insects, as well as small animals. The following precautions will help you keep raccoons out of your house and yard:
* Make sure your chimneys are securely capped with hardware cloth. Raccoons have little hands that can easily dislodge loose screens or covers. They are agile climbers, and females like to use the flue or smoke shelf as a den. If your chimney is not capped, ask your local chimney sweep or roofing company to do it.
* If a raccoon is already living in your chimney, do not try to smoke it out! Lighting a fire in your fireplace may overcome the animal and cause it to drop into the fire. Instead, place a radio tuned to a loud music station or talk show in your fireplace. The noise will frighten most wild animals away. If that approach doesn't work, try placing a small dish of household ammonia or pine oil cleaning liquid in your fireplace and open the damper slightly. Raccoons, do not tolerate strong odors, and the fumes will probably force the occupants of your chimney to leave.
Because these fumes can be toxic, do not leave the dish there for more than eight hours at a time. In any case be sure mother has removed her young before sealing your chimney.
* Check vents, gables, and eaves to be sure screens have not been torn away from your attic. To repair holes in walls or torn screens, use mortar or metal hardware cloth at least 26 gauge in thickness. Tack down hardware cloth securely.
* If a raccoon is already living in your attic, you can encourage it to leave by turning the lights on, leaving a radio tuned to a loud music station there, and increasing your activity in that part of the house. Once the animal and it's young are gone, repair the opening through which they entered your home and trim away all nearby tree limbs to prevent their return. Tacking sheet metal down around areas where animals tend to climb also will prevent them from getting the footing they need to go up walls and trees.
* An electrified fence can bee the perfect solution for serious gardeners experiencing problems with wildlife. String two strands or ordinary 2MM galvanized wire along insulator posts around the perimeter of the garden four and twelve inches from the ground. Connect the wire to a ll0-volt commercial fence charger with alternating current. The amperage is so low that no physical harm is done to any animal that comes into contact with the wire, but the shock is enough to prevent return raids on your vegetables. Be sure to keep the plants from touching the wire to avoid grounding the battery. To keep woodchucks and other burrowers out of the garden, a barrier fence must also be buried at least one foot in the ground.
* A less expensive approach is to sprinkle your plants with epsom salts, which raccoons and woodchucks find very distasteful. It also adds magnesium to the soil which will make your plants greener. This treatment must be repeated after every rain. You can also try placing rags soaked in ammonia on posts placed at intervals around the perimeter of the garden. The odor is enough to deter most unwanted visitors. The rags must be resoaked when the smell of ammonia fades.
* If a raccoon or opossum enters your house, close the doors between the animal and the rest of the house, then open the doors and windows to the outside. Let the animal escape on his own. Leave the capture and handling of wildlife to the experts.