Cori Brown – Contact Reporter
The Backyard Naturalist
A raccoon on the prowl for his next meal. (Cori Brown photo)
It’s 13 and counting. That’s the number of cute and furry black masked burglars raiding bird feeders (and anything else they can get) over the last six months in our neighborhood. Yes, the annual raccoon invasion is in full swing, as in bird feeders swinging right off of our trees and decks.
How do I know we’ve had 13 visitors? Our neighbor already caught 12 of them with wonderfully smelly cat food and a humane trap.
No. 13, however, is giving him a run for his money.
He’s eluded him for several weeks now and managed to snatch the cat food out of the trap multiple times to boot! Even worse, he’s learned to escape the trap by rolling it over to open the door. What a clever little devil he is!
As a result, those of us subjected to these nightly escapades must now remove our feeders and bring them inside. When you have a lot of feeders like I do, this can be quite a nuisance.
Unfortunately, if I don’t do it, there are consequences to be had. One too many times I’ve found feeders on the ground, some broken beyond repair and others completely gone, as in dragged away to who knows where. Maybe the raccoons have a secret cache of bird feeder parts that they’re selling on the black market.
What I do know is that their raids are costing me money and time. Good squirrel proof feeders can be expensive. So far, they’ve broken three of them but I refuse to get new ones.
Though none of the three now function as designed (the weight mechanisms that keep bigger birds and squirrels out no longer work) they still work well enough to keep the nemesis squirrels away. I plan to keep them as long as I can.
Most of the feeders are in the side yard where I can see them best. This is also where Navi, ever a dog on patrol, dreams of catching up with them and chasing them off. I naively thought that just her presence would scare them away but this obviously hasn’t happened. These guys are fearless!
What is it about raccoons that makes them so clever? The first thing I think of is their paws. They may not have thumbs, but highly sensitive touch receptors on their dexterous fingers are right up there with our own hands.
Partner these sensitive paws with a quick-thinking brain and you have master manipulators at opening cans and doors, emptying containers and climbing up and down and all around to get whatever they want.
This brings me to another envious trait they have: adaptability. Life in the city is great, but suburban yards and country meadows will do just fine, too. From the poshest addresses to back street alleys to campgrounds, they roam with impunity and swagger.
Add to this their varied diet as omnivores and you have a one-two slam dunk. Being omnivores means they eat their veggies as well as meat (they are great role models for fussy eating kids). This is why they probably think they’ve died and gone to heaven when your garbage becomes their dining room table. Throw in the half eaten Tasty cake, leftover chips, hot dogs and French fries and you have the all-American junk food diet!
Now this makes me wonder, do they have a weight problem when these dream foods are so frequently at their disposal? I couldn’t find much information on this other than a story of sixteen fat and happy raccoons in Louisiana that were trapped and relocated away from people who were feeding them all kinds of sugary food. Some weighed between 30-40 pounds when a normal weight in the wild is 10-30 pounds.
In this way they are a lot like humans — too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Hopefully they returned to their normal diet of creatures like frogs, fish, birds, bird eggs and a variety of fruits, nuts and seeds.
Not realizing that aquatic animals make up such a large part of their diet, I can see another challenge in the offing. My new pond came through the winter quite well. I diligently kept the water flowing for the frogs, fish and snails that now inhabit it. All have grown and thrived in their new home.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the raccoons will avail themselves of the creek across the road rather than my pond for their freshwater cravings. I think I will put up a sign that says, “This way to the creek” to help them along.
In the meantime, I need to build a secure bird feeder storage box outside to stash away my feeders at night. My plan is to build a sturdy plywood box with a lock on it. Painting a nice family portrait of some raccoons on it would add ambiance, not to mention something for the real raccoons to talk about!
There are health risks that you should be aware of
after any wild animal has been taken from your home.
The health risks of raccoons should never be underestimated. Raccoons create enormous damage and transmit infectious diseases to Parrish adults, children and pets. Contact a licensed and insured nuisance wildlife management company for expert raccoon removal, raccoon trapping and raccoon exclusion services.
The Health Risks of Raccoons
It’s important that you have that Parrish raccoon removed from your attic, crawl space, basement or other building location before things get out of hand. Raccoons contaminate building surfaces with urine and feces and chew up everything from electrical wires to support beams. If you hear noises in your attic, call a wildlife removal professional before a raccoon or some other wild animal causes significant damage or even a catastrophic fire.Wild animal droppings harbor dangerous parasites and foster the growth of mold and microbes. Raccoons are known carriers of infectious diseases that can be contracted by humans and pets.
• Raccoon Roundworm, or Baylisascaris, is a dangerous species of roundworm carried by raccoons. Millions of roundworm eggs are deposited into the environment through raccoon feces. Children and pets can easily ingest fertile eggs by coming into contact with infected soil, tree stumps and other seemingly safe locations. Once inside the body of an animal or human, the larvae migrate throughout the body and infect the brain, eyes, spinal cord and other organs.
• Rabies is a health risk commonly associated with wild animals. Rabies, which attacks the central nervous system, can be fatal if left untreated.
• Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread to humans through raccoon feces and urine. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headaches, high fever, anemia, meningitis and organ failure.
• Salmonella is also spread through raccoon feces. Humans and pets can ingest the bacteria through incidental contact with infected areas. The symptoms of Salmonella poisoning include high fever, severe diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Raccoon Trapping and Exclusion
A wildlife management expert can humanely remove and relocate raccoons and other nuisance wild animals. Professionally trained wildlife removal specialists can also decontaminate building materials, repair all damage and permanently seal your home or business to ensure that the problem doesn’t reoccur. Local wildlife management companies provide expert raccoon trapping, raccoon removal and raccoon exclusion services in the greater Parrish area.
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Raccoons can gain entry to homes and businesses by squeezing through hard to detect gaps and holes in rooflines, HVAC systems and foundations. Rats, mice and squirrels breed and contaminate food and building surfaces quickly.
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