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The Importance of Raccoon Management
Candice Schmidt

Abstract: The Importance of Raccoon Management

            The importance of raccoon management goes beyond population control, although population control is a large part of it. The reasons for such management lies behind the diseases, parasites, and other factors raccoon bring into people, pets, and livestock’s daily life. Raccoon can be hosts, intermediate hosts, and other carriers of diseases and parasites. For example, raccoon are currently the number one carrier of rabies. While rabies is almost always fatal it is easily preventable. Most raccoon do not become problems until they lose their natural fear of humans, then they eat food and take shelter where people and pets reside. Raccoon are located in a majority of North America with only a few predators. There are 20 times more urban raccoon in North America than there were 70 years ago. Unlike China and Germany, raccoon were introduced and have absolutely no predators. These countries have major problems with raccoon being nuisances and pests. A raccoon’s gestation is only 63 days with litter sizes between 3-5 kits, making them reproduce rather promptly. Raccoon are very crafty, adaptive, and intelligent, consequently brains plus hand-like paws make for double the trouble. Once raccoon make themselves a nuisance it is best left to professionals or people who have experience with raccoon, to help prevent the spread of diseases and parasites, but there are still procedures to hinder raccoon.


Characteristics of Raccoon
  • Raccoon; Procyon lotor or commonly known as “Coon”, “Ringtail”, or “Bandit”
  • Most raccoon are predominately carnivorous but can adapt to be omnivorous as well.
  • Adults weight between 12 to 36 pounds depending on location
  • Primarily nocturnal, however may be active in the day during spring and summer when females need more food.
  • Raccoon that live in cities or near cropland have a tendency to become heavier, lazier, and population more dense.
  • Mating season begins in February
  • Kits are born in April or May, with a typical litter size of 3-5; weaning between 2-4 months old.
  • Their life expectancy is 7 to 10 years.

Raccoon Population
  • A raccoon has few predators in the United States those primarily being cougars, bobcats, and coyotes.
  • They are very intelligent and one of the world’s most adaptable animals.

Damage: Structural
  • There are 20 times more urban raccoon in North America than there were 70 years ago, thus more structural damage like attics, chimneys, garages, and such.
  • Raccoon are also notorious for raiding garbage bins, bird feeders, and pet food bowls.
  • As they make their way through these places they tear up objects and structures by chewing, pulling, and scratching. In addition leaving behind excrement .
  • Raccoons' amazing agility and intelligence allows them to open eggs, doors, jars, bottles and latches.
  • Raccoon teach their young these skills and research is being done to see if raccoons are actually becoming smarter. The smarter animals living and passing on these adaptive skills.

Crop Damage
  • In a recent study done by Purdue University it showed raccoons were responsible for 87% of the observed damage to corn, an amount more than eight times greater than damage caused by deer.
  • Unlike deer, raccoon climb up the stocks of corn, pulling the ears down, therefore destroying the plant.
  • Raccoon also move throughout the field, deer tend to stay on the out skirts.
  • Raccoon are also known for eating sorghum, tomato, watermelon, berries, other fruits and vegetables.
  • While fish and poultry are not crops, raccoon eat fish from stocked ponds and occasionally poultry when hungry enough.

Example Of Damage

Parasites: Roundworm, Fleas, & Ticks
  • The raccoon roundworm is the common large roundworm or ascarid found in the small intestinal tract of raccoons.
  • Prevalence of infections ranges from 3% to nearly 100% of all raccoons sampled by Michigan department of Natural Resources.
  • Transmission can occur either directly or via an intermediate host.
  • The roundworm carried by raccoon can be transmitted several different ways, even through the air.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control it can infect humans, causing skin irritations and eye and brain damage due to the random migration of the larvae. As well as pets.
  • There have been a small number of human fatalities involving young children and these fatalities were the result of the child ingesting a large number of eggs.
  • Raccoon also carry fleas and ticks, which can be transferred to pets and people.

Disease: Rabies
  • Like most strains of rabies, raccoon rabies is mainly spread through saliva of the host, and even shed the virus prior to showing symptoms.
  • In the U.S., 90% of all rabies cases occur in wildlife. In those cases of wildlife raccoon made up 41% .
  • 80% of tested raccoon had been exposed to rabies indicated by their bloodwork.
  • Rabies is almost universally fatal, once disease develops. However, it is completely preventable if vaccine is provided soon after exposure.
  • TN is currently partnering with the USDA and several other south eastern states by distributing oral vaccines to help prevent spreading rabies. 

Disease: Distemper
  • Distemper occurs most often in raccoons throughout the Southeastern U.S. with juveniles being more prone to the virus.
  • This disease can be spread directly from the infected animal or through bodily waste or secretions.
  • Symptoms include distress, coughing, sneezing, diarrhea, discharge from eyes and/or nostrils, eyelids that are crusted over and stuck together, and hardened footpads. Infected animals may have convulsions, tremors and chewing fits. 
  • In Tennessee, die-offs of raccoons due to canine distemper occur regularly.
  • While distemper  is not believed to be a public health concern for humans, it has been linked to multiple sclerosis.

Disease: Parvovirus & Pseudorabies
  • Both uncommon but highly fatal to pets.
  • These viruses are highly contagious and spreads via infected bodily fluids (vomit, feces, nose-to-nose contact, mucus, saliva, urine, etc.)
  • The parvovirus that raccoons carry is most like the feline parvovirus.
  • Clinical signs include bloody diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of fear of humans.
  • Pseudorabies virus is a DNA herpesvirus. Although the pig is the only natural host, it is not uncommon to infect raccoon. Once infected it is normally fatal.
  • Before pseudorabies is normally detected it causes death, when symptoms do occur, they include excessive salivation, intense itching, and neurologic behavioral changes.

Disease: Leptospirosis
  • Leptospirosis is the most common bacterial disease in raccoon.
  • Raccoon can shed Leptospirosis in their urine and secretions. Exposure of these excretions to open wounds or orally can cause infection to humans
  • While this zoonotic disease has little affect on the health of raccoons, they can still transmit it.
  • This disease is also responsible for significant economic losses to the livestock industry, primarily due to abortion, reduction of milk and weight gain, and secondarily due to death.
  • Leptospirosis may cause influenza-like symptoms, severe head and muscle aches, high fever, and in some cases serious liver and kidney problems.

Disease: Coonhound Paralysis
  • A common inflammatory disease primarily affecting the nervous system, mostly in dogs. It was first observed in coonhounds thus the name.
  • Clinical signs develop between 7-14 days after a raccoon bite or scratch.
  • Signs start with a stiff gait, weakness, loss of voice, weak face muscles, breathing difficulties, paralysis and during this time dogs will lose weight due to muscle loss.
  • Unfortunately there is no treatment for this disease at this time, just good nursing care.
  • Most affected dogs will start to improve within 3 weeks and take 3-6 months to recover, although relapses can occur with hunting dogs that frequently encounter raccoon.

Disease: EPM
  • A more recent natural intermediate host to complete the life cycle of EPM is the raccoon.
  • A horse owners worst nightmare, this disease is hard to diagnose and hard to treat. Which can be an expensive and long process.
  • One of the most important neurologic diseases in the horse is EPM, more then 50% of horses have been exposed to the organism that causes EPM.
  • While the definitive host of EPM is the opossum, raccoons keep the cycle going. Once infected it goes on to develop sarcocysts in its skeletal muscle.  When this muscle is ingested by the opossum, then the life cycle is completed.
  • Raccoon and opossum generally share the same habitat.

Management: Prevention
  • Practices to help prevent and protect against raccoon:
  • Never purposely feed raccoon
  • Feed pets inside and store pet food inside or store feed in containers
  • Keep pets inside at night
  • Prevent raccoons from entering your house through pet doors or other openings
  • Keep garbage cans inside or use locking or secured lids outside
  • Clean barbecue grills after each use.
  • Cover children’s sandboxes and enforce good hygiene.
  • Use secure bins for food composting
  • Eliminate access to denning sites. 
  • Establish an electric fence or barrier around gardens or crops
  • Avoid contact with raccoon feces and safely clean up areas where raccoons defecate (raccoon latrines) on your property.
  • Vaccinate cats, dogs and ferrets to protect them against rabies; consider vaccinating dogs and livestock for leptospirosis.
  • When blocking entrances make sure there are no kits blocked in.
  • Contact a professional, such as wildlife control, if not experienced with raccoon.

Management: Trapping
  • Be sure to look into local laws before attempting to trap raccoon.
  •  Raccoons can be successfully removed with a variety of traps, live or kill.
  • Unless experienced, it is best left to a professional due to the diseases raccoon carry.
  • Professional wildlife control operators can also check raccoon for disease and parasites, therefore when relocating those diseases and parasites do not spread.
  • When relocating a raccoon they must be moved at least 15 miles away or else they will migrate back to original denning spots.

Management: Hunting
  • This is the most controversial yet effective way of managing raccoon.
  • Hunting is a more expensive way and generally accepted as a hobby or to some a profession now, as compared to past years.
  • Raccoons can be used for their hides and meat.
  • This method is less common in urban areas for the hounds safety.
  • Note hunting regulations and permits needed for your area.

Works Cited
Curtis, Paul. Shultz, Jill. Wildlife Control Operators. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson Delmar Learning, 2008. Print.