Few “city dwellers” inspire as much division among public opinion than the raccoon. Some people welcome the furry animals because of the popular belief they regularly eat rats and mice, which is actually a misconception. Others revile the dumpster divers, citing they’re nothing but a nuisance and dangerous.
While Toronto public health has recorded a 62% increase in raccoon attacks on residents in the past year, the “trash pandas” aren’t inherently aggressive. What’s most likely behind the uptick in physical contact is people spending more time at home and outside during the day due to the pandemic. Although raccoons are mostly nocturnal and usually come out at nighttime to scrounge for food, daytime ventures are not wholly uncommon. So, if you see one walking around, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sick or has rabies.
What’s perhaps more concerning about raccoons, at least from a homeowner’s perspective, is the damage they can do to your property. The masked bandits can easily tear up your lawn as they search for grubs. Your best defence is to discourage them from doing so. This can be done by adding a motion-activated sprinkler, flood lights around the perimeter of your property or applying nematodes to your lawn. These microscopic organisms hunt and feed on soil dwelling insects; however, they must be watered into your grass at a specific time of year — usually late summer or early fall — in order for them to prove effective.
Raccoons pose a risk to your home’s interior, too. They may seek structural flaws to exploit, even a small hole just three to four inches in diameter. Raccoons tend to pursue attics or upper floors, but can nest under decks or other exterior structures. They can also climb onto roofs with the aid of overhanging tree branches and gain access from cracks or a chimney.
Even though raccoons don’t intentionally cause damage, they may do so in gaining access or making an exit. For instance, they may loosen shingles or uncap a chimney to infiltrate your home. Once inside, raccoons often use insulation as nesting materials. If they become trapped indoors because their entry point has been sealed, they may chew through the wall or ceiling to get out. Yikes!
If raccoons have taken up residence in your home, you’ll typically hear scratching, rustling or squeaking noises during the day as they’re inherently noisy creatures. Other signs of an infestation include dark smudge marks around their entry hole, caused by their oily fur rubbing against it as they track in and out; foul odours since raccoons may set up latrines near their dens; dishevelled dumpsters and turned over trash cans; and small piles of droppings on the ground near trees or on the roof.
To reduce the possibility of attracting raccoons, homeowners should eliminate food sources by properly securing trash can and dumpster lids, and picking up fallen fruit from the ground if your property contains fruit trees or berry bushes. If raccoons’ food sources are addressed, they may move on.
You should also trim overgrown foliage to prevent raccoons from climbing onto your home’s roof and secure any loose shingles in case they do. Large holes that appear over a short period of time should be treated as suspect and filled. But before doing so, it’s important to verify no raccoons are present as you don’t want to lock them in. (Leave this step to a pest management professional.)