Raccoons in the City
April 9, 2004 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Urban raccoon troubles. Help?

We live in a semi-detached house. We have a third-floor deck, with a high wooden fence. Last fall, we found a neatly-coiled raccoon turd laid in front of the door leading to the deck. Yesterday, we found another. Today, we "opened" the deck for the season, and frightened a raccoon who had been using our disassembled table as a lean-to. He ran off, and we plugged up his exit, and spread some peppery "Critter Ridder" product around. This evening, after dinner: a neatly-coiled racoon turd in front of the door.

We have two cats who love using the deck in the summer, so any solution has to be cat-friendly, and ideally not too menacing to humans.

As of tonight, we're starting to leave the lights on out on the deck. Any other ideas?
posted by stonerose to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
Talk radio may work.
posted by cedar at 7:04 PM on April 9, 2004

Behavior modification! Either eliminate entry - very tough, or provide a deterrent. If you have a dog, leave him or her out there for several weeks during the nice weather. I hear that Coyote urine works for such things, but I wouldn't want that on my deck. Electric fencing might work, but it would be expensive to buy.
posted by caddis at 7:05 PM on April 9, 2004

Response by poster: cedar, that was adorable. thanks! :-)
posted by stonerose at 7:19 PM on April 9, 2004

Call Animal Control and have it trapped. These things carry rabies and you need to get rid of it. (I know people who had similar situations and that is how it got handled.)
posted by konolia at 7:53 PM on April 9, 2004

Response by poster: Cripes - after a little Googling, I'm scared of this - a potentially fatal disease, mostly untreatable in humans, carried commonly in raccoons and transmissible through their feces. We've just done a boiling water and bleach job on the deck stairs where its feces were found.
posted by stonerose at 8:05 PM on April 9, 2004

Fool with Mother Nature by instilling instinctive, organic fear into their little rodenty psyches.
posted by hsoltz at 8:18 PM on April 9, 2004

I'd empty the deck completely and see what happens over the next few days. There's no reason for the raccoon to stay if there's no food, water or shelter, but it'll take a few days for it to figure that out.

You might also want to look into putting some flashing around the deck as a raccoon "baffle" that makes it difficult for the critter to climb back onto the deck.

Or you can trap it and wear it as a signal to other raccoons (scroll down to the bottom).
posted by Salmonberry at 8:42 PM on April 9, 2004

posted by nyxxxx at 8:56 PM on April 9, 2004

What nyxxxx said.

Although getting animal control to take care of it is your best bet. Chances are they've never seen a cage before and will hop right in. Its pretty humane.
posted by sciurus at 9:45 PM on April 9, 2004

I heard something about the dangers of racoon droppings on the radio recently. Something about brain parasites. I think they said that dried raccoon feces was more dangerous than wet because the dust can get to you so you should hose it down first before cleaning, but I haven't found this specific advice on google yet.
posted by bobo123 at 10:03 PM on April 9, 2004

The main danger of raccoons is rabies, which is now uncommon but still 100% fatal if contracted.

We had a problem with a raccoon a few years ago, and used coyote urine (see hsoltz' comment above) which worked just fine.
posted by mert at 10:28 PM on April 9, 2004

Another vote for animal control. AFAIK racoons can get cranky and aggressive if they are surprised/cornered, and if anyone gets bitten by it, you're off to the hospital for shots, probably including rabies if they can't find the racoon to test it (as happened to a neighbour who surprised one while walking her dog, and it attacked both of them).

I used to think they were cute; just after I moved to the US I saw my first racoon meandering through a garden at dusk; I walked over to pet it, and sent my friends into complete panic.
posted by carter at 6:49 AM on April 10, 2004

Go to an Indian food store and buy a pound (or more) of ground red pepper. Sprinkle it all over your deck and the surrounding area--go crazy with it. The cats won't like it, but it won't cause permanent damage to them. That's what we have (successfully) used to keep the squirrels, dogs, and cats out of our garden, and that's what my parents did to keep the raccoons out of the bird feeder (birds are immune to it).
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:44 AM on April 10, 2004

The main danger from raccoons is actually roundworm (not rabies) as you found out from googling, stonerose. Pretty much all raccoons carry the roundworm, so all raccoon crap is likely contaminated.

I would call a pest control company and marshmallows worked best as bait. Other things might result in trapping neighborhood cats and raccoons love marshmallows. We had a raccoon problem a couple of years ago. It came to our yard in the night from someone else's yard. The raccoon never spent much time in our yard, just did a fair bit of damage. We figured there was one, got a guy to set up a trap, and waited. In our obsession to get this beast, we started checking the yard several times in the middle of the night, which was when we discovered it was a mother with her FIVE kits. The kits were rampaging through our garden like a bunch of drunken frat boys--headbutting each other, etc. We eventually caught 4 kits, but the damage kept happening, so back came the traps. We caught 3 more kits from a different family of five. (We knew this was a different family from the size of the kits.) We also eventually caught the mammoth male that was so big he even freaked out the pest control guy. That's at least 13 raccoons that were in our neighborhood.

Also, raccoons raid bird's nest damaging songbird populations. They will kill cats and can seriously injure dogs. The most chilling thing I've heard about them though was from a friend on a houseboat. The dock of houseboat owners had noticed cats were going missing and figured a human was killing them. That is until one of the residents caught a mother raccoon drowning a cat by holding it under the water off the side of a houseboat. They actually had to hit it with a broom to get it to let the cat go.
posted by lobakgo at 12:21 PM on April 10, 2004

I had a raccoon living in a rental place and the landlord and animal control refused to do anything. An old family friend who is a kind of modern Grizzly Adams checked it out and said that it was a mother and that you just wait for mom to take the kits for a walk in the evening, seal up the hole and scare her off when she comes back in.
posted by plinth at 1:57 PM on April 10, 2004

Lock down your garbage, don't feed them. As mentioned above, coyote or wolf urine will dissuade them, but might annoy your cats. I should follow my own advice....we just let the cats out to scare the racoons off (at my house, Our Cats Kick Racoon Ass). Yes, a racoon will kill a cat, but when faced with three (large, angry, fully-clawed and outdoor-capable) cats, discretion proves the better part of valor.

Animal Control won't help, don't bother. Don't put out poison, you don't know what else you'll kill. Finding the den and either flooding it or sealing it will work.

Or let them stay -- they'll keep the 'possums away.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:57 AM on April 11, 2004

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