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Should I Worry About A Raccoon In My Yard?

Luckily we’ve never had a problem with raccoons in our yard, but other people in our neighborhood have. Maybe it’s just a matter of time, but are raccoons in the garden anything to worry about?

Having raccoons in your yard is a problem, as they can carry rabies and be aggressive if they have young to protect. They may also fight with cats and dogs and kill chickens, and on rare occasions bite humans. If raccoons take up permanent residence in your yard, call animal control to remove them.

Let’s explore the topic of raccoons in the yard in more detail, and discover why they might visit your garden, what potential problems this poses – and how you can stop getting raccoons in your yard in the first place…

Is It Ok to Have Raccoons in Your Yard? (When Should I Worry?)

Raccoons: cute little bandits or dangerous pests? They do have their good points (if you have raccoons, you’re not going to have rats…); however on balance, it’s not OK to have raccoons in your yard. 

Most raccoons will leave you and your pets alone – they’re after your garbage, not a fight. But, because they can carry rabies, raccoons should be discouraged. Don’t worry if you see the occasional raccoon passing through your yard, as it’s probably just a mom out foraging. However, if you see more or regular signs of raccoons in your garden, it’s time to act.

What Do You Do if You See a Raccoon in Your Yard?

If you see a raccoon in your yard, just leave them be. These animals have adapted to living among humans (we do leave the tastiest garbage outside our homes), so seeing one wandering through your garden is not unusual. 

Raccoons may look like a cross between Zorro and your pet cat, but this does not make them friendly. If you spot one, don’t approach it. Observe it from a distance to see what it’s doing (you may need to install some anti-raccoon measures later so it’s useful to see what it’s up to), and wait until it leaves, which it will.

If you keep seeing the raccoon or they start visiting in bigger gangs, it’s time to contact animal control: you don’t want the Raccoon Family moving into your yard.

What’s The Best Way To Get Rid of Raccoons?

If you think that raccoons are taking up residence in your yard, call animal control to remove them. Never attempt to trap them yourself, as they can get really aggressive. We’ll take a look at how the pros deal with raccoons a little later on.

The best way to stop a raccoon from entering your yard is to make it unattractive. Raccoons won’t bother with your garden if it feels unsafe for them, or if there’s simply not much good foraging to be had.

Make sure the garbage can lids are secure and the compost is covered, then if you can, install motion-activated lighting: they really don’t like sudden glare.

Raccoons also love your fruit and vegetable garden. Try peppermint spray, which they hate, and also deters rats and mice. Apparently they also detest the smell of cayenne pepper.

If you feed pets or the birds in your yard, try and get in the routine of feeding only what will be eaten before nightfall, and clearing up any mess

What Attracts Raccoons to Your Yard?

Raccoons are looking for two things: food and shelter. It’s fairly easy to prevent them snacking on your trash, compost, or pet food, but how do you make the whole yard uninviting?

They may be looking for a place to make a new den, especially if your local raccoon is expecting kits. Any space under your home makes a good den, and a hole in the porch floor is an excellent entry point. Worst-case scenario: raccoons in the chimney. This does happen.

So, to keep your yard-raccoon free, take a walk around your property and try to see it from the animal’s perspective. Are there any cozy holes? Missing deck boards? Dark corners in outbuildings behind planks of wood or boxes? Branches that lead neatly to the chimney?

If you spot any potential raccoon ways in, check them for other critters (you don’t want to block in an existing lodger), then close the gap.

There is a third attraction: prey. They can, and will, eat your chickens. Raccoons have also been known to unfasten latches with their clever paws, so once your flock is in for the night, use a padlock on the door. 

Raccoons can also bite through wire, so use tough wire, not the standard chicken wire, for your coop. Spray the area with a deterrent (peppermint or cayenne pepper), and think about installing a sensor light. 

All these measures also apply to pet rabbits. If your bunnies live in a hutch, they could be attacked by hungry raccoons, so make their enclosure as robust as possible.

If you’re just starting to keep chickens, make the coop raccoon-proof from the start. Here’s how to build your own raccoon-proof chicken coop.

How Long Do Raccoons Stay in One Place?

A raccoon mom tends to keep her kits with her in one place for their first eight weeks, then they move on. Raccoons don’t tend to settle for very long in a single spot – but sorry, here’s the bad news: they will return to an old den.

Never assume a raccoon family has left for good, which is why it’s doubly important to make sure you seal up any potential dens. Some cheeky critters also keep multiple dens going in the same neighborhood, so if there’s trouble in one, they can simply move on to another.

Will Raccoons Try and Get in the House?

If a raccoon wants to build a nest, a dark, quiet spot like an attic, basement, or crawl space is ideal. Some bold raccoons will also attempt to nest in the chimney or inside the walls. So while they’re generally shy and stay away from humans, they might still try to move into a little-used part of your home.

Where Do Raccoons Normally Go During the Day?

During the day, the typical raccoon finds a safe place to sleep. In the wild, this would be in a tree hollow or an abandoned den, while the urban raccoon will pick anything from a sewer pipe to an old car. Or the space under your deck…

If you see a raccoon in daylight, it could be a mom looking for food, an unusually hungry specimen, or an injured animal. All of these will generally wander off again by themselves.

Where Do Raccoons Usually Go at Night?

Raccoons wake up and hunt at night. The town-dwelling raccoon will be searching through trash cans and dumpsters, or foraging for vegetables in people’s gardens. Because they’re nocturnal, it can often be too late to see the damage they’re causing. Security lights, critter-proof garbage cans, and deterrent sprays will all help keep them at bay.

Raccoon getting food out of the trash
Raccoon getting food out of the trash

Are Raccoons Aggressive? (Do They Bite?)

Yes, raccoons are aggressive. Like most wild animals, they operate on a “leave-us-alone-and-we-leave-you-alone” basis; however, they will attack if provoked or scared, especially if they have young nearby.

They could bite or scratch if they feel threatened, and because they carry rabies, you should really go out of your way not to threaten a raccoon.

Are Raccoons Scared of Humans?

Generally, even the urban raccoon will avoid humans. Because they’re nocturnal, they find it very easy to co-exist with species, feeding happily from our kitchen waste without ever having to see us. Most raccoons will run away from humans. 

Will a Raccoon Chase You?

Much as we love this cartoon image, no, a raccoon won’t chase you. But… a raccoon with rabies may be disoriented and confused and make like it’s attacking you. If you see a raccoon behaving like this, you’d better be the one that runs, as it could be infected.

Are Raccoons Afraid of Dogs?

This is a tricky one to answer, because as we know, man’s best friend comes in all different shapes and sizes. A lap dog isn’t going to bother a raccoon at all; however a larger breed will definitely give it paws for thought. 

In fact, if you own a large or noisy dog, this can be a great way to keep raccoons out of your yard: it’s simply not worth the risk for them (even if your pooch wouldn’t hurt a fly).

Do Raccoons Eat Cats?

Raccoons will fight cats, and are likely to win. If there are raccoons in your neighborhood, keep your kitty indoors. Will a raccoon actually prey on cats? Unlikely, although desperate raccoons have been known to eat kittens. Keep your cats indoors at night, and make sure they’re vaccinated against rabies.

How Common is Rabies in Raccoons?

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, raccoons are common rabies carriers. Over 30% of known animal rabies cases in the US in 2018, over 30% were raccoons. Make sure your animals are inoculated, and if you get bitten or scratched by a raccoon, seek medical help immediately. 

Conclusion: What Does Animal Control Do With Raccoons?

If you have raccoons in your home or your yard, call your local animal control or find a local pest control contractor. The trapped raccoons will be relocated (they need to be at least 5 miles from their old territory) or euthanized. A rabid raccoon will certainly be put to sleep.

You can get free state animal control services, although not all districts will trap raccoons. There are also private companies but be warned: look out for one that uses humane methods. In many states, it’s not actually legal to capture raccoons yourself, so don’t attempt it (it’s also pretty dangerous, as raccoons can be rabid).

Wow! Who knew there was so much to think about when it comes to controlling raccoons in your yard! Let’s just hope none of us come across a ninja raccoon like this one! Good luck! 🙂

Mark H.

Homeowner and property investor Mark H. aspires to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >