We had a raccoon convention recently at about 10:30 p.m. At least four mature raccoons were fighting, mating or something in my neighbor’s backyard. We also had raccoon problems a couple of years ago — they were using a large cedar tree as a sleeping place and unfortunately the ground underneath it (in my backyard) as a latrine. We ultimately removed that tree; it was half-dead and posing a hazard if it fell.
Can you alert folks to the hazards of raccoons and how to discourage them?
— Roianne Cox, Northwest Neighborhood
This reporter has certainly been startled and snarled at by those not-so-little burglars while dragging the garbage and recycling out to the curb after dark. It was more than a little unnerving. And now, after reading up on raccoons, I’m even more unnerved.
Here are a few quick facts gleaned from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s “Living with Wildlife” website (wdfw.wa.gov/living/raccoons.html): Raccoons are nocturnal; they can grow to 40 pounds or more; they eat nearly anything; they have few predators; they’re smart, dextrous and vicious if cornered; and they tend to flourish where there’s plenty of edible trash and great den spaces like “rock piles and brush piles, hollow logs, and holes in trees” as well as “attics, crawl spaces, chimneys, and abandoned vehicles.”
Raccoons aren’t just a snarling nuisance. They can contract a fatal disease called canine distemper; they can also spread it to domestic dogs as well as weasels, skunks, foxes and coyotes. Gloves, cages and other things that touch infected raccoons can also carry and spread canine distemper.