R (Procyon lotor)
Raccoons have become a common nuisance in suburban and urban areas across the country. They are easy to identify by their distinctive black mask and ringed tail. They frequently measure up to three feet in length and way up to 30 pounds. Raccoon usually bear their young in the spring, and traditionally have litters of three to six. Where food is plentiful and no predators exist, raccoon families can grow rather quickly.
Raccoons are omnivorous and do well in human habitats where garden fruits and vegetables, open garbage cans, tree mast, and pet food bowls provide a plentiful bounty for their subsistence. Mostly nocturnal, they move under cover of night and forage for food. Their front paws are quite dexterous, and they have been known to unhook simple latches and open lightweight doors like the ones found on most screened porches.
Raccoons can cause serious damage to your home. Females may rip off fascia boards or shingles to gain access to your attic when they are trying to find a suitable nesting site. They may also damage doors leading to crawl spaces beneath your house. Raccoons that make their way into your attic or crawl space may tear up insulation on walls around ductwork. They will often choose a spot in their new space to serve as the community “restroom.” These spots can become saturated in a short period of time and cause odor and potentially become a source for spread of roundworm. They also may carry several diseases, including rabies. If a raccoon seems unusually bold around humans or is out during daylight hours, rabies may be suspected.
The occasional visit to your home by a curious raccoon is no cause for concern. To discourage further visits, secure pet food, garbage cans, and any other source of food that may be attracting the animal’s attention. Clear away brush piles and hollow trees that serve as den sites for raccoons. Cover open chimneys securely with a metal spark arrester and clear away tree branches within five feet or your rooftop to keep them from making a nest in your attic or chimney. Once an occasional visitor becomes and unwanted resident, your best bet is to trap and kill the animal. Relocating a raccoon is dangerous. It is also illegal to do so in Alabama.