Dear PoPville – Help with Raccoons

Photo by PoPville flickr user  p a b l o r a w p h o t o . c o m

“Dear PoPville,

Recently moved to Petworth from downtown and we love it here. Question to you is about raccoons in the neighborhood. We have had two instances where they have torn apart our trash, and now are tearing apart the insulation under our neighbors deck. Is this a common issue in this area? Do you know if the city will trap and relocate/release them to a park or another less urban space?”

25 Comment

  • The Washington Humane Society (which handles pest removal in DC) will trap raccoons, but they put the raccoons down due to the threat of disease.

    There are private services like Adcock’s Trapping, but those are pretty expensive, and I’m not sure about their policy re: removal or execution.

  • Animal control won’t typically do anything with wildlife unless they are in sick, hurt or are in danger (to themselves or others). If the raccoon is out during the day, you may fit these requirements:

    Raccoons are potential rabies carriers. If you notice a raccoon acting strangly, walking around outside for prolonged periods during daylight hours, or especially if a pet or human has been in contact with or been bitten by a raccoon, please contact Animal Care & Control – 202-576-6664.

    Their website also has tips on how to encourage the raccoon to leave your yard.

  • As long as the area is attractive, you will keep seeing them. Check out this page for ideas for securing your trash etc.:

    “Because raccoons are opportunistic feeders, the key to resolving conflicts with them is to contain available food sources. Once food is contained, raccoons will move on. Seal garbage cans (use bungee cords on lids), cover compost bins, and place netting over fish ponds. Putting out garbage on the day that it will be picked up will discourage raccoons from frequenting the area. Feed companion animals inside or be sure to remove any food placed outside when the animals are finished eating. Most importantly, never feed wildlife! Also, keep an outdoor light or radio on at night or use motion-detector lights or sprinklers to deter raccoons.”

  • Several years ago, a raccoon was living in the alley behind my house, and Animal Control told me they would only come if it was sick. I bought a Have a Heart trap from Home Depot, and after a few unsuccessful baiting attempts, caught it with sardines, and drove it down to Rock Creek and released it there.

    Besides the rabies risk, many raccoons carry a roundworm that can be very dangerous to humans. Avoid any contact with their feces (fortunately, they tend to concentrate their pooping activity in particular places).

    Good luck!

    • I know people who have also trapped racoons and released them in Rock Creek Park. But, my understanding is that it is illegal to trap wild animals in DC even if you release them. I don’t mean to judge Vannessie, this is just an FYI for the OP, who may want to research this.

      • And apparently “Rock Creek Park has the largest density of raccoons in the United States.” ( Now we know the cause!

        • Although the raccoon density in RCP is really high, it is nowhere close to the highest density recorded. This claim is based on really old data (>20 years old). There have been several studies since showing higher density in urban/suburban Chicago, as well as rural areas where raccoons raid crops (and live in REALLY high population densities). Anyway, point being, raccoons released in RCP will have a lot of competition.

  • Welcome to the neighborhood. You’ll love it here.

    Keep a heavy rock on the trash cans. I’ve found it works well.

    And, you can always get a trap from home depot, and then…..
    Unpleasant, but it does the trick.

    • ..release it in the park as others have said? If you actually mean would take the time to trap but then murder an animal who is simply trying to survive just like you… simple, unfeeling human

      • Taking the troll bait here. Is this serious? Life is tragic. Sometimes we have to exterminate pests to keep this civilization of ours going. Advocating that every raccoon ought to live is extremely radical, whether you know it or not. Frank’s suggestion of terminating a trapped raccoon is thought reasonable throughout the civilized world. Treating virus-ridden, pararsite-laden garbage pests like they’re puppies, not so much.

        • If Frank’s suggestion was to terminate a feral cat who was getting into the trash and picking off song birds every day, how many people would jump on this thread to berate him? IMHO raccoons have more right to live here than feral cats do. I’ve TNR’d three and there are more every month.

  • Pound for pound there is really nothing stronger or smarter than a raccoon. They don’t have many natural predators, can swim, climb and are nasty. Their little hands can open trash lids if not secured. Where I was from in NY, we were told there that it was estimated at 100 raccoon’s per square mile. We had all kinds of outdoor livestock and ducks which were constant prey for raccoon’s and it was amazing at night with a huge flashlight at how many you would see. We called the Humane Society and they said they’d come and set traps, cages (usually lore them with canned tuna or fish or peanut butter) and once you get them they would collect the live raccoon and bring them to the nearest preserve or park, but would charge you $50 min each time. Safe to say other methods were chosen. Just don’t be fooled by the innocent face, they are mean and malicious and a huge destructive nuisance. They like areas with water sources. Usually they find hallowed out tree holes in trees to live. Not much really frightens them unless you have a pet coyote or great horned owl:) Good luck.

    • No…… whether you measure intelligence using EQ’s (encephalization quotients) or performance on cognitive tests, raccoons fall in the mid range of mammalian intelligence. You’re forgetting that primates, dolphins, and many other much smarter animals (“pound for pound”) exist. Raccoons just happen to be really good at adapting to humans.

      • Sorry, I meant to say there aren’t many animals pound for pound stronger or smarter that we could encounter on a daily basis. Didn’t realize I’d get a scientific response to that:) It’s still heavily debated how smart they really are. Whatever the case, we can agree they are very perceptive animals.

  • Der Waschbär is back! Suggest buying a simple decent size trap…put some fruit/tomatoes….possums love strawberries and racoons go for pretty much anything and start contributing to the “Waschbär Resettlement Program” in Rock Creek Park :). It’s a humane way of doing it.

    • You might as well just kill them if you’re going to do that. From the Humane Society:
      “Raccoons are a clan animal. They live in groups of several adult individuals, as well as juveniles, and are very dedicated and dependent upon family ties for survival, protection and nurturing. For this reason we strongly discourage live trapping and relocating of raccoons. Studies done by the Humane Society of the United States have shown that more than 90% of relocated raccoons die within a short time in alien territory that is habitat to other resident raccoon clans. Many of them die on roads in their desperate attempts to get back to the safety of their own clan. Many others are killed by the resident raccoon clans protecting their territory.”

  • What a beautiful photo!

  • To get rid of a raccoon you need three things (1) a lawn chair, (2) a bottle of whisky, (3) a bb gun. No problem.

    • You’re gonna need a .22, I imagine. Or some other varmint rifle. I suspect a bb would just piss the thing off, or possibly cause an infection and result in a slow, inhumane death.

  • At the Ft. Totten metro station there is a huge raccoon that comes out to the garbage cans set up outside the bus stop depots and has his pick of several open trash cans, that he eats from and then goes back up into the fenced in woods right beside the station. And that one is HUGE, unafraid and bold. He literally comes out gets his food from the trash eats it and goes back and forth with the uncovered trash cans stationed there. Everyone sees it and goes ‘WTF’ was that??

  • Also, if you have a chimney be sure it’s capped securely. Once they get in your house they will keep coming back to the scent. Raccoons dug out the old mortar on my chimney, pushed the old cap aside and got in. It took me weeks to trap them. I had the chimney fixed and recapped. Two years later when I had dormer work done the workmen told me that there was blood, skin and racoon hair on the chimney where they tried to dig their way inside again.

  • I had Adcock out to trap a squirrel that kept eating through the siding of my house. They charged a flat fee of $400 for the process. They check the traps every day & leave you notes so you know what happened (or didn’t happen). After 24 hours of no animals captured they declare the problem fixed.

    I believe they told me that squirrels are the only animals they can relocate but I didn’t ask too many questions because all I cared about in the moment was squirrels.

    I didn’t compare prices because this was the company my pest company recommended & I needed the problem fixed. They squirrel had already broken through the siding 3x & was actively working on hole #4. I needed him evicted quickly. Boris & Natasha weren’t available but Adcocks did a great job. I would use them again for sure.

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