I’ve been sharing my property with a raccoon family for two years now. I discovered them one night when I heard a strange scratching noise right outside my window. Alarmed, I jumped out of bed, gingerly raised the blinds, and saw a mother raccoon peering down at her young’uns and coaxing them up my screen to safety in the soffit.
While I wouldn’t suggest this living arrangement to everyone, I’ve grown quite fond of this little family, watching their antics from afar and being sure to keep my yard as safe as possible for them. I mean, if Rocket can be a guardian of the entire galaxy, the least I can do is extend the same kindness to raccoons in my backyard.
Raccoons are highly intelligent, which sometimes means trouble when they live in urban environments. By following these simple tips and tricks, you can be a guardian for raccoons (and other wildlife, too):
- Raccoons are expert trash can raiders, always on the prowl for a meal or midnight snack. Keep them out of your bins—and out of danger—by using tight-fitting lids secured with bungee cords. That way, they won’t be able to rummage around in the garbage (which can be very dangerous) or become trapped inside a bin. It’s also important to be mindful of other humans’ trash bins and replace lids that have blown off.
- There aren’t many foods raccoons can resist. Cans and other containers with leftover food residue can be risky for raccoons, who can cut their tongues while taking a taste or get their heads stuck in them. To prevent any such tragedy, be sure to rinse containers thoroughly (and put the lids back on) and crush metal cans before disposing of them.
- Picking up garbage on the side of the road helps keep wildlife safe (and beautifies the neighborhood). Discarded wrappers and foil are often coated with crumbs and can be fatal if ingested. Additionally, raccoons and other animals can easily become entangled in plastic bags and twine, making them vulnerable to predators or even causing them to suffocate. Do your part by picking up litter. You can even turn it into a game: Gather your family or friends, get some gloves and garbage bags, and see who can grab the most trash in 30 minutes.
- Cat and dog food are like magnets to raccoons, who have a superb sense of smell. To keep them from crashing a meal, feed your animal companions indoors. Also, immediately pick up any leftovers and avoid leaving food outside, especially overnight.
- As tempting as it may be, never feed raccoons or other wildlife. While it may seem like a nice gesture, feeding animals in nature can harm them by altering their natural behavior and diet. Plus, feeding wildlife attracts large numbers of them to the area, putting them in danger of humans who aren’t so willing to share the neighborhood.
Remember: Raccoons are not domesticated animals and should not be treated as such. They are not meant to live in houses or cages—they need space to roam, climb trees, and forage for food. If you happen upon a raccoon in nature, admire them from a safe distance and leave them be.
The only appropriate time to intervene is when an animal is sick, injured, or in imminent danger. In such cases, always call animal control for help. Raccoons are known to carry the rabies virus, which can be transmitted to humans and other animals.
In today’s world, we often forget that humans aren’t the only species trying their best to raise families. With urbanization on the rise, raccoons (and other animals) are forced to adapt to less-than-ideal living arrangements. If you discover raccoons nesting in or around your home, please wait to remove them until fall (when nesting season has ended). Young raccoons will stay in the nest until they are at least 8 weeks old. It’s inhumane to shoo a mother raccoon away, as it leaves their little ones vulnerable to starvation and predators.
We must coexist with raccoons and other wildlife considerately and responsibly. By learning to appreciate and respect all animals, we can guard them just as Rocket guarded the galaxy!