What to do about Raccoons

Yes, there are Raccoons in Brooklyn! However cute they may be, they can be a nuisance when they forage in your trash, nest in your roof, or sneak into your kitchen.  Here are tips from your PSP neighbors!


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As one parent warns "They're cute but they are still wild animals who will attack if they are threatened and can't run away or if they are defending their young."


Deter with Cayenne Pepper:


"Someone suggested putting cayenne pepper out to deter the raccoon from coming to our apt. via fire escape-- it worked. Just make sure to refresh after rain or dampness. The raccoon visited us over the summer months but haven't seen him in months."

 "I have found from research that they hate spicy smells. I have placed a number of coffee mugs of cayenne pepper around and they stay away! You just have to replace it every time it rains."


Suggestions from a Wildlife Rehabilitator:


"I'm a (very small-time) wildlife rehabilitator. New Yorkers often get alarmed when they see raccoons. A big part of any wildlife agency's job these days is convincing people that just seeing wildlife doesn't mean that wildlife is a problem. Possibly hundreds of raccoons live in Prospect Park. They wake up around dusk so that's when you'll usually see them. If they're out in the daytime, it's likely that they just didn't get enough to eat the night before, especially if they're nursing moms.  That said, raccoons do have two health risks right now. There's been raccoon rabies in the city (it came up north when hunters transported rabid raccoons from Florida in the 60s and 70s). The city inoculated raccoons in the last few years. Last year there weren't any rabid raccoons in Brooklyn. In 2010 there was one in Prospect Park. Here are the stats: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cd/cdrab-borough.shtml Also, squirrels don't get rabies, so don't worry about that. A raccoon foraging in a garbage can is just being an urban raccoon. The only way he's going to give you rabies is if he bites you. But the real concern is something called raccoon roundworm or (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/9/12/03-0039_article.htm) mainly because it is spread by raccoon droppings and you conceivably might not realize it if your toddler touches it. The answer isn't to get rid of a particular raccoon. If the food source is there, another will move in to use it. The problem is the food source--the trash can. New York is trying out some trash cans by a company called Big Belly Solar (or something like that). They use solar power to compact the trash, which is completely enclosed, keeping food away from rats and raccoons."


Bring it up with the Landlord:


"The landlord should pay for this sort of thing, as with the extermination of bugs. Your case sounds different from ours if they haven't taken up residence in the building, but it's still a health/safety/maintenance issue not a preference or cosmetic one. But if it's a case of roving animals breaking in it may be more a matter of taking better protective measures than extermination/removal since they travel in packs. (I've seen four or five going through garbage cans on our street.) Trapping one isn't likely to do much if what's attracting them is still there.


Useful Reading from around the web:


From NYC.gov: "Raccoon Control Information For Homeowners."

"Here's some good practical info "What To Do About Raccoons." (link via The Humane Society)


Some of the Many Sighting Stories:


"Raccoons are pretty common sights in the South Slope. We once had two babies stuck on the ledge outside our bedroom window -- Disney-cute, but quite a production to get them down. Remember that they are vey powerful, wild animals. Don't approach them or feed them."

"We live on 8th Ave and one came into our second floor apartment off the back roof deck and was in our bathroom eating our cat's food when my husband discovered it! As you can imagine, we keep that door closed now...

"On a warmish night a few weeks ago I slept with a window open. I woke up at 2:00am because there was so much noise outside.  I looked out to see group of five raccoons partying in my backyard and on my first floor roof."


What to do about Raccoon & Family Pets - a summary 


Recently on the PSP Advice List, parents talked about dealing with Raccoons & Cats in the 'hood.  Here's a summary:

Thank you to everyone that responded to my concern about the recent raccoon sighting in our backyard.  It was unanimous that raccoons are smart, hungry and typically fearless and would absolutely use our dog door to enter our home.  Because of the posts, we now call our cats in at night and close the dog door.  The door gets open again in the morning so they can have their freedom again.  Not that I have to defend myself, but there were some posters that were highly against having outside cats at all.  For us, everyone is happier.  We live in a basement apartment, very dark, not a lot to look at.  Our cats are definately depressed if they are trapped in the basement for more than a day (as I would be too).  They are much happier having their "work" life and home life.  Also, they had their regualr vet check this weekend and in perfect health, including no signs of fleas or ticks (thanks to our use of Revolution).  Below are the posts that Ireceived if anyone is interested in reading:
"I can't speak to raccoons but I would suggest you reconsider having indoor/outdoor cats in the city - or anywhere really. Cats are the number one killer of birds in the city and we are losing a lot of the bird populations due to feral cats and folks letting their domesticated cats outside. http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/120806.html

"Personally I hate raccoons. I don't like to say I hate anything but years ago in San Francisco one took my turtle from my backyard from the outdoor turtle cage. When I heard the noise I turned the lights on as I thought it was a burglar the raccoon stood up right outside hissing at me at my door before I opened the door as if to say "don't you dare come outside". It looked vicious. The cage was broken and turtle gone. I have started to hate raccoons ever since."

"I'm sure you'll get to a of replies, but I would be very concerned about your cats and the raccoons. Not too long ago a raccoon broke into someone's apartment and killed a cat. Personally, I love seeing the raccoons in our yard- but they are dangerous and rabid ones have turned up nearby. Even if your cats have their shots, rabid raccoons are unpredictable.I would also hesitate to let the cats roam to other yards unsupervised. We have a yard with a garden that other local cats use as a litter box. Even worse, male cats come up to our windows and mark them and/or start fights with our cats. It's worse for our neighbor- she gave her cat up because the visiting cats caused so many fights and literal pissing matches at all hours of the day and night."

"Having spent the latter half of my childhood in Long Island, with indoor/outdoor cats (6 total over the years) and raccoons aplenty, here's my advice. Keep your pet door locked at night and make sure your cats don't spend the night outside. Raccoons, as you may know, are nocturnal. They are also highly intelligent and motivated to find food. They will not be shy about entering your pet door (or any other opening for that matter) if they think you're not around. They are also aggressive. I can't tell you who is typically the instigator (my guess is the raccoon), but raccoons and cats do get into tangles. When they do, the raccoon wins. The cat is lucky to escape with his/her life. Cats really have no way to defend against a raccoon. Raccoons are significantly stronger and have extremely nasty claws. Our cats had 2 acres to roam all day long, but at night we'd call them in and they'd all come running. A food bowl is a great motivator, if
necessary. Hopefully your cats can learn to do the same."

Actually, I think raccoons would come through the doggy door. They are pretty fearless and persistent when it comes to the search for food and I have heard stories of kitchens in Brooklyn invaded by the critters. I had a similar fear as we have a kind of doggy door (actually its a flap in our screen door and we close the glass sliding door at night) and I spotted a raccoon out back about 4 months ago. However he/she seemed to disappear. Not sure about encounters between raccoons and cats though. You might Google this or ask your vet. I have heard that raccoon invasions are a problem in Brooklyn! (Your story about your cat adopting the feral cat is very sweet by the way.)" 

"Hate to be a downer, but raccoons definitely pose a threat to cats. They are wild, unpredictable animals who can injure or kill a cat, and can also spread disease and fleas. And yes, they will absolutely come into the house via a dog door (or crack or AC duct or window, etc). They are highly intelligent scavengers, and will explore anywhere that offers the promise of food, shelter and warmth.  I've had friends & family have them in their house, and it was a HUGE issue getting them out. They had to call in (expensive) professionals, who might also injure or kill the raccoons to get them out.  Your best course of action is to make your house unappealing to them. Close garbage cans, seal all access to the house and maybe even leave outside lights on at night. Sorry to say :( and I wish I had advice on how to give your cats outside time while keeping raccoons out. Maybe only leave the dog door open during the day?"  

" Raccoons are wild animals and can be very dangerous! If the raccoons were babies, adults would not be far off. Raccoons could very well come in your house, and if they do, they can wreak major havoc. They are also dangerous to your pets, and to you if cornered. Also, there have been cases of rabies in raccoons here In Brooklyn. Please do what you need to do to secure your home and completely separate your pets from wildlife."   The raccoon will be delighted to use your pet door and they will let their friends know about it as well! They are very smart animals and while they generally don't attack if unprovoked, or dont have rabies, they are not little or without sharp teeth and claws. I had an apartment once in Canada that a raccoon found it's way into and it was not fun getting it out. We had to make sure the doors were securely shut after that.
I would be concerned about a pet being in close contact."

"Raccoons are smart, hungry, and sometimes savage little creatures! When I was growing up in Indiana, they'd routinely come into our porch through the cat door to eat the food we left out there for our cats . Now and then one could come all the way into the house, and once they feel trapped, they start seeming more like tasmanian devils than cute little masked bandits--it was no easy thing getting them back out through the door. They rarely came face-to-face with our cats, but when they did it involved a whole lot of growling and hissing, especially when a mother raccoon had brought her cubs along. Depending on size, a cat would probably be able to put up a good fight, but ultimately I think the raccoon would be more likely to emerge alive. Sorry not to be more reassuring! My Hoosier heart loves the thought of wild varmints roaming the middle of Brooklyn, but from a practical standpoint it's not all good news."