Whether you’re nervous about a drunk-looking raccoon in your backyard or you’ve found a den of raccoons in your attic, it’s likely got you wondering — are raccoons dangerous?
Yes, raccoons can be dangerous depending on the situation. They dig up yards, chew through electrical wires, and leave scratches in homes as a best-case scenario. In the worst cases, they can send you to the hospital.
I’ll help you understand the many ways raccoons pose a danger and how to manage the threat of them.
- Why Are Raccoons Dangerous?
- Attacks and Bites
- Property Damage From Raccoons
- Racoon Damage in the Yard
- Final Thoughts On Raccoons
- FAQ’s Raccoon Encounters
Why Are Raccoons Dangerous?
Fundamentally, raccoons are not dangerous animals but they do present a risk of harm to humans and damage to property.
Raccoons carry diseases through their feces, urine, and saliva, and they have been known to attack humans or pets when they feel threatened or if they have rabies. A hungry and opportunistic raccoon will even eat small pets and livestock such as chickens.
In terms of your property, raccoons can also take a toll on your manicured lawn, attic, and electrical wiring. While these animals play an essential role in the ecosystem, you don’t want them around your family, and you should take precautions not to attract them.
I’ll walk you through each of these raccoon dangers in more detail and offer advice on how to prevent an encounter with them throughout this article.
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Feces and Urine
The feces and urine of a raccoon can contain the rabies virus. Rabies is a life-threatening disease that deteriorates the central nervous system, triggering acute brain disease.
Pets are at the highest risk for getting a rabies infection through raccoon feces and urine. Your dog or cat can then pass rabies on to you.
Raccoon feces and urine can also cause a Baylisacaris procyonis infection as well as dirty the area where they defecate. Their droppings attract flies and dirt, and the smell is unbearable in places where raccoons go to the bathroom often.
Roundworms are small parasites that live in the digestive system of raccoons, humans, dogs, and cats, among many other animals. Fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain are some of the common symptoms of roundworm infection.
The scientific name for roundworm is Baylisascaris, and there are several species of this parasite within the Baylisascaris family. Raccoons commonly carry Baylisacaris procyonis, which is the type of roundworm that they frequently pass on to humans in contact with their feces.
Pets and children are most at risk of getting a roundworm infection. To become infected, they must consume Baylisascaris procyonis eggs. So, even a little smear of infected raccoon feces on their paws or hands can do the trick.
Leptospirosis is a disease that raccoons can carry from various species of Leptospira bacteria. They spread it through their urine, saliva, and other excretions.
Therefore, if you have an open wound and come in contact with the secretions of an infected raccoon, you may get Leptospirosis. Furthermore, if a raccoon bites you (which often occurs when they have rabies), the saliva from the bite can also cause this bacterial infection.
Symptoms of Leptospirosis in humans are similar to influenza. You may have:
- Sore muscles
Luckily, Leptospirosis isn’t deadly if you treat it early, thanks to antibiotics like penicillin. If you have severe symptoms, you may need to stay at the hospital for intravenous antibiotics.
Rabid Raccoon Behavior and Symptoms
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raccoons are the second most common wildlife species that carry rabies, helping to account for 92.7% of the wild animal rabies cases in 2018.
Luckily, spotting a rabid raccoon is easy, as they unusually appear drunk and sickly. Common behaviors that raccoons display when they have rabies include:
- Walking in a zig zag pattern
- Foam and saliva coming from their mouths
- Not afraid of loud noises or people
- Making a high pitched sound
- Wet face
Another sign that a raccoon has rabies is that they roam around during the day. Healthy raccoons typically are nocturnal. Furthermore, they won’t approach humans. However, a rabid raccoon may chase or act aggressively towards a person without any provocation.
Attacks and Bites
There is no hiding that raccoons have an aggressive side but they don’t actively go after humans and pets unless provoked or cornered. That said, raccoons will attack chickens and other small livestock. The good news is that raccoons often prefer chicken eggs and feed instead of taking the energy to catch, fight and kill another live animal.
If a non-rabid raccoon bites you or your pet, you can expect a painful puncture wound. But if a rabid raccoon bites either of you, it’s crucial to go to the doctor or veterinarian immediately for treatment.
Do Raccoons Bite Humans?
As we have discussed the risk and dangers of these mammals, it should now be fairly clear that raccoons do have the temperament to bite humans. But as I have mentioned, raccoons don’t go out of their way to bite. They’ll only do so if you threaten them, their den, or their litter, or if they are suffering from an illness and vulnerable.
More often than not, rabid raccoons are most likely to bite humans, with the disease impacting the central nervous system. This leads raccoons to lose their ability to judge danger or risk.
Therefore, if you encounter a raccoon displaying the rabies symptoms we described above, it’s crucial to stay away and call pest control.
Will Raccoons Attack Dogs or Cats?
Raccoons will attack dogs and cats but it’s rare. Of the two, raccoons are more likely to attack dogs, given that they have a harder time climbing and escaping than cats. Cats also run faster than dogs.
In fact, if you own a small dog, a hungry raccoon may even eat them. However, I don’t want to scare you—such situations are rare, and as long as a raccoon is healthy and unthreatened, they’ll likely leave your dog alone.
Nevertheless, to prevent your curious dog or cat from having a run-in with a raccoon, keep them indoors at night. Since raccoons are night owls, you shouldn’t have to worry about your pet encountering a healthy one during the day.
Will Raccoons Eat Chickens or Livestock?
Yes, raccoons will eat chickens and other small livestock. It doesn’t matter if you have chickens in the countryside or the small backyard of your development — you’ll need to secure your chicken and livestock coops to prevent raccoons from entering.
Raccoons are omnivores. So, if they access your chickens and livestock, not only will they eat these animals if their size is right, but they’ll also eat chicken eggs and livestock feed. Another popular place for raccoons to hang out is beside koi fish ponds.
For a natural raccoon prevention treatment, boil one gallon of water with many garlic cloves and a few onions. You can also throw in some hot peppers for good measure. Then, use a spray bottle to spread the mixture around the outside of your chicken or livestock pen.
Property Damage From Raccoons
Raccoons can wreak havoc on your home and belongings. Not only do these animals intentionally rip up items to make their nests but adult males can be surprisingly big and strong.
They can cause massive damage as they walk around your home, given their sharp claws. They’re also chewers, so you may find bite marks on wooden beams and wires.
Check out How To Get Rid of Raccoons here.
Raccoon Damage in Your Home
Even though adult raccoons grow as large as 28 inches long and up to 35 pounds, they’re capable of squeezing through holes in your home that are as small as a softball size.
Needless to say, raccoon visitors are common in houses, especially if you have a chimney. These intelligent animals often seek the shelter of a cozy warm home in the winter and spring. So, these are the seasons when you can expect to have the highest number of raccoon visitors.
Raccoon Dens in the Attic
Raccoons enjoy making their dens in the attic since attics are dark and don’t typically receive much human traffic. You have the highest chance of encountering raccoons in your attic from January to September, which is when they prepare their nest, give birth, and raise their young.
Finding a raccoon den in your attic can be a massive hassle if you catch it late. You’ll have a massive smell issue on your hands from the mother and babies’ feces and urine. You can also expect any items in the vicinity of the den to have scratches, rips, and holes.
To encourage raccoons to leave their den in your attic on their own, leave lights on, create noise, and put something smelly to raccoons up there. Apple cider vinegar and ammonia are great choices.
As a final note, turn on a radio talk show rather than music — raccoons hate human voices but many people believe they don’t mind music as much.
Raccoons love to burrow in insulation, especially for nesting. Therefore, if you notice strands of insulation around your attic or another part of your home, it’s an indication that there might be a raccoon entering to take some of it.
Raccoons also might climb into walls and pack down the insulation present to rest or make their den.
Insulation-related damage from raccoons can be devastating to your home. It can cause your electricity bill to increase since your house won’t hold as much heat, and you may need to pay someone to remove the soiled insulation and reinstall some new.
Holes in Walls
You already know that adult raccoons can fit through softball-size holes but it might get you wondering — what spots of the home do raccoons most commonly enter through?
Chimneys, external entry holes in attics, and holes in the basement are all popular entrances for raccoons.
Once raccoons arrive through a hole in your wall, they may get around your home through crawl spaces, ductwork, or ceiling tiles. As if such situations aren’t enough of a headache for the homeowner, it opens the opportunity for raccoons to chew on electrical wiring.
Urine and Feces Damage
In my experience, raccoon urine and feces can have devastating consequences on your home in addition to the health risks they pose. The water content of raccoon excrement can rot wood over time and may force you to throw out your great-grandmother’s knitted blanket that you store in your attic during the summer.
Furthermore, raccoon urine and feces attract flies and host other germs you don’t want hanging around your home. To treat an area in your home with urine and feces damage, throw out all impacted items.
If the raccoons use your carpet as their bathroom, you’ll have to pull it up and replace it. At this point, hiring a professional to assess the structural damage of your home may end up being the best route.
Racoon Damage in the Yard
Trust me, raccoons can quickly turn a picture-perfect lawn into their own playground. Digging up lawns, building dens under decks, and trash strewed about your property are all issues you may encounter.
However, before you resort to trapping your problem raccoons, read my advice below to learn about more humane prevention and deterrent practices.
Digging Up Lawns
When it comes to raccoons digging up your lawn, it’s a double edge sword — raccoons visiting your yard is a sign of a grub infestation, which will leave your lawn brown. In contrast, letting the raccoons take care of the problem will leave your yard looking more like a pasture, with dying grass turning brown.
Therefore, one of the best solutions is to use a nematode and grub killer. The best ones on the market can prevent grubs for two years. In turn, your raccoon visitors will learn there are no more grubs to be had and should leave your property.
If you don’t like the thought of treating your lawn for grubs, another option exists. You can lay bird netting over your lawn. After two or three weeks, your raccoons should get the hint and move on.
Den Under Decking
If raccoons can’t find a way to get into your attic to make their dens, they just may use the space under your deck instead. Having raccoons so close to your home is cause for concern, especially if you have pets that could go poking their noses beneath your deck.
Therefore, if you notice a family of raccoons living under your deck, take action to remove them. While it’s possible to trap these animals, you can often encourage them to move more humanely.
For starters, place a bright light facing beneath your deck. Raccoons love the dark, so they’ll feel uncomfortable with having the (literal) spotlight on them. You can also leave a radio on loud or soak fabric in ammonia and place it around the entrance of their den.
Raccoons in Trash
Trash is arguably one of the biggest draws for raccoons living in towns and cities. They’re intelligent creatures that can break into trash cans by lifting the lid or tipping cans over with their noses.
Either way, the result is a mess to clean, not to mention the added sanitary concern, given the diseases that raccoons can carry. Should you have raccoons that got into your trash and fled, buy a trash can with a latch or store it in your garage. Check out the many ways to Keep Raccoons Out of Your Trash.
In contrast, if you hear the raccoons still in your trash can, don’t attempt to open it. That’s because you’ll startle the raccoons, and they may act aggressively out of self-defense. Instead, call a pest removal service so they can safely transfer the raccoons to a different location.
Final Thoughts On Raccoons
Raccoons are dangerous because they carry rabies, parasites, and bacteria that can cause illness or death. Furthermore, they’re destructive to homes, yards, chicken coops, and more.
If you see a raccoon roaming around during the daytime that acts sick, call animal control immediately — it likely has rabies.
In contrast, raccoons that explore at night typically aren’t ill. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to keep holes covered and garbage secured to discourage them from paying an unwelcome visit.