Whether you live in the country or in the middle of suburbia there are going to be at least one type of pesky critter that comes savaging around. Raccoons are well-known pests that will go through trash cans, pet food, compost and gardens in search of food. While these sneaky bandits are one of the more loved pests they can also pose a threat. Raccoons are a rabies vector species. This means that can carry and transmit the disease to humans and other animals.
Having been documented for thousands of years rabies is neither a new disease or one of the past. If raccoons are a common place pest around your home it’s a good idea to brush up on the need to know about rabies.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral infection that attacks the nervous system. Animals cannot be carriers of the disease. If they have rabies they will show signs of it and during the later stages it can be transmitted to other animals and humans.
There are five main strains of rabies, skunk, fox, canine, raccoon and bat. They are named after the animal that is most susceptible to it, but any mammal can get rabies. To contract rabies saliva from an infected animal must come in contact with broken skin, such as bites, scratches and abrasions.
Signs of a Rabid Raccoon and What to Do
Rabid raccoons will show signs that they are sick. Learns these signs and how to distinguish fact from myth.
- A rabid raccoon will have difficulty walking. Their hind legs may be fully or partially paralyzed. They may also be walking around in confused circles.
- They will act confused or disoriented. Healthy raccoons are very mindful creatures. They are constantly alter and looking for something; food, water or a pretty bobble to play with.
- Rabies infected raccoons may make crazy noises. When healthy, they will often chatter a bit with other raccoons, but when sick they could make squealing and screeching sounds that they don’t otherwise make.
- A classic sign, and one that signals the later stage of rabies, is foaming at the mouth. If you are close enough to see this sign get away from the animal. Keep your pets and children away.
There are also a number of healthy raccoon behaviors that people mistaken as oddities. Even if they raccoon doesn’t seem infected you should still leave the animal alone.
- Many healthy raccoons have little or no fear of humans. This isn’t a sign of rabies. It just means that the animal has been around people enough not to fear them.
- Mother raccoons will go out during the day in search of extra food for their babies.
- Aggression is not a sign of rabies. It might just be a bad tempered raccoon.
What to Do With Rabid Raccoons
If you think that a rabid raccoon is wondering around your yard or neighborhood call animal control or the local equivalent. Do not attempt to catch the raccoon on your own. Some states have laws against handling any rabies vector species, whether they are showing signs of rabies or not. Be aware of the laws in your area and follow them.
If you find baby raccoons on your property contact animal control or an animal rehabber. The mother may come back for the babies, but there is a vaccination for rabies that the babies can be given. This can help reduce the chances of rabies becoming a problem in your area.
Prevention of Rabid Raccoons
There is no for sure way to stop a rabid raccoon from showing up at your home, but there are steps you can take to control the raccoon population.
- Keep the yard clean and trash free. Spend a little extra time picking up any debris that might be laying around in the yard. This not only makes the yard look better, but removes items that raccoons can explore or use. Keep trash cans clean and sealed. If a raccoon can’t get into the trash they can’t eat what’s inside.
- Kill off their food source. Raccoons love bugs and will eat them up. If there are grubs or ground dwelling bugs in your yard you’ll see signs of raccoons digging for them. Apply a pest killer that will kill off these pests and save your lawn while repealing raccoons.
- Stop them from using your yard as a bathroom. Raccoons will often use the same areas over and over. Put a stop to this by applying fox or coyote urine. The smell of a predator will deter them.
- Keep pet food inside and feed outside pets earlier in the day so that most of their food will be gone by nightfall.
- Install motion sensitive lights. If a raccoon starts across your yard and a light pops on it will scare them off the first few times. The lights can also be an early detection of raccoons stopping by. If the lights pop on every night try searching for signs of raccoons and start taking prevention measures.