Beware of raccoons

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By The Staff

Despite a recent Monitor article, I have not seen the reported abundance of rattlesnakes on Barranca Mesa, not even one. Maybe the raccoons are feeding on them and anything else they can find. They are nightly and, occasionally, daily visitors in my neighborhood and have attacked pets to protect their young.

Wildlife managers claim trapping them is useless because they will return to their territory many miles away from release.  Their abundant replacements will also fill in for them. One local raccoon mom has three offspring doing the dining tour this fall.

Los Alamos Animal Control does not trap raccoons. They refer you to a professional wildlife removal Webpage (www.wildlife-removal.com/raccoon.htm.), which has detailed information on raccoon control.

The best course of action for homeowners is to remove any food source from your yard, seal any potential access to areas they can use for dens and keep pets inside especially at night.

The following information was  gathered from the state of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/living/raccoons.htm).

Raccoons are mammals, native to all areas of the U.S., measuring about 3 feet long, including the animal’s 12-inch, bushy, ringed tail. Adult raccoons weigh 15 to 40 pounds. Raccoons will eat almost anything, but are particularly fond of creatures found in water­, like clams, crayfish, frogs, fish and snails. They also eat insects, slugs, dead animals, small rodents, birds and bird eggs, as well as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Around humans, raccoons often eat garbage and pet food.

Dens are used for shelter and raising young. They include abandoned burrows dug by other mammals, areas in or under large rock piles and brush piles, hollow logs and holes in trees. Den sites also include attics, crawl spaces, chimneys and abandoned vehicles.

Their peak mating period is March to April. After a 65-day gestation period, two to three kits are born. The kits remain in the den until they are about 7 weeks old, at which time they can walk, run, climb and begin to occupy alternate dens. The kits remain with their mother in her home range through winter and in early spring seek out their own territories.

The size of a raccoon’s home range, as well as its nightly hunting area, varies greatly depending on the habitat and food supply. Home range diameters of 1 mile are known to occur in urban areas.

Raccoon droppings may carry a parasite that can be fatal to humans. Do not handle or smell raccoon droppings and wash your hands if you touch any.

M.C. Williams  

Los Alamos