Raccoons may cause damage or nuisance problems in a variety of ways, and their distinctive tracks often provide evidence of their involvement in damage situations.
Raccoons occasionally kill poultry and leave distinctive signs. The heads of adult birds are usually bitten off and left some distance from the body. The crop and breast may be torn and chewed, the entrails sometimes eaten, and bits of flesh left near water. Young poultry in pens or cages may be killed or injured by raccoons reaching through the wire and attempting to pull the birds back through the mesh. Legs or feet of the young birds may be missing. Eggs may be removed completely from nests or eaten on the spot with only the heavily cracked shell remaining. The lines of fracture will normally be along the long axis of the egg, and the nest materials are often disturbed. Raccoons can also destroy bird nests in artificial nesting structures such as bluebird and wood duck nest boxes.
Raccoons can cause considerable damage to garden or truck crops, particularly sweet corn. Raccoon damage to sweet corn is characterized by many partially eaten ears with the husks pulled back. Stalks may also be broken as raccoons climb to get at the ears. Raccoons damage watermelons by digging a small hole in the melon and then raking out the contents with a front paw.
Raccoons cause damage or nuisance problems around houses and outbuildings when they seek to gain entrance to attics or chimneys or when they raid garbage in search of food. In many urban or suburban areas, raccoons are learning that uncapped chimneys make very adequate substitutes for more traditional hollow trees for use as denning sites, particularly in spring. In extreme cases, raccoons may tear off shingles or fascia boards in order to gain access to an attic or wall space. Holes in walls or fascia where raccoons enter and exit frequently will become stained with their body oils, another sign of their presence. Tracks in soft soil and mud in flower beds and gardens are another sign.
Raccoons also can be a considerable nuisance when they roll up freshly laid sod in search of earthworms and grubs. They may return repeatedly and roll up extensive areas of sod on successive nights. This behavior is particularly common in mid- to late summer as young raccoons are learning to forage for themselves and during periods of dry weather when other food sources may be less available.
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