Raccoons are common animals in North America, and there have recently been many stories of people being attacked. I wanted to find out why they are dangerous and why they attack.
Raccoons are dangerous, wild animals that attack if provoked or feel threatened. They can bite and scratch humans and cause fatal injuries to small pets. They can also cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home if left uncontrolled.
I wanted to find the best way to avoid danger from these wild animals and what to do if one attacks.
Why are Raccoons Dangerous?
Raccoons are wild animals and are very good at defending themselves from predators. They are strong and stocky, have sharp teeth and claws, and will protect themselves to death.
Raccoons have jaws that are different from humans as they are hinged at the side. This means they cannot move their jaws from side to side.
Raccoons can only open their mouths up and down. This helps them to rip and pull at their prey rather than grinding to eat as we do. If they bite, they will try to tear at you with their teeth.
Raccoons have up to forty teeth. These include four sharp canine teeth at the front of their mouth, which they use to grip their prey. The four canines have premolars behind them, which get larger as they go back into the mouth.
Raccoons do not have opposable thumbs but do have very short sharp claws. The claws are recurved but do not retract.
Will a Raccoon Bite Humans?
Raccoons are generally not aggressive, but if backed into a corner with no means of escape or feeling threatened, they can be very dangerous. In these cases, they may attack a human.
Raccoon attacks happen quite often. A 5-year-old girl was recently attacked. However, this animal was rabid, which was thought to be the reason for the attack.
A man from Pennsylvania was attacked after taking photos of some babies. The mother appeared and bit his leg before he even saw it coming.
Raccoons have sharp claws and teeth and will fight to the death to protect themselves. If you do end up cornering them, back off slowly and give them space to escape safely.
Raccoons may also have several parasites and diseases that they can spread, so if you get bitten or scratched, make sure you go to a medical facility as soon as possible.
Are Raccoons Dangerous to Cats?
Raccoons can be dangerous and potentially deadly to cats. Cats are no match for a wild raccoon and can easily be killed.
Raccoons will attack by biting or scratching, possibly causing internal injuries. Please do not put cat food outside, as this will attract wild animals.
Because raccoons are mainly nocturnal, keeping your house cat inside may be wise if you know they are in the area.
However, the problems do not always end with physical injuries. Raccoons can carry diseases such as rabies and parasites, which can be life-threatening.
Are Raccoons Dangerous to Dogs?
Raccoons are unlikely to attack most dogs due to their size but have been known to attack and kill small dogs. While other pets try to escape, dogs will often attack a raccoon.
Raccoons are vicious when attacked and will do everything they can to win a fight over a dog. They will first try to roll the dog on its back. When on its back, the speed of the raccoon’s bites and scratches from its claws is almost overwhelming for a dog, and they will use their claws to try to take the dog’s eyes out.
The raccoon has a fierce bite, and they will use their teeth to get through the chest wall, leading to a collapsed lung. Being wild animals, they are vicious at protecting themselves in a fight and will generally get the best of a small dog. Ensure you always keep your dogs on a leash if you know wild animals are around.
Dogs are also susceptible to diseases from raccoons. They can also cause leptospirosis, which dogs can pick up by drinking water containing urine from the ground. Leptospirosis is found in the urine and feces of raccoons.
Canine Distemper is common in the spring in raccoons when they emerge and become more active. Cornell Wildlife Health Lab sees more cases every year. Canine distemper is transmissible to dogs, and you must ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. The symptoms are similar to rabies.
If you feel ill and have raccoons in the area, seek immediate medical attention.
Can Raccoons Kill Small Pets?
Raccoons are omnivores and eat small animals as well as fruit and vegetables. They also eat fish, frogs, crayfish, insects, turtles, mice, muskrats, and rabbits.
Because of their diet, pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs should be kept indoors if there are raccoons in your area. Raccoons can attack and kill small pets instantly with their claws and teeth.
Do Raccoons Carry Diseases?
Raccoons are known to carry rabies and are among the most common species in North America to carry this disease. As they have adapted to urban life, raccoons are used to being around people.
The raccoons in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country are the most frequently reported species with rabies in the U.S. If you get bitten or scratched, please go to your local medical facility as soon as possible.
Raccoons that look sick or unsteady may be carrying rabies. It is a common myth that if you see one out during the day, it will have rabies, but this is not true.
While rabies causes animals to change their normal behavior, they may be out during the day for other reasons.
A female looking after her young may go out to look for food for her young. In urban areas, raccoons are often seen during the day looking for food.
Raccoons can cause leptospirosis. This is caused by people coming into contact with urine or feces of raccoons. Dogs are susceptible as they are known to drink water from the ground.
Leptospirosis is also carried in the urine of rats and other wild animals. Leptospirosis can cause severe headaches, muscle aches, and influenza-like symptoms. In extreme cases, the liver and kidneys may suffer.
Raccoons also suffer from roundworms, which can also infect humans and other animals such as cats and dogs. Roundworm is found in raccoon feces. Children should be supervised while playing outside if you have raccoons in the area.
If you feel ill and have raccoons in the area, seek immediate medical attention. Even if you are not attacked or scratched, it may have been caused by indirect contact.
Are Raccoons Safe to be Around?
Raccoons are generally not dangerous to people, but raccoons that are sick, injured, or even protecting their young can attack. Raccoons are more likely to attack a cat or small pet but will fight fiercely to the death to defend themselves.
Although a raccoon that visits your yard may seem cute and not initially dangerous, it can cause lots of damage. Destroyed flower beds, overturned trash cans, stolen fruits and vegetables, and broken bird feeders are just the start of your problems.
Raccoons can get bolder if not adequately scared away. A raccoon used to seeing you staring at them may move from your yard into your home.
Along with the diseases they carry, once a raccoon gets into your house, it can cause extensive damage costing thousands of dollars.
Raccoons can destroy your property from the inside. They will chew through pipes and cables, causing plumbing and electrical issues, leading to floods or even fires. They may eat and trample insulation, destroy air ducts, and even damage the roof or walls.
To find a way into the property, raccoons may tear away wooden planks or take tiles off the roof.
Another problem is with feces. Wherever the raccoon makes their den in your house will be contaminated, and the risk of roundworm can be hazardous to your health.
How Do You Scare a Raccoon Away?
The best way to scare a raccoon away is to make yourself large, step towards it, and yell and clap your hands. If this doesn’t make the raccoon back away, throw something in its general direction (but not at it), and it will normally run away.
If the raccoon does not respond, it may be sick or injured. Do not approach the animal, and contact your local wildlife department.
How to Keep Raccoons Away From Your Home?
Raccoons are attracted to one thing in and around your home: food. To keep raccoons away from your property, you need to secure any food sources.
If you want to get rid of raccoons, here are several prevention tips.
Trash can – First, ensure you keep your trash can closed and secure so raccoons cannot easily access it. Raccoons have a great sense of smell, and the rotting matter in your bin will smell fantastic. Keep your trash can sealed with a lid, and do not leave trash bags around the yard.
Raccoons are known to knock over trash cans, whether sealed or not. The best way to combat this is to secure your trash can against a fence post or a pole to stop the raccoon from knocking them over.
Several products can help secure your trash can from animals. The straps that I use fit my trash can ideally, unlike the bungee cord I was using that would fly off. You can find this on Amazon here.
Pet Food – Additionally, keep any pet food inside the house and not outside where it could attract raccoons. Make sure to bring in all pet food at night to stop raccoons from coming into your yard and eating it. If you feed your pets outside, leave the food, and their food bowls out while eating.
Fruit and nuts – Keep your garden clean and tidy, making sure to pick up fruit from the ground, as this will make it less attractive to raccoons. Raccoons love fruit and are happy to eat the fruit and nuts that have recently fallen from trees. Make sure to pick up any fruit or nuts from the ground to stop raccoons from coming into your yard.
Bird feeders – Raccoons will happily eat the nuts and seeds from bird feeders. Unique feeders can be purchased, but if this is not an option, it is best to bring them in at night if you have raccoons in the area.
The bird feeder that I use is the Woodland absolute squirrel-resistant bird feeder. I purchased this one because it has a fantastic system where if a heavy animal such as a raccoon or squirrel sits on it, the access to the food is closed. You can find this on Amazon here.
If you already have a bird feeder, I recommend the Squirrel guard baffle, which stops raccoons and other animals from getting to the food. You can find this on Amazon here.
By taking these steps, you should be able to deter any raccoon activity around your home and enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.
Removal – If you find raccoons nesting in your home, you need to remove them, as they carry their fair share of diseases. They can be found nesting in crawl spaces, a basement, a crawl space, a chimney, or near water sources. If you need to remove an infestation of raccoons, then it is best to call pest control. Removing raccoons is not something that you should be doing yourself.
Fencing – Fencing in your garden is also a great way to protect it from raccoons, as they won’t be able to get in if it’s properly fenced off.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.