Raccoons may have a cute and fuzzy look to them, however they can quickly become a problematic species in certain areas, especially if well-meaning residents begin to feed them. It is never a good idea to purposely feed wild animals of any type, because they will then associate people with food which can lead to aggressive behavior or the critters finding their way into garages or attics. Wild raccoons can also carry and spread diseases such as rabies, distemper and roundworm. In fact I recently had to get rabies shots after a recent trapping job, because a captured raccoon bit me badly on the leg!
This tutorial will give you some tips on how to safely and humanely capture nuisance raccoons from your area. Always be sure to read up on your local regulations to make sure you're legal in your trapping activities. In most states it's illegal to relocate wildlife on public lands, so make sure you have permission from a private landowner or simply dispatch the animal humanely after capture.
Step 1: Effective Raccoon Traps
Cage traps are the most common type of trap used for capturing problematic raccoons. They are easy to obtain at just about any hardware store, and easy to set. Raccoons are naturally curious and will go into them readily, especially if your bait smells good! Cage traps can be placed anywhere that raccoons are actively moving, and they make transport of animals easy. But again, check your local regulations before moving or relocating any captured raccoons!
Dogproof traps (2nd photo) are a newer product but just as effective in many situations. They are called "dog proof" traps because there is no need to worry about dogs or other domestic pets getting caught in them, they are designed and sized specifically for raccoons. These traps are a small tube with a spring-loaded wire ring on the top. There is a trigger at the bottom of the tube that will release the spring when the raccoon reaches in for the bait and grabs it. The ring then closes around the raccoon's foreleg and captures him quickly and unharmed. These traps may be staked into the ground or chained to a post or tree trunk to prevent the raccoon from escaping.
Step 2: Baits and Lures
Raccoons are attracted to just about anything edible. However there are certain types of baits and lures that are especially effective on them, including anything sweet or fishy smelling. Pet kibbles, cereals and fish oils work great.
I have also used marshmallows, flavored rice crackers, gummy candies, sardines or other fish scraps individually with success. A squirt of fish oil leading up to the trap is also a very effective method that encourages the raccoon to explore and enter your trap. Fish oil can be rendered from fish that you catch, or, a very simple alternative is to drain the oil from tuna or sardine cans into a bottle with a squirt-top lid.
After setting your traps with your choice of bait, the next step now is to simply leave it be and let the raccoon find it during the night. Sometimes, if you're bait is attractive enough, you can even catch more than one raccoon in a cage!
Step 3: Safe and Proper Handling of Raccoons
After you catch your raccoon, the next step is to remove the animal from the property in the most safe and legal methods as possible.
Do notturn animals loose on public lands, such as county parks or nature preserves. As contradictory as this sounds, there is a good reason why this is illegal in most areas: the naturally existing population of raccoons in a park, for instance, may be already healthy and stable. If you introduce additional raccoons from a different area, they can spread disease or parasites to the existing colony or will eventually create over-population issues.
Some private landowners may allow you to release animals onto their own properties, which generally isn't as much an issue if hunting or trapping takes place on these lands to help manage the populations. But always ask permission before releasing animals onto anyone's private property!
The other option, which is honestly what I prefer, is to simply dispatch the animal upon capture. This eliminates any potential problems with the animal returning to the site later or causing problems elsewhere if released. I do this by shooting them on the top of the head with a .22, which puts them down instantaneously, and very humanely. In some situations where I cannot shoot a gun on site (such as a housing subdivision, or near buildings, etc) I will put the live caged raccoon into the back of my truck and drive it out to a different site where it is safe and legal.
Handle raccoons carefully after capture. Rabies shots are a painful thing to get and require several follow-up shots throughout the month it happens, so use caution and common sense, and stay aware of the situation when approaching any trapped raccoon. Cage trapped raccoons can be fairly easily moved, but be careful not to get your fingers or legs too close to the cage mesh, as raccoons can still reach out and scratch you even if they can't bite. Raccoons caught in dogproof traps or other types of foot traps can be more dangerous to approach (this was how I got bitten, myself) so be extra diligent in how you choose to handle them. It is best to just quickly dispatch a raccoon caught in any kind of foot trap.
Dispatched raccoons may be buried, or you can utilize the fur for any number of creative projects. I personally have a lot of respect for these animals and like to use every part of them that I can. Check out my other Instructables to get ideas!
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