Question: My neighbor has been feeding the stray cats in the neighborhood, and now the raccoons have been coming to eat the cat food. Recently the raccoons have been coming out during the day. There are many children in the area and I fear someone will get hurt. Many people also walk their dogs in the area. Do you have advice? (Carmen)
Answer: Unfortunately, you are in a tough situation. Your neighbor may not understand the importance of managing food sources that are attracting wildlife to your neighborhood. Depending on the relationship you have with your neighbor, you might try to explain that feeding stray cats is creating a secondary problem. Perhaps you can negotiate a feeding schedule for the cats in which the uneaten food is picked up immediately.
Although raccoons are chiefly nocturnal, their behavior is dependent on foraging opportunities, so it is not uncommon to see them out in the daylight hours if pet food and other food sources are readily available. Raccoons usually pose little danger to people and pets – unless they are harassed, cornered or with young. But raccoons can carry diseases, some of which – like rabies or raccoon roundworm (Baylisascaris procyonis) – can be transmitted to humans and pets. While such infections are not common, there have been verified cases in California. Anywhere raccoons live and defecate, the potential for disease transmission exists.
The most important step is to remove all food and garbage attractants, but you can also deter raccoons around your home by spraying them with a garden hose (referred to as hazing). Raccoons are very good climbers and have been known to take up residence in chimneys and attics, so keep trees trimmed and block off access points to your home. Secure garbage cans with bungee cords and only put garbage out on pickup day. Lock your pet doors at night and keep an eye on small pets.
Typically, nuisance raccoon situations are the responsibility of the landowner but may be handled by your local animal control office or County Agriculture Commissioner’s Office, depending on what county you live in. If animal control cannot respond directly, they might be able to refer you to a private wildlife removal service. It is highly recommended that people do not attempt to remove or trap unwanted wildlife without professional assistance. Relocating wildlife is both prohibited and pointless – it only moves the problem to another neighborhood. CDFW staff typically cannot respond to nuisance raccoon calls. However, you may contact the local CDFW office for your county if you need additional information. You can find more information and links to other resources about living with wildlife on CDFW’s website. For public health information, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website.
“California Outdoors Q and A” is a weekly column published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to answer your questions about California’s many fish and wildlife species, hunting and fishing methods, regulations and opportunities and natural resource conservation. If you have a question you would like to see answered in the California Outdoors Q and A column, email it to CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.