Anyone who’s grown up in an area with raccoons knows not to approach these tiny bandits. They may look cute, but raccoons are vicious if approached, and may attack people or pets if they feel threatened. Not only can they inflict serious wounds with their sharp teeth and claws, but they may also transmit serious diseases (such as rabies) when they attack.
If you live in an area where there are raccoons nearby, it’s important to be aware of the risks so you can protect yourself, your family and your pets from attack.
What are raccoons?
They may look like large rodents, but raccoons are actually in a class of their own. These round, fuzzy mammals belong to the Procyon genus and are native to North America, though they have also been introduced to Europe and Japan.
Raccoons are nocturnal creatures and are usually asleep during the daytime. At night, they come out to feast on wild fruits and nuts, though they will also eat rodents, fish, frogs, rodents, and eggs. However, raccoons can and will eat almost anything and, when food sources are scarce, will also raid trash cans for food scraps.
Raccoons are around the size of small dogs and are easily recognizable by their bushy tails and bandit-mask markings. They may look cute and cuddly, but raccoons can be vicious if approached by humans or other animals. Their aggressive nature makes them dangerous to humans and pets, but how dangerous are they exactly – and how can you stay safe?
Do raccoons carry rabies?
Raccoons, like many other wild animals, are carriers of rabies. In 2017, raccoons accounted for 28.6% of reported rabies cases in the US, making them the second most-rabid creatures in the country (behind bats). If you or any of your pets are bitten or scratched by a raccoon, get checked immediately for rabies.
How can you tell if a raccoon has rabies?
It may not always be possible to spot a rabid raccoon, but warning signs include:
- An erratic, staggering gait
- Discharged from the eyes or mouth
- Wet patches on the face
- High-pitched noises
- A lack of awareness to usual environmental triggers (such as loud noises o nearby movement)
If you think you have a rabid raccoon wandering around your yard, keep your distance from the animal and call your local animal control service or police department.
Why do raccoons attack?
Though you may occasionally see raccoons out and about in the daytime, it is rare for a healthy raccoon to attack people.
Keep in mind!
Generally speaking, raccoons will only attack if they feel threatened.
Female raccoons may also attack if they think their babies are in danger. Keeping your distance from raccoons is, therefore, the best way to avoid an attack.
Do raccoons attack dogs?
Raccoons may present a fairly minimal threat to humans, but they are far more dangerous where your pets are concerned. Raccoons are emphatically not dog people and will quickly lash out at curious canines, often causing serious injuries. If the raccoon is rabid, there is also a chance that they could transmit the virus to your pet.
Do raccoons attack cats?
Cats are generally better at keeping their distance from raccoons than dogs are, but this doesn’t mean they’re safe from cats. Raccoons are known to attack and kill cats, seemingly for sport (though they will sometimes eat cats, rabbits, and small dogs). Small cats and kittens are especially vulnerable to lethal raccoon attacks and should be kept indoors at night to avoid this.
Even if they don’t attack your pets, raccoons will eat their food if they have access to it. Leaving cat or dog food outside may even attract raccoons into your yard, so feed your pets indoors and store their food properly to keep raccoons out.
Do raccoons eat rabbits?
Raccoons are omnivorous creatures, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Among their meaty food sources are rodents, so raccoons may occasionally prey on bunnies (or other small pets, like chickens) that are left outdoors. Keep our rabbit indoors or in a securely fastened pen or hutch to keep them safe from a raccoon attack.
How to stay safe around raccoons
Never corner a raccoon
Raccoons rarely attack humans, but they will if they feel threatened. Backing a raccoon into a corner is a sure way to flip their ‘fight-or-flight’ switch and, if they can’t run away, they’ll attack. Always leave a raccoon room to run to minimize your risk of being bitten. If you are facing a particularly aggressive raccoon, use a long stick or broom handle to keep it at a distance and, if all else fails, run away.
Clear your yard and seal up entry points
If your yard is cluttered with boxes, barrows and overgrown shrubs, it may be time for a clear-out. A messy yard provides plenty of hiding places for raccoons and other pests. You should also inspect fences around your yard for holes and get to work sealing up any potential raccoon entry points.
Keep pets indoors after dark
Raccoons are nocturnal creatures, so the majority of all raccoon attacks on pets happen at night. Keep all pets (cats, dogs, and rabbits) indoors after dark to keep them safe.
Keep trash cans and food stores secure
Raccoons often approach human dwellings in search of food, and a poorly secured trash can is a magnet for pests.
If you live in a raccoon-heavy area, make sure your trash can lid fastens securely, and avoid leaving food waste out in the open at all times.
Raccoons are a common pest in the United States, and most often annoy people by going through their trash. These nocturnal creatures tend to avoid animals larger than themselves (like humans) but will attack if they feel threatened. They present a far greater risk to your pets, as raccoons find the eager, inquisitive nature of dogs to be very annoying. When it comes to cats and rabbits, a raccoon attack can be even more devastating, and they may even eat small pets if other food sources are scarce.
When raccoons attack, they often do so in a flurry of vicious bites and scratches, often inflicting serious wounds in the process. Not only this, but raccoons are well-known vectors for the rabies virus, which they may transmit to people or animals.
The best way to avoid a raccoon attack is to avoid raccoons. Seal up holes in the fences around your yard and secure your trash cans to avoid tempting them in, and keep pets indoors at night to keep them safe. If you see a raccoon don’t approach it, and never back one into a corner as this is when they are most likely to go berserk.