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Raccoons

Even though they are normally easily frightened from one’s garden, raccoon’s fierce fighters when cornered; in such instances, they have been known to inflict fatal wounds on even relatively large dogs. Raccoons, like skunks and armadillos, can be destructive to lawns and other grounds landscaped in cultured turfgrass due to a propensity for grubbing behavior, as they dig for scarab beetle larvae on which to feed. Multiple, large areas of sod in a lawn can be torn up overnight as a result of raccoon grubbing.

Raccoons often gain access into attics, basements, and crawlspaces by forcing open loose or broken vent covers, louvers, windows, and carpentry. Female raccoons readily invade attics or enter uncapped chimney flues and occupy the smoke shelf above the damper door to birth and wean their litters of pups. Since raccoons often are infested with ticks and various fleas, including cat fleas, human occupants and their companion animals are readily infested secondarily by the introduction of these ectoparasites via fireplace hearths and attic entrances. Raccoon feces accumulate in the above-mentioned areas, thereby giving rise to odor and secondary pest problems, as well as a potential source of raccoon roundworm infestation. Raccoons have been implicated in several other infectious diseases transmissible to humans including leptospirosis, chagas’ disease, tularemia and, most notably, rabies.

Besides invading human dwellings and commercial buildings, raccoons also take up residence in barns, stables, and various outbuildings.

Raccoon in a typical "den" (L) and damage from a raccoon getting into garbage (R)


Raccoon pups "nesting" in an attic (L) and damage from a raccoons cause trying to get into an attic (R)



SKUNKS:



Skunk activity around buildings may go unnoticed for awhile until one takes up occupancy beneath a porch, deck, slab foundation, or outbuilding floor or has a confrontation with another animal, such as a dog, leaving the offensive scent as an indicator of its presence or reminder of an encounter with someone’s canine companion. A faint lingering skunk odor is occasionally detected where skunks have fed or traveled, even though the animals have not scent-sprayed the area. Female skunks often have their springtime litters within the cavaties they excavate beneath porches, decks, and buildings.

Lawns infested with scarab beetle larvae are subject to grubbing behavior by skunks that readily feed on these insects. The resulting damage to sod certainly contributes to the skunk’s status as an urban pest.

Skunks have been found infected with an array of diseases that may or may not affect humans, including histeriosis, mastitis, distemper, Q fever, histoplasmosis, microfilaria, and by far the most important rabies. Skunks are also an attractive nuisance to dogs. The inexperienced, and even experienced dog will investigate the trail of a skunk. The dog nearly always comes out the loser in these encounters.

Roof damage from skunks (L) and den digging damage by skunks under house foundation (R)



OPOSSUM:

The opossum is the only marsupial native to the US, and it often becomes a pest in and around buildings. Where numerous, they may den beneath dwellings or porches or take up residence within attics or outbuildings. They frequently raid uncovered garbage cans and tear open plastic garbage bags set out for disposal. Their nighttime prowling often arouses kenneled or leashed dogs, causing them to bark. In rural areas, poultry or eggs are sometimes preyed upon. Opossums have been involved in the transmission of tularemia to humans and should not be handled or skinned without protective gloves. Additionally, they have been reported to be infected with, and may be carriers of, a number of other diseases, including leptospirosis, relapsing fever, murine typhus, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Fortunately, very few cases of rabies have been reported in opossums, and laboratory evidence suggests that adult opossums are quite resistant to rabies infections, although the young are more susceptible. Opossums are often heavily infested with ectoparasites.

Opossum family in attic (L), an opossum raiding a garbage can (C) and a natural opossum den(R)



MOLE:



Moles are notorious for the damage they cause to sod nurseries, golf courses, parks, cemeteries, residential lawns, ornamental planting beds and gardens as a result of their digging and tunneling in search of turfgrass insects and earthworms upon which to feed. These animals vast tunnel systems due to the fact that they dig constantly. They are nearly blind but have extra-ordinary hearing, smell and touch. They can dig and disrupt tons of dirt per day and as a result you may find only one mound on one day, and the next find several. They are attracted to well maintained lawns and if they venture near the surface, are almost to fast to catch. Their pups are literally thrown out of the den in one months time of birth. At that point , the pups are on their own to find their own home.

SQUIRREL:

Squirrels vary from the size of the Norway rat to about three times larger. Depending on the species, squirrels can den in the ground or in trees. In many areas of the west, ground squirrels borrowing beneath rural and farm buildings are a problem. They are apt to dig beneath pump houses, storage sheds, barns, and other outbuildings. Many squirrels are great climbers and will climb fruit and nut trees for food. In camping and park areas they thrive and quickly learn to live off handouts. This is when transfer of disease is a risk. DO NOT handle these animals. They also can get aggressive especially just before they hibernate for the winter.

Squirrels and their ectoparasites are involved in transmitting a number of serious diseases to humans, including plague, tularemia, relapsing fever, spotted fever, and Colorado tick fever.

Opossum family in attic (L), an opossum raiding a garbage can (C) and a natural opossum den(R)


Opossum family in attic (L), an opossum raiding a garbage can (C) and a natural opossum den(R)