Tips on Feeding Raccoons
Tips on Feeding Raccoons
Feeding wild raccoons in your backyard can be a highly rewarding experience indeed. You can watch raccoons for hours on end and never tire of their antics. But feeding wild animals is something you should take care to do properly, to avoid nasty situations later on. Here are some helpful tips to get you started in the wonderful world of backyard wildlife appreciation. Remember, these are only guidlines -- a lot of people don't follow them, and a lot of people have different techniques. I present these only as a "getting-started" guide for people who might be interested in attracting and feeding wild raccoons.
1) Raccoons will eat just about anything. Although this statement is generally true, raccoons do have definite preferences. Generally speaking, they like peanuts, sweets, fruits, bread, peanut butter, and especially cat and dog food. Like feeding humans, though, don't overload them with treats -- make those for special occasions, and leave the healthier stuff for most of the time.
2) Don't feed raccoons by hand!They sure are cute, there's not a hardened soul anywhere in the world who could deny that. And not only are they cute, they're genuinely wonderful animals. But I discourage you from feeding wild raccoons by hand. A raccoon may bite you quite accidentally, mistaking a finger for food; or, he may bite you on purpose if he thinks
you're taking his food away from him. No matter what the reason is, once it's happened you're both in trouble, because you'll have to be tested for rabies, and the local health authorities will want to capture the raccoon who bit you and cut off his head to test him for rabies. If they can't find the one who bit you (and what are the chances they will?) they'll most likely just grab any raccoon they can find and test him. Either way you look at it, you have to get nasty rabies treatments, and a raccoon loses his life. It's just not worth it.
3) Don't let the raccoons get used to your handouts. This tip is harder to live by than the others, because you'll soon find you love the company of your little night visitors. But you shouldn't get used to feeding them every single night. For their sake, and yours, you should try to stagger the nights you leave food out, so they're never sure when there will be food and when there won't. Raccoons are incredibly good problem solvers, so try not to make it a
pattern. This way, when you're away on vacation, they won't tear into your house to find out why you forgot to leave food out for them. Which leads me to another point...
3) Don't associate your house proper with the food you leave out. When you put out food, it's tempting to put it out on your doorstop or porch. A lot of people do this, and in most cases that's fine. But some raccoons are more adventurous than others. If you're not careful, they may come to recognize your house as the source of their food. If you move out or go on vacation, the frustrated raccoons may very well invite themselves inside to find out why
you've gone. It's safer, though not strictly necessary, to put the food a good distance away
from your house.
4) Put out several plates of food to avoid fights. It's usually a good idea to put a few dishes out, if you're going to feed, so there aren't too many territorial squabbles over the food. For the most part, raccoons are quite happy to share with each other (and other animals) IF there's enough to go around.
5) If your neighbors may object, ASK them! Not all of us are lucky enough to live in a rural setting deep in the woods. If you leave out food for raccoons, you risk attracting them to the area of your neighbors' yards as well as your own. If you don't want to get into hot water with your neighbors, ask them if they mind having the raccoons around. MOST of the time,
there will be no problems -- if your neighbor keeps his garbage cans tightly sealed and
doesn't leave out food, he'll remain totally unmolested, unless you've got REALLY spectacularly adventurous raccoons.