“Listen to them, the children of the night.”
You would think that those words—spoken by Dracula in Bram Stoker’s famous novel—were in reference to the critters that scavenge urban areas once the sun goes down: raccoons, skunks and opossums. These are the creatures we hear in the night, digging through garbage, tipping over cans and spreading disease in a manner that only a 1000-year-old parasitic vampire could appreciate.
Given their unique appearance, it’s very easy to identify a raccoon (the largest member of the family procyonid), but just in case you’ve just been born or you’ve never seen an animated film or you’ve had your head buried in sand, raccoons have black-and-gray striped fur, and the markings on their face make them look like they’re wearing bandit masks.
Although raccoons are indigenous to the Americas, their reputation for trash-hunting urban dwellers is relatively new; the first recorded sighting was in a Cleveland suburb in the 1920s. Since then, they have populated many urban areas in the United States, including here in Southern California. One reason for this proliferation is due to the raccoons omnivorous diet, which leads them to garbage, scraps or whatever they can get in their grubby paws. They’re also incredibly smart, which means that no matter how securely you store your garbage, these guys will probably find a way to get it.
Besides the mess they generate, raccoons can spread diseases, including rabies (very fatal) and roundworm. California law requires all households to be vaccinated against rabies, but rabid raccoons have been known to attack humans. If you see a raccoon, do not approach it.
Pee-ew! Smell that? Even if you haven’t seen a skunk in person, there’s a good chance that you’ve smelled one. Their ability to spray a highly potent liquid is an effective weapon against predators, pets (who, for some reason, love to pick fights with these guys), and our nasal cavities.
Skunks are another nocturnal critter that have become increasingly common in our urban areas. Unlike raccoons, they’re less attracted to food waste, and more likely to go after the bugs and veggies in your garden.
But their scent is not the only reason that they’re pests. Like raccoons, skunks can carry diseases. It’s rare that a skunk will bite before it sprays, but they have often been known to transmit sylvatic rabies. In fact, skunks are second to bats as the source of this disease.
Opossums are perhaps the most frightening-looking of the bunch, but they’re are the most benign. People are repulsed by their large, rat-like tail and their sharp teeth, which explains why they’re not the most popular critter. However, opossums rarely transmit disease (rabies is extremely rare in opossums), and their main defense mechanism is… freezing. If a threat approaches, they’ll hiss and bare teeth, but ultimately they’ll stand still and hope the threat just passes. Obviously, this isn’t the best method of defense; urban opossums have very high mortality rates.
How Lloyd Pest Control treats raccoons, skunks and opossums
Trapping raccoons other pests is illegal in Southern California without a special license. Currently, we’re not licensed to trap and relocate these animals, but we have great relationships with licensed trappers who will relocate raccoons, skunks and opossums in a humane and legal way.
There are also steps you can take to make your property less attractive to wildlife. One way to repel raccoons is to freeze organic waste so it doesn’t give off that much of smell. Strapping down garbage lids with a bungee cord is a good way to keep them out of your trash. Finally, try mixing dish detergent, castor oil and water together and then spray in the affected area—this solution has been known to repel raccoons.
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