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Raccoon Scat: How to Identify It and Why It Can Be Dangerous

Raccoon Scat

Here is why you should always be wary of raccoon scat.

If you have spent any amount of time in the outdoors, odds are you have encountered animal droppings in the woods. After all, where else are the critters going to go? Now, most people do not go around looking for or picking up droppings for obvious reasons. However, sometimes you can accidentally step in or touch the stuff if you are not paying attention.

For some species, that could potentially be dangerous. Today we are going to talk about raccoons. No, this is not about how they raid your garbage cans every night. We are going to talk about raccoon droppings and the public health risks they pose.

We will also discuss what to do about clean up if part of your property has become a dreaded racoon latrine.

What does raccoon scat look like?

Raccoon Scat
Wikimedia Commons:

Odds are you have seen raccoon feces, even if you did not realize whose poop it was. If you are as unlucky as I am, you may have accidentally put your hands in while crossing a log while hiking, climbing a tree to place a deer stand or working with a wood pile. Yuck. Most raccoon droppings are tubular in shape and get to be around three inches long at the largest. However, it can also be quite clumpy and sticky in appearance. In my experience it is usually a dark black color, but it can appear brown too.

Depending on where you live, there are other telltale signs. I have seen the scat in other states while hiking or camping where they almost resembled dog turds. Here in Michigan, I have noticed that most of the time it is going to have undigested food in it like in the photo above. Little pieces of crayfish, berries or stuff they scavenged from discarded human food sources like dumpsters or trash cans. It almost gives the droppings a speckled appearance in some cases.

When comparing raccoon poop to other types of animal scat, we would be willing to say it is some of the nastiest you can stumble across in the woods. Oh, and where you find one pile of it, there is likely to be others. Raccoons effectively designate different areas as public restrooms. Biologists call them raccoon latrines.

In the wild, latrine sites are usually on logs, stumps and rocks. That is why I'm always careful where I sit when taking a break while hiking. However, they also sometimes crap around the bases and in flat spots and crotches of trees too. Watch where you place your hands if you climb a tree!

Every so often, raccoons will decide to make human habitation areas their toilet and it becomes a concern when they are pooping in your crawl spaces, haylofts, on your deck, roof, or your kid's swing set. You should take an infestation like this quite seriously for reasons we will detail next.

Why is raccoon scat dangerous?

As disgusting as raccoon poop is, there is a good reason to be wary of it in your outdoor adventures. Other than the fact it is poop that is. That is because it has the possibility of spreading disease or parasites. The biggest concern is raccoon roundworm, otherwise known as baylisascaris procyonis. This is an intestinal parasite and roundworm eggs are transmitted through feces quite regularly. The eggs do have to be ingested orally to be passed.

You might be thinking: "Who is going to eat raccoon poop?" Well, no one is going to do it willingly or on purpose. The biggest group at risk here is small children according to the Centers for Disease Control. Imagine a raccoon defecates in a small child's sandbox or on their swing set. If they unknowingly touch the stuff or soil that has been contaminated by an infected raccoon, they could get the roundworm if they then put their fingers in their mouth. Small children often are not cognizant of germs and disease, so you can see how this could be an issue.

The good news? Infections of raccoon roundworm are extremely rare. That does not mean you should let your guard down about raccoons in your yard though. In humans this roundworm can cause a plethora of health issues including neurological disorders, vision loss and even death in some extreme cases. Who knew that raccoon droppings could cause so many health issues?

Another reason to be wary is because our pets also tend to make dumb decisions. Ever seen your dog eat deer scat or other poop? Not only is that gross, it can infect your four-legged friends with the dreaded roundworm too, costing you a small fortune in vet bills or even your beloved friend's life. That is why you are going to want to take action if a bunch of raccoons decide to make your yard a latrine.

How do I prevent raccoons from entering and pooping in my yard?

The easiest way to do this is to simply make things unappealing for them. Find a way to secure your trash cans overnight, maybe by locking them up in the garage. If that is not an option, look at wildlife-proof trash cans. Do not leave any pet food outside overnight. If you have a garden, it is probably best to fence it. You do not want them raiding your vegetables anyway. If you have barns, sheds or other structures on your property, make sure they are adequately sealed against wildlife. Board up any crawl spaces or other areas where raccoons might decide to build a den like the underside of a porch.

There are also plenty of wild animal deterring chemicals available at almost any Lowe's or Home Depot that will push those critters out of your yard and back into the wild. We have also heard of home remedies like spraying vinegar, dish soap and ammonia around the yard. Another method we have heard about involves making a deterrent spray from cayenne pepper and water, which is a helpful way to protect your vegetable garden without spraying a bunch of chemicals everywhere. The raccoons will not appreciate the spicy taste!

In the end, if those methods do not work, it might be time to call in the pros to forcibly remove them and clean up the poop. Fortunately, it usually does not take much to scare raccoons from your yard and home permanently and you will have fewer headaches from pest animals as a result.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels

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Raccoon Scat: How to Identify It and Why It Can Be Dangerous