2006-12-08 / Community

Raccoons: Destructive, Dangerous To Peninsula

Since 1992, the raccoon rabies outbreak has affected New York City, and rabies remains enzootic (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans) here, as well as across the State. In 2006 alone, 24 animals have tested positive for rabies in New York City, according to local resident and wildlife enthusiast James O'Brien. Although rabies is a cyclic, density-dependent disease, its spread could have a significant impact on the health of humans, pets and other wildlife, says O'Brien.

Raccoons might look cute but they are dangerous wildlife and must be avoided. Should one spot any dead, ill-appearing or abnormally behaving raccoons or other wildlife, call the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene Veterinary Public Health Services.

Raccoons can weigh as much as 40 pounds and grow to three feet long. They are nocturnal omnivores, meaning they will eat anything and everything mainly at night and do not migrate or hibernate. They have a home range of about one mile. Raccoons will, however, become territorial if a steady food supply exists, says O'Brien.

Common nuisance wildlife situations are building dens in attics, chimneys, garages and under decks. Their nest materials might block a chimney or vent, causing a smoke condition or worse, a fire hazard. Also, these "crafty" animals are known to chew on wires. Raccoons will purposefully damage buildings to create a nesting area and can gain entry through the roof, push their way through the louvers and soffits , or climb directly up the siding. They may tear shingles, vents, roofing material; even bend gutters to achieve their destructive goals.

To reduce the risks of raccoon infestation, don't feed them, suggests O'Brien. This means putting trash out in the morning and keeping it in a protected area. Raccoon-proof garbage cans and dumpsters with tight-fitting lids or bungee cords are helpful. O'Brien also recommends feeding birds in the fall and winter and stopping by May; enclose compost piles, feed pets indoors and remove all food left outdoors at night.

Critter Eradication of America (CEA) is the only NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Certified Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator in Rockaway, says O'Brien. Should you have a raccoon or opossum infestation, call CEA and ask for Jay at (718) 474-1820.

Any persons who have been bitten by a raccoon or spot a raccoon or opossum should call the Department of Health Animal Bite Unit/Public Health Services at (212) 676-2483.

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