In bedtime stories, raccoons are charming. In bedrooms, not so much. And after reading this story, you may be wondering what to do to keep them from showing up in your house.
Chances are you already have raccoons around; they are very common in Verona. If you don’t see them in your trees at night, you might see their tracks around your yard during the day. I am embarrassed to say I missed this clue at my house: Though I spend several weeks every year running an after-school class on the environment in which I teach kids how to spot animal tracks around Brookdale Avenue school, I completely missed the raccoon footprints on my own garage door. Also take note if your garage looks messier than usual; wildlife could be nesting there.
What then? First, get rid of the open dinner invitation extended by a garbage can with an ill-fitting lid. Raccoons have amazing dexterity but faced with the choice between your hard-to-open trash can and your neighbor’s easy one, they will likely choose the latter. Another food issue: If you are accustomed to feeding your cat or dog outside, stop. A feeding spot for them can easily become a feeding spot for raccoons says Kelly Wenzel, an environmental educator for the New Jersey Audubon Society who’s based at the Essex County Environmental Center in Roseland.
If you have an attached garage, keep the door closed, especially at night. Raccoons can climb high on your house for an opening, so scan your rooftop for damaged shingles, particularly after all our storms. Weakened shingles can make entry to your attic easy, but determined raccoons can claw right through shingles if they want in, says Alan Constantino, owner of Alco Animal & Pest Control. If you are replacing your roof this spring, Constantino says to ask for metal fascia at the edges, which will offer extra raccoon-proofing.
If a raccoon–or other wildlife–does get in the house, call the Verona Police Department. Not 911, but the main number, 973-239-5000. When PAWS, the long-time private animal rescue operation in Montclair, went out of business, Verona contracted with Montclair’s Animal Control Department, and your call will likely get more attention if you let our police call them. The Montclair unit answers 4 to 5 calls a month in Verona, inside houses and out. It emphasizes humane capture methods, which meant that it collected my raccoon and released it outside near its usual habitat.
Verona Township Manager Joe Martin notes that Verona handles other wildlife issues differently. Smaller dead animals on roadways are often picked up by our Public Works Department, while the town uses a service in central New Jersey for deer carcasses both on the streets and in yards. Martin says Verona still intends to test the deer-car collision prevention system he presented at a town council meeting earlier this year. Look for the Wildlife Crossing Guard to be installed in late June.
Want to learn more about raccoons? Wenzel recommends the Internet Center For Wildlife Damage Management, a site maintained by several universities, including Cornell, as well as this site created by the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management division.