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Is That a Raccoon?

How to tell if a raccoon is causing the ruckus

Adapted from the book Wild Neighbors

  • Usually, a raccoon’s easily identifiable tracks appear in close pairs of a front and hind paw prints. WWFloyd

  • By the clear evidence of his “handprints," there's no mistaking that a raccoon has been raiding this trash bin. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • The soiled area just below the damaged soffit was confirmed to be the rub marks of a raccoon when hair, and paw prints were found just inside the entry point. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • Raccoon scats vary with the food they eat, and direct contact should be avoided because of health risks. Alex Magocsi


Sometimes raccoons are blamed for damage they don’t do (it might be your neighbor’s dog who’s rummaging in the trash).

The first step to take is to make sure it’s a raccoon you’re dealing with. Look at the clock: If you hear sounds in the house or the trash is knocked over during the day, it’s probably not a raccoon who’s causing you concern.

But if the sounds in your house start at dusk and then again around dawn, you could very well have a visitor of the raccoon kind.

Read the signs

In your yard, there are other signs you can look for to determine if a raccoon may be stopping by, although signs of a raccoon doesn not necessarily mean that the raccoon has committed any misdeeds.


The raccoon’s track is hand-shaped, and can usually be seen on light surfaces or where the ground is soft enough for their paws to leave an impression. Like bears, they walk on their entire paws, not just the toes, as some other animal.

Rub marks:

A noticeable stain or rub may be seen on surfaces that raccoons pass frequently. Other animals can leave such stains, as well, so seeing the raccoon’s “handprints” on climbable surfaces is a more reliable sign of their presence.


Raccoon scats vary widely in size, depending upon the raccoon’s age, and in content—which is often quite evident, depending upon what has been eaten. Typically, though, they are about 3/4” in diameter and 2-3” long, with segmenting and blunt ends.

Scat stations—also called latrines—are places where one animal has repeatedly left scat or multiple animals have done so. Unfortunately, these are sometimes established on roofs and in attics. Due to the potential of roundworm presence, raccoon latrines should be cleaned up by a hazardous waste professional.   


» Purchase a copy of Wild Neighbors, the go-to guide for useful, humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife. 
» If you are located within the D.C. Metro Area, take advantage of our wildlife conflict resolution service.
» Read Dorcas MacClintock’s Natural History of Raccoons (Blackburn Press, 2003) to learn more. 

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