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 may 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 don't 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, like some other animals.
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 on 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.
Read Dorcas MacClintock’s Natural History of Raccoons (Blackburn Press, 2003) to learn more.