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Raccoons, also known as “masked bandits,” are medium-sized animals and immediately recognizable by their black mask and ringed tail. They live throughout the United States, except in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains and deserts of the Southwest.

Raccoons are nocturnal, which means they roam about and feed at night. They are omnivorous and opportunistic eaters, which means they basically eat anything. Because of this, they can be a tremendous nuisance to humans — especially in suburban areas — where they are prone to going through garbage and stealing pet food. Their front feet have long, somewhat opposed and flexible fingers, which make them skilled climbers. They can also use these fingers to hold food, tear apart bird feeders, open garbage cans, and find any number of ways to annoy homeowners.

Raccoons aren’t dangerous or aggressive, but like many wild animals, they can carry diseases, so contact with them should be avoided. And while they are cute, they are certainly not pets and shouldn’t be fed. In fact, if you have raccoons around your home, you should take great care to firmly fasten your trashcan lids and remove all uneaten pet food from bowls or dishes. If a raccoon figures out your home is a reliable source of food, they will be back again and again.

Raccoons don’t always need to be removed, but if you have a nuisance raccoon or one has taken up residence in your attic, do not try to remove the animal yourself. Contact a licensed wildlife removal specialist for assistance.

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