Commentary by Holly Carter
Now is the time to manage homes and property to prevent wildlife damage that often comes with spring.
Mother raccoons are searching for nesting spots to raise their young. This can be in chimneys, crawl spaces, attics, soffit, facia, haystacks, brush piles, barns, abandoned buildings, abandoned cars or large metal auto parts or sheeting. A four-inch diameter hole is all that is needed for a raccoon to squeeze through. Natural dens are hollow trees or ground burrows.
Most litters are born between April and May, with some appearing as early as late February. Litters are between two and five young, and they are weaned between two and four months.
Check your chimneys and roofs now to prevent damage later. Install a proper chimney cap and repair any loose shingles or soffits. Put a bell-like skirt of flashing around the tops of drain pipes to deter animals from climbing up to the roof. Cut down overhanging tree branches or bushes that are near houses or barns. Take down trellis or piping for vines that are near buildings. A three-foot square sheet of slick metal can be nailed to corners of out-buildings to prevent climbing access. Hardware cloth can be nailed to decks or patios to prevent raccoons from going underneath.
If this prevention fails or is not initiated, humane live traps can be put outside to trap the mother (remember, there are probably babies there so wait before taking the mother away). Check the hole carefully to hear any rustlings or soft noises denoting babies present and proceed to remove them or hire an animal nuisance company to complete the job. Repair the hole and release the mother at night and in sight of the container of babies. She usually will have a secondary hiding spot and will take her babies with her if given time and quiet.
Please use common sense with wildlife. They are only looking for a chance to live out their lives, too.
Holly Carter is a Zionsville resident and wildlife rehabilitator.