Racoons Are Cute, But Can Be Dangerous To Your Health

This post was written by jd on February 15, 2012
Posted Under: animals,Environment
Common raccoon (Procyon lotor) and skunk (Meph...

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What is more appealing than the face of a raccoon, cute, a mask over their eyes and their overall facial features make them look wise. But, what a problem. They get into your cat food in the garage, overturn garbage cans and leave behind quite a mess. Not only that, if you continue reading, you’ll understand how dangerous they can be to your health, even fatal.

These bandit-masked raccoons are a familiar sight just about everywhere, because they will eat just about anything. These ubiquitous mammals are found in forests, marshes, prairies, and even in cities. They are adaptable and use their dexterous front paws and long fingers to find and feast on a wide variety of fare.

In the natural world, raccoons snare a lot of their meals in the water. These nocturnal foragers use lightning-quick paws to grab crayfish, frogs, and other aquatic creatures. On land, they pluck mice and insects from their hiding places and raid nests for tasty eggs.

Raccoons also eat fruit and plants—including those grown in human gardens and farms. They will even open garbage cans to dine on the contents.

They do not have opposing thumbs, but that does not seem to hinder them at all. Raccoons sample food and other objects with their front paws to examine them and to remove unwanted parts. The tactile sensitivity of their paws is increased if this action is performed underwater, since the water softens the horny layer covering the paws. However, they do not use water to clean their food as often thought. (Wikipedia)

I don’t think that feeding raccoons is a good idea, since they carry rabies and distemper, A more dangerous disease is found in raccoon feces which can contain a parasite called Baylisascaris procyonis.  This is a type of roundworm that can also infect humans.  If this parasite is transferred to humans, it can be extremely dangerous.  In children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems, infection with this roundworm can even be fatal.  Infections occur when someone comes into contact with raccoon droppings.  Millions of this parasite’s eggs are often present in the droppings.  Even though roundworm parasites need to be inside the host to survive, the eggs can remain alive and dangerous for years in the soil.  This is how people can come into contact with the parasite without even knowing that they have.

If you have been exposed to this parasite or its eggs, your symptoms could include becoming nauseous, tired, and you may notice a lack of attention or coordination.  Other more serious symptoms are the loss of muscle control, blindness, and coma.  It can also cause a person’s liver to become enlarged.  If you have come into contact with raccoon feces and have any of these symptoms, contact a doctor as soon as possible.  With the proper treatment, the ringworms can be eliminated before they travel throughout the body.

If you’ve found raccoon feces in your yard, take precautions before cleaning it up.  Be sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection.  Experts also recommend that you wear rubber boots, tyvek overalls, and that a respirator be used.  It is also recommended that you double or triple bag the droppings before disposing of them.  This will prevent other people coming into contact with the dangerous parasite.  If you are unsure, or if you suspect a large raccoon population, you can call a professional pest controller.  They have the appropriate equipment and the training to clean up the droppings safely and they can also offer some advice for deterring raccoons from playing and foraging in your yard.

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