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Johnson County
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Olathe, KS 66061

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Raccoons and Roundworms

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Masked Bandits, trash pandas, ring tails… their nicknames are almost as prolific as the creatures themselves. Previous population estimates in Kansas have ranged from 20-40 raccoons per square mile, though some studies indicate higher densities exist in urban areas with more habitat and food resources. Some people find these iconic mammals to be a cute addition to the neighborhood, but many find raccoons to be poor neighbors who destruct property.

What is the actual risk of having raccoons share your living spaces? Distemper, rabies, and ringworm, to name a few of the most concerning.

Raccoons are social creatures when it comes to certain functions like eliminating waste. Often referred to as “latrines”, raccoons will choose a spot to defecate and then they will continue to visit that area. If they weren’t carriers of roundworm perhaps it wouldn’t be a big deal to allow them to use your yard for their restroom facilities. But the roundworm they tend to harbor is also resistant to chemicals, so only extreme heat is effective at killing the eggs. When they defecate, the roundworm eggs pass through their system and are deposited in the soil. In young children and pets this can then get picked up and ingested, continuing the lifecycle in a new host. The best practice is to wash your hands thoroughly after spending time outside, even if you were gardening with gloves on. 

So what if they’ve located their latrine in your vegetable garden? The good news is roundworm cannot infect vegetables except where the feces touch the plant material. The bad news is roundworm eggs can survive long periods of time, so you may need to bring in new dirt or move your garden if you have a thick population of raccoons visiting.   

The other diseases they carry are not commonly passed to other animals or humans, which is good because getting raccoons to find a new residence is not easy. Known for their intelligence, most deterrent methods don’t work once they figure out the threat is not real. Repellents also have not been proven effective at discouraging raccoons. Trapping and exclusion fencing are the only two methods that provide consistent results.

The main tenants of Keeping Wildlife Wild apply to raccoons and help discourage them from inhabiting your area in the first place. Don’t leave out food (dog/cat/bird) or water sources, keep trash secured, and make a lot of startling noise if you do see one to encourage it to be wary of humans.

If all else fails, you can hire a professional to come trap them for you, and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks keeps a list of licensed operators located in the state. Check your local city ordinances to see if you can trap them legally yourself, as furbearers most trapping is regulated by a season unless they’re damaging your property.

As always, contact your local friendly extension office if you need assistance dealing with nuisance wildlife.

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Amy Keigher

Natural Resources Agent