It’s minutes before you have to run out the door and make your commute to work. You make your coffee and look out the window, only to see last night’s dinner scattered throughout your yard! Unfortunately, your garbage has been rummaged through all night by a couple of wildlife pests. Two popular animals that are known to forage through trashcans and dumpsters for food are raccoons and opossums.  

Raccoons, known for their distinctive black mask coloring on their faces, can range from just under 2 feet long to over 3 feet long. These animals are considered nocturnal and are rarely seen by humans. Be aware, though, spotting a raccoon during the day can be a possible sign they have rabies or other abnormal conditions. 

Raccoons are scavengers, looking for food wherever they can find it, often foraging in trashcans and dumpsters. These skillful creatures can easily use their paws to open doors and lids to look for food. While they are omnivores, they prefer fruits and nuts over meat. Because they are creatures of habit, once these animals find a food source at your home, they will keep coming back until the food source is gone. 

Another animal you’ll catch roaming around your trashcans is the opossum. Grey in color, opossums can range from 14” long to over 3 feet long, with their tails making up 50 percent of their total body length! These animals also tend to live near wet areas such as swamps and marshes. 

While opossums are omnivores, they prefer insects and carrion over fruits and vegetables. As highly skilled climbers, you’ll find these creatures in trees, staying up there for as long as they can. They are also slow movers so don’t expect them to make a quick getaway! Opossums are generally not aggressive, though they will play dead if they are threatened.

Here are some tips to help prevent wildlife from rummaging through your garbage.

  • Seal any garbage cans and compost bins at night.
  • Use locking lids on trashcans if possible or place a weight on top to keep the lids closed.
  • Keep the outside of your home well-lit at night as opossums and raccoons will shy away from the lights.
  • Spray a mixture of half ammonia and half water on your trashcans or soak rags in the mixture and scatter them around your property; this smell will repel these pests. 
  • If wildlife constantly returns, consider contacted a licensed pest control company who can provide you with a thorough evaluation and wildlife control plan.
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