for people who love the littlest dairy goats
This evening my husband was putting the goats in the barn for the night and discovered a raccoon curled up in the corner. The raccoon did not run away. He had to scare it out. He searched all around to see if it had burrowed in from the ground but did not find any holes. Is it possible a raccoon would be bold enough to climb a fence and stroll in for a warm nap? How worried should I be about disease? My two goats are recently bred and hopefully settled. I saw a raccoon walking around the woods the other day and climbing a tree and then coming back down. This was in the middle of the afternoon - full daylight. Is it possible the raccoon is snowed out of his/her home? We have plenty of ice and snow on the ground here in central NJ. Should I try to set traps? I leave the barn door ajar each day for access in this cold weather but close it at night. Thank you for any advice. This is a first for me.
The short answer is yes. lol
Yes they will climb a fence and make themselves at home.
Yes, it might be carrying disease. (can't tell you if you should be worried... hopefully someone else can be more helpful there)
I would personally try to remove it, but that might not be everyone's advice. :)
It will be difficult to trap it to remove it; I was never able to trap the one here (they are exceptionally smart critters). If you decide to do that, I suggest marshmallows as bait in the trap. That was suggested to me by a pest control person who also said to wire it back a few inches from the back and sides of the trap because if it is not attached out of reach from the outside they will steal it without being caught. He said the marshmallows are the bait of choice because they have a sweet tooth. If you are lucky, animal control will pick it up for you; otherwise releasing it on a wildlife refuge is the answer though this time of year that would be a death sentence for the critter. It may be that it will not return. I suggest you call your local wildlife department for advice about what to do. (I'll be honest here, because of how many of my hens were butchered by the one here, if I didn't live in town, it would have had a bullet in its head even though I don't believe in killing animals, but there comes a point when burying so many hens overrides that; eventually this one either died or someone else got it.)
Because these entering my yard killed my hens, I was concerned about them bothering newborn kids but those here on the group suggested that would likely not be a problem. Regardless, they do carry fleas and may very well carry disease (with rabies being almost as common as in bats though you would likely notice strange behavior) and you don't want them in your barn. I wish you luck in it staying away - hopefully, it has found its way back to its own home by now and won't be back.
Check with your local wildlife or extension agent.
Thanks for your comments, ladies. My husband was able to shoo it out with a broom but it went begrudgingly. I later read that raccoons go into a semi-hibernation. I wonder if this was the same raccoon I saw wandering around the woods a few days ago climbing trees. I wonder if it is possible it can't get to its home. I also read that they do not burrow (dig holes themselves) so I guess you are right, Rachel. It must have climbed the fence and sauntered in. In any event, I am certainly hoping it does not return to the barn. I'm tempted to close the door and leave the goats out today but it is currently 7 degrees and I leave for work shortly. The water in a bucket outside would freeze quickly. The goats would be unhappy as well. My husband felt really badly for the raccoon. The outside critters must be suffering. We have been snow and ice covered for weeks with 5-10 more inches on the way tomorrow. That said, I cannot have potentially disease ridden critters in with my possibly pregnant goats. They wouldn't go in there with it anyway! If it returns, I would prefer to have the neighbor come and "dispatch" it. We don't own a gun. I agree with you, Glenna. Trapping and transferring would be a certain sustained and suffering death. I've often thought about owning hens but this has cured me. Too much worry and anxiety!
Just be very sure of the laws in your area if you do decide to trap it and relocate it. It is illegal to relocate pest raccoons, opposum, etc in Oregon. You have to have a licensed re locator do the moving if you manage to catch it in a trap. (if you don't kill it yourself or have your neighbor do it.)
It probably did just come in to make itself at home. But I wouldn't think it would go near the goats, especially with grown goats in the pen. If you scared it off, I wouldn't think it would make a habit of coming back unless it is finding a food source there (grain or chickens, etc). It might be looking for a place to nest for babies - you definitely don't want that. If it were us, we would dispatch it, because we have had so many of our flock of chickens killed by coons, even in predator-proof fencing. But if it were just the goats, I don't think I'd be concerned it would hurt them.
Raccoon update: more sleet/snow today and more on the way tonight. The goats were locked in the barn until this afternoon. Before I went up to the barn I happened to look out the window their way (a good distance) but saw the raccoon climbing over the fence and lumber into the woods. The raccoon was either having trouble navigating the snow or is sick. It was staggering around and kept falling over. I lost sight of where it ended up. When I went to the barn about two hours later I saw its tracks come in over the fence. It walked to the door of the barn and around the side of the barn and then backtrack. It could not gain entry as the door was closed - thank goodness! So... this is going to be a problem. My heart wants to help/feed the darn critter who looked to be suffering but I cannot offer any incentive to visit. The only thing it may have found in the barn the first time was some particles of grain perhaps not entirely licked up by the goats - and hay. There is nothing to eat in there but I guess it is looking for a warm place. Everything covered in snow and ice. I did not follow the tracks into the woods as I had my two children with me and I was afraid we might find something unpleasant. Perhaps I should try to trap and dispatch. Everything is just so complicated with the snow and cold.
You should be able to do an online search and find out what the status of rabies is in your state. It could be any number of illnesses making it sick, many of which are not contagious to your goats. Unless you have an animal's brain examined by a vet, you don't know for sure that it had rabies.
Latest update: I have not seen the raccoon in two days. We did put out a trap. Neighbor suggested tuna fish as he had gotten seven out of an attic recently with that combination. No takers of any kind, however. I'm feeling better since there has been no sighting. I've also kept the barn door shut completely when the goats are outside so that no critter can sneak in. I did do research about rabies in NJ and it is a very real possibility. However, when my husband shooed it out of the barn it did not act at all aggressive. It's possible the raccoon has died or moved on. It remains very cold here in the 20's during the day. We are due for a warm up beginning Tuesday. Thanks again for the support and suggestions.
Conclusion to story: the raccoon was relocated three days ago. My brother was driving up the driveway and saw turkey vultures hovering. He saw a raccoon dragging an almost dead opossum away to under a bush. I called our brave neighbor who came over and sweet talked the raccoon out, picked him up by the tail (he had on gloves) and got him into the cage and relocated him to the other side of the canal. He took care of the opossum as well and the vultures scattered. It's a tough world out there - hard to witness nature in action sometimes. Here's hoping this is the end of our visiting raccoon. Temps are balmy in the high 40's this weekend but there is still a bunch of snow and temps due to plunge again on Monday. Also, the trap didn't work. The snow must have jammed the door. The raccoon (or something) had eaten the tuna. Thanks again for your advice!