Summary: Raccoons will establish sites where they consistently leave their feces. These raccoon feces collection sites are called latrines and they normally can be found on horizontal structures or surfaces log between logs or rocks, rooftops and gutters.
A reader asks: Can you please tell me why I find so much racoon feces on my garden shed roof? I have checked the internet for this question, but cannot get a straight answer from any of them.
Dear Reader: Raccoons establish community sites where they repeatedly deposit fresh feces. Areas where raccoon feces accumulate are referred known as latrines. They probably like your shed roof because they prefer latrine sites that are flat and above the ground. But, they also use the base of trees and occasionally, open areas.
Common sites for raccoon latrines are roofs, decks, unsealed attics, haylofts, forks of trees, fence lines, woodpiles, fallen logs and large rocks. Structural features surrounding latrines often are important travel routes or foraging areas.
The latrines consist of piles of raccoon feces of different ages. You can tell if a latrine is active by the color of the feces. Fresh raccoon feces are dark and moist while old feces may look like dried leaves or debris.
The biggest problem with raccoon latrines is that they often contain the eggs of roundworms that can be hazardous to human health. The eggs develop into the infectious form in 2-4 weeks, and can survive in the soil for several years. If the infectious form of the eggs is inadvertently swallowed by humans or other mammals including birds, the larvae hatch out and move into the organs of the body. On rare occasions these larvae may cause serious eye disease, spinal cord or brain damage, or death.
It is best to call a professional to clean up a raccoon latrine. However, if you intend to do it yourself be sure to avoid direct contact with the feces:
- Wear disposable gloves made of rubber, plastic, or latex. Also wear disposable booties or rubber boots that can be scrubbed and left outside.
- Wear a N95-rated dust mask available at hardware stores or safety supply stores. The masks will help to prevent accidental ingestion of eggs or inhalation of fungal spores or dust.
- Lightly spray the latrine area water or bleach to reduce the amount of dust coming from latrine pile.
- Shovel feces and any other contaminated material into a heavy-duty plastic garbage bag.
- Disinfect hard, smooth surfaces (including shovel blades) with boiling water.
- Thoroughly launder clothing in hot water and detergent.
Discourage raccoon latrine activity by using any one of many animal repellents available on the market such as Shake-Away, Get Away and Rid-A-Critter. Multiple and consistent applications of these products are the key to success. If these products don't work you may have to trap and remove the raccoons using Havahart traps. I recommend the Havahart Easy Set trap for this job.