Raccoons might be cute and cuddly, but they are troublesome, intelligent pests that are notorious for breaking into garbage cans, infiltrating attics, and generally making themselves a nuisance.
Their uncanny intelligence and dexterous forepaws give them a major advantage when it comes to climbing and manipulating objects. This means that trapping them is easier said than done.
But if you have raccoon problems and you want them gone, and are willing to turn to a lethal solution, poison is a time-tested option, and one that has the advantage of requiring no additional observation, input, or activation from the trapper.
This can make poison a highly effective if unsavory, option for the elimination of pests.
But utilizing poison is a serious business, ethically and operationally, and you need to know what you are doing if you want to ensure that the targeted animal is dispatched while minimizing risk to non-target animals, people, and pets. In this article, we will be sharing with you five ways you can effectively poison a raccoon.
Table of Contents
The Perils of Poison
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of employing poison to achieve our desired outcome in pest elimination, you should tap the brakes and have a long conversation with yourself over what exactly it is you are preparing to do.
There are no two ways about it: Death via poisoning is invariably excruciating, ugly, and messy, and even if you aren’t around to witness the death of the targeted animal you might have to deal with the aftermath, emotionally or otherwise.
Most poisons do not work like they are commonly shown on the big screen, with an unfortunate person or animal going through a few gyrations, grimacing, and then falling down stone-cold dead.
Poisons take time to work, sometimes upwards of a day or even longer and the target can be suffering in extreme pain or disability the entire time.
Poisons kill through as many mechanisms as there are colors in the rainbow, with some attacking the vascular or nervous system, whereas others slowly but certainly degrade organ function or even directly calcify fleshy tissues.
Some simply dissolve the integrity of blood vessels leading to a horrifying and grueling death by internal bleeding. Inflicting death on something should never be done lightly, but you should be extra perspicacious when you plan on calling for the Reaper via poison.
Beyond the ethical considerations, practical considerations abound. Considering that most poisons take a long time to work, the target animal will have ample opportunity to relocate after ingesting the poison, perhaps getting back to an inconveniently located nest in your home or elsewhere on your property before expiring.
This means you might be dealing with the gruesome necessity of tracking down a decomposing corpse to eliminate the unbearable stench before your home is “haunted” ever after.
Furthermore, among all the tools of death you might employ to eliminate pest poisons are among the least discriminate.
Poisoned baits or other foods laced with poison make no distinction when it comes to what kind of critter eats them, and then what kind of predator could prey on the poisoned animal.
Sure, your raccoon might dine on a poison pill the very night you put it out, but what else could eat from the same source?
Possums, squirrels, dogs, cats, and other wildlife are just as likely to fall victim to the poison, as is any animal that preys upon them, or eats their corpse in the case of scavengers.
Poison, much like fire, is a tool that seems to take on a life of its own once deployed, and you must be ethically and operationally prepared for the consequences of utilizing it. You might be out to eliminate a pack of raccoons but you could be sowing death far and wide in the bargain.
Word of Caution
Raccoons might be a protected species in your area at the local or state level, even if they are major pests on or around your property.
Depending on said laws, you may be able to dispatch raccoons year-round, in certain seasons, or not at all. Be sure to thoroughly inspect all relevant laws in your area.
Additionally, the act of implementing poisons for any purpose should only be done with the strictest controls in place and careful attention paid to laws for doing so. Using any chemical product in a manner that is inconsistent with its labeling is an offense.
All information presented in this article is strictly for informational purposes only and neither this website, its owners, operators or the author make any claims or guarantees regarding the contained information for any purpose. Reader discretion is advised.
Tools of the Trade
The following is a list of poisons that have proven effective against mammalian life, including raccoons.
Note that the vagaries of animal weight, overall health, mode of ingestion, and other factors make the prescribing of specific dosages impossible and beyond the confines of this article.
Further, note that handling any poison requires strict attention and adherence to best practices concerning personal protective equipment. A moment’s inattention or simple accident could see you falling victim to the poison meant for the target.
Once more, the manufacture or possession of any of the following poisons could be strictly prohibited in your area, and again the reader must assume all liability in any case. Never use a chemical product containing said poison as a poison.
Cholecalciferol is simply vitamin D3, the very same vitamin D that is generated by our skin when it is exposed to sunlight and commonly taken as a dietary or medicinal supplement.
This very same vitamin, when administered in high doses, is dangerous to mammalian life and is especially threatening to rodents and other small mammals.
When administered as a poison cholecalciferol works by inducing hypercalcemia, which as the name suggests leads to slow but systemic calcification of soft tissues.
In other words, it basically petrifies the target, but typically kills before this process is completed by inducing cardiac abnormality or failure, an extreme spike in blood pressure, kidney failure, gastrointestinal damage and central nervous system failure.
Notable among other poisons on this list, this one is quite slow-acting, typically developing symptoms about a day or a day and a half after ingestion. Death may take several days to occur.
Notably, as a poison for pest control, this method is employed often enough around the developed world. New Zealand is noteworthy in particular for utilizing cholecalciferol as a primary poison for pest control against opossums. Typical causes of death upon administration of a suitable dose are from heart or kidney failure.
It is worth noting that some observers speculate this poison is safer than others owing to its reduced effectiveness against larger animals and humans, but non-target ingestion has proven its efficacy against dogs and cats alike, along with other mammals.
As with all poisons, maximum caution must be used in employment.
Strychnine is a rightly infamous and highly potent poison, regularly employed as a pesticide though its use has been diminishing in our current era.
Unlike other poisons on this list, strychnine has proven to be highly effective against most vertebrate targets regardless of species, including birds, humans, and most other animals alike.
Strychnine is aggressive and persistent, and can be administered via swallowing, inhalation, or absorption through tissues such as the eyes or mouth.
Once upon a time, tiny doses of strychnine were used medicinally to improve muscle contraction but this has long been out of practice.
Precious little strychnine is usually required to cause death, and when ingested by the target animal the resulting symptoms can appear in as little as 15 or 30 minutes.
Convulsion, tremors, excess salivation, central nervous system depression, and degradation including nervousness, twitching and seizures, or pronounced muscular contractions are common.
As the poison takes greater hold, twitching, and spasms become markedly more pronounced and limbs are likely to be extended in a locked position along with the neck muscles, a condition known as opisthotonus. Before the end, the pupils will show to be unnervingly dilated.
This is a brutal death, and markedly terrible compared even to other poisons on this list. The typical cause of death from strychnine poisoning is usually asphyxiation resulting from the attendant paralyzation of respiratory muscles.
Strychnine can still be encountered in North America as a purpose-marketed bait intended for use against above-ground pests such as coyotes and subterranean pests like moles, gophers, and groundhogs.
Like many poisons, strychnine is highly lethal and indiscriminate as mentioned above, and will readily kill virtually any animal that ingests it, although some have shown a curious immunity to its effects.
Certain fruit bats are notably immune and horses in particular seem to show significant resistance to it, meaning that it might have a place as a slightly safer option for use on a horse farm if dosing is carefully metered for the target animal.
And once again, possession of pure strychnine might be illegal in your area and its acquisition is strictly controlled so make sure you check all applicable laws as required. Also keep in mind that the misuse of any commercially sold poison baits is a crime.
Ethylene glycol is odorless, colorless and, perhaps sinisterly, very sweet and a common component found in virtually all antifreeze solutions intended for use in automobiles.
In mammals, consumption results in intoxication, vomiting, seizure, kidney failure, and brain damage.
Ethylene glycol is highly toxic and doses for humans or animals resulting from more than a lick or small mouthful mean that timely hospitalization is a must if a good outcome is to be assured.
Unlike other poisons on this list ethylene glycol shows several distinct stages of symptoms with later stages sometimes coming after an intermediate period of seeming improvement, though underlying damage to the body is still ongoing, and severe.
Also noteworthy is the fact that the onset of symptoms is highly variable, resulting anywhere from a half hour to half a day after exposure.
The first stage consists of the nervous system and digestive problems and looks very similar to an alcohol overdose.
Loss of coordination, drooling, metabolic depression, and an overall appearance of intoxication are common, those seizures, uncontrollable eye movement, and vomiting may occur.
As the ethylene glycol metabolizes, elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, dehydration, difficulty breathing, and hyperventilation will begin.
Later, anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after ingestion of a significant dose kidney failure is all but certain due to the formation of calcium oxalate crystals. Concurrent with kidney failure severe lethargy, vomiting, seizures, and coma are likely.
Brodifacoum, Flocoumafen, Bromadiolone, Difenacoum, Warfarin, Etc.
Multiple poisons listed above, among others in this category, are anticoagulants, poisons that function by blocking or otherwise eliminating the vitamin K processing cycle in the body, leading to a reduction or total inability for the targeted organism to produce blood clotting factors.
Commonly employed today and in decades past as purpose-marketed rodenticides, these poisons are nonetheless effective against most mammals.
Depending on the agent used and the dosage, these anticoagulant poisons are defined as chronic agents, meaning that death will rarely occur quickly, usually happening anywhere from 7 to 14 days after ingestion.
Poisons in this category may require only a single, large dose or may depend on smaller, multiple doses to take effect.
Certain varieties, in addition to their disruption of coagulation factors, depend on massively potent doses to actively damage and degrade blood vessels, particularly the capillaries. Even these poisons work relatively slowly, with acute effects developing over several days.
Sometimes considered a humane poison since the affected animal appears to die calmly, the cause of death is nonetheless massive hemorrhagic shock or acute anemia. A few varieties attack liver function in addition to clotting factors in the blood.
More than most other poisons, ones in the anticoagulant category are most likely to result in significant collateral damage as they are capable of harming birds, particularly birds of prey, that feed on mice and rats.
Larger mammalian scavengers like coyotes and foxes are likely to become injured or killed at any rate because it is probable that the targeted raccoon will have a considerable amount of “life” left after a lethal dose and could be found anywhere and in its typical habitat upon expiry.
Bromethalin is a neurotoxic poison developed primarily as a rodenticide, or rat poison, though it is capable of causing grave harm to humans and is still lethal to smaller mammals.
First developed in the 1980s as a replacement to earlier generation poisons that would be particularly useful against rodents who had developed resistance to warfarin anticoagulants, it has since found acceptance as an effect of agent that is readily eaten by target animals.
As mentioned bromethalin is a neurotoxin, one that functions by ultimately decreasing ATP synthesis after being metabolized. The decrease in ATP inhibits the activity of certain enzymes and results in a buildup of cerebrospinal fluid and damage to myelin.
The subsequent increase in intracranial pressure severely damages neuronal axons and severely disrupts the central nervous system. Typical causes of death are paralysis or disruption of various vital body functions.
Common symptoms prior to death include severe nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and intermittent seizures that appear to result from the perception of light or noise. Tremor, hyperexcitability, and extreme sensitivity to touch are also common.
It should be noted that bromethalin is increasingly responsible for accidental poisonings in pets, so owners of dogs and cats who decide to employ this for poisoning a raccoon must be constantly vigilant for any of the above symptoms appearing in their own pets.
A quick response and subsequent hospitalization can greatly increase the chance of a good outcome in case of accidental poisoning.
Administering poison to a raccoon in typical settings is a matter of utilizing manufactured poison bait, typically appearing as a block or kibble, or poisoning a separate food item that a raccoon will be attracted to.
Raccoons are notorious for their love of garbage, but this quirk is really owing to the fact they like highly melodious, wet or greasy foods. Tuna is a standout favorite and a time-honored option for creating homemade poison bait.
Unfortunately, many other animals also love tuna, including cats, dogs, possums, and others, and placing this bait in such a way that will completely exclude non-target animals from accessing it may very well be difficult or impossible.
Placing the bait up high or in a location that is otherwise inaccessible to dogs and children is possible, but cats and possums are excellent climbers just like the target raccoon.
Poison need not be administered via ingestion, but any other method probably defeats the advantage of using poison in the first place.
Injection is highly effective and requires a smaller dose to achieve the lethal effect, but if you are ever in a position to inject the raccoon it is already caught and poison may not be necessary for disposal.
Some poisons can be absorbed through the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes but once again getting into a position to administer the poison accordingly is a pipe dream unless the animal is already caught and restrained.
For effective, round-the-clock administration of poison, ingestion is the best vector though one that is fraught with the most peril for non-target animals.
Collateral is Always a Risk when Employing Poisons
I have said it once, and I will say it again for emphasis: Utilizing any poison for mammalian pest control is an extremely risky business. The chances that stray dogs or cats, or pets belonging to you, your family, or neighbors, will be attracted to and get into the very same bait are extremely high.
If you are not willing to live with the consequences of accidentally killing other wildlife or a domestic animal then you should not employ poison at all.
Keep in mind that a non-target animal might fall victim to poison by praying upon the targeted animal or its carcass. It can be difficult to accurately assess just how much collateral damage can result from even a single poisoning.
Of even greater concern, poisoned baits often appear colorful and have interesting shapes, two characteristics that appeal to children.
Even a moment’s inattention or carelessness in placing manufactured poison bait could result in ingestion by a child.
Contrary to popular belief even a very small amount of one of these baits could have dangerous or even deadly effects upon a child since their physiology is not fully developed and their body weight is so much lower than that of an adult.
It is for these reasons that I recommend poisoning be employed only if you have no other choices for pest control.
Alternatives for Pest Elimination
If after reading all of this your commitment to poisoning the unwanted critters tearing up your property and stealing your stuff has wavered, don’t lose hope.
There are many other ways to get rid of pests, both lethal and non-lethal, that are actually more likely to result in success, and almost all of them have the added benefit of being more humane than poisoning.
Live trapping is an excellent way to dispatch a raccoon, and has the same benefit that poison does, namely you don’t have to be around to babysit the trap constantly for it to work.
Non-lethal cages and padded leg-hold traps will immobilize an animal and allow you to relocate it or summon someone who will.
Lethal traps work much the same way, although you have to be equally diligent about ensuring that a non-target animal, particularly a pet or other domestic animal, does not fall into its clutches.
Beyond that, setting up shop and waiting to shoot a raccoon with a firearm or bow is also a worthwhile method if one is skilled enough to ensure a clean kill and prevent any potential for collateral damage, both to your property or someone else’s.
Lastly, the most effective way to get rid of raccoons is usually to prevent their access to their nesting place, if they have invaded your home or other structure, or prevent entirely their easy access to food. Eliminate the food, eliminate the nice, cozy hiding place and they will take their chances elsewhere.
Where there is one raccoon there are invariably more, and picking off even a handful of raccoons might do nothing to eliminate your raccoon problem. Cut out the source of their interest and they will move on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Not necessarily. As mentioned above, raccoons may be protected by law at the city, county, or state level where you live. Often you’ll find that killing raccoons legally or even raccoon removal requires an animal control license or pest control permit.
Acting in defiance of these regulations could see you fined heavily or even jailed. As always, it is in your best interest to contact your local animal control office to find out what the specific regulations are in your neck of the woods. If in doubt, leave it to the pros!
It is possible to repel raccoons using deterrent scents. These are usually available in the form of granules or sprays, and can be found at most hardware stores, or you can use commonly available things around your home. The key is to find a scent that works, will last for a while, and won’t do any permanent harm to the raccoon.
Male raccoon emissions are almost foolproof at repulsing female raccoons looking to nest, and all raccoons hate the smell of mothballs. With some ingenuity and persistence in placing your repellent scent you might not need to resort to poison at all, and best of all repelling raccoons in this way is 100% legal.
There are a lot of myths and urban legends surrounding chocolate and its potential dangers to animals. Chocolate is, in fact, harmful to most mammals- except us humans, thankfully!
The same goes for raccoons, of course. Chocolate definitely is not good for them, but is it deadly? Deadly enough, it could serve as a deliberate or accidental poisoning.
The answer is probably not. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, which can be toxic, and even deadly to mammals if consumed in large amounts. Theobromine affects mammals by causing vomiting, diarrhea, elevated heart rate, and seizures. Seriously large concentrations can cause death.
The chemical is found in all kinds of chocolate but darker chocolate and more concentrated cocoas have greater amounts.
However, for a raccoon to die from eating chocolate, it would have to consume an extraordinarily large amount of it. Otherwise, they will just get very sick. As a raccoon poison, chocolate is far less efficient, and more expensive, than other options.
Poison has been employed for a long time as a method of pest control because it works, and it can definitely work for you if raccoons are driving you crazy and about to run you out of house and home.
Undeniably effective, and requiring very little in the way of monitoring or intervention to ensure success once it has been set with an appropriate bait, poison is nonetheless an indiscriminate killer of many animals, and poses significant risks to pets, children and adults alike.
Think twice before employing poison as a method of eradication, and if you do always be sure to follow any and all applicable laws when doing so along with best practices.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.