Raccoons in general are New World animals. Of the three raccoon species that exist, the common raccoon is the largest and most widely distributed. It is native to North and Central America from southern Canada down to Panama. Originally from the tropics, the common raccoon is one of a few larger animals whose range increased along with human settlement. They have been introduced outside of their native range into Europe and Japan where they have become invasive.
Raccoons are omnivorous and highly adaptable to different environments. They are intelligent animals that are able to creatively solve problems and have dexterous hands that can open and manipulate objects. They can be persistent and destructive when trying to gain access to food or structures. Raccoons also vector rabies, mainly along the East Coast and up into Ontario, and host raccoon roundworm. Roundworm eggs excreted in raccoon feces contaminate underlying surfaces and are usually ingested by young children. The roundworm larvae tend to migrate to the brain and eyes, possibly causing neural dysfunction, blindness or death.
In natural settings, raccoons den up in tree hollows or in ground burrows made by other animals. In urban areas, they will take advantage of structural voids like attics and crawlspaces. Raccoons can fit through four-inch openings. Potential entry points are uncapped chimneys, loose shingles and openings into eaves and attics. One-way excluders can be positioned over some openings to allow raccoons to exit but not return. Raccoons can also be removed from properties with live traps. However, a state or municipality may have strict relocation requirements or not allow relocation at all, especially if it classifies raccoons as a rabies vector species.