In Salt Lake, while we love our domestic pet population and will go to any length to ensure their health, diet, entertainment and social scene are ideal. There are other woodland creatures, lurking in our backyard shadows, trees and sheds, who have made the city their home.

On any given night, through our neighborhoods are thousands of black-masked, stripy tailed bandits, we call raccoons. Its scientific name Procyon lotor, which points out its lesser relationship is to the dog (did you hear that, fido?) and its tendency to “wash” its food prior to eating (hey, that’s one up on you too). During the cold months, unlike other animals like bears, hedgehogs, snakes and bumblebees—raccoons do not hibernate—so they’ll be wandering around, searching out for neighborhood snacks all year round.

To deter raccoons from hitting your trash can, try adding some spice. Apparently, garlic, cayenne or black pepper will do the trick.

While raccoons are prolific and can take residence in places that may be a nuisance to both homeowners and sanitation engineers, being omnivores allows them to forage a variety of food sources, keeping many unwanted pests, including our rodent populations in check.

With the rise of homesteading, backyard compost piles and chicken coops, raccoons are naturally drawn to these. They do prey on living things and have been known to kill a hen, kitten or a full-grown cat. Raccoons will, of course, rummage through your trash containers, gardens and bird feeders. And, can you blame them? It’s like placing an all-you-can-eat buffet for them, and you keep the supply flowing. It is advisable to lock up your hens in the coop at night and gate-up any other garden or compost spaces for obvious reasons.

Urban raccoons like to make their homes in chimneys and attic spaces. And while raccoons are not protected by the law, in Utah you do not need a trapping or hunting license to kill them. However, you can’t process a nuisance raccoon for table meat or fish bait without one. While it seems there isn’t a huge demand for its meat at the present moment, perhaps trapping and releasing pesky raccoons, or hiring a professional to do so would be a better method for their removal.

Interested in Utah’s incredible and diverse wildlife? Our Outdoors section is the place to go to learn other fun facts about snakes, cougars, spiders and more…