Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Play on the Lawn…

Hi Free-Rangers: Here’s a brand new fear to leave you with for the weekend: kbdfakdnhh
“Raccoon Latrines Pose Risk to Kids.”

A new risk? OMG! Lock up the kids!

Reader Lorie McGraw found this article explaining — in great detail — how these “latrines,” found all over suburbia, get filled with…what you’d expect.  (Put down your raisins before reading any further.) If a raccoon is infected with roundworm parasites, the worms’ tiny eggs fester in the latrines (aren’t you glad you’re reading this post?) and kids who eat whatever they find lying around, could get seriously sick.

How sick? So far there have been “14 reported U.S. cases in the past 30 years.”

Got that? Fewer than 1 case every two years, in a country of 300 million. And yet, the article begs: “Homeowners with small children should remove latrines as quickly as they are discovered.”

Really? We shouldn’t keep them around like lawn ornaments? A festering pit of poop is no longer something to joyously share with our children? Will no one stand up for Raccoon Latrine Pride?

Apparently not, so there you have it. Another reason never to let your kids out of the house. Ever. – Lenore

22 Responses to Just When You Thought it Was Safe to Play on the Lawn…

  1. silvermine September 5, 2009 at 6:36 am #

    I already have an insane fear of racoons, thanks to public service announcements. In the mid-atlantic in the 80s they were bound and determined to convince us all racoons had rabies and were going to attack us viciously.

  2. Uly September 5, 2009 at 8:16 am #

    Well, no, the only advice they give is to remove these latrines if you see them – and that’s advice I intend to take, same as I’d scoop up cat or dog poo if I found it in my yard rather than leaving it where I could step in it.

  3. MadWoman September 5, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    Oh. My. Gawd. WOW. 14 cases in 30 years?!?! Holy cow….I’m locking up my children ASAP! Never to exit the house again as long as racoons should live and poop.

    Though really I have to ask…why the heck are the kids EATING the racoon poop in the first place? Have they not been taught to not just eat everything they find? It doesn’t require being a helicopter parent for something like that.

    It’s the same as cat or dog poop…scoop it up, dispose of it. Don’t let the kids eat it or touch it. But for goodness sake…14 cases in 30 years is hardly something to be worried about.

  4. Tana September 5, 2009 at 9:21 am #

    at least they aren’t suggesting locking up the kiddies or keeping them on constant leashes. i kind of think it makes sense to clean up the latrines. who wants a yard full of poop? still, with only 14 children dumb enough to eat raccoon poop in 30 years, i’m not stressed. they also only found it in 51% of the yards surveyed, which means that you have an almost 50% chance of having a coon-free yard. and you’re even safer if you don’t live near the woods or have bird feeders. i know! let’s all move to the city to escape the raccoons and their wormy excrement!

  5. Chris M September 5, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    It’s too bad these researchers couldn’t put there brilliant minds towards something that might have a greater impact… isn’t tenure a fantastic thing.

  6. Amy September 5, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was go down to the apartments near our house and look into the dumpsters with my friends — hoping to see raccoons. Hm, maybe I shouldn’t have made it to adulthood. It’s a dangerous, dangerous world, isn’t it?!?

  7. Booksaboutpeace September 5, 2009 at 10:37 am #

    Hmm… Well this summer we were blessed at the jersey shore with thousands of baby frogs! It was baby frog season–the size of your thumbnail. As I walked with my dog along the bird sanctuary each night to have our evening beach jaunt, our barefeet were left to dodge thousands of baby frogs. My dog couldn’t care less, but I was like a kid again. I tested my childhood frog catching skills, BARehanded, and I encouraged every child I saw to do the same. I feared no pestialence and nare did they. Not one of us got salmonella this summer, though I suspect we’ll be faced with threats of more bird flu varieties as our children begin congregating back in the classroom this fall. At least we experienced the simple joy of capturing and holding reptiles, who would otherwise be bird lunch.

  8. ebohlman September 5, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    MadWoman: fecal-oral pathogen transmission is almost never the result of intentional ingestions of feces (worldwide, it’s mostly the result of inadequate separation of sewage disposal and drinking-water supplies). In the case at hand, bacteria migrate from the racoon poop through the soil, kids get soil on their hands, kids touch their mouths. In the absence of drinking-water contamination (not generally a problem in the developed world) common-sense, non-obsessive handwashing eliminates better than 99% of the risk of fecal-oral transmission.

  9. Patricia September 5, 2009 at 3:03 pm #

    Well, we don’t have raccoons in Australia (though goodness knows what those koalas and kangaroos might get up to) but this sounds to me about the same story as things like hookworm from domestic pets who aren’t treated.
    So I agree – clean up the poo, just as we do with the dogs each day, and we’ll all live to fight another day.
    BTW, my son DID eat kangaroo poo once, when he was about 18 months. He’s 12 now, so whatever dreadful disease he got, it must be slow acting!
    I am a bit concerned about the koalas though – all that eucalyptus MUST be toxic –

  10. Mrs Embers September 5, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    There was a story in Ontario last summer about a boy who got that from raccoon poop and got REALLY sick- he’s alive, but might be permanently blind.

    If we’re going to be so nutty as to let our kids play in the yard, it might not be a BAD idea to keep an eye out for poop- from raccoons, the neighbour’s cat, inconsiderate dog-walkers…

    I know I do, but that’s because my 1 1/2 year old will seriously put ANYTHING in his mouth. Not that he’s outside alone, but… you know. I’m not keeping the boys in over animal poop, anyway.

    And thanks, Lenore- I’m glad I wasn’t drinking my tea when I read “festering pit of poop” and “latrine pride”- I would’ve spit it all over my computer! Too funny. 🙂

  11. Leah Weiss Caruso September 5, 2009 at 8:10 pm #

    Yes, I know my husband was considering a petition to the rabbinical council to add “raccoon poop” as the official 11th plague. A pox on the raccoons!

  12. Shakti September 5, 2009 at 9:36 pm #

    It’s funny, isn’t it, that 61 of 119 yards they checked had them, yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. You’d think, wouldn’t you, if this is such a dire threat that they’re recommending immediate removal, perhaps they would also include helpful information on how to find them. Things like typical siting within the yard or other characteristics.

  13. knitonmycat September 5, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    I had a dream about finding a giant rabid raccoon (about the size of a recliner) in my living room. I tried to hit it with a chair leg, but it bit it right out of my hand! Just imagine the poop that thing could generate!

  14. Olivia September 6, 2009 at 4:21 am #

    Do people really need to be told to remove pits of poop from their yard? Really?

  15. Dino September 6, 2009 at 5:06 am #

    We know who Booksaboutpeace is, that’s the person whose hands are covered with warts.
    Patricia, I hear the real danger in Australia is platypus poop.

    Seriously, I worry more about kids breathing stale, maybe even toxic, air indoors than the overblown dangers facing Free Range Kids.

  16. pyromomma September 6, 2009 at 5:50 am #

    The culprit in the raccoon poop is the Racoon Roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis . The latter name says that it lives in raccoons (Procyon lotor) I knew that Latin would come in handy one day (Lotor means washer, referring to the habit of washing it’s food). The roundworm can shed about 20,000 eggs per gram of raccoon poop. Now that’s a lot of eggs. Sounds really really scary.
    But wait, there’ more! They did indeed test 119 yards (out of how many in any suburban neighborhood? – that tiny number is immediately suspect as a “scientific” sample). And 61 yards (almost exactly half) did have racooon poop in the yards in “latrines” (they potty in the same place), though SOME had up to 6 latrines in a single yard! (Can you spell Family of Raccoons- a frequent sight).
    Wow, Really Scary!!
    But wait! What’s that? How many of those latrines tested positive for the dreadful, eggs of the brain-eating Raccoon Roundworm that is such an imminent threat to our children?
    What’s that you say? “Eggs of B. procyonis were found in 23% of the sampled latrines”.
    So of 119 yards, there were 13 yards that had roundworm infested raccoons pooping there.
    Suddenly Not So Scary?


  17. mudmama September 6, 2009 at 6:33 am #

    LOL! My kids are so excited by scat! Hell so am I! We poke through it to see what they’ve been eating!

    Here’s a cool link for you – advice on getting kids out exploring nature – note big kids are over the age of 4 and they run off ON THEIR OWN IN THE WOODS – BRANDISHING STICKS!!! And very likely poking raccoon poo with them!


  18. ff September 7, 2009 at 12:55 am #

    I saw your article in a parenting magazine and have been following your blog for a few weeks. Its refreshing to see that all parents dont see a need to keep their kids in a bubble. Do you remember the days when we were allowed to throw snowballs at recess amd ;imcj and also take turns sliding on the ice? Now kids are warned away from the icy patches. Where has all the fun gone???

  19. friendofviviana September 7, 2009 at 7:05 am #

    I’m a stats PhD and I find this article remarkable. Usually when you see the results of a PUBLISHED statistical fishing trip, the paper actually “finds” something spurious.

    This doesn’t even do that. It’s a complete non issue in every regard. I wouldn’t even bother removing the latrines. Doing so might be more dangerous than leaving them in situ.

  20. Zhu Zhu Pets September 8, 2009 at 12:30 am #

    interest content good.

  21. Brian September 9, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    I just heard a story on NPR that suggested that one the causes of the recent explosion of autoimmune diseases in the modern Western world could be the lack of worms in our systems. In other words, the causes of things like MS, Crohn’s disease, and even autism MIGHT be that we are killing off organisms that we have evolved with live with.

  22. gabster September 13, 2009 at 9:35 pm #

    Racoon poop come on. If this only happens about once every 2 years. What’s to worry about?