How To Humanely Get Raccoons Out Of Your House
They aren’t the best roommates.
Hosting a family of wild raccoons is like having noisy, messy roommates who refuse to pay rent. And what’s worse, there’s no damage deposit.
While these critters are certainly cute, having a wild animal set up shop in your attic, chimney or walls isn’t the best thing for you — or your new furry tenants. However, evicting these masked mammals humanely and safely is more difficult than one might initially assume.
"Raccoons are animals that excel at adapting to suburban and even urban environments. They can be found outside passing through a property, getting into garbage or pet food," Ian Williams, training manager at Trutech Critter Control, a national wildlife control company, tells The Dodo. "They can also take up residence in your home, living underneath [it] in a crawlspace, or even in attics and chimneys. Raccoons are excellent climbers, and can scale trees and branches to get on a roof, but can also climb fencing and gutter downspouts."
Breaking up families during raccoon removal can put raccoon babies, also known as kits, in a vulnerable position in a vulnerable position, writes the Humane Society of The United States (HSUS), so use caution when deciding your eviction approach. Regulations on raccoon removal and relocation vary by state, so if you’re going to attempt some DIY raccoon extraction, it’s best to know what you’re getting into first.
Here’s what you need to know about getting rid of raccoons humanely.
How to tell if you have raccoons in the first place
If you’ve heard scratching, rummaging, clawing, growling, chirping or thumping sounds that start at dusk and end in the early hours of the morning, you may be harboring one (or more) of these creatures. Look for hand-shaped paw prints in the yard, tousled trash and scat stations — essentially raccoon bathrooms — on the roof, in the attic or near your house. (Do not attempt to clean up a raccoon latrine yourself. The potential presence of roundworm means only hazardous waste professionals should do the dirty work.)
Other telling signs that raccoons have moved in include roof damage, such as ripped up tiles or drywall, to make de facto entrance ways. To see if a hole is being used actively, HSUS recommends stuffing the opening with wadded newspaper, and observing whether the newspaper has been disturbed after two or three days.
Raccoons may wash their own food, but they never do the dishes — so if you spot remnants of their nightly forage, that’s a telltale sign as well.
How to get them to leave
Once you’ve located the raccoons’ hiding spot, you can use gentle techniques to coax them out. HSUS recommends a combination of “light, noise and smell” to convince them to leave on their own accord. This includes shining bright lights into their hole, playing loud music (from a speaker or portable radio) and putting out a bowl of cider vinegar or a few ammonia-soaked rags to make their den smelly. Start around dusk for the best results, but do not harass raccoons during the day, as this may disorient them, according to HSUS.
If you suspect that raccoons may be using your attic or chimney as a nest, it’s best to consult a wildlife control professional for advice. Mating season for raccoons falls anywhere between January and June, and mothers typically give birth to between two and five kits in the spring.
Never, ever get near the nest, Williams warns. “Mother raccoons are extremely protective, and will attack you if you get between her and her young,” Williams says. “Depending on climate, raccoons typically give birth once a year and have babies between April and June. If a raccoon is inside the home (attic or crawlspace), do not enter that area without proper protective equipment, or call a professional to remove it.”
Separating a mother and her kits can lead to the babies starving and the mom causing more damage trying to return to her nest, according to Williams, so best to call in reinforcements.
“Raccoons are very powerful animals, so only seal up a home once you are certain that there are no more animals or babies inside the home," Williams says. "Raccoons also use scent marking behavior to mark territories. After an area is sealed, the interior should be cleaned, disinfected or sanitized, and deodorized to further discourage raccoons from trying to nest or harbor in the same areas again."
Call a humane wildlife removal expert
DIY removal can be tricky, and in many situations, a humane wildlife removal expert will be needed to safely address the issue. Raccoons can cause a lot of damage if you wait too long, so don’t hold off on contacting a humane wildlife control company near you if the DIY techniques fail.
“If in an attic or wall, they will destroy most types of insulation by compressing it, moving it around, or defecating and urinating on it,” Williams notes. “If they have access to electrical cables, water lines and ducting they can chew on, shred, pull apart or tear these utilities, which can be very costly to repair, and potentially very dangerous to the homeowner. They also risk bringing in other unwanted pests, such as fleas and ticks.”
Keep them from coming back
“Prevention is key,” Williams notes. “If raccoons are a common occurrence in your area, you need to make your property less attractive for them as a place to live.”
Cutting off their food supply is a good place to start. Don’t leave pet food outside where raccoons are likely to find it, and make sure your trash cans are securely sealed and raccoon-resistant (keep them inside until morning if possible).
Williams recommends repairing any openings in your home, roof or deck that could allow them entrance — gaps which might be smaller than you think. “A raccoon can fit through an opening the size of a softball,” Williams adds. “If there is easy tree access to roofs, you may want to cut back limbs to make it more difficult for raccoons to gain access.”
Raccoons are not pets
While raccoons look adorable, Williams stresses that one should never get too cozy with these critters. Raccoons can carry rabies — one more reason to address their presence in your home as soon as possible.
“While the likelihood of an individual raccoon having rabies is usually low, the hazards associated with rabies for humans and pets are too great to ignore,” Williams advises. “Raccoons don’t always exhibit classic signs of rabies exposure, so the fact that they are not foaming at the mouth or aggressive is not proof positive that they do not have rabies.”
Do not attempt to feed or pet a wild raccoon, even if he seems unafraid of humans (that could be a sign of sickness, notes Williams). In addition, do not pick up a baby raccoon, even if the mother is out of sight. If you see a raccoon acting strangely, call your local animal control service for help.