What to do about raccoons

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How can I get raccoons out of my house, attic or chimney?

Occasionally, a raccoon may accidentally enter your home through a pet door or other entryway with no intention of staying. Otherwise, raccoons mate in late winter and use a wide range of natural and manmade den and resting sites that may include unprotected attics and chimneys.

Raccoon kits are not physically able to leave your house, attic or chimney with mom until they’re about 10 weeks of age, so trapping and relocating mom or driving mom away may leave you with a bigger issue. You may need to hire a humane wildlife professional to assess if your raccoon has kits, and if so, if they’re old and mobile enough to leave with her.

Raccoons in your home by accident

Never try to catch or directly handle a raccoon. A panicked and scared raccoon may bite. The raccoon is going to be mainly concerned about getting back outside, which is helpful—you just need to show them the way!

  1. Stay calm. A panicked raccoon may run further inside your house and may cause damage.
  2. Contain pets in rooms away from the raccoon.
  3. Close doors to other parts of the house.
  4. Open doors and windows that lead outside. (A chair under a window will help the raccoon jump up.)
  5. Make a trail of marshmallows, cheese bits or fig bars leading out an open door. Move quietly and slowly and try to nudge them back out by walking behind them with a vacuum cleaner or broom.
  6. If that doesn’t work, leave the room and wait quietly for the raccoon to escape.
  7. If the raccoon doesn’t leave after you’ve tried for several hours, call your local animal control officer for assistance.
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Raccoons in your attic, crawl space, etc.

First, figure out how your raccoon is getting in and out. Inspect your house to find entry points by viewing your house from the perspective of an animal looking for a den. Raccoons often find their way into attics at entry points where different building materials join; this might be where dormer junctions occur, where unpainted trim board creates structural defects, or where the building material itself is pliant, such as where vinyl soffits have been used.

Humanely harass your unwanted tenant at dusk with a combination of bright lights, loud noises and strong smells, such as a bowl of cider vinegar. Once you’re certain they’re all gone, cover available entry points with 16-gauge wire mesh or metal flashing to prevent future wildlife from moving in. If raccoons have occupied the space for a long time and feces have accumulated, follow the Center for Disease Control’s removal recommendations or hire cleanup professionals to safely clean the latrine area.

Some people use a “one-way door” to get raccoons out of attics or crawl spaces. Once the animals have left, they’re unable to get back inside. Use of these doors is best left to professionals, who can make sure that mothers are not isolated from their kits. The young must be old and mobile enough to exit through the one-way door with their mother, and this can be very hard to assess.

Raccoons in your chimney

An uncapped chimney is a perfect nursery for mother raccoons. Never try to smoke them out, as kits and mom are often trapped and die from smoke inhalation, making your removal problem far worse. The most effective and humane approach is to wait until after they move out, which they will, allowing you to install a chimney cap to prevent future issues.

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If waiting isn’t an option, hire a humane wildlife professional who will keep the raccoon family intact and release within their home range using an eviction, exclusion and reunion strategy. As soon as the raccoons are gone, call a certified chimney sweep to clean your chimney of all nesting debris, and install a chimney cap.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>