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Animals in the Attic - How to Get Them Out

The below guide should help you identify what type of animal or animals are living in the attic of your house. This guide also provides helpful advice and strategies to safely remove the wildlife from your attic, fix any damage they have caused, and prevent the problem from happening again.

After you read the below, learn more: Hire a Trapper in Your Town - How Much Does Wildlife Removal Cost? - Who Should I Hire? - How To Do it Yourself! - and I have plenty more links to help you. You can even email me with questions.

SQUIRRELS IN THE ATTIC
  The Eastern Gray Squirrel is the most commonly found nuisance animal in attics across America. If you've got a critter in your attic, it's likely squirrels. An attic is like a big-hollow tree to a squirrel - a great place to live in, raise young in, use insulation for nesting material, and chew on wood and electrical wires!

WHAT KIND OF NOISE DO THEY MAKE? If you hear noises during the daytime, you've probably got squirrels. Squirrels are most active in the morning and evening, so most people report hearing the sounds at that time. Squirrels are fast and light, so much of the noise sounds like fast scurrying or running, usually in the attic, near the edge of the roof, and sometimes in the walls or chimney. Some people report hearing the rolling of nuts. There will be no vocal noises heard.
HOW DID THEY GET IN MY ATTIC? They either chewed their way in, or they took advantage of an existing hole or gap in the architecture. Unscreened vents, both gable vents, roof vents, and soffit vents, make great entry points. The bottoms of eaves, where they meet against the roof, is a common entry hole. The gap at the edge of the roof behind the gutter is a popular spot. Squirrels almost always enter the house somewhere at roof level.
WHAT CLUES DO THEY LEAVE IN THE ATTIC? They leave trails through the insulation, usually not much more than three inches in diameter. They may leave a nest of debris somewhere, and this nest is sometimes large. They leave hundreds of small brown droppings, about 3/8 inch long, with smooth edges, like a little brown sausage. They also leave tracks in the dust, and they leave chewmarks on wood and wires.
WHAT TIME OF YEAR DO THEY ENTER ATTICS? Late summer and late winter. Female squirrels have two litters of young per year. The litter of four young takes about 4-5 weeks before they are large enough to start running around in the attic, and then the noise REALLY starts. This usually happens in September and March.
HOW DO I SOLVE THE PROBLEM? As with any animal, the best method is trapping, removal, and relocation of the squirrels. Humane cage traps, squirrel-sized, set at the edge of the roof, near the entry holes, are the best. Bait with peanut butter and whole peanuts. Or in some cases, exclusion with one-way exclusion doors will work, if the animals can't find or chew other ways in. There are no repellent products, such as a powder or spray, of mothballs or predator urine, that will do the trick, nor will high-pitch noise machines. You've got to actually physically remove the animals.
HOW DO I PREVENT NEW SQUIRRELS IN THE FUTURE? The most important step - once all the squirrels are gone, seal shut all the entry points, preferably with steel, which rodents can't chew through. It's also a good idea to clean the attic, and remove the nesting material and droppings, and fog/spray the attic with a biodigestor to eliminate the parasites and the scent the animals leave behind. Read more squirrels in attic tips here.

RATS AND MICE IN THE ATTIC
  Rats and mice are very common animals in attics, throughout much of the country. Roof Rats in particular, are very common in attics in warmer areas, and Norway Rats in cities. Mice are common in many areas as well. These small rodents can fit through tiny entry holes and infest an attic in large numbers. As rodents, they cause chewing problems, and can chew on electrical wires. They also spread diseases, and often climb down from the attic, down the walls, and into the house, in search of food in the kitchen or pet bowls.

WHAT KIND OF NOISE DO THEY MAKE? Mostly light scampering and running, across the ceiling or up and down the walls. Rats and mice are nocturnal, so the noise is almost always at night. Sometimes the period of most noise is right after dark, as they leave the attic to go forage for food and water.
HOW DID THEY GET IN MY ATTIC? Almost anywhere! Any small opening in the house, from the foundation to the top of the roof. In fact, they can even get in through sewer pipes if the water doesn't propery block the pipes. If you've got any openings, even as small as a quarter, rats will find their way in, and mice only need a dime-sized hole.
WHAT CLUES DO THEY LEAVE IN THE ATTIC? Lots of little brown droppings scattered all over the place, but mostly in their runways (such as seen in the above picture) and the areas they frequent the most. They leave little trails all throughout the insulation, and urine stains and brown fur grease stains.
WHAT TIME OF YEAR DO THEY ENTER ATTICS? All year 'round. But they do certainly have a tendency to seek out the warmth of homes and attics in the wintertime, so that's the peak season for rats and mice.
HOW DO I SOLVE THE PROBLEM? As with any animal, the best method is trapping of the rats. Snap traps are the best, in my opinion. Cage traps aren't practical. Poison is a very bad idea and very ineffective! Glue boards are inhumane and don't work well. Bait wooden rat traps with peanut butter, and most importantly, set the traps on the rat runways in the attic. But most importantly, the way to solve a rat or mouse problem is to find and seal shut every single last entry point leading into the house. Usually a seasoned pro is best at this type of work, if you want a PERMANENT solution. There are no repellent products, such as a powder or spray, of mothballs or predator urine, that will do the trick, nor will high-pitch noise machines. All that matters is the sealing shut of entry holes.
HOW DO I PREVENT NEW RATS OR MICE IN THE FUTURE? The most important step is, once again, to seal shut all the entry points, preferably with steel, which rodents can't chew through. It's also a good idea to clean the attic, and remove the nesting material and droppings, and fog/spray the attic with a biodigestor to eliminate the parasites and the phermomone scent the rats leave behind. Read more rat removal tips here.

RACCOONS IN THE ATTIC
  Raccoons are one of the most destructive animals to inhabit attics, because they are large and strong. They are crafty animals, and great climbers, and they can rip their way right through the roof and into the attic.  Most often, as seen to the left, a raccoon in the attic is a female with a litter of young.  It's important to find and remove the young before removing the adult.

WHAT KIND OF NOISE DO THEY MAKE? As large animals, the sounds are "heavier". You won't hear the quick pitter-patter of little feet. You'll hear heavy thumping and walking. Raccoons also make vocal noises, and baby raccoons, in particular, if they are in your attic, will make a very specific crying chatter. Raccoons are nocturnal, so most of the noise will come at night.
HOW DID THEY GET IN MY ATTIC? It's usually not hard to find a raccoon entry point - it's usually a large area, somewhere on the roof or eaves, and the raccoon has either torn a large hole or removed a vent cover. Raccoons usually use only one entry point.
WHAT CLUES DO THEY LEAVE IN THE ATTIC? Large poop and destruction, mostly. Sometimes raccoons will use one area of the attic as a latrine. They will sometimes rip open air ducts. They will often trample down large areas of insulation.
WHAT TIME OF YEAR DO THEY ENTER ATTICS? Most commonly in the spring, when female raccoons are searching for a safe place to raise young. March and April are the high season. But they can live in attics at any time of year, and will seek out the warmth of attics in the winter.
HOW DO I SOLVE THE PROBLEM? As with any animal, the best method is trapping, removal, and relocation of the raccoons. But it's very important to consider the likelihood of baby raccoons, which are there MOST OF THE TIME. The best tactic is to find and remove the baby raccoons and use them as live "bait" to catch the mom raccoon. Humane cage traps, raccoon-sized, set on the ground near the climbing points are the best. Bait with the baby raccoons or white bread or marshmallows. Or in some cases, exclusion with one-way exclusion doors will work, if the animals can't find other ways in, but this is rare in raccoon cases, because the animal can always tear open a new entry point. There are no repellent products, such as a powder or spray, of mothballs or predator urine (except raccoon eviction fluid in the case of a female raccoon with young), that will do the trick, nor will high-pitch noise machines. You've got to actually physically remove the animals.
HOW DO I PREVENT NEW RACCOONS IN THE FUTURE? It's a bit trickier with raccoons than with any other wildlife in attics, because they are so strong and determined. But be sure to seal shut all the entry points, preferably with steel. If there's no easy entry point, the raccoon will just move on to the next house. It's also a good idea to clean the attic, and remove the nesting material and droppings, and fog/spray the attic with a biodigestor to eliminate the parasites and the scent the animals leave behind. Read more raccoon removal tips here.

BATS IN THE ATTIC
  This can be one of the most serious and complex animals-in-attic cases. Sometimes a large colony of bats will infest the attic of a home or building. The number can be very large if it grows unchecked year over year. The bats leave large amounts of droppings, sometimes hundreds of pounds over time, which grow mold and can create lung diseases. The bats can also be very smelly and pose a rabies risk.

WHAT KIND OF NOISE DO THEY MAKE? If the group of bats is small, they will probably be silent, and you won't even notice them. The best way to find them out is by observing them exiting the building at dusk, or flying back in at dawn. However, if the  colony grows very large, they will start to make a big racket as they fight for space to get out at night.
HOW DID THEY GET IN MY ATTIC? Bats have very specific requirements about where they want to live.  They need a high space with clearance to fly in and out, and they like to enter a small gap, usually about a half inch, near the edge of a roof.  So a loose fascia board is a great spot, for example. Because they can fit into such small areas, they often can get in around the entire architecture of the house.
WHAT CLUES DO THEY LEAVE IN THE ATTIC? Lots and lots of poop, mostly, like piles of little brown grains of rice.  They also leave an unmistakable odor.
WHAT TIME OF YEAR DO THEY ENTER ATTICS? Any time of year, but most bat problems are from maternity colonies - a group of all-female bats, who have their young in early summer.  Most bat problems seem to climax in August, when the baby bats are able to fly, and start to crawl down the walls and get into the house, and the homeowner suddenly notices the bats, because the flying colony size has just doubled.
HOW DO I SOLVE THE PROBLEM? A bat problem requires a professional bat exclusion expert.  The job can often be complex.  The bats must be removed, and by law, none of them killed.  The pros use exclusion devices - often netting or funnels, that allow the bats to go out at night, but not fly back in.  The key to a successful bat exclusion is in the careful inspection of the architecture, and the sealing of all potential entry points. There are no repellent products, such as a powder or spray, of mothballs or predator urine, that will do the trick, nor will high-pitch noise machines.
HOW DO I PREVENT NEW BATS IN THE FUTURE? All that matters is that all entry points are sealed.  Bats can't chew or claw their way in, so sealants like caulk or foam sealant work fine.  It's also a good idea to clean the attic, and remove the droppings, and fog/spray the attic with a biodigestor to eliminate the parasites and the scent the bats leave behind. Read more bat removal tips here.

BIRDS/PIGEONS IN THE ATTIC
  Yes, pigeons often get inside attics.  If they do, they'll leave a ton of poop, such as seen in this photo to the left.  They also set up nests and leave a lot of nesting material and parasites.

WHAT KIND OF NOISE DO THEY MAKE? Rustling and cooing, mostly, and most of the noise is heard during the daytime.

HOW DID THEY GET IN MY ATTIC? They flew in, duh.  Well, they needed a hole or a gap to get in.  They don't peck their way in, so they take advantage of architecture gaps, such as the gap where eaves meet roof.

WHAT CLUES DO THEY LEAVE IN THE ATTIC? Lots of poop, and feathers and nests.
WHAT TIME OF YEAR DO THEY ENTER ATTICS? All year round.
HOW DO I SOLVE THE PROBLEM? Pigeons can be a bit tricky.  The best way is to set up one-way exclusion devices that the pigeons can go out through, but not back in.  The can also often be chased out of the attic with a leaf blower, if you are persistent, but this technique is hard, because they usually just fly or run to a different part of the attic. There are no repellent products, such as a powder or spray, of mothballs or predator urine, that will do the trick, nor will high-pitch noise machines.
HOW DO I PREVENT NEW PIGEONS IN THE FUTURE? The most important step - once all the birds are gone, seal shut all the entry points. It's also a good idea to clean the attic, and remove the nesting material and droppings, and fog/spray the attic with a cleaner to eliminate the parasites and the scent the animals leave behind. Read more bird removal tips here.

OPOSSUM IN THE ATTIC
  Opossums commonly get inside attics.  Sometimes it's a female possum with young, such as seen in this photo to the left, and sometimes it's a group of adult opossums that enter an attic for warmth in the winter.

WHAT KIND OF NOISE DO THEY MAKE? Not much, actually.  Although they are large, they are pretty slow and quiet.  The noises, if you do hear them, will sound somewhat slow and heavy, basically.  They are nocturnal animals in the attic, so the noise will be at night.

HOW DID THEY GET IN MY ATTIC? Opossums are great climbers, and they are opportunistic, so they just climbed right on up to the roof area and crawled in an open gap somewhere.  They won't claw or chew their way in, but might push through a smallish opening.
HOW DID THEY GET IN MY ATTIC? Opossums are great climbers, and they are opportunistic, so they just climbed right on up to the roof area and crawled in an open gap somewhere.  They won't claw or chew their way in.
WHAT CLUES DO THEY LEAVE IN THE ATTIC? Lots of really big turds!  The below poop in attic photograph is from opossums living in the attic.  Plus trails in the insulation.
WHAT TIME OF YEAR DO THEY ENTER ATTICS? Usually in June, if it's a female with young, or wintertime if it's a group of adults.
HOW DO I SOLVE THE PROBLEM? As with any animal, the best method is trapping, removal, and relocation of the animals. Humane cage traps are the best. Bait with anything, though non meant-based bait is best. Or in some cases, exclusion with one-way exclusion doors will work, if the animals can't find or chew other ways in. There are no repellent products, such as a powder or spray, of mothballs or predator urine, that will do the trick, nor will high-pitch noise machines. You've got to actually physically remove the animals.
HOW DO I PREVENT NEW OPOSSUMS IN THE FUTURE? The most important step - once all the possums are gone, seal shut all the entry points, preferably with steel.. It's also a good idea to clean the attic, and remove the droppings, and fog/spray the attic with a biodigestor to eliminate the parasites and the scent the animals leave behind. Read more opossum removal tips here.

SNAKE IN THE ATTIC
  Snakes in the attic are relatively rare.  They are most commonly rat snakes, such as this Yellow Rat Snake pictured here, that I removed from an attic.  The reason snakes go into the attic is because you have rats or mice in the attic, and the snake smelled them, and crawled up into the attic for a meal.

WHAT KIND OF NOISE DO THEY MAKE? Believe it or not, in the case of this snake, the customer described hearing "slithering noises" in the attic, and lo and behold, I found a snake!

HOW DID THEY GET IN MY ATTIC? Some snakes, not all, but the rat snakes especially, are great climbers.  And of course, they can fit through tiny holes, usually wherever the rats or mice are entering the attic.
WHAT CLUES DO THEY LEAVE IN THE ATTIC? Not much, other than shed snake skins.
WHAT TIME OF YEAR DO THEY ENTER ATTICS? Whenever the rats and mice are up there - basically, any time.
HOW DO I SOLVE THE PROBLEM? Get rid of your rodent in attic problem, and you take care of your snake in attic problem.  Snake traps also work well inside attics.
HOW DO I PREVENT NEW SNAKES IN THE FUTURE? Once again, get rid of the rodent problem first.  Seal up all entry points to keep rats and mice out, and you'll keep all snakes out. Read more snake removal tips here.

ANIMAL POOP IN THE ATTIC
  If you've had animals living in your attic, then you've got critter poop and pee in your attic. It's important to clean it up for several reasons:
  • The poop and pee is unsanitary in general, and can smell bad
  • The poop and pee can grow mold, which can cause wood rot
  • The contamination can cause human diseases, such as histoplasmosis, salmonella, or raccoon roundworm infection
  • The animals can leave parasites that can infect your pets
  • The scent of animals in the attic, from droppings, urine, grease, and pheromones, can attract new wildlife to enter the attic.
For more information on attic cleanup, see my full attic restoration page.

WIRE CHEWING IN THE ATTIC
  It's especially important to get rid of animals in the attic because of the damage that they can cause. It's not just the animal waste, it's their destructive tendencies. Raccoons will often tear up the entire ductwork system in an attic. They will rip open vents and tear off the insulation paper or insulation around piping. Rodents can be even worse, because they always gnaw and chew to keep their teeth in check. Rats, mice, and squirrels chew on wood, but worse, electrical wires, such as seen in the picture to the left. This can pose a fire risk, especially if the exposed wire touches any of the wooden beams in the attic. Wire chewing can also cause electrical outages, or cause security systems to go off, which is something I've seen several times.  And if you've got PVC water pipes in the attic, watch out - you'll surely end up with a water leak when rodents chew the pipes.

This page should have instructed you of how to identify (by noises for example) what type of critter problem you have, and how to remove wildlife in the attic. How to get animals out of the attic - for the most part, it is not a simple solution. Although many cheap products can be found that claim to work, they are a waste of money. And while you're dinking around with them, the animals are causing more contamination and damage in the attic. Some trapping jobs are simple, but removal of wildlife from attics is usually an involved process that requires important steps like identification, removal of baby animals proper trap or exclusion device setup in conjunction with the sealing of secondary access holes, sealing of every last potential hole on the house after the animals are out, and biohazard cleanup. I recommend that you hire a pro if you've got animals in the attic.

Here are some example emails that people have written me with animals in their attics:

David: Thank you so much for taking the time to write up all of the information on raccoon in the attic. We have a one-story home in a Miami suburb and had a raccoon enter our home tonight through a soffit (which is easily reached by the an adjacent wood fence). This was extremely upsetting given that this happened to us two weeks shy of a year ago! We were lucky last year because the raccoon did not have her babies and left after a noisy one night stay. We paid a wildlife expert a lot of money for him to confirm that the raccoon was gone after her one-night stay, and he sealed the two soffits with a steel wire grate material....which he said would be enough to prevent this from happening again.... Well.....tonight, while I was away from home doing an errand, I came home and my husband said "we have a big problem" He said he heard a really loud noise, looked out the window and saw a raccoon rip off the metal wire grate and go into the soffit. Strangely, and unlike the last raccoon we had a year ago, he said he did not hear any noise after the raccoon entered the soffit. He said he hit the ceiling to make noise to scare it out, then went to the attic opening (in the same bedroom adjacent to the soffit where she entered) and lifted up the opening with a broomstick and made noise...even held a flashlight up and waved it around. He said there's a chance it left, but he doubts it. One important note, we can't make a lot of noise tonight because we have two little girls that were sleeping at the time of this event!! In fact, one woke up when my husband made his rukis right after the raccoon entered the attic. I love animals and would love to give them a warm home on a cold night (it's coldddd here tonight) but the last one was so noisy walking around and I don't want it to pea and do other things to my attic!! Being woke up at 4:30 am last year is just too painful to relive. So, I will call the wildlife removal person (who addressed this problem last time) in the morning. In the meantime, I went outside and stuffed (with a broomstick) a few sheets of white tissue paper (the kid used for gift wrap) in the soffit, so that I can tell if the thing leaves or not. I remember the wildilfe removal guy stuffed newspaper up there last time to see if the raccoon would come back for babies...(I saw the raccoon leave through the soffit last time so he just had to make sure it didn't come back...which I didn't). Once this is resolved, we are going to seal the entry soffit completely, ot with solid metal so this never happens again...... If you have any other advice, I would be extremely grateful.... Thanks so much in advance, Lori from Miami

Hi David, Hope you can help. A squirrel got into my soffit or attic. I called some good professionals, they put in a one way door trap. The squirrel left. All the corners of my house were sealed with a stainless wire mesh doubled. The squirrel has been working on that wire to get into another corner. This started the first week in December, and probably before she had any babies. Now some six weeks later, she comes to my attic, makes a lot of noise trying to rip up the steel mesh. I bang on the windows, and I see her go back down. It's the same squirrel, I'm pretty sure. She's now larger, and probably ready to give birth. She takes the same path, over a fence and climbs up the brick wall of my home. The company I used has come down several times, and even added another layer of wire. So far, I don't think she has gotten in, but she's determined. How can I stop this? The corner is over my bedroom, and she's coming by at about 8 a.m., and I hear her making a racket when she's working on ripping out the wires. We've been in the attic, and there is no nest, no babies, and I think the smell is from last year. So, she hasn't succeeded yet, I don't think. Thank you.

David, My attic insulation, drywall, HVAC ducts and unit, electrical wiring, soffit and vents etc. have been destroyed by raccoon. I have trapped and or killed seven thus far but they seem to continue to wreak havoc to my home. I have contacted the insurance company and they have looked at the damage. I put together with the help of a contractor cost to repair but both of us are unsure of how to protect my family from the health issues caused by the raccoons. The pictures on your website are no where near as bad as my attic. Do you take on projects to thoroughly clean the attics and if so how can we deal with the insurance company? Please contact me to discuss this further. Thanks, Mac
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