How To Get Rid of Raccoons
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Raccoons are usually classified as a pest species due to their habits of living in human dwellings. The most common complaints include the following:
For these reasons, many people wish to have this nuisance animal trapped and removed.
- Raccoons living in the attic
- Raccoons living in the chimney
- Tipping over garbage cans
- Stealing pet food or bird seed
- Sick, potentially rabid raccoon
- Presence is alarming dogs/pets
After you read the below information, in the event that you wish to hire a raccoon removal company, you may want to see how much does raccoon removal cost?
How to Get rid of them: The primary approaches are trapping, prevention, or repellents, as outlined and discussed below in detail.
Trapping: Trapping is always an option for wildlife removal. However, it's not always so cut and dry. Much of the time, simple trapping does not solve the problem. The majority of cases of do-it-yourself raccoon trapping have gone awry. It's common to catch the wrong
animal - a stray cat, a skunk, or opossum, or the wrong raccoon. You want your raccoon problem to go away - if the coon is tipping your garbage can, pooping in your pool, killing your ornamental fish or birds, or whatever. But if you trap, you want to be sure to get the right
animal, in the right way, and do it legally. It must be done correctly, with the right type of trap - one at least 12x12x32 to hold raccoons, and sturdy steel or solid-wall. Raccoons are very strong and crafty and have a way of breaking out of traps. Novices just get so many
things wrong. It took me years of trapping to learn to always get it right. So many little factors go into successful trapping. For more information read my raccoon trapping guide. You have to be conscious of the safety and welfare of the
animal, and relocate it at least ten miles away, in an acceptable location. It's probably against the law for you to trap and relocate raccoons if you are not licensed - it's illegal in most states. A properly licensed trapper, who knows wildlife and has experience, is
vaccinated against rabies, and who can do it safely and legally, is the best option.
Raccoons in the Attic: PLEASE do not try to trap and remove if you have raccoons in the attic. Nine times out of ten, there's baby raccoons up there! If you trap and remove the mother, you will have a BIG PROBLEM on your hands, and you will likely cause further house
damage, noise, suffering of cute little raccoons, and a terrible odor as the babies die and decompose. Click here for my special guide on How to Get Raccoons Out of an Attic, the most comprehensive guide to attic raccoon removal on the
web. This is not a job for homeowners! Call a pro!
Prevention: Now here's something anyone can do. Secure your garbage can and strap the lid down with bungee cords. If you want to get rid of raccoons in your yard, don't leave out pet food. Lock your doggie-doors.
If you want to get rid of raccoons in your house, make sure your house is secure, with no holes or openings into the attic. If they are getting
under the house or under the deck, you can install an exclusion barrier of steel mesh. And remove whatever is
attracting the raccoons - if they're pooping in the pool, put a board with spikes on the steps. If they're tearing their way into your screened porch to swipe at your pet bird, bring the bird inside! Common sense.
Top 10 Tips for How to Get Rid of Raccoons:
- If the raccoons are in your attic, inspect your house to identify the entry points.
- When raccoons live in your attic or any part of your house, it is almost always a female raccoon with a litter of babies. Be sure to remove the babies as well as the adult.
- You can sometimes intimidate a female and it will leave on its own with the young. Accomplish this via physical harassment and the use of raccoon eviction fluid.
- Remove the litter of baby raccoons by hand, place in a pillow case, and use them as "live bait" to lure the mother into a cage trap, in the back of a trap with a divider mechanism.
- When trapping, use a large sturdy steel cage trap, at least 12"x12"x32". Always set the trap in the shade, to prevent overheating. Make sure the trap is on a solid, level surface.
- Bait is not terribly important. Location of trap, and a sturdy set with proper tension matters more. However, avoid meat-based baits to prevent the capture of stray cats. Use marshmallows.
- If a raccoon is tipping over your garbage cans, either bring the cans indoors, or strap the lids down with bungee cords.
- If a raccoon is eating pet food or bird seed, you will need to temporarily remove these attractants from the outdoors for a period of weeks, until the raccoon gives up.
- If a raccoon is pooping in a swimming pool or trampling a garden, a physical deterrent, such as a board with nails pointing up, fencing, water sprayer, or shock track can keep them away.
- If it is legal for you to trap raccoons, and relocate them in your state, bring them at least ten miles away from the capture site to prevent them from returning.
RACCOON BEHAVIOR: Raccoons are talented animals, and very well-adapted to live in almost any setting with ample food and water sources - including urban and suburban
areas. Raccoons have a variety of skills that allow them to exhibit a variety of behaviors, most revolving around the basics: foraging for food and seeking shelter. Regarding the former, raccoons are omnivores, and
opportunistic. They will eat from garbage cans (which they open the lids of or tip over) and dumpsters (which they sometimes get stuck in), and they will often steal pet food. Dog or cat food left outside is pretty
much an open invitation to a raccoon, as the animal has no fear of any dog or cat, or oftentimes, human. If the pet food is indoors, the crafty raccoon will still get to it - they will rip open a screen to get inside
the patio where the food is laid out, and will often find the food storage, and break into that as well. I've frequently observed raccoons entering pet doors and eating the pet food inside the house. In one case, raccoons
were entering the pet door, going through the kitchen, down the hallway, across the living room, into the parlor, and up on the piano to the cat food bowl. Amazing! Raccoons are primarily nocturnal, so most of this mischief
happens at night.
RACCOON FACTS: Raccoons are common throughout North America. In fact, they are more common in urban areas than in rural areas. They tend to grow larger up north than down south. Northern
raccoons, up in the northern US and Canada can reach over 50 pounds. Down in the south, 20 pounds is large. They are well-known for their ringed tail and masked face. They are not really related to any other mammals. They are somewhat distant
relatives of bears. They are very strong for their size. They can swivel the hind feet around 180 degrees to descend a tree headfirst, and are excellent climbers. Raccoons usually give birth to 3-5 young in the spring. These young are very cute, as so some people are tempted
to seek pet raccoons, but their temperament isn't suitable for a pet. They are omnivores, and eat almost anything. They are nocturnal.
ARE THEY BAD ANIMALS? Certainly not. They can be described as cute and talented, and are well adapted to survive in both the forest and the city. They get into
trouble with people because they are so adaptable, clever, and handy. As with all animals, they usually just do what they need to do to survive. Oftentimes this means ripping a hole in your roof and living in your attic.
It's true that once inside, they can really trash the place and cause damage. They will usually rip up the duct work, tear the insulation off of pipes, rip up wires, trample or pull up the insulation, rip off any paper lining, and sometimes
even damage wood joists. The bigger problem may be the biohazardous contamination they cause. They urinate and defecate in the attic, and the droppings can contain raccoon roundworm - transferrable to humans, or diseases
such as canine distemper, transferrable to your pets. They also may bring in the fleas and other parasites associated with wild animals. It's just the way they are. They also get into trouble with those nimble hands.
They'll break into and open anything they can find, so people may find the trash cans knocked down, or the pet food bag in the garage ripped apart and other problems. They're usually just looking for food.
BUT DON'T THEY HAVE RABIES? Many people
seem to believe that all raccoons carry rabies - a disease that is highly misunderstood. First of all, rabies is a virus, contracted in via an infected animal - raccoons are not born with rabies any more than you are.
Second, if a raccoon does contract rabies, it's going to die. It doesn't just happily go about its business, ready to infect any person it comes close to. Third, the virus is only transferrable in the very short-lived
contagious stage, in which the animal is in the throes of death - walking in circles, hind legs possibly paralyzed, foaming at the mouth, etc. At this time, the virus is
transferrable via saliva. I, along with almost
every nuisance wildlife expert in the country, I'm sure, am called constantly with reports of rabid raccoons: "but I saw it outside in the daytime!". If it looked healthy, it didn't have contagious rabies. Sometimes
raccoons simply forage at night - after all, haven't you ever gotten out of bed for a midnight snack? Finally, for whatever reason, there's only been one documented case of rabies transmission from raccoon to human in
the US. Most cases of human infection are due to bats.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON CONFLICTS? The most common thing is a raccoon in an attic, or the soffit, which is under the eave around the perimeter of the attic.
They will also nest in the chimney, which is like a big hollow tree. I've seen
many cases of raccoons living and nesting inside the walls of homes, or even between floors, where they can be heard scratching and making noise in the ceiling. They will also
commonly live under a shed or porch, and if possible, under a house. Sometimes they just scratch, poop, and sleep on the roof. As stated, they'll also get into all sorts
of mischief around a house or property, from tipping garbage cans, to eating pet food, to killing ornamental fish in ponds, to pooping in the pool, ripping apart the screen, killing birds, etc.
HOW DO I REMOVE THEM MYSELF? There's a reason professional wildlife trapping companies exist. First of all, it's probably illegal for you to trap and remove
and relocate raccoons on your own in the state you live. In many states, because the raccoon is a rabies vector, it's often illegal to relocate them. Most private citizens don't have the means to humanely euthanize trapped wildlife and
properly dispose of or cremate the carcass. Other regional laws regarding wildlife trapping may prevent you from self-trapping as well. Second of all, for those that lack experience, mistake abound in raccoon capture. I've seen firsthand
my share of big mistakes - from catching non-target animals like the neighbor's cat, to setting the trap in the wrong area and seeing a trapped raccoon tear up adjacent screens or wires, to causing the animal to suffer,
to being badly bitten while attempting to move the trap. Sometimes wildlife trapping seems simple, but it's a science, and there's a lot of intangibles that a professional recognizes ahead of time, and a novice simply
does not know about. One of the biggest problems I see is that people have a raccoon in the attic, and set a trap on the ground or on the roof, and catch a raccoon, and drive it off to "the woods". The greatest danger in
this case is that the raccoon in the attic is a female with a nest of young - in fact, most raccoons in attics are females with young. If you remove the mother raccoon, she'll go on a desperate
trek of many miles back to your
attic, in order to get to her babies. She may fail and die, or she may make it back, and never enter a trap again. If she doesn't make it back, now you've got a bigger problem - four squealing young in your attic. They
will either cause damage, or suffer and die, and then cause a terrible stench in your home. The other problem I see from novices is non-target catches. That is, getting the wrong raccoon. In fact, pretty much every case
that I've observed in which homeowners try to do it themselves (like block off the hole - nice one! Now the raccoon just tears open a NEW hole) results in failure or animal cruelty. Please don't try to do it yourself,
cheapskate. You have a raccoon problem, you ought to deal with it correctly, for your own good and for that of the animal.
CAN'T I JUST USE A REPELLENT? Go ahead and try. In many of the jobs that I take on, the customer has already purchased all matter of magic "raccoon-b-gone"
or "coon-away" type raccoon repellents. These repellents are usually comprised of either
naphthalene (moth balls) or predator urine (fox or coyote) or ammonia. I've personally observed dozens of cases in which customers
have loaded their attics with these sorts of gimmicks, and it doesn't effect the raccoon's behavior one bit. There's certainly no such thing as a raccoon poison meant to kill raccoons.
As usual in wildlife control, there's no cheap and easy solution. Your best bet is to call out a professional.
Wondering how to get rid of raccoons? There is no magic spray or device that you can use to make them go away. Some people
try to sell predator urine, such as coyote or fox urine to get rid of raccoons, but that doesn't work. They also try to sell
ultrasonic sound emitters. These devices are worthless at eliminating raccoons. Some old wives' tales recommend the use of
mothballs or ammonia-soaked rags to make them leave, but I've been to countless homes where these techniques failed - biologists
know that these attempts won't work. The ONE AND ONLY WAY to take care of your problem is with trapping (tips here) and removal of the animals.
If you need to find a professional trapper in your hometown, just click our comprehensive list
of hundreds of wildlife removal professionals, and you can have your problem quickly taken care of!
- Avoid cage trapping when possible. Raccoons in cages become stressed and can injure themselves. A trapped mother raccoon can be separated from its babies, who will then starve to death. Rather than trap, attempt to eliminate whatever is attracting the raccoon to your property. Bring
pet food indoors, use fencing, bungee strap down the garbage can lids, seal the pet door, etc.
- If you must trap, and if a trap is set in the sun, they can deydrate and die of heat stroke. Always set the trap in a shady area, and check it diligently every morning, and relocate the animal as soon as possible.
- Relocation is stressful, on both the new animal and the existing animals in the area. Select your relocation point carefully, in an area with abundant resources and water.
- ALERT - if you have a raccoon in the attic, 90% of the time it is a female with a litter of babies. DO NOT simply trap the mother and remove her. The young in your attic will slowly starve to death over a period of up to two weeks, then decompose and cause an odor problem. Always
be sure to find and remove the young as part of the process.
- You don't always have to physically remove raccoons in the attic or chimney. How to Remove a Wild Animal in the Chimney. Sometimes you can simply harass them out. Make your presence known, use raccoon eviction fluid scent, and the mother may move the young out on her own.
- Prevention is always the best when it comes to wildlife control. Be sure you have no openings or vulnerable areas on your home that allow animals inside. Don't leave out pet food or garbage or fruit on the ground, etc.