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March 13, 2012

Getting Raccoons Out (and Keeping Them Out)

Bright lights, loud music, and wire mesh are the way to go

Adapted from the book Wild Neighbors

  • Evicting raccoons can result in separating dependent young from their mother if not done carefully. Eagle Eye Imaging/iStockphoto.com

  • Once raccoons have been successfully evicted, secure the entryway with 16-gauge wire mesh like this side attic vent. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • Some entry points will require metal flashing or sheet metal to repair. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • Prevent home-related conflicts by making needed exclusion repairs before the raccoons move in. Becky Crider

Before evicting raccoons from your house, you need to figure out how they're entering (that is, if you don't want them coming right back in).

Give your house a thorough inspection to find areas where raccoons could get in by viewing your house from the perspective of an animal looking for a den.

Is there anybody in there?

To determine if an opening is being used, block the hole loosely with wadded newspaper. Leave in place for two to three days.

If the newspaper goes undisturbed, and the weather has not been particularly cold or stormy, no one is using it as an entryway. If the newspaper is pushed out of place, someone has moved in.

Raccoon tenants

Once you know how they're getting in, find out if your unwanted guests happen to be a mother raccoon with young. If so, the best thing to do is wait a few weeks until the babies grow old enough to leave with their mother—they won't survive without her.

Don’t try to trap and relocate the family yourself. It almost always leads to separation (and probably death) of the young raccoons, unless done by a professional who knows how to reunite mothers with their offspring. The reunion approach allows the mother move her young to another den site at her own pace.

One-way doors

Some professionals 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 litters. The young must be old enough and mobile enough to exit through the one-way door with their mother, and this can be very hard to assess. 

Humane harassment to get them out 

If you know that you are dealing solely with adults, you can start using humane techniques to get them to leave on their own.

Start small. Gentle techniques may be all you need. Try bright lights, loud noises (set a loud battery-operated radio in the attic or in the fireplace), and unpleasant smells (try a bowl of cider vinegar at the base of the chimney). 
Combine techniques. Multisensory harassment works best: light, noise, and smell. 
Choose the right time—at dusk, right before the mother’s normal activity period. Don’t drive raccoons out during the day. Raccoons are primarily nocturnal, so they may be confused in daylight, and they are certainly more vulnerable.

Need more specifics? Get the details on how to deal with raccoons denning in attics and chimneys, hiding out in walls, ceilings, or crawl spaces, getting into your gardens or trash, coming in through your pet door, or raiding your birdfeeder.

Close all entries to keep them out

Convincing the raccoon to leave is only half the solution. The second step is to prevent raccoons (and other animals) from entering again. Many people put out a trap, catch the raccoon, and kill or relocate her. But unless you seal off entries into the house, there’s nothing to stop another animal from moving in.

Never close an entryway until you’re absolutely certain all the raccoons have left. For your own and the raccoon’s safety, you don’t want to trap a raccoon or her young inside your house.

Once you find possible points of entry, are sure no raccoons are inside, and have completed any necessary cleanup, cover all openings with heavy material, such as wire mesh, sheet metal, or metal flashing. The best wire mesh for the job is at least 16-gauge material (about 0.06 inches in diameter) with ½-inch openings.

A note about raccoon waste: In places where raccoons have lived for a long time, feces may have accumulated. Take care to avoid exposure to roundworm eggs, which can be found in raccoon feces. For safety’s sake, ideally, you should hire a professional service to clean up a raccoon latrineIf you must do the cleanup yourself, carefully follow guidelines established by the CDC for protecting yourself. 

Resources

» Purchase a copy of Wild Neighbors, the go-to guide for useful, humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife. 
» If you are located within the D.C. Metro Area, take advantage of our wildlife conflict resolution service.
» Read Dorcas MacClintock’s Natural History of Raccoons (Blackburn Press, 2003) to learn more. 

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