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March 13, 2012

Raccoons in Walls, Ceilings, and Crawl Spaces

Looking for homes in all the wrong places

Adapted from the book Wild Neighbors

  • Although they may wind up in a wall or ceiling, raccoons get into buildings from an opening on the exterior. John Griffin/The HSUS

  • More often than not, if you find chewed wiring, a raccoon is not the culprit. John Griffin/The HSUS

While chimneys and attics are common raccoon homes, a resourceful raccoon can make a den just about anywhere in your house.

Ceiling or walls

You may hear a raccoon above ceiling tiles in your house, or one may work her way down into wall voids from the attic or through an external entry hole. Sometimes a baby raccoon in an attic falls into a void and becomes trapped.

Solution
Rapping on the wall or ceiling at the spot where the sound is heard is a good way to check how mobile the animal is, and thus, whether likely to be an adult or dependent young.

When raccoons are heard in such difficult to access places, a professional should be hired to search for young. If there are no dependent young, you can use mild harassment to encourage an adult animal to leave.

Ducts

Raccoons may use ductwork to explore or (less often) to den, and they can sometimes become trapped.

Solution
This requires a professional inspection, and ductwork may have to be taken apart to rescue the animal. Call a local wildlife professional or wildlife rehabber to have someone stand by to assist with humane removal of the raccoon.

Crawl spaces

Raccoons may explore or attempt to live in crawl spaces, and sometimes use them as dens in which to bear and raise their young. Problems that can occur include the accumulation of raccoon waste in latrines and structural damage as, for example, when insulation is pulled down.

Solution
Depending upon the circumstances, including the age of raccoons involved, you may need to wait until the young can leave with their mother and/or hire professionals who can humanely evict the animals while keeping the raccoon family intact.

Depending upon the nature of the space and the amount of feces accumulated, it may be safest to get professional assistance with cleanup of a raccoon latrine before attempting other repairs.

Damage to electrical wiring

Raccoons can chew on wires, but it isn't typical behavior. Presence of wire damage more likely indicates the work of squirrels.

Solution
In any case, if wires have been chewed or climbed upon, have an electrician inspect and repair as needed. 

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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