Raccoons in the Attic – Guide to Safe Removal
The below guide is written by a naturalist and wildlife removal specialist with many years of experience and hundreds of cases of safe and humane removal of wild animals from homes and buildings. This guide provides the information needed to understand and solve a problem with raccoons living inside the attic of a home.
So! You have a raccoon (or multiple raccoons) in the attic of your home. Most people become aware that an animal is living in their attic when they hear scampering, scratching, or walking noises above the ceiling. A wide variety of animals choose to live in the attics of buildings, from rats and mice, bats and pigeons, squirrels, opossums, and of course raccoons. Most of these animals will oftentimes use other areas of the home as well, from the soffits to the wall voids to the space between floors, so the attic is not the only area you’ll find critters.
How To Get Rid of Raccoons in the Attic: The main principle is that you’ve got to first find out if there’s a litter of baby raccoons (almost always yes), then remove the babies and trap the adult female, and then find out how they raccoon(s) got inside the attic, and after they are all out, seal the entry holes shut. Cleaning up raccoon waste afterward is also a good idea. Below I discuss the details of the process, and it is rarely easy.
Raccoon Noises: It’s often possible to determine the type of animal by the noises alone. Raccoons are the largest of these animals, so the sound is often “heavy” – more like thumping or walking than the light scurrying of a rat. Additionally, raccoons are primarily nocturnal, so the noises occur at night. Most of the noise might happen shortly after dusk, when the animal leaves the attic, and again sometime in the night when it returns. However, the timing of the noise may vary, and sometimes raccoons will stir during the daytime. In addition, raccoons are often vocal, and it’s possible to hear their various growls, chirps, cries, and other noises. If there’s a raccoon family, consisting of a female and a litter of baby raccoons, you will very often hear the very distinct and unique crying and whining of the babies, surefire evidence of raccoon presence.
Raccoon Sightings: Many people with a raccoon in the attic see the animal. It’s a large critter, and it doesn’t exactly hide its presence with swift and silent movements, like a rat. Raccoons are also often active in the daytime, especially ones living in an attic (see below), so it’s very common for people with a raccoon in the attic to actually see the animal, as it climbs up the downspout and onto the roof, or sniffs through the garbage can.
HOW TO IDENTIFY AND GET RID OF RACCOONS
WHAT ARE RACCOONS?
Raccoons (Procyon lotor) have masks over their eyes because they could rob even a bank vault. These resourceful animals are second in persistence and imagination to no other animal (unless it’s a squirrel at a bird feeder).
Raccoons are great climbers, swimmers, jumpers, and runners. Their five-toed paws make them very dexterous, and their agility can allow them to outsmart every human concoction used to deter them. If they aren’t breaking into your garden, they might try to climb into your chimney to use it as a den.
WHAT DO RACCOONS EAT?
Raccoons are nocturnal and omnivorous, meaning they eat anything from grubs to crayfish, as well as all the plants and vegetables that you have in your garden, too. Especially in the fall, they develop a taste for fruits like apples, peaches, and pears, but they also enjoy a variety of vegetables, like sweet corn, potatoes, and peas.
HOW TO IDENTIFY RACCOONS
Raccoons are small mammals 2 to 3 feet in length and weighing about 10 to 30 pounds. Raccoons have distinct black “masks” on their faces, which often characterizes them as bandits. They have fluffy, ringed tails and their bodies are varying shades of gray, with hints of light brown. The forepaws of raccoons resemble tiny human hands with five toes, which makes raccoons very dexterous.
If your lawn has a lot of holes in it, or your mulch pile has a lot of holes, you probably have a nightly visitor. Raccoons will dig up lawns and mulch piles looking for insects to eat. They will also empty bird feeders, so keep an eye on your feeders to see if you have a raccoon problem. Additionally, raccoons are known to raid chicken coops, stealing eggs and even killing chickens.
Crucial steps to get raccoons out of your attic
How do we get raccoons out of the attic?
So, you’ve got guests. They are uninvited, unwelcome, and totally unpleasant. They are raccoons… and, unfortunately, they will not leave by themselves. You’ve got a problem. You need raccoon control.
Your evenings are disrupted by heavy thumping on the ceiling while growling and scratching noises wakes you up at night. The trash can is often tipped over, and your garden is spoiled by raids of your unwelcome guests. These are common annoyances when raccoons are around your property. But they have more surprises in store for you.
Having large critters roaming your house is no doubt a creepy feeling, but what goes on behind the scenes is even more disturbing. Your attic, pipes, ductwork, and insulation are relentlessly destroyed every passing day.
Once you get raccoons in your house, you have just one priority: You need to get those raccoons out of your attic immediately! There is no time to waste unless you want to see big money flying out of your pocket.
The good news is that you can get raccoons out of your attic, prevent them from coming back and find your peace of mind again. The bad news, on the other hand, is that this is not an easy job. It requires time and expertise and is hardly ever a DIY task. Most likely, you will need professional help to take care of the matter, restore and repair your house and prevent them from coming back again.
How To Get Raccoons Out of Your Attic
The first sign of raccoons in the attic is the noise – you probably hear thumping or walking at night. You might also hear vocal noises from the adult or from a nest of baby raccoons. Here’s the deal with raccoons in the attic: there’s almost always a female who has a nest of 3-5 baby raccoons. That’s why she went into the attic in the first place. Raccoons don’t have much use for your attic otherwise
The most common time of year for this is spring, with the peak time from March-May, but I’ve seen baby raccoons at many different times of the year. A raccoon is a large animal, and a strong and messy animal. They need a large entry hole (or holes) to get into your home, and they can rip right through shingles and wood roof. Once in an attic, they can tear up ducts and wires, trample insulation, and leave piles of large droppings behind
They will stay in the attic for maybe 8 months, until the young are big and strong enough to make it on their own, at which time the female will likely mate again and want to use your attic once more. You want to remove raccoons from your attic, but it’s not very easy. You have to get the nest of baby raccoons.
If you don’t, they will scratch and claw and maybe make their way through your ceiling, or they will scream for up to two weeks and then die of starvation and decompose and cause a big odor problem. It’s very inhumane to not get the baby raccoons. Be sure you handle this delicate situation correctly! If you want to hire someone to do this.
Is there a nest of baby raccoons? Yes. Pretty much every time raccoons are in the attic, it’s a single female who has a litter of young. This most commonly happens in the springtime, and the number of young is usually 3-5, and they will stay in the attic for most of the year, until the young are big enough to fend for themselves, at which time they will move out and leave the territory. If you remove just the female raccoon and not the litter of young, you will have a problem
Raccoon Control: How to Get Rid of Raccoons
While the common pests that homeowners usually deal with during the times of the year where it’s starting to get cooler are rats and mice, another common nuisance that should not be overlooked during fall or winter time is wildlife like the Raccoon.
More commonly found in woodsy regions in the Eastern United States, a Raccoon problem can creep up anywhere in the country and if you happen to have one decide to hang around your neighborhood, you may be in for a lot of destruction.
There is a reason Raccoons are considered wildlife, because they can get pretty wild around the home and can give homeowners fits by knocking over trash cans, eating bird feed and scratching and clawing all over the place in search of food. They have been known to damage gardens and tear off shingles and boards in their attempt to get into crawl spaces in homes, finding their way into attics, basements, and garages.
Before considering a treatment approach, you need to make sure that the wild animal lurking on your property is a Raccoon. This will ensure that you are using the correct bait and strategies.
Raccoons are generally 12 inches tall and 24 to 38 inches long.
Raccoons are distinctive; they have gray fur, a ring-striped tail and black markings on their faces which resemble a mask.
They normally weigh between 15 and 25 pounds and are intelligent animals.
They have large droppings similar to dogs.
Raccoons are nocturnal and at times can be particularly aggressive wild animals. Take caution when approaching or handling this animal.
Raccoons are excellent climbers and are able to swim.
Where to Inspect
Raccoons are most likely in your attic looking for food, shelter, or both. If you have any clutter or storage bins in your attic, they are most likely burrowing in these particular spots. Raccoons may also be in basements or garages where trash is stored, as well as areas with clutter or pet food will most likely be spots where raccoons are most active. Search the corners and crevices as well.