Raccoons have adapted to living with humans. Sometimes they take the next step and move in to live among us as well. Those fluffy masked bandits that look cute and cuddly are anything but. Despite their innocent looks, they are dangerous and can carry diseases.
If raccoons decide to stay in your house, you should avoid any confrontation with them. Instead, you can try to flush them out, repel them, annoy them with bright lights and music, trap them, or even use motion-activated sprinklers to chase them away and make them feel unwelcome. If all else fails, you might have to hire professional experts to remove them from your property.
Whatever you do, don’t try to confront them. Raccoons are wild animals at heart and they wouldn’t hesitate to attack you even if you were only defending your house. They’re also very territorial and once they move in, your home becomes their home and you and your family become the intruders who have to justify your presence at the house. So how can you tell if you have a raccoon infestation in your house and what can you do about it?
The Telltale Signs You Have a Raccoon in Your House
Raccoons are nocturnal animals. Their active hours extend from sundown all the way to the early hours of the morning. But they’re not the only visitors you can get after dusk. Rats, bats, and stray animals like to look for food around this time as well. So how do you know your unwanted guests are actually raccoons?
The first sign you’ll notice is all the noise they make. Late at night when all goes quiet, you will start to hear rummaging, clawing, growling, and things being tossed around. Rats are usually more discreet than that and bats don’t make a sound at all. So you must be dealing with a larger animal.
In the morning you can see their paw prints everywhere. They are unique prints and quite similar to a human hand. You might also come across their scat in the yard or on the roof or attic. But the biggest sign raccoons favor your house is the damage they leave behind. Raccoons like to tear holes in the roof to gain access to your home.
A Raccoon is Not a Pet
When you discover you have a raccoon in your house, your first impulse might be to adopt the animal. No matter what a great animal lover you are or how lonely you feel, adopting a raccoon is a grave mistake. Raccoons don’t get along with humans at all.
Yes, they’re furry animals with an adorable mask and don’t look very much different from a small dog. But as we’ll see later, raccoons are wild animals who pose a health risk to you and your family. Moreover, a raccoon won’t get along with any other pets you have at home. It might scare your dog, attack your cat, and kick your bunny out of the place altogether.
Even if the raccoon looks tame and friendly (which can be a sign it is sick), keeping it as a pet is high maintenance. These animals have a destructive streak, they’re master thieves and tend to bite a lot even when unprovoked. Not to mention that in certain states it’s illegal to own one.
Why do Raccoons Come to Your House?
Now that we have established that raccoons are not pets who come to your house looking for companionship, it’s time to know the real reasons they raid your place. Just like any wild animal what attracts raccoons to your home is usually food, shelter, or water.
We’ll start with food. In their natural habitat near waterways, raccoons feast on frogs, fish, snails, clams, and crayfish. But since they’re great at adapting, they can subsist on vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts, and insects. All of which they can find in abundance at your home. Pet food is not off-limits to them nor is the trash.
Then there’s water. Raccoons are attracted to ponds, puddles, fountains, and leaky pipes. If you have pets, then they’ll find water in the pet water dishes. They are as resourceful as they are sneaky. And there’s nothing that can stop them.
Even if you cover your trash cans and make sure the whole house is both food-free and dry as a bone, raccoons might take a shine to the place simply because they need to place to stay and raise a family.
How to Get Raccoons to Leave
When raccoons take a liking to your home, you really can’t let them have their away. We’ve already seen the type of danger they pose to everyone in the house including the pets. But rather than confronting them and risk getting bitten by a rabid raccoon, you should consider other ways to kick them out.
Depending on which part of the house they are holed in, you’ll have to choose from several strategies that will rid you of the pesky animals. The following lists the common parts of the house raccoons prefer and the humane ways you can use to convince them their stay is not welcome.
How to Get Raccoons Out of Your Attic
If a raccoon finds its way to your attic, most likely it’s a mother with a litter. This is both good and bad. It’s bad because it means the mother raccoon will be your uninvited guest for a long while; at least until the babies grow. And the good news is, it makes your plan to evict the raccoons much easier.
There are two ways you can approach this problem. Either trap the raccoon and her babies and move them to the wild, or make the raccoon’s stay as uncomfortable and annoying as possible until she leaves.
We’ll focus on the traps here and cover the other methods in other sections below. To trap the raccoon you’ll need to get the babies first. Use thick gloves and take a pillowcase to the attic. If you sit quietly for a while you’ll hear the babies whimpering. Put them in the pillowcase and take them down.
The next part involves a metal cage that you can find in any hardware store. Place the babies at the end of the cage and wait for the mother to come looking for them. Once she’s in, the trap will shut. Now you can call your local animal control to take care of relocating the mother and her babies.
How to Get Raccoons Out of the Garage
Just as with the attic, garages are tempting accommodations for raccoons. Mostly it’s mothers with babies who like garages. They’re dark, warm, and sheltered. We talked about trapping the animal in the previous section. So let’s talk about other less invasive strategies here.
What you’ll be doing is making the garage as unpleasant as possible to the family of freeloader raccoons in there. You can use either light, sound, or smell. Or use all of them if you like. Light is the easiest of the three methods to devise and execute.
Since raccoons are nocturnal, they like the dark. Whether they’re foraging for food or sleeping, they like it as dim as possible. Your job is to make their den as bright as possible. An outdoor spotlight will do nicely. Place it at the entrance of the den so the raccoon will pass it on the way out and in. If the light can penetrate the depth of the den, that will help the animal make up its mind to abandon the premises sooner.
How to Get Raccoons Out of the Yard
Raccoons in your yard can mean a lot of trouble. It means there will be plenty of opportunities for fights between the invaders and your pets. Fighting over food and water will be a common daily occurrence. Call it a turf war if you like. And just as fights between gangs, this one has grave consequences.
To chase the raccoons out of your yard and your life, you can try any of the methods we covered above. Or you can give them the smell treatment. Like most wild animals, raccoons have a keen sense of smell. And even though they love the trash, certain smells turn them away.
The aromas of ammonia and apple cider vinegar in particular seem to be effective. Soak rags in either liquid, drop it in a plastic bag and punch some holes in the bag. Now slip that biological weapon down the entrance of the den and watch the rascals vacate the premises in a hurry.
How to Get Raccoons Out of the Chimney
Chimneys attract raccoons like no other place in your house. They’re dark, warm, and rarely used. Better yet, they’re far away from human reach which makes them a safe place to raise a raccoon family.
When a raccoon takes hold of your chimney, it can be difficult to kick them out. Remember, we’re talking about humane ways to persuade the animals to leave your property. So starting a fire in the fireplace is both cruel and unnecessary. There are babies in that chimney.
Instead you can opt for the noise strategy. The chimney is narrow and sounds get trapped and amplified there. Raccoons don’t like the sound of the human voice. So keeping a radio on in the fireplace will convince them this chimney is not the best place to get some rest, let alone have a family. Don’t forget to seal off the chimney after they’re gone.
How to Get Raccoons Out of the Roof
Besides the chimney, the roof is the second most favorite piece of real estate for raccoons. As adept climbers, the nimble animals prefer the roof away from dogs and any pets you have in the house. Not to mention that roofs are vulnerable and easy to penetrate.
Raccoons find their way into the roof by punching a hole in the soffit. Soffits are made of vinyl or aluminum and once in, the raccoon can get to the attic and make itself right at home. So in reality the raccoons are just using the roof as an entry point into your house.
To get rid of them, just follow the same instructions in the attic section. After you have successfully evacuated the raccoons, make sure to repair the roof and seal off the hole the raccoons made to enter the attic. You might want to bolt the eave for good measure to make the roof raccoon-proof.
Common Facts and Misconceptions about Raccoons
Apart from mistaking them for pets, many people don’t take the problem of raccoons too seriously. So let’s clarify a few points about these animals and answer some common questions you might have before we get to the issue of removing them from your house.
Do Raccoons Carry a Disease?
Raccoons can either transmit diseases, such as rabies, or carry insects that spread infectious diseases. Either way, you have to be careful when getting in contact with these ferocious animals. In fact, it’s advisable you don’t confront them or touch them if you can help it.
Even if the animal itself isn’t rabid, there’s a chance its usual load of fleas, ticks, and lice are actually infected. A raccoon in your house means you and your family could be exposed to various diseases and infections if bitten by these insects.
It’s not only that. But raccoon droppings are a hazard as well. They have roundworm eggs which can infect children and cause blindness or death. If you or anyone in your family has been bitten by a raccoon, you should seek medical help immediately.
Are Raccoons Dangerous?
If the risk of transmitting diseases and carrying infected insects around isn’t enough, raccoons are known to act with hostility and attack both humans and other animals. You don’t have to get in the way or threaten a raccoon to be attacked either. Even if you’re in your home minding your own business, you can’t be safe from their aggressiveness.
In recent years there have been reports of raccoons attacking pets with dire consequences. Since pets, especially a cat and a raccoon get active at nighttime, it’s not uncommon for both animals to get into a conflict. In addition, cats, being the territorial animals they are, would chase a raccoon off the property. When a raccoon feels trapped it would attack and possibly hurt the cat.
Besides the health risks, raccoons are not the best-behaved guests. Once they enter a house, they make themselves at home. Their paws are similar to human hands and with their fingers, they can pry open almost anything in your home. The trail of destruction they leave in their wake will make you think a tornado had passed through the area.
Do All Raccoons Have Rabies?
Thankfully, not all raccoons have rabies. But as we have seen so far, the risk doesn’t just come from the raccoons but their droppings and the infected bugs they carry in their fur. So how can you tell if a raccoon is rabid or not?
There are unmistakable signs which help you decide if this is a sick raccoon or not. These are:
- The hair on the raccoon’s face is wet and matted.
- It wanders off aimlessly and stumbles into walls.
- It staggers as it walks.
- Isn’t afraid of the noise or other animals.
- It makes high-pitched sounds.
- There’s liquid coming out of its eyes and mouth.
- It attacks itself with claws and teeth.
If a raccoon shows these signs, stay away from it and call animal control or the police.
Are Raccoons Afraid of Dogs?
We saw what ferocious animals raccoons can be. They wouldn’t hesitate to attack a human being so naturally they wouldn’t hesitate to attack a dog. And there’s plenty of room for conflict here.
Raccoons usually come snooping around your house looking for food. If they find the dog’s food they would help themselves. Your dog wouldn’t like that and will chase them. Unless the dog is a big and menacing breed like a bulldog, the raccoon won’t back away easily.
But no matter the size of your dog, you wouldn’t want it to be bitten or scratched by a wild raccoon and risk getting infected. It’s always better to get rid of raccoons in your house and take precautions against them coming back.
Do Raccoons Scream?
For an animal this small, a raccoon has amazingly varied vocalizations. Considering its hot temper, most of the raccoon’s sounds revolve around expressing rage and hostility. These sounds range from growls and snarls to screams, purrs, hisses and chattering.
It’s hard to tell if raccoons have a language of sorts the same way apes have. But if you observe these wild animals, you’ll notice that screaming makes for most of their utterings. Again this is just a reflection of the animal’s high-strung nature.
Raccoons’ screams are mostly to threaten and scare away enemies, including people. So if a raccoon screams, hisses, or snarls at you, you should take that threat seriously and get out of its way. Screams are also one of the signs of a rabid raccoon.
How to Make Sure Raccoons Don’t Come back
Now that you’ve managed to kick the pesky animals out of your property, you can pat yourself on the back, rub your hands with glee, and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Only, that’s not the end of the story. Raccoons can just as easily pop in for a visit or an extended stay at any time. There’s still work to be done.
Here are a few ways to make your property as uncomfortable and untempting as possible for raccoons. Naturally, you’ll need to follow them all to safeguard your home, family, and pets against any future raccoon invasion.
Store Away Pet Food
The biggest attraction to raccoons is usually food. Pet food is not off the menu and since it’s easily accessible in the yard, that would make your home a popular destination for the masked bandits. So the first step is to take the pet food inside.
The same applies to any bird seeds and leftover food you keep out for squirrels. Raccoons are voracious animals and all food is good food for them. Hold off feeding wildlife for a while until the roaming raccoons have passed the area and moved elsewhere.
Protect Your Trashcan
Even if you don’t have pets and don’t leave any type of food outside for wildlife, there’s still that other precious source of sustenance for raccoons. I’m talking about the trashcan. It doesn’t matter if there’s food or not, raccoons are pre-programmed to make their way into the trashcan, tear the bags apart and make an unholy mess.
To secure your trash, you can keep the trashcans in a closed area such as the garage. Just make sure the garage itself is raccoon-proof. If that’s not an option, then use trashcans with a secure lid and place a few bricks on top to make it difficult to the sneaky critters to get inside.
Make them Feel Unwelcome
You can also make use of some of the strategies to chase raccoons off we laid above to keep them off the premises. Light in particular is the most effective method to deter raccoons and convince them to keep their distance.
Motion-sensing lights in the yard are a good way to start. Unlike noise, or ammonia smell, they’ll only affect the raccoons without disturbing your neighbors or the pets. If the bright lights don’t scare them away, keep a bowl of vinegar near the areas they like to visit such as the trashcan.
Use Raccoon Repellents and Sprinklers
When confronting a raccoon, you’d better have a hose ready in your hand. Otherwise, beating a hasty retreat is normally the wisest thing to do. As we have seen, raccoons are wild and reckless. Living in urban areas has made them bolder and less afraid of humans.
So in order to scare off a raccoon, grab a hose and spray the critter with water. A quick shower will inconvenience them and ruin their evening or day. However if the water doesn’t work and it only manages to make them angry, then you’re the one who should run inside and lock yourself in.
To avoid confrontation with a mad or possibly rabid raccoon, you can install motion-activated sprinklers. Or better yet, use any of the raccoon repellent products in the market. They range from mothballs to coyote urine and electronic repellents.
Fence Your Yard
By fencing here we mean to create a fence high enough it will be too much trouble for the raccoons to climb. Because of its climbing skills, regular fences will not stop a raccoon. Even if the fence is too high to climb, raccoons can always dig a hole under it and make it into your yard.
Chicken wire offers a cheap and effective solution to this problem. Fences made of chicken wire are soft and too shaky to carry the weight of the raccoon. The recommended height for such a fence is around three feet and at least one foot under the ground.
A more effective way is to install an electric fence. The low voltage fence will give the raccoon a shock and keep it out. It will never try getting in again.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare