How Do Raccoons Get Into Attics
Raccoons in the Attic — How to Get Rid of Them
Read the below tutorial with step-by-step photograph instructions for information about raccoons and how to get them out of an attic. It’s not always a simple task — it usually requires these 4 steps to get raccoons out of an attic:
- 1) Physical removal of the nest of baby raccoons
- 2) (Humane) trapping or exclusion of adult raccoons
- 3) Repairs to the entry points
- 4) Cleanup of raccoon feces and waste.
The following information, instructions, and tips should help you in the raccoon removal process. It is not easy, and I do not consider this a do-it-yourself task for amateurs. If you need raccoons removed from your attic in your hometown, we service over 500 USA locations! Click here to hire us in your town and check prices — updated for year 2020.
Raccoons often choose to make their home inside of people’s attics. An attic provides a safe shelter for a raccoon, and usually meets all of their living requirements: shelter from the elements, safety from predators, and oftentimes close proximity to food — such as garbage cans or pet food.
If you have a raccoon in the attic, take note of the time of year. If it is springtime, say Feb — June, then there’s a very good chance that the raccoon is actually a mother with a litter of young pups up in the attic. Female raccoons love to raise their young in a warm, safe attic. You CANNOT just trap the female outside if you don’t get the pups. They will suffer and starve to death, and then they will decay and create a large odor. And the desperate female, once relocated, will do anything to get back to the young, and possibly die in the process.
Most people first call me when they hear the noise the animals create. A large animal like a raccoon can cause quite a bit of racket climbing around and digging in the attic. A litter of young will also often squeal for their mom, making a loud noise. Some homes are less prone to sound, and the occupants learn about their raccoon problem when they physically spot the animal, a frequent occurrence with a busy mother raccoon.
Here we see the culprit — a female raccoon, on the roof near the hole in the soffit that it tore open. Raccoons have no problems climbing on to a roof, and once there, they can easily tear a hole open to gain access.
Sure enough, it crawls right inside.
Once inside the attic, I search for the adult. She usually hides down in the eaves, and I can’t catch her. Sometimes I’m able to use a snare pole and grab her and remove her, and sometimes I’m able to scare her out of the attic and into a waiting trap mounted at the hole, but sometimes she gets away and I have to use other methods.
I search until I find the litter of pups. In this case, down a column at the edge of the attic. Finding the young can often be very difficult, and it takes a lot of patience and hard work up in a hot attic. If they make noise, it’s easy. If mama racoon has stashed the baby raccoons down a wall and told them to be quiet, it can be very hard to find them, but it must be done.
I remove the young from the attic. It’s very hot in Florida attics! I carry them as their mom would, by the scruff of the neck. This keeps them quiet. Some baby raccoons can be very agressive, and will lunge and bite. Others are docile and easy. In the event that you wish to hire us, you may want to see how much does raccoon removal cost?
I set the juveniles in the back of traps, to try to catch the mom. This is the absolute best «bait» to use to trap a female raccoon. She will do anything to get to her babies, so even if she’s shy of a trap, she’ll still go in. It’s important to set this correctly. If the trap goes off, from the mother working the outside, or the baby setting it off, then the female will go crazy trying to get in, and will likely cause some damage, maybe to herself. This type of set takes a lot of experience. For more information read my raccoon trapping guide.
Sure enough, the mom raccoon enters the trap, lured in by its own baby. Even when faced with a larger animal like a human, the mother raccoon is always protective of its young first.
After I have the mom and all the babies out of the attic, I seal the entry points. This is a vital step in the process. If you leave the holes open, new wildlife will surely enter. No job is complete until all the holes are sealed shut.
I make sure to keep mom and all the young together. I then relocate them together to a nature preserve far outside the city. It may be hard for them to survive once evicted from their home, but mother raccoons are very resourcful. If the mother and babies cannot be kept together, I bring the young to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation specialist.
Raccoons can cause quite a bit of damage when they live in an attic. Please see my raccoon attic damage page for more photos of raccoon damage. Not only do they urinate and defecate in the attic, but they can bring in a host of parasites (fleas, ticks, mites, and lice) and diseases (raccoon roundworm, leptospirosis, etc). They often tear apart ductwork, rip insulation off of pipes, gnaw on wires, and trample down the insulation, lowering its R-value effectiveness. They also tear open holes to gain access to the attic in the first place. I highly recommend attic cleanup and decontamination services if you’ve had a raccoon living in your attic.
Summary of the 7 steps to get rid of raccoons in the attic:
- Before you start, be aware that when raccoons live in your attic, it is almost always a female raccoon with a litter of babies. Be sure to remove the babies as well as the adult.
- NEVER EVER simply set a trap outside. If you catch the mother raccoon and take her away, this will leave her babies up in the attic to starve to death, and cause an odor problem for you. This is very cruel.
- If you, or a trapping company, catches the mother outside, you MUST go in the attic to get her young. If your trapper is lazy and claims there are no young, that guy is a heartless asshole.
If you have raccoons in your attic, you really should hire a professional wildlife trapper to take care of the problem. It’s not easy to get rid of raccoons in the attic. There’s no magic spray or ultrasonic sound device or any gimmick that will make them leave. They need to be trapped and removed. It’s not work for amateurs or do-it-yourselfers. Many people will just buy a trap and set it on the ground and never catch anything, or catch stray cats, opossums, and other non-target animals. Or worse, some crummy companies or so-called handy homeowners will set a trap or two on the ground, and actually catch the mom raccoon, and get rid of her — only to leave the babies up in the attic to squeal and suffer and die and then decompose and stink. Please don’t try to do this yourself or hire a cut-rate lazy trapper who won’t go into the attic and get the young. The job has to be done right! Also, keep in mind that they sometimes live in the chimney as well. Read How to Remove a Wild Animal in the Chimney. I also have a story of a particular raccoon trapping job on my raccoon in house page.
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Again, the removal of raccoons in the attic is complex, because of the presence of the baby raccoons. Please treat the raccoons with kindness and respect. If you wish for us to solve your problem for you, we are professionals with a great deal of experience, who can safely, humanely, and legally remove the raccoons in your attic for you.
Raccoon In the Attic
RACCOONS IN THE ATTIC: This is a very complex case. This almost always involves an adult female and a litter of baby raccoons. The nest of baby raccoons must be found & removed, and the mother trapped. Here are the general steps for removing raccoons from an attic.
- Step 1: Inspect the home, and find the entry hole(s), which are very large and obvious.
- Step 2: Enter the attic. This is crucial. You might see the adult female.
- Step 3: Search the attic carefully, and find and remove the litter of baby raccoons by hand, and place in sack. Beware of attacking female.
- Step 4: Use a trap divider and place the live babies as «bait» to lure the female into the cage trap. This is difficult, and must be done just right.
- Step 5: Relocate the whole family together, at least 10 miles from capture site.
- Step 6: Repair the entry holes with pro-grade repairs, and fix other damage in the attic.
- Step 7: Clean the attic, removing all feces, and spray with enzyme cleaner.
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What To Do If You Find A Family Of Raccoons In Your Attic, Barn Or Other Buildings
Raccoons used to live primarily in the woods, away from civilization. With uninhabited land growing sparser and man encroaching upon the living quarters of wild animals, raccoons have adapted to living in more populated areas. Even urban homes are not safe any longer from these critters. It is not unusual at all to find that raccoons have moved into human dwellings. They raise their young wherever it is safe and where they can find enough food for them. The easiest food sources and the best protection from predators and the elements are often in attics, sheds or barns.
Find The Entrance
Once you know that you have uninvited houseguests, you need to make sure to find out how they got in. Raccoons generally use the same entrance portal but they do have an emergency exit hole or two. It is necessary that you find all the entrances and exits. Inspect your home or barn or wherever the raccoons set up housekeeping. In your home, look under dormers and under the eaves for openings and slits larger than three inches in circumference. Raccoons have no problem bending soffits to make an entrance. Males will frequently just tear off a loose air vent to gain entry into your attic. If the raccoons live in your shed or barn, the same inspections apply but you may have to do more work to close any possible openings.
Ways To Close Openings
In general, the raccoons can squeeze their way through fairly small holes. Any hole bigger than three inches is a potential portal for them to use. It may be time consuming and tiresome to detect the portal they use most often. Close all holes up except their favorite entrance. Half inch wire mesh is a great raccoon deterrent. You can place the mesh over ripped out vents before you replace the vent. You can also fill in holes by stapling half inch wire mesh over holes and then spraying expanding foam over the mesh. The foam is available in any hardware store and dries into a hard surface. If raccoons are in your barn and you need air circulating under the roof, place wire mesh all along the openings and fasten it tightly with a staple gun. This should close the openings and still permit air to flow.
Get The Raccoons Out
One method to get raccoons out of your attic or barn is to make a lot of noise. Some people have been successful by placing a loudspeaker into the attic and playing rock music at full blast. When the raccoons are irritated enough, they will grab their babies and exit through the only opening that is left to them. Other people have gone so far as to improvise strobe lights in their attic, which drove the raccoon family out as well. A simpler method to get rid of them is to discourage them from staying there with odor. Raccoons have a keen sense of smell. You can make it very uncomfortable to the raccoon’s olfactory system by throwing several ammonia-soaked tennis balls into their living quarters. Rags soaked in ammonia will also work but are not as easy to throw toward the suspected nest.
Did The Raccoons Leave?
There is an easy way to find out if the premises have been vacated. Take some newspaper pages and stuff it into the one entrance you have not sealed off. Make sure the paper is in the opening fairly secure so that it doesn’t fall by itself, then leave. When you check the opening in the morning and the paper has been displaced, the raccoons have moved out. Now is the time to seal that opening as well.
What’s To Stop Them From Returning And Making New Holes?
Place newspaper around every opening you have closed. Pull out your old goggles and rubber gloves. Boil eight ounces of cayenne pepper and five or six habanero chili peppers you have chopped into small pieces. Boil this in enough water to cover the chilies. Let it cool and pour the liquid into a spray bottle. Spray every newspaper in the openings with this concoction. Raccoons do not like the odor and will find a friendlier environment for their family. Don’t forget to remove the sprayed newspaper after about two or three weeks. By then the raccoons will have given up trying to move back in.
Why Did Raccoons Choose To Live In Your Attic, Barn Or Shed?
Something attracted the raccoons to your home or barn. You must ask yourself the question of what did you do to attract them. If you have pets, you may be used to feeding them their dinner on your porch or patio. Whatever the dogs or cats don’t eat won’t go to waste. Raccoons are very happy to take on the role of garbage disposal. Remove all food from outside your home. They will not only dig into pet food. Your trash cans are pantries full of delicacies for them. Most trash can lids do not fit very tightly after they are a few years old. Lids must be tied down securely to deny access to a raccoon. Unless you want more live-in raccoons in your home, be very meticulous about their access to any type of food.
Go back to the main Raccoon Removal page for more information about dangers and signs of raccoon in the attic.
How To Get a Raccoon Out of Your Attic: Let’s get straight to the point here — you have an animal in your attic and you think it might be a raccoon. You have already done your research — the animal sounds too large to be something small like a squirrel or an opossum, and it’s not flapping around therefore it can’t be a bat. You’ve had a peek upstairs and you can see the droppings the animal has left behind, and you think you may have found the spot it gained access to your home too — where that vent is on the back wall of your home. It leads right to the chimney breast, and therefore you the think the raccoon made its way through there.
Ideally, the next step you’re going to want to take is to call up a professional wild animal expert that can assess the situation further. You might think you have a rogue raccoon up there in your attic, but it could be a number of other animals, and the expert is just that — an expert at checking the signs.
Not just setting up traps to effectively and SAFELY remove the raccoon from your house, the expert will know what to look out for when it comes to entrance and exit points, and they will also have a great idea of where the animal can be relocated, knowledge you probably won’t have. Just one example of how this mission could fail for you — if you don’t take the raccoon far enough away (ten to fifteen miles), it will come back with a vengeance.
There are lots of things that a professional will be able to do that you won’t. Most of this comes with experience and knowledge of course. Knowing that repellants don’t work, for example, or understanding the legalities involved with removing wild animals from residential properties. Before you get too involved in your mission to get a raccoon out of your attic, you should probably be aware that in most states, it is illegal to trap a raccoon, and in more states, it is illegal to kill them without the proper license and intentions. In fact, there is no need to kill the raccoon at all, so this shouldn’t even be a factor when you are researching methods to get a raccoon out of your attic.
If you are adamant that you can do this seemingly impossible task yourself, you will need to have a few things to hand. Luckily, we have prepared you a shopping list:
- Thick, heavy-duty gloves
- Large enough trap to catch the raccoon (can weigh in excess of 20 pounds)*
- Food / material to use as bait
- Heavy-duty enzyme cleaner**
*You will need the trap to be about 12x12x36. **Heavy-duty cleaner to remove urine and feces, which carry a fungus spore that can cause a dangerous disease called histoplasmosis.
You will also need to be prepared to repair any damage to your home, as well as block up any holes or crevices the raccoon could be using as an entrance / exit point from your home.
Before you start ordering any eviction notices for these animals, you should check the laws in your state. You may find that it is illegal to trap or kill a raccoon that has been found in your attic, and the last thing you will want is to get into trouble just because you didn’t do your research first.
The next thing to remember is that a raccoon will rarely enter your home for no reason, and usually it will be a female raccoon looking for somewhere to keep her young safe. This means that as well as ensuring you get rid of the mother, you will need to take every step to make sure her young are removed too. The mother is not going to make this an easy task, and her sharp teeth and claws will be no match for poor, thin gloves. Then you have the rabies risk to worry about. Ideally, you are going to want to avoid coming into contact with the raccoon, leaving it down to the professionals.
Once you’re sure all babies have been removed, if you’ve even managed to find them, it’s time to put the traps down to the mother raccoon and again, this is going to take some figuring out. The trap needs to be along a route that the raccoon would naturally take otherwise there’s a good chance it won’t find it. Why would it worry about that small piece of dog food in that trap when there is a whole kitchen full of food waiting for it inside? Think about it logically. You’ll need to hide it a little bit too — if it looks like a trap, there’s a good chance the animal won’t go near it. Would you?
Trapping the animal will normally take a long time, especially if you are inexperienced, and you’ll find that you catch everything BUT the raccoon in question for a while. You might catch a stray bat in the thin wire of the cage, or even the next door neighbors cat. It’ll be frustrating, and you will need to remember to check it regularly to avoid a decomposing animal situation.
There’s a lesson here — your first step to removing a raccoon from your attic / home, is to always call in a professional!