How Do Racoons Get Into Attics
Raccoons in the Attic — How to Get Rid of Them
- 1 Raccoons in the Attic — How to Get Rid of Them
- 2 Raccoons living in attic
- 3 What to do if a raccoon is living in the attic
- 4 Humane harassment
- 5 What NOT to do
- 6 Animal Removal Companies
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.
Click for my raccoon removal photo gallery.
Over 60 photographs of actual raccoon trapping and removal jobs I’ve done.
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Over 25 examples of specific raccoon control jobs I’ve done. Get ideas!
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.
Raccoons living in attic
A raccoon living in an attic from January to September should ALWAYS be assumed to be a mother with babies. Be careful—you don’t want to orphan the baby raccoons. Raccoons are excellent mothers and will move their babies to a new den site if given the chance, but evicting a mother raccoon always runs the risk of her abandoning or getting separated from her babies.
What to do if a raccoon is living in the attic
Be patient with a mother raccoon in the attic
Your first option is to do nothing at all. Raccoons typically live in attic dens for short periods. Raccoon babies are independent by the end of summer, when they leave the den and disperse from their family groups. Raccoon mothers commonly move their babies between den sites during the nesting season, so she may leave on her own. If you wait until the babies are grown and/or have left, then you can close off the access point to prevent other raccoons from using the attic as a den in the future.
The mother raccoon is living in the attic because it’s a dark, quiet, safe place for her and her babies. If you make the attic not dark, not quiet, and not safe (using light, sound, and smell) the raccoon can usually be convinced to leave your attic and take her babies with her. All harassment techniques should be placed as close as possible to the den entrance, so the mother raccoon can’t ignore them when she comes and goes.
Place a bright light at the den entrance, either inside or outside. Make sure it’s fire-safe. Raccoons are nocturnal, and don’t like bright lights in their homes. An outdoor spotlight or a mechanic’s light should do the trick.
Tune a radio to a talk station and place it near the den entrance. Music doesn’t mean anything to raccoons, but the sound of human voices is threatening to them. The radio should be turned up as loud as you can stand it without annoying your human neighbours.
Soak some rags in Apple Cider Vinegar or ammonia, and put them in a plastic bag. Poke holes in the bag to let the smell escape, and hang it next to the den entrance. You can us dirty kitty litter in a plastic bag the same way. Scent deterrents are least effective with raccoons, but can help when used in combination with light and sound methods.
Patience and persistence
Keep all of the above going for at least 3 days and 3 nights. You’ve got to be persistent to convince the raccoon to leave.
When you think the raccoon is gone, before closing the hole, make sure with a paper test. Either stuff the entrance with balled up newspaper, or tape a double sheet of newspaper over the hole. Wait another 3 days and nights. If the paper is still in place, and you don’t hear anything in the attic, the raccoons are probably gone! Temporarily patch the hole with ¼” wire mesh or hardware cloth until you can do a more permanent repair.
What NOT to do
Trapping and relocating a raccoon might seem like the “humane” option, but it isn’t. Relocated raccoons don’t tend to survive when they’re moved off of their home territory. Relocated mother raccoons leave behind babies who will die without a mother to care for them. A mother raccoon relocated with her babies will be so frightened she will abandon them when faced with a new, unknown territory. In Ontario, it is illegal to relocate any wild animal more than 1km from where it was found.
Every year, Toronto Wildlife Centre receives hundreds of calls about baby raccoons orphaned because well-meaning people trapped and relocated their mother. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to care for them all.
Many humane removal companies will recommend putting up one-way doors so the raccoon can get out but not get back in. One-way doors are a good option between October and December, when tiny baby raccoons are unlikely. Between January and September, one-way doors can exclude the mother raccoon and leave tiny baby raccoons trapped inside. If they are too young to follow their mother, the babies will starve inside without her care. Separated from her babies, a mother raccoon will cause major damage to property as she tries desperately to get back to them. Make sure the baby raccoons are old enough to be mobile and following their mother before installing a one-way door.
Animal Removal Companies
Sometimes the best and easiest way to get a raccoon out of an attic is to hire a company to do it for you. Wildlife removal companies are not well monitored or licensed, so it is up to you to ask questions about a company’s practices before hiring them. Consult our guidelines for choosing a removal company.