Raccoons, those cute, bandit-faced, twitchy-nosed creatures, make adorable stuffed animals, cartoon characters, and the central roles of children’s stories. Easily personified, with hand-like paws and expressive mugs, raccoons, at first sight, in a zoo, or game ranch, elicit exclamations of “aww and ooh” for their adorable appearance.
But, don’t be fooled. Those cute little bandits can rob you of plenty! Naturally nocturnal, raccoons are scavengers, demolishing your garden at night, rifling through your trash and making quite the mess. Their vandalism increases in the spring, as they become more active, breeding and increasing their population.
These adaptable creatures are known to take over burrows made by other creatures, This includes anything you may have in your yard or near your home. Only the female nests with the young, and once the litter of kits arrives, dear old dad takes his leave. Spring means increased activity as the male begins to search for accommodations, and the female looks for a place to make her nest.
As the human population grows, suburban homes are encroaching more and more on the raccoons’ natural habitat. Your home and your yard can easily be taken over by a raccoon family or two, as they burrow and nest in your mulched garden beds, sheds, insulated attics, basements and any other areas in and around your home which the raccoons may find to their liking.
Are Racoons Bad Animals?
Raccoons are nocturnal wild animals, but it doesn’t mean that they are bad animals. They are not designed by nature to be tamed and trained to be petted like other animals. It’s illegal to capture a healthy wild raccoon and force it to live in confinement for any reason. Raccoons are notorious biters. They will bite family members, family pets, and visitors and pets if they feel threatened or for defense. Raccoons can also carry parasites and infectious diseases including rabies that poses a threat to any person and other pets.
Raccoon damage to property is also an annoyance. It can damage your garden, house interior, cables, wires, etc. If they find any entry points to your property, they can crawl into space where they can get food and probably shelter.
Where Do Racoons Usually Hide?
Raccoons are attracted to an environment that’s dark, quiet and without much human activity. Raccoons will enter your property by digging or climbing and search for crawl space and places that seem uninhabited or unoccupied. The most common areas to find raccoons on your property include:
- Basements are usually dark and quiet and not frequently visited; thus raccoons can find shelter in this part of the house.
- Attics are usually not visited often, so raccoons will enjoy the isolation and enjoy the quiet space. Attics with any stored food and warm places to hide, like old beddings and old clothes, will be a hit with raccoons.
- Crawl Spaces are a favorite hideout for raccoons and other types of animals, like rabbits, foxes, and groundhogs.
- Walls with large amounts of space between them where raccoons can sneak can be a raccoon nest.
- Raccoons rarely occupy bathrooms since they are used frequently. Guest bathrooms that are not used often attract raccoon activity.
- Chimneys are the most common place to find raccoons on your property. Chimneys are dark and quiet and are not used at all during the spring and summer months. Thus, raccoons will start nesting in an unused chimney.
- Garbage cans are very attractive to raccoons. It’s free grub for the raccoon family.
As wild animals, raccoons don’t make for ideal neighbors, and they are even worse house guests. The evidence is apparent. You wake up in the morning, go out to grab the paper, or take the dog for his relief, and find your trash strewn all about your yard or pet food all scattered on the ground. The cans have been spilled over and it appears “someone” has been determinedly pawing through your garbage in search of something vital.
Unless you’re the subject of an intense government investigation, the culprit is more than likely a raccoon, or, more to the point, several raccoons. Raccoons are carnivores by nature (although many feasts just as grandly on vegetables, and, in the wild, freshwater creatures are the preferred fare), so the aroma of last night’s rib bones, chicken carcass, or meatloaf are quite appetizing.
An opportunistic male raccoon and his pals, or a hungry mother raccoon seeking sustenance, can easily dismantle a trash can and paw through the remains of your feast, purged property of your refrigerator or any food refuse that’s in there. Outdoor grills that haven’t been cleaned or the remnants of meat burnt away are another source of appealing aromas to a hungry raccoon. When you feed your cat or dog outside, you’re encouraging others to make themselves at home as well.
Your Yard and Garden
The small of fruit trees, berry bushes, and backyard gardens entice the suburban and urban raccoon with the promise of food. Some raccoons won’t stop at stealing a few peaches, plums, cherries, or apples. They may just make their home in your fruit tree, knowing they’ll enjoy a constant supply of food.
That prized tomato you’ve had your eye on for weeks, watching as it goes from a perfect green globe, to orange, to red, ripe and ready to slap between two pieces of mayonnaise slathered bread, suddenly disappears or has been gnawed just enough to render it ruined. Your squash blossoms have vanished. Even your turnips and radishes have been dug up, sampled and cast aside. Raccoons are no friend to the backyard gardener.
Your Home as a Habitat
As pesky and disruptive as these small vandals can be, their destructive yard antics can’t compare with what they can do to the inside pf your home. Areas such as attics and basements provide a fairly hospitable home for raccoons. Especially if there isn’t a whole lot of human traffic in and out.
Attic and wall insulation is easily shredded and turned into a cozy nesting place for raccoon mothers-to-be. Once the babies arrive, they will do what all babies tend to do, which is poop, pee, and eat. As they get slightly bigger, the tots will scurry around your attic, making noise and alerting you to intruders, if you haven’t yet heard mom bustling about.
Upon discovering the raccoons in your home, you’ll likely find plenty of destruction has already taken place. You’ll notice air ducts tore apart, insulation where it shouldn’t be, and, in some instances, you may find stripped wires or completely destroyed vents which were used to gain access to their new “digs”.
The destruction doesn’t stop there. As this uninvited house guest graduates from nuisance to a real threat, you may find wires which have been stripped or chewed through. This can pose a fire hazard to your home. The droppings and urine left behind to create a bio-hazard as raccoon droppings can contain roundworm. This is quite harmful to humans and pets. Additionally, raccoon waste carries a slew of known diseases and viruses which can pose a threat to you and your family.
Your Chimney can be Inviting
Raccoons are known for their dexterity, especially their ability to climb. Burrows and trees provide ideal nesting sites, and hollow trees are prized real estate among raccoon populations. Any long hollow area is very attractive to raccoons, and that makes your chimney an easy mark.
As a raccoon accesses your roof, and, eventually finds his way through an attic vent and into a great place to live, so, too, is he able to access your chimney. Once inside your chimney, the raccoon adapts to his new home in much the same way he or she adapts to your attic. The protection offered by your chimney is inviting and even a nesting mother finds your chimney a comfortable abode.
Preventing Raccoons from Trashing your Trash
If you find a raccoon is wreaking havoc in your yard, or garden, causing you sleepless nights as you imagine the wild parties being held in your trash cans, there are ways to get rid of raccoons, before calling on wildlife experts to eradicate these ring-tailed vandals. Obviously, your first line of defense, as far as your trash cans, is to make them inaccessible. There are some cans on the market that claim to be impenetrable. They lock in such a way that there are no gaps and critters can’t get in to cause damage.
These types of trash cans may not be an option for some city-dwellers, or those living in municipalities with commercial garbage pick up and trash removal. Very often, these trash companies will require you to use specific models which correspond with their truck system. What that means is that the tops are easily opened (for ease of dumping into the refuse trucks).
You can still prevent raccoons from getting into your trash or recycle bins-by simply duct taping the top shut, placing heavy cinder-block type weights on top of the can or bin, or locking the cans in a trash can shed (very common in rural areas where bears and more threatening animals can be a nuisance).
To deter raccoons completely, you can sprinkle moth balls around the area beside your trash cans, but be aware of the danger these chemically-laced, poisonous pest deterrents can pose. You don’t want children nor pets to come in contact with mothballs. You certainly don’t want these chemicals in your garden, or near any food.
Keeping Raccoons Out of your Yard
For raccoon problems in and around your yard and garden, the best way to control the problem is by preventing entry. How to get rid of raccoons in a backyard? Put a fence around your garden. An easy way to fence out potential invaders is by erecting a chicken wire fence that’s at least 36 inches high and goes a minimum of a foot below the ground. The depth prevents burrowing, and the chicken wire at that height isn’t secure enough to encourage climbing.
Another effective way to get rid of raccoons is to light up your garden, or yard to discourage these four-footed creepers from coming around and pilfering produce. Nocturnal raccoons enjoy the nightlife and if your yard is bright, it’s very uninviting. Don’t feed Fido or Miss Kitty outside. At the very least, provide food and water – and a set meal time – in an enclosed area. Make a safe place to feed your outdoor pets if they are forbidden to be fed inside. This could be a garage, or secure dog run.
A great way to deter raccoons, and many other animals, from your flower beds and vegetable gardens, is by planting a prickly ground cover. Vines, bushes, and shrubbery that are naturally thorny are a fine natural deterrent for many different invaders. They aren’t very comfortable and make it even more difficult to get in and sample your crops.
Video: Humane Raccoon Removal and Exclusion from an Attic
Trapping Raccoons for Relocation
Once you’ve exhausted all the ways of preventing access to your yard, flower beds, and garden, and you’re still enduring the problem, you may decide to simply get rid of the raccoons. Be advised that it is illegal, in nearly every state, to:
a) discharge a weapon in a community of homes, and
b) shoot wildlife without a license.
The better option for a do-it-yourself raccoon removal is to trap the raccoon, catch the raccoon and relocate to a better area for him and you. Many big box home centers and pest control stores have humane traps for raccoons. If you aren’t able to locate live trapping equipment in a retail establishment, contact your local department of wildlife, or animal control. They may assist you, in most cases, free of charge.
Once you’ve removed the animal, take steps to shore-up your property, or, at least, your garden, to prevent the raccoon from finding his way back. You also need to realize, if one crafty critter found his way in to wreak havoc on your homegrown tomatoes, or mini-orchard, more of his kind could be lurking about. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure.
Preventing Home Invasions
When it comes to your home, prevention is the only DIY way of not having the problem of a raccoon invasion. The following steps are some of the best home remedies to get rid of raccoons.
Check for Signs
If you suspect raccoons in your area-as could be evidenced by garbage can raids, and nightly garden thievery- or if you’ve seen raccoons around your immediate area, take a walk about your home and look for points of entry. Check the basement area as well as your roof line.
Block Possible Points of Entry
Once you’ve inspected your home, take steps to block entry by putting repairing any holes in and around vents, chimneys and anywhere raccoons could gain entry. Go up into your attic. Make sure there are screens in place over open-ended vents, pipes and an opening leading to the outside. Make sure you don’t block vents from maintaining air flow. But leave no opening unshielded.
Remove Easy Access to Roof
Trim back your trees and take care to ensure no easy access to your roof. If necessary, remove those trees which sit in close proximity to your house. They will provide the path to a perfect home for a raccoon family, as well as many other pests. Using additional deterrents, such spiking around your roofline might seem like overkill. However, if you suspect a real threat, it might not be a bad idea.
Find the Raccoon’s Entry Point
If you think you may have a raccoon coming and going, you’ll need to find the opening through which he or she is gaining access. An easy way to do this is by crumbling some paper and stuffing it into the opening. Newspaper or grocery bags work well for this purpose. In 24 hours, you should find the paper intact. If it has been disturbed in any way, you now know the location of the entryway.
Don’t attempt to block the entrance at this point, nor should you try to trap the raccoon. Remember, the likeliest culprit is a female raccoon with a nest. If you take the mother away from the young, it’s not only cruel, it’s illegal in many states. Always assume that any raccoon who’s gained access to your home is a nesting female with a litter of kits nearby.
Contact the Experts or Authorities
It’s imperative, once you confirm a raccoon has made a home in your attic, basement, chimney, or anywhere inside your home, that you contact either your local wildlife department, animal removal experts or a professional in wildlife removal. To go any other way could be illegal. You could end up paying more in fines and court costs than you ever would to a professional wildlife removal expert.
Repairing the Destruction Left Behind
Getting rid of the destruction that raccoons have left behind is no small nor inexpensive undertaking. For the safety of you and your family, you must remove every bit of detritus that your uninvited squatters have left behind. In order to accomplish this task, you’ll need to contact an expert in wildlife repair.
If you’ve hired a wildlife removal company to eradicate your raccoons, the company probably offers clean-up as part of, or as an additional, service. It’s their job to know how to safely remove the mess the raccoons have left behind. This includes any destruction, as well as effectively cleaning away any hazardous waste such as feces and urine.
You may want to contact your insurance company to inquire about coverage for this type of invasive destruction. Some homeowners policies provide for wildlife removal, and, possibly, clean-up, repairs, and restoration. You may not be covered, and might have to pay for this task out of pocket. However, it’s worth a phone call to your insurer.
A word of caution: You may be doing all you can to keep raccoons from your yard, garden, and home. However, your neighbor may not. Some individuals will actually encourage raccoons to come into their yard, and even up on their deck, porch, or patio. At the risk of starting a quarrel, you may alert the offender to the fact that feeding and encouraging wildlife is more harmful than not.
Welcoming wildlife poses a danger to the animal. As he begins to equate humans with food, he may come to expect all human beings of being benevolent. This isn’t the case and could end up costing the animal his life.
Another concern, in and around communities such as subdivisions and home allotments, is the threat of rabies. Raccoons and many other wild animals are known carriers of this highly infectious and deadly disease. As raccoons are, for the most part, nocturnal, seeing one in the daylight hours is unusual.
Anytime a wild mammal is acting “out of character”, parading around fearlessly in the open, and appearing to approach a human being, run for cover. Don’t let your pets or children outside until animal control has been notified. In many communities, the sight of a raccoon in the daytime warrants a call to 9-1-1.
Now that you understand the threat these “adorable” animals pose to your home and happiness, you understand the need for immediate attention. Never ignore a raccoon problem in the hopes that it will simply “go away”. In all likelihood, it will not. Raccoons are crafty and if they find a source of food or a cozy place to live, they’re staying put.
Follow the general guidelines and other natural ways to get rid of raccoons listed in this article for prevention, even if you haven’t seen any raccoons around your home. Take steps to keep raccoons in a more affable environment, and away from your immediate area. It’s worth the extra effort to keep your home from being invaded and preserving your tomatoes for their intended spot-your sandwiches.