Believe it or not, most conflicts with raccoons are the fault of humans. While it may not be purposeful, our gardens, birdfeeders, and trash can lure these cute creatures into our gardens and property.
If you do have a conflict with a raccoon, please avoid calling Animal Care and Control, or a pest control company. By state law, these animals must be killed when trapped by professionals, and it’s typically not done in a humane way. Common means of killing by wildlife control companies are injecting acetone into the animal’s chest with a syringe and drowning, both very inhumane and unnecessary.
Before you call Animal Care and Control or a wildlife control company, try these effective, inexpensive, and humane solutions. Remember, trapping these animals doesn’t work and by state law, when Animal Control or pest control companies trap them, they must be killed.
Are you sure it’s a raccoon?
Before you do anything, make sure you’re dealing with a raccoon and not a neighbor’s dog or community cat.
Check for some of the following signs, as suggested by the Humane Society of the United States:
- Check your yard for tracks. The raccoon’s track is hand-shaped and can usually be seen on light surfaces or where the ground is soft enough for their paws to leave an impression.
- A stain or rub may be seen on surfaces that raccoons have passed.
- Raccoon scats can vary in size, but typically are about 3/4 “ in diameter and 2 – 3” long, with segmenting and blunt ends. Scat stations are places where an animal has repeatedly left scat or multiple animals have done so.
Raccoon Inside Your House
Make sure you understand how the raccoons entered your home in the first place. Give your house a thorough inspection to find areas where raccoons could get in by viewing your house from the perspective of an animal looking for a den.
Are raccoons actually there? To determine if an opening is being used, block the hole loosely with wadded newspaper. Leave in place for two to three days. If the newspaper goes undisturbed, and the weather has not been particularly cold or stormy, no one is using it as an entryway. If the newspaper is pushed out of place, someone has moved in.
Once you’ve found how they’re getting in, determine if you’re dealing with a mom and babies. If so, please wait a few weeks until the babies grow old enough to leave with their mother – they won’t survive without her!
Don’t try to trap and relocate the family yourself – it will almost always lead to separation and death of the babies, unless done by a professional.
- One-way doors: Try installing a one-way door to get raccoons out of the room. Once the animals have left, they won’t be able to get back inside. You may want a professional to handle this.
- Get them out – humanely: If you know you’re dealing only with adult raccoons, you can start using humane harassment techniques to get them to leave on their own. Try things like bright lights, loud blaring rock music, and a bowl of cider vinegar. Make sure to use these techniques at night since raccoons are primarily nocturnal.
- Close all entries to keep them out: Once the raccoon leaves, you need to make sure they don’t enter again. Trapping won’t work to solve this problem, as another animal will just take the original’s place — you must seal off entries into the house. Never close an entryway until you’re certain all the raccoons have left. Once you find possible points of entry, are sure no raccoons are inside, and have completed any necessary cleanup, cover all openings with heavy material, such as wire mesh, sheet metal or metal flashing. The best wire mesh for the job is at least 16-gauge material (about 0.06 inches in diameter) with ½-inch openings.
Denning In Your Attic
Care should be taken when using harassment during the breeding season, which is March through October. Leave all lights on, rock music blaring, and vinegar-doused rags around the attic. Apply deterrents just before nightfall, and be patient — it may take a few days. Once ALL animals are gone, seal entry holes. You can stuff holes with newspapers for three to make sure all the animals are gone.
Denning In Your Chimney
Keep the damper closed and put blaring rock music on the radio in the fireplace with a bowl of cider vinegar. Again, make sure to do this just before nightfall. Note: You may want to have the flue cleaned and a chimney cap installed once the raccoons are evicted.
Under Your Porch/Deck/Stairs
If this is spring or summer, the raccoon is probably a mom with babies. If you can tolerate them being there until they move out on their own, please do. If not, harassment techniques like socks with cider vinegar, bright lights at night, and blaring rock music might help them move along.
One-way doors or an L-shaped barrier will prevent future denning, but please make sure non-babies are left behind first!
In Your Walls or Ceilings
When raccoons are in these difficult to access places, you should hire a professional to search for young, and then use humane harassment techniques (like blaring rock music and cider vinegar) to encourage the adult to leave.
In Your Ducts and Crawl Spaces
If a raccoon is trapped in your ducts or crawl spaces, this will probably require a professional for humane removal.
In Your Yard
While generally a short-term problem, if you do not want raccoons in your yard, try a hot sauce (capsaicin) repellent on small areas. For larger areas, try a repellent around the perimeter, lights left on at night, or sprinklers.
Eating Your Garden
Try to act quickly! Try blaring rock music and lights for a few nights by your crops, or single-strand electric fencing around areas where damage is frequent.
Raccoons may eat fish, frogs, or other aquatic life and then tear up plants while searching for food. Try creating hiding places for fish and frogs by stacking holed cinder blocks next to each other in groups of three or four and piling rocks or sinking sections of ceramic tile.
If safe for your pond and home, you can put single-strand electric fencing around the pond from 4 – 8” off the ground.
In Your Trash
When raccoons get into the trash, it’s not a raccoon problem; it’s a trash problem.
- Buy trash cans made to keep wildlife from getting inside.
- Secure the lids with bungee cords, rope tie-downs or weights.
- Take cans to the curb on the day of trash pick-up rather than the night before.
- Store trash inside.
- Freeze smelly food items such as fish between pick-ups.
Bird Feeder Issues
If raccoons are eating your birdseed, try one or some of the following tips:
- Only put out as much seed as birds will eat by nightfall.
- Bring your bird feeders in at night.
- Remove your feeder for a week – this may force raccoons to look elsewhere for food.
- Hang feeders on poles 1/2 “ or less in diameter and secure them firmly.
- Suspend bird feeders from a wire extending between two trees. Note: You may want to string pop bottles lengthwise along each side of the feeder to prevent issues with squirrels.
- Use a feeder that does not allow seed to fall to the ground.
- Purchase a raccoon guard.
- Use a clothesline for hanging the feeder, isolated from things that may allow raccoons access.
- Store birdseed inside.
Interacting With Your Pets
The most common reason raccoons come into contact with your pets is from feeding them outside.
By feeding pets inside, most conflicts can be avoided. You should also always supervise dogs when outside, and keep them on a leash or tether to avoid your dog chasing a raccoon and keep pet cats and rabbits inside.
If raccoons are coming in through your pet door, make sure to keep your pet door locked at night and use one that only opens upon receiving a signal from your pet’s electronic collar.
If it’s too late for prevention and you already have a raccoon in your home:
- Stay calm!
- Contain your pets and children before dealing with the raccoon.
- Do your best to show the raccoon the way back outside – they do not want to be in your home! You can try a trail of marshmallows, cheese bits, or fig bars leading to an open door. You can walk behind them with a turned on vacuum cleaner, or a banging broom.
- Close as many doors throughout your home as possible to contain the raccoon.
- Leave the room and give the raccoon some time to figure out the trail. You can put flour in front of the door to look for their paw prints ensuring they’ve left.
- If the raccoon does not leave after you’ve tried for several hours, call Animal Care and Control for assistance. Remember that in doing this, the animal will be trapped and killed.
Scatter or spray pepper
Spices like cinnamon, black pepper or cayenne pepper bother a raccoon’s sense of smell, forcing it to relocate to a more livable area. By mixing cayenne pepper and onion in boiling water, you can create a natural raccoon repellant. You can add hot sauce to the mixture, as well. To be effective, you’ll need to spray your yard and house baseline at least twice a week and any time it rains.
Soak rags in ammonia
Ammonia is another thing raccoons hate the smell of, so you can deter raccoons by placing it around your property. You can soak rags in ammonia and place them under your house, in the bottom of garbage cans and at the bottom of trees in your yard. You can also fill bowls with ammonia and place those accordingly.
Place mothballs around your house
If you think you may have a raccoon in your attic or under your home, placing mothballs will help drive the rodents out of your space. However, if left for long periods of time, the odor will start to soak into the surface and walls of the area, making you and the rodent both want to leave.
Rabies and Other Health Concerns
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one human has ever died from the raccoon strain of rabies.
A rabid raccoon is usually dead within 1-3 days of becoming infectious, and even if you’re bitten by a rabid raccoon, effective post-exposure treatment is available.
Is the Raccoon Rabid? Remember that just because you see a raccoon during the day does not mean they are sick or dangerous. The raccoon is probably just a mom looking for food for her babies.
Before calling for help, look for:
- Staggering gait
- An animal seemingly oblivious to noise or nearby movement
- Erratic wandering
- Discharge from eyes or mouth
- Wet and matted hair on the face
- Repeated high-pitch vocalization
If you see a raccoon showing these signs, call Animal Care and Control. Remember that in doing so, the raccoon will be trapped and killed.
Please note: Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) is not a wildlife rescue and is unable to address concerns or assist with wildlife emergencies. Please utilize the resources on our website to find the appropriate organization to contact. Submissions to HAP through our contact form or email will not be able to be addressed.