Raccoons may be adorable, intelligent creatures but they can also cause extensive damage to your home. They’re also one of the most common rabies-carrying species and they can spread other diseases like roundworm salmonella, tetanus, and Listeriosis.
Raccoons around your property aren’t just a threat to you; your animals are also at risk. Dogs that come into contact with raccoon saliva can develop Coonhound Paralysis or Canine Distemper (CDV).
In this article, I’ll share at a ton of important facts about raccoons, and most importantly, how to get rid of raccoons for good.
Quick Navigation: What's in This Guide?
- Signs of Raccoons
- Here Are the Best Ways to Get Rid of Raccoons
- 1. Secure Trash Cans
- 2. Don’t Leave Pet Food Outside
- 3. Raccoon-Proof the Bird Feeders
- 4. Consider an Electric Fence
- 5. Protect Roof Vents and the Chimney
- 6. Seal Entry Points Under Sheds and Decks
- 7. Prune Around the Yard
- 8. Find the Point of Entry into Attic
- 9. Use an Excluder One-Way Door (Attic)
- 10. Use a Live Trap (Under Deck or Home)
- 11. Scare the Raccoon Out of the Den (Under Deck or Home)
- 12. Galvanized Metal Mesh (Under Deck or Home)
- What to Do if You Find Abandoned Baby Raccoons
- Do Raccoon Sprays and Raccoon Repellent Work?
What Kind of Damage Can Raccoons Cause?
Raccoons aren’t just cute little “burglars;” they’re also notoriously destructive. One of the greatest dangers of raccoons is their feces which can spread roundworms and other parasites and diseases.
If raccoons get into your attic, they can quickly cause extensive damage. Raccoons will tear into your home to gain entry to the attic, destroy your insulation, and fill the space with feces and urine. Raccoons can also damage your electrical and ventilation systems which can lead to a fire or water damage.
Even if raccoons don’t actually get into your home, there’s another problem they leave behind: overturned trash cans and trash all over your lawn.
Signs of Raccoons
Raccoons aren’t small. When you have raccoons in your attic or around your home, they’ll leave behind tell-tale signs. Watch for the following signs of raccoons and then take steps to get rid of them if they’re too close to your home.
Damage to Your Home
Raccoons can be very destructive. If you suspect a raccoon problem, inspect your home for damage such as:
- Chewed electrical wiring
- Soffit damage
- Damaged or pulled-off gutters
- Turn-up or ripped off siding or shingles
- Gnaw marks or holes near windows or other possible entry points
- Damage to your HVAC or air duct systems
- Damaged vents, including outdoor and roof vents
- Damage to insulation in your attic
Raccoons like to make cozy dens, whether they build their dens in a tree or under your home. You may see nesting material strewn around your hard, in your attic, in your garage, or under your deck. Raccoons will use almost any organic material for nesting like newspaper, clothing, or cloth. Sometimes they’ll even steal nesting material from your trash.
Raccoon droppings are easy to recognize. You’ll usually find raccoon droppings in the garden, near your trash cans, in your yard, on a raised horizontal surface like a log, or around a tree. Raccoons defecate in a communal area called a latrine. Raccoon feces is dark in color, two to three inches long, and with a tubular shape. You can easily tell raccoon feces apart from dog poop by the presence of berries, twigs, and undigested matter.
Raccoon prints are definitely distinctive: they look like tiny human feet and handprints with claw marks at the ends. You’ll probably see these small footprints around your trash, garden, and garage. You may even see scratch marks on your bird feeder post, flower pots, and trash cans.
Knocked Over Trash
If you go outside and find your trash cans tipped with trash strewn everywhere, there’s a good chance raccoons have identified your home as a source of food. Tipped-over trash doesn’t mean you necessarily have a raccoon problem but you could if you don’t take steps to prevent it.
If you have raccoons nearby, you will probably see them patrolling your property at night. You may see the reflective eyes in the bushes, near your trash cans, under your porch, or in the garden. They may climb up trees, explore the trash and garden, or walk in a straight line across the lawn. Raccoons are curious; you may even see them peep in your windows if they can reach. It’s normal to see raccoons occasionally walking through your property but nightly sightings mean they probably have a den or food source nearby.
Signs You Have Raccoons in Your Attic
You sometimes hear noises coming from your attic. What could it be? While it may be squirrels or even bats, loud thumping noises may be a sign that a mother raccoon has made your attic into her den to raise her young. The following are signs of raccoons in the attic:
- You hear thumping sounds or what sounds like an animal walking in the attic
- You hear them leaving after dusk or returning at night
- You may hear noises during the day even though raccoons are nocturnal
- You may hear whining or high-pitched crying sounds from baby raccoons (or kits)
- You see damage to your roof. This may be located on the edge of the roof or at the vents or soffits
You can visually inspect your attic for raccoons, although do this with care. You may see the raccoons in the attic or babies left behind while the mother searches for food. Raccoon droppings and urine may also be visible.
Here Are the Best Ways to Get Rid of Raccoons
You see evidence of raccoons around your home: tipped trash cans, emptied pet food bowls outside, and knocked-down bird feeders. You may even spot raccoons walking through your yard or even right up to your home to peek in your windows at night.
These steps will help you get rid of raccoons around your property for good.
1. Secure Trash Cans
If it’s easy to get into your trash cans, you’re essentially laying out the red carpet for raccoons. It isn’t enough to just close the lid, either; raccoons are perfectly capable of lifting and removing trash can lids in search of food. They’ll even knock the trash can over and pry it open if the lid doesn’t come off easily.
2. Don’t Leave Pet Food Outside
Any pet food dishes you have outside for your dog or cat should be brought inside before it gets dark. Raccoons love finding pet food, especially when there’s a water dish nearby. You’ll see them picking up the kibble with their hands and dunking it in the water before eating. The problem is when you leave pet food outside, raccoons will make a habit out of stopping by your house. They may even decide to nest under your porch or deck for easy access to what seems to be a reliable source of food.
3. Raccoon-Proof the Bird Feeders
If you have bird feeders, you’ve probably already dealt with chipmunks and squirrels trying to steal the bird food. Raccoons also love finding a huge supply of nuts and seeds. Making your bird feeders raccoon-proof will also keep squirrels and chipmunks at bay to save the bird seed for the birds.
You can stop raccoons from climbing your existing bird feeder pole with a wrap-around bird feeder baffle or stopper without removing the pole. Don’t use a regular squirrel baffle because they aren’t large enough to stop a raccoon.
Another option is simply bringing your bird feeders inside every night although this does get tedious.
4. Consider an Electric Fence
Raccoons are attracted to all types of food sources, including compost piles, koi ponds, and gardens. One of the easiest ways to protect these areas from raccoons and make your home less inviting is a simple electric fence kit.
This electric garden fence kit is a very affordable solution to keep raccoons at bay and protect your prized tomatoes, corn, and melons. You can also use it around your pond to keep goldfish and koi safe from prowling raccoons. The fence energizer comes with 250 feet of 17 hauge spool aluminum wire. It won’t harm raccoons and other pests who touch the fence but it will provide a memorable shock.
5. Protect Roof Vents and the Chimney
Raccoons love to climb into chimneys to nest and raise babies. Vents can also give easy access to the attic. To block entry, choose quality stainless or galvanized steel roof vent covers and chimney covers — not aluminum or plastic models that raccoons can easily rip off.
This galvanized steel vent cover protects vents from damage. It’s also a great way to prevent raccoons from getting back into your attic if they’ve already nested there before. The sturdy design and wire pattern will keep out virtually anything, including roof rats, squirrels, bats, birds, and raccoons.
For your chimney, choose a galvanized steel model like this one from Draft King to guard against raccoons and other pests.
6. Seal Entry Points Under Sheds and Decks
Don’t make it easy for raccoons to set up a den under your shed, deck, or porch. Potential entry points should be sealed off before the raccoons discover them. If raccoons have already moved in under your home, read the guide below for removing them first before you seal up the area.
To seal off open areas below your shed, deck, or porch, use a durable 10-gauge galvanized steel mesh. This mesh should be installed at least 6 inches deep below the ground and back-covered. This type of galvanized metal mesh is a good choice as long as it’s mounted securely to the deck or shed to prevent raccoons from tearing it away or digging under it.
7. Prune Around the Yard
To reduce possible nesting areas on your property, it’s a good idea to give your lawn some TLC. Get rid of any wood piles on your property then work to trim tree branches that hang over the roof. There should be at least a five-foot gap between any branch and your roof. Make sure you don’t have any arbors or trellises that give a raccoon easy access to the roof. While you’re tidying up your yard, make sure you pick up any fruit or nuts that have fallen from your trees as they’re an easy and attractive source of food for raccoons.
Safety Tips for Live Trapping Raccoons
Now that we’ve gone over ways to get rid of raccoons around your property, we’ll explore how to get rid of raccoons under a house or in an attic. This often involves live traps to temporarily remove the raccoons before they’re released on the property (or euthanized).
If you choose to live trap a raccoon, remember that raccoons can be very dangerous. In addition to the diseases they can spread, they can also be vicious when cornered or trapped. Use extreme caution when trapping and releasing a raccoon.
Once a raccoon is caught in a trap, handle the trap very carefully. Raccoons can and will reach through the cage to destroy or hurt anything they can — including you! Make sure you wear heavy-duty gloves when handling the trap. Never stick your fingers into the trap or hold the trap close to your body. It helps to place a heavy blanket over the trap while you move it to help calm the raccoon and reduce the risk of injury to yourself.
Next comes the most dangerous part of trapping a raccoon: releasing it safely. The good news is animals aren’t like humans; when released from a trap, their instinct is to seek cover and safety, not get revenge.
Most traps allow you to open the door without getting your hand too close to the cage itself. You may even be able to manipulate the mechanism with a pole to stay far away from the cage. Place the cage on a level surface and remove the blanket. Stand behind the cage so it opens in the opposite direction and facing shrubbery or foliage that the raccoon can run into right away. When you open the cage door, the raccoon’s instincts should take it in the opposite direction of you.
How to Get Rid of Raccoons in Attics
Raccoons are intelligent and great at adapting to new environments. In urban and suburban areas with reduced den sites and food sources, your home will look like a great place to move in.
Raccoons don’t build their own dens; they prefer to make their home in a rock or tree hollow. Of course, raccoons have learned that sheds and attics offer great protection and close access to food. Attics provide raccoons with shelter and warmth and they often come with insulation material that can be used to build a nest. Because they’re great at climbing, getting into your attic may not pose much of a problem at all.
Here’s how to get rid of raccoons in the attic — and keep them out.
8. Find the Point of Entry into Attic
A raccoon only needs an opening about 4″ across or smaller. Here are just some of the ways raccoons can get into your attic:
- Plumbing mats. The vents on your roof that connect to your plumbing system to exhaust sewer gases are a great entry point for raccoons. To install these vents, a hole is cut in the roof for the pipe. The opening is then covered with a rubber mat that’s easy for raccoons to pull up and chew through.
- Roof edge. The edge of your roof can be vulnerable to raccoon damage. If the edge of your roof is compromised by years of rain, raccoons can chew through the damaged wood and shingles to get access to the attic.
- Roof and soffit intersection. The place where your soffit rests above the section of roof (usually where a lower and upper roof meet) is an easy entry point for a raccoon. Raccoons simply need to push the soffit open with their shoulders and hands and climb inside.
- Roof vents. Your roof vents ventilate your attic. As raccoons explore your roof, they’ll feel the warm air escaping and realize there’s a cozy den inside. Raccoons can easily destroy “pest-proof” aluminum and plastic vent covers.
Once you find how the raccoons got in — don’t make the mistake of sealing the opening!
There’s a good chance you’ll just seal baby raccoons away from their mother. As you should be looking at first-hand evidence of how destructive raccoons can be, the last thing you want is for the mother raccoon to tear your house apart to reunite with her babies.
9. Use an Excluder One-Way Door (Attic)
After identifying how the raccoons got in, you can place a one-way door live trap that allows the raccoon out but not back in.
The Tomahawk Excluder is a good choice as it’s affordable, sturdy, and reusable.
Set up the trap so the raccoon will leave the opening to forage but instead get stuck in the trap. This may catch only the mother or it may catch young raccoons as well.
If baby raccoons remain, you will need to physically remove them and relocate them with the mother. We’ll go over the best way to do this next.
Releasing Trapped Raccoons
Trapping the raccoons in your attic is just the first step: next comes how to get rid of the raccoons for good.
Before we go over how to release trapped raccoons, a word of caution:
Some states require on-site release or on-site euthanasia of trapped nuisance animals like raccoons. In Ohio, for example, it’s illegal to relocate any animal with a high potential for rabies, like skunks, raccoons, and bats.
These laws are in place for good reason. They help stop the spread of rabies. They also protect the animals. Research shows relocated animals have a poor rate of survival in their new location because they don’t know the area or how to forage and may face attack from native animals.
That means you may have a choice: killing the raccoon on your property or releasing it right there.
That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Raccoon mothers maintain alternate nest sites just in case their primary nest is destroyed. Once the raccoons are trapped and out of your attic, you should be able to simply repair the damage, close their access, and let them go so they can return to their secondary nest — outside of your home.
So, what happens if you trap an adult raccoon in your attic and discover there are babies once you can get inside?
There are two options:
- You can make the attic inhospitable and disturb the nest by spraying a strong-smelling substance like cider vinegar and release the mother. The mother raccoon will return to your attic to retrieve the babies and move on to an alternate nest.
- You can carefully remove the babies from the attic. If you do this, place them in a warm towel on the ground next to the trapped mother at the edge of your property. Release the mother and, as long as you have covered the entrance to your attic, she will take the babies and relocate.
If the mother raccoon has already been trapped and released or killed and you discover orphaned babies in the attic, they probably have a death sentence as well. In many states, orphaned raccoon babies are considered “nuisance” progeny and they can’t be rehabilitated legally. A wildlife center probably won’t take them.
How to Get Rid of Raccoons Under House or Deck
While an attic is one of the best dens for a raccoon — it’s warm, comes with included nesting material, and it’s safe from predators — the area under your deck or porch or in your crawl space is a close second.
The good news about getting rid of raccoons under the house or in a crawl space? There’s less chance of finding babies compared to raccoons in the attic. Mother raccoons with a litter prefer creating a den off the ground such as in a tree or attic. If you have a raccoon under your house or deck, it’s probably a male raccoon or a female without young. This makes getting rid of the raccoon much easier.
Removing raccoons from under your deck or shed requires a simple approach: trap the raccoons, use an exclusion barrier to prevent them from returning, then let them go.
Here are the steps to take to get rid of raccoons under a house or shed.
10. Use a Live Trap (Under Deck or Home)
Set up your live raccoon trap near the opening where they’re getting under the structure. Make sure you bait the trap properly. While raccoons will eat almost anything, including pet food, the best thing to use is marshmallows. Raccoons love sweets and marshmallows won’t attract a cat into the trap.
Once the raccoon is trapped, you can install an exclusion device as explained below. Make sure all animals living under your house or shed have left before installing an exclusion method!
Once the exclusion method is in place, you can release the raccoon. Unless you’re going to kill the raccoon on your property, it’s recommended to release it close to where it was trapped. In many states, this is also required. As long as the exclusion method is in place, the raccoon won’t move back under your shed or deck.
11. Scare the Raccoon Out of the Den (Under Deck or Home)
An alternative to live trapping the raccoon temporarily is waiting for the raccoon to leave to hunt or scaring them away from the den. You can use a portable radio and a mechanic’s light or a rag soaked in cider vinegar to make them leave the area. Always confirm that the animals have left the area before using an exclusion method.
How to Exclude Raccoons from Under the House
Make sure you check and confirm there are no raccoons — especially baby raccoons — under your deck or house. Next, seal up any entrances the raccoons were using. If you have lattice under your deck, nail chicken wire over it.
12. Galvanized Metal Mesh (Under Deck or Home)
A cost-effective and simple way to raccoon-proof the open area under a shed or porch is installing a metal mesh barrier. A galvanized metal mesh should be installed partially underground to keep raccoons from digging it up or bending it out of place. Dig a trench around your shed or the opening of your deck and bolt the steel mesh to the side of the structure. Make sure it’s buried at least six inches under the ground and back-fill the trench.
What to Do if You Find Abandoned Baby Raccoons
What happens if you find what appears to be abandoned or orphaned baby raccoons in your attic, under your deck, or elsewhere on your property? This isn’t uncommon but there’s a good chance the babies aren’t abandoned; their mother is probably out looking for food.
Raccoons usually have litters of 3 to 7 young or kits. Raccoons are born with fur and open their eyes once they’re 19 days old. By the age of 6 to 7 weeks, baby raccoons weigh around 1.5 pounds and are ready to be weaned. They will stay with their mother during the fall and some may remain with her during the winter.
It’s very common to see unattended raccoon babies during the day or night if you find their den. The mother uses every chance she gets to forage for food and she may even be active during the day, especially in the spring and summer when the babies are small.
Unless the mother raccoon is unable to, she will return for the babies.
If you find the baby raccoons outside of their den, you can protect them until the mother returns by placing a towel and upside-down laundry basket over them. You can also put the babies in a cardboard box with a towel to keep them warm. When the mother returns, she will tear open the box or flip the laundry basket to get them.
If the baby raccoons are in a den on your patio, in your chimney, in your attic, or under a deck, you can use the mother raccoon’s dedication to force them to relocate. You can carefully remove the babies from the den while wearing protection to avoid catching any diseases. Place them in a cardboard box with air holes close by but outside of the den. Use exclusion methods like steel gauge mesh to close access to the den and wait for the mother to return and relocate the babies to another den site.
Do Raccoon Sprays and Raccoon Repellent Work?
You’ll see lots of raccoon repellents on the market but the truth is most don’t work. Physical removal and exclusion methods are the best ways to tackle a raccoon problem. With that said, some raccoon sprays and products can be useful at temporarily driving raccoons out of their den so you can seal it up.
You can use a hot pepper spray to help guard your garden and other areas against raccoons. Bonide Hot Pepper Wax Animal Repellent is marketed for gardens but it can also be applied around other areas prone to raccoons like the trash or around your shed. Still, it isn’t guaranteed to work and exclusion methods are a better bet.To get raccoons to leave their nest so you can install an exclusion barrier, you can try spraying apple cider vinegar or soaking a rag in vinegar and leaving it near the entrance.
My name is Christine and I’m living in Southwest Ohio where I was born and raised after a decade spent living in Southern California and Nevada.
While I loved working as a Pest Control Technician in Western Ohio, I did not enjoy the hours.
I decided to find a new career and now I work as a writer and help others find solutions to their pest problems online.
In my free time, I enjoy traveling and going to as many metal concerts as possible.