Raccoons are seen in the media as cute and cuddly little friends and even though they are technically a pest, a lot of people enjoy watching raccoons run around and wreak havoc. Although they can be cute in the wild, raccoons aren’t so cute when they are in your house. So what do you do if you find one there?
If you find yourself face to face with a raccoon in your home, follow these simple steps to keep you out of harm. Stay calm, make yourself big, yell and wave your arms while you exit the room, notice how the raccoon is acting while you exit, and seclude the raccoon in a room while you call for help.
Raccoons are notorious for showing up and digging through your trash and that means they are probably in close proximity to your house. Let’s look a little deeper into the characteristics of raccoons and what to do if one is in your house!
Identifying Raccoons In Your Home
Raccoons are often portrayed in movies and memes as funny little creatures that get themselves into trouble. You’ve probably seen the meme of a raccoon running away with a little chocolate snack cake! That’s a pretty accurate depiction of a raccoon’s personality.
Raccoons are mammals, and if you want to talk about them scientifically you can call them “Procyon Lotor”. Raccoons have gray, fluffy fur, and depending on where they live, they can be pretty chunky. They range anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds and they’re usually about 3 feet long. Female raccoons are just a tad bit smaller than male raccoons.
Raccoons are known for their “mask” of black that circles their eyes that looks like the mask of a burglar. Along with their black masks, raccoons also have a tail that has striped rings that are black and their little paws are black, too.
Raccoons like to live in any place that might resemble a hollow. They like to live in the hollows of trees, but they will settle for just about anything ranging from brush piles, other animals’ old homes, the ground, in haystacks, and even in places like barns and urban areas.
Raccoons love an easy meal, so urban living is ideal for them. They will eat just about anything, as they are omnivores (meaning they eat both meat and plants). Raccoons like all sorts of food from clams in the river to apple cores out of your garbage can to eggs right from out of your chicken coop.
Raccoons are nocturnal, so they only venture out at night for the most part and sleep all day. Sleep all day party all night right? They don’t hibernate in the winter but hate the cold, so they don’t do as much adventuring during the cold months. Instead, they spend most of their time bundled up together collecting warmth.
Raccoons can live to be 12 years old if given the right circumstances. However, raccoons are susceptible to kicking the bucket early and a lot of the time you see raccoons, they are young. Usually only 2 years old tops! They are also travelers. Once they establish a nesting site, they might travel up to 20 miles away to find food.
What to do if You See A Raccoon In Your House
If you are at home and you find yourself face to face with a raccoon, you need to be very careful how you approach the situation. Raccoons are not set out to hurt humans, they actually enjoy our company because we give them a lot of what they need: food, water, and shelter.
However, that doesn’t mean they are friendly! We have some great tips for when you’re face to face with a raccoon.
1. Stay Calm
Stay calm! This is the first rule of dealing with a raccoon. You need to be calm so that you are alert and ready to handle the rest of the situation with a clear head and not be panicked about the what-ifs.
Take a deep breath and make sure you leave space between yourself and the raccoon before moving on to step two. Even though you’re staying calm, don’t waste too much time. Let’s get you out of there.
2. Make Yourself Big
After you’ve calmed down, the next step is to make yourself big. To do this, you can puff out your chest, raise your arms above your head and slightly to the sides, spread your leg into a wider stance, really just anything to make yourself bigger.
I’ve even heard of people using a shirt or towel (obviously only if you have it on your person at the time) and holding it above your head to help aid the process in making yourself look bigger!
You want to intimidate the raccoon so it knows not to mess with you. It might feel silly, but it could really save you!
3. Shout and Wave Your Arms
After you’ve shown the raccoon that you’re the boss and that you’re bigger than it is, now you want to scare it so it stays away from you. If you’re in a small room, be cognizant of that because if it runs, you want to make sure it doesn’t run at you.
Don’t let out a high-pitched scream, just a few shouts. My dad always taught me to yell “HEY!” when I’m trying to either get a wild animal’s attention or I want to scare it off. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Waving your arms should be deliberate, swift waves where your arms move up and down in sort of a half windmill pattern. The purpose of this is to make yourself seem like a threat, not to scare the raccoon into attacking you.
If you have to, you can throw things at the raccoon if you need it to back up. I would only recommend this if you absolutely have to as it might get dangerous. If you are faced with a situation where you need it to go away from you right away, you can throw a few objects in its direction and it will scurry away.
You can read our full list of sounds that scare raccoons here if you’d like!
4. Notice How the Raccoon is Acting While You Exit
This is an important one, especially when you are considering how to remove the raccoon from your house. Is the raccoon acting normal? Did it look frightened (like it probably should be) and was it moving quickly or trying to move quickly?
Did the raccoon appear to be drunk or hazy? Was it moving slowly? Did it have foam around its mouth? Was there more than one? Was the raccoon extra aggressive? These are all questions you need to ask yourself as you are backing up and making your exit.
Make sure when you leave, you are backing up to the door. Don’t turn around and leave your back exposed to the raccoon without keeping eyes on it for safety purposes. After you get yourself out of there, you might even want to write down some of the things you noticed about the raccoon.
Raccoons often carry rabies, and it’s very important to know if you are dealing with that when you go to remove the raccoon from your home because it is an added safety risk for you and whoever else might be removing the raccoon. Extra safety measures should be taken!
5. Seclude the Raccoon in a Room and Call For Help
Next, you should seclude the raccoon in the room you just left by closing the door so that the raccoon can’t leave. This way, when you go to remove the raccoon later, you are sure you know where it is and you won’t be playing a game of hiding and seek or “where’s the pest in my house?”. Not the most fun game to be playing!
After you seclude the raccoon, you should really consider calling for help. Raccoons, while they might seem easy to handle from how they are portrayed in the media, can be quite a problem. I would absolutely suggest calling a pest control expert or even at the very least calling for someone to help you.
You should not take on a raccoon by yourself. Please ensure there are at least two people present when trying to remove a raccoon from the premises.
How to Know If You’re Dealing with A Racoon If You Don’t See It
Raccoons can be hard to notice since they only come out at night but they do leave pretty distinct signs when they are around. If you don’t see them in your home, but have a feeling they are around and you worry they might find their way inside, here’s how you can tell if you have a raccoon near your home.
Tracks, Scratches and Smudges
A raccoon’s back feet will leave tracks that look a lot like a very small handprint. If you see this, you can almost be certain you are dealing with raccoons in the night. They also have long, non retractable claws on their front feet that will leave a distinct mark in those paw prints.
You might see these tracks on deck railings and trellises or really anywhere that a raccoon might be climbing. They might look like smudges, but they also might look like scratches depending on how the raccoon climbed up.
Raccoons may also leave body hair and a smelly oil where they have rubbed their bodies, so be on the lookout for gray and black hair with a smelly, oily residue.
Tipped Over Garbage Bins
Raccoons are notorious for going through a garbage can. They will literally knock it over and dig through it to find what they want to eat from it and they will scatter your garbage around the yard, almost like they are laying it out so that they can see what they want and what they don’t want.
You can learn more about why raccoons actually eat garbage here!
Signs on the Roof
If you notice your shingles are starting to come up, you might have a raccoon problem. Raccoons are great at using their hands, and they will tear up the shingles on your roof in an effort to get into your attic.
Along with this, you might notice that your chimney seems a little stuffed. Raccoons love chimneys, they will make it their home quickly. They will stuff your chimney so that they can live in it without falling through, which is not only a bother but can cause some fire issues.
If you notice anything funky on your roof, it’s safe to say you should probably go check it out!
You can read our guide on how raccoons get into your attic here!
Raccoons make a lot of noise, especially at night, and their noises are pretty distinctive. If you hear whining, growling, scratching, purring, whimpering or snarling, you should check to see if there is a raccoon somewhere near.
You can read our full list on the sounds that raccoons make here.
Destroyed Chicken Coops
Raccoons love chickens. They love eggs from chickens. They love warm environments. What harbors all of these things? You guessed it, a chicken coop. Raccoons love to break into chicken coops at night and take all that they can.
The way they eat chicken is a sure sign you’re dealing with a raccoon. If you have chicken and they are suddenly decreasing in numbers, you will know it is a raccoon if they leave the head and leave it a distance from anything else. There is not an exact reason behind this, but it is a sure sign of a raccoon.
Evidence of “Delicate” Eating
Raccoons eat their food very particularly. You might notice if you have corn stalks that they are knocked over at the stalk and the ears are peeled back and the corn looks like a person might have taken a few bites out of it. Raccoons will peel back the ears and only eat the kernels, they don’t eat the husks.
Also, if you see fruit with a rind (like a melon) with a small hole in the top and the outsides hollowed, this is also a sign of a raccoon. They are very delicate and particular when it comes to how they eat.
In fact, finding easy to access food outside is just one of the many reasons why raccoons won’t leave on their own.
How to Prevent Raccoons from coming Around Your House
For immediate removal, call a pest professional. They will help you get the raccoon out safely and humanely for everyone involved. If you want to prevent raccoons from coming around and inside your home, you can follow a lot of different steps so that you are never face to face with a raccoon ever again.
Before you do anything to remove a raccoon, it’s important to know your state laws because, in some states, raccoons are protected furbearers. Also, different states have different trapping and relocating laws, so you really need to be aware of those before doing anything but a pest professional should know these laws.
If you’d like to skip this section and get right to the good part, take a look at our guide on the scents that raccoons hate and how to use them as repellents!
Install Garbage Can Lid Snaps
In general, some helpful tips in avoiding raccoons include excluding them from things they want. For starters, you can make sure that all of your garbage cans are secured with bungee cords or snaps to make it really hard for a raccoon to open.
This Strong Strap – Universal Garbage Can Lid Lock Utility Strap is a great choice for closing your garbage can and ensuring that raccoons can’t get in, with a fair price and great reviews, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Get Rid of Anything They Can Climb
Raccoons are avid climbers and love to climb trees. Raccoons also love to climb trellises, water ducts, drain pipes, etc. So make sure you trim the trees around your house and put metal flashing on the trunks of trees to help prevent raccoons from climbing them.
AMERIMAX HOME Aluminum Flashing works great for putting around tree trunks to help prevent raccoons from climbing up trees near your home.
Use Vinegar To Repel Raccoons
You can take vinegar and place it in areas that might be high traffic to raccoons (like trellises and such) so they leave it alone. Raccoons dislike the sharp scent of vinegar and furthermore, it actually masks other potential food scents making it less likely that the raccoon will take up residence near your home!
You can also put vinegar in a place they have previously denned to keep them from coming back to the den again.
Check out our article on using epsom salt to repel raccoons to learn more about other natural raccoon repelling methods!
Don’t feed Raccoons or Other Pets Outdoors
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife strongly suggests that you make sure you are not feeding raccoons and you are not feeding your pets outdoors either. If you have outdoor pets, perhaps put their food somewhere it can be closed up at night or take it inside at night.
Or, if possible, put it in a place like a dog house or pen where it is more secured than just out in the open. Make sure you aren’t leaving things out that the raccoons might like to munch on. Some examples of this could be compost bins, rotting fruit and any kind of scraps.
Secure Chickens at Night
This is probably one of the most valuable tips. Make sure if you have chickens that they are secured in the coop at night to avoid attracting any wildlife, especially raccoons. Raccoons are good with their hands at getting things open, so making sure your coop is secured well is a big deal.
PREDATORGUARD Solar Powered Predator Deterrent Light is a great option to put outside of the coop. It will go off if motion is detected during the night and put out loud sounds that will scare away the raccoons to keep your coop safe.
That’s A Wrap!
In closing, it is important to remember to stay calm, make yourself big and get out of there when you see a raccoon in your home! A raccoon in your home isn’t as likely as outside of your home, but it’s important to be prepared if it does happen.
Preventing more raccoons from entering your house is very important, too. Make sure you take these steps to help you better keep your home free of raccoons and stress.
Best of luck next time you encounter a raccoon! Hopefully these steps will help keep you safe and out of harm’s way.
Goldman, E. A. (1950). Raccoons of north and middle America (No. 60). US Government Printing Office.
Lopez, A. D. (2002). When Raccoons Fall Through Your Ceiling: The Handbook for Coexisting with Wildlife (No. 3). University of North Texas Press.
O’DONNELL, M. A., & DeNICOLA, A. J. (2006). Den site selection of lactating female raccoons following removal and exclusion from suburban residences. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 34(2), 366-370.
Stuewer, F. W. (1948). Artificial dens for raccoons. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 296-301.
Stuewer, F. W. (1943). Raccoons: their habits and management in Michigan. Ecological Monographs, 13(2), 203-257.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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