Some people view raccoons as being one of the cutest creatures on the planet. However, this does not mean that we want them in our homes, and it is essential to know some humane ways to get a raccoon out of your attic for both our safety and theirs.
Raccoons often enter attics with small openings or openings covered by materials that they can bend and move out of the way. A great example of this is an opening that is covered with some flimsy plywood.
Here we will be explaining all of the reasons why raccoons hide in attics, how you can prevent them from doing so, and how you can get them out in a humane way. In addition to this, we will also be explaining when you should seek some professional help for your raccoon problem.
Why Do Raccoons Go Into Attics?
An attic provides a safe, dry, and warm hideout for raccoons. This makes an attic a very attractive den. While raccoons can nest in your attic at any time of year, you’re more likely to find them in your attic in the winter and spring months as they search for safe places to keep warm and dry.
Meanwhile, during spring, mother raccoons are looking for safe places to give birth and raise their kits until they can fend for themselves!
Signs You Have a Raccoon in Your Attic
Luckily (and unluckily), there are some obvious signs that you have a raccoon’s nesting in your attic. The first sign you’ll likely notice? The noise.
If you have a raccoon in your attic, you’ll likely hear them scurrying around on your attic floor. Commonly, you’ll hear a noise similar to some loud thuds, scratching, and clawing when raccoons are in your attic.
You may hear some of their vocal sounds as well, especially if there are kits present. The most common sound that a raccoon emits is its high-pitched chittering sound.
If a raccoon has been in your attic for a little while, you will likely see some not-so-exciting physical evidence as well. Yes, talking about raccoon excrement here (yuck.)
Next to this excrement or in the same vicinity, you’ll usually find a raccoon’s nest.
Raccoon nests are usually filled with leaves, twigs, wood pieces, fabric, and torn insulation. You may also find some trash, such as food wrappers. Generally, raccoons will make use of whatever they find in your attic to add to their den, as well as bringing in some outside materials.
Of course, all of this can do damage to your attic! Specifically, torn insulation, torn walls, and torn-off shingles can lead to water damage and increased electric bills. If you have any wiring in your attic, raccoons may also make use of that to build their den.
Basically, the longer a raccoon makes your attic their home, the more damage there will likely be.
So if you notice any of the following, you may very well have raccoons in your attic:
- Thuds, scratching, and clawing in your attic
- Loud drops in your attic
- Damage to insulation
- Raccoon excrement (feces)
- Evidence of nest building
- Chittering noises in the attic
Testing for Raccoons in Your Attic
Before going too deep into this, we’ve got a neat little tip on how to check if there are any unwanted raccoon roommates in your attic.
If you suspect that a raccoon or other wild animal has been entering your home through a particular hole or damaged structure, then you can test if this is a point of entry pretty quickly.
All you need to do is stuff the hole with some paper. Tissue paper or newspaper will work fine. After a few days, you should check on the hole, and if the paper hasn’t moved, you are good to go! However, it is important to note that this test is most valid if there hasn’t been a storm or any high winds, as these things can move the paper.
Even so, you’ll most likely notice a few of the other signs mentioned above, in addition to the paper being moved.
3 Ways That Raccoons Get Into Attics
Alright, here we go. Ready for the fun stuff?
Essentially, there are three main ways that raccoons can get into your attic:
- Entering through roof
- Climbing into vents
- Chewing through cheap siding
Raccoons Can Enter Attics Through Roof
It is very common for raccoons to enter attics through the roof. Loose shingles, holes, and pliable coverings are easy for raccoons to squeeze through. Once in, raccoons will then find your dry and warm attic and think, “you know, this is kind of nice? I might stay for a while.”
OK, they won’t really say that, I mean, they MIGHT, but while raccoons are quite intelligent, they can’t speak or think in English.
To prevent raccoons from entering your attic through your roof, you should do routine inspections on your shingles and roofing structure, especially if you live in an area with strong storms and winds. High winds and strong rainstorms can quickly loosen or knock shingles out of place.
During these inspections, you should look for loose shingles and holes. In addition to this, you should look for any warping or other damages.
Raccoons Climb Into Vents To Enter Attics
Raccoons can also enter your attic through ventilation that has openings on the outside of your house. These vents are usually covered with screens designed to keep insects and other types of wildlife out of your house.
Unfortunately, netting for vents is often flimsy, and raccoons can easily tear these vents open, as they’re quite good with their paws. As a result, you should routinely check these vents for any damages, just like you would do for your roof.
Ideally, you may also want to look into a thicker and stronger insect netting for these vents as well.
Raccoons Tear Through Cheap & Failing Materials
Raccoons are very clever and crafty animals, so if there are any structural problems in your attic, a raccoon will likely be able to find a way through.
Any warping or tears in house siding can be a very easy way for raccoons to find their way into attics, as they can chew and tear through cheap and failing materials quite easily.
In fact, this is a very common point of entry for raccoons. In addition to this, structural problems in things like trim boards and dormer junctions can be a fairly easy way for raccoons to get into your attic.
These structural problems are most likely to occur in houses that are built with cheap materials, are old houses, or if you have used cheap materials to make repairs. If your attic has windows, you should always make sure that they are closed securely and are not broken, as raccoons can enter this way as well.
Raccoons are quite dexterous with their paws, making it quite easy for them to tear away any materials that are even remotely flimsy.
To prevent raccoons from entering your attic in this way, you should routinely check both the outside of your house and the inside of your attic for any damages or structural issues. If any damages or structural problems have been detected, you should repair these as soon as possible. However, you should only start making these repairs if no animals are residing in your attic.
How to Prevent Raccoons From Getting Into Your Attic
Doing routine checks on your roof, outside ventilation, and outside structures is KEY when it comes to preventing raccoons from entering your attic. It is also important to make repairs quickly once you have determined that no wildlife is currently residing in your attic.
You can determine this by shining a bright light and making loud noises in your attic while looking for signs of movement, raccoon sounds, and other indicators.
In addition to this, you should always make repairs with sturdy materials that a raccoon can’t break through. Galvanized metal wire can be a great reinforcement to any siding until you can find a permanent fix.
Additionally, you can apply some of the key scents that raccoons hate and read our guide on the topic here!
How to Get Raccoons Out of Your Attic
Although prevention is extremely important and useful, sometimes there is already a raccoon in your attic before you can repair that hole in your siding. If there are only adult raccoons present, then it is safe to try humane harassment as a way to try and coax raccoons to leave, as long as you DON’T come in contact with the raccoon and do this from a distance away.
This involves shining bright lights into space periodically, playing loud sounds such as music, and leaving a smell that raccoons do not like in or around their nesting area.
As raccoons quite hate the smell of peppermint, one scent that works quite well to repel raccoons is Rodent Sheriff’s Ultra-Pure Peppermint Spray. It can be sprayed inside of attics and has a base active ingredient of peppermint oil!
You must use these tactics only at night. As raccoons as nocturnal, this makes them more comfortable with leaving and finding themselves a new den.
This tactic is also most successful when all three tactics (light, sound, and smell) are used properly!
It is crucial to do this quickly once you discover a raccoon.
Now, this next part is important, and PLEASE adhere to it. You should never use humane harassment techniques when there is a female raccoon with newborn kits as they cannot escape with their mother yet. Please contact a pest control professional if you’re finding raccoons in your attic during nesting season (Springtime.)
Raccoons Can Also Get Into Chimneys
Like attics, chimneys also provide a safe, dry, and warm place for raccoons to set up a den. In addition to this, chimneys often also have a shelf and other small spaces that a raccoon may like to nest in. For this reason, chimneys can seem to be an ideal space for a female raccoon to give birth to and care for her kits as this smoke shelf is usually a very convenient size and shape for this purpose.
How to Prevent Raccoons From Getting Into Your Chimney
There are chimney caps specifically designed to keep raccoons and other kinds of wildlife out of them. Before installing a chimney cap, you should always check to ensure no animals are inside. You can usually do this with a bright light, such as a flashlight. Once you have determined that you have no unwanted visitors in your chimney, then you can proceed. When installing a chimney cap yourself, it is crucial that you follow all of the instructions provided based on whatever product you get!
How to Get a Raccoon Out of Your Chimney
You can coax adult raccoons from leaving your chimney pretty easily using the humane harassment technique. This involves using a combination of bright light, loud sounds, and unpleasant smells such as cider vinegar to get the raccoon to eventually leave.
This should only be done when it is dark because it will make the raccoon more comfortable with leaving your chimney and finding a new, more appropriate home.
You should never attempt to use humane harassment techniques if there are raccoon kits present. They will likely become separated from their mother due to their inability to climb out of your chimney, and this will likely end badly for the kits if they are not reunited with their mother!
Similarly, you should never light a fire and try to use smoke as a way to evacuate your chimney from any type of wildlife. This could end up harming the animals, especially if they are very young and cannot escape.
Places Raccoons Can Hide in Your House
In addition to attics and chimneys, sometimes raccoons can find themselves in other parts of our homes. These include walls, ceilings, ducts, and crawl spaces. Whenever a wild animal finds themselves in these spaces, it can be very hard for the average person to try and get them out.
Therefore, you should always seek qualified professional help removing any animals, making repairs, and even cleaning up raccoon waste! Here are some other places raccoons can hide in and just how you can get them out of your attic!
Sometimes raccoons can make their way inside of our walls. However, this is usually not intentional, and often the raccoons in our walls are stuck inside.
Therefore, you will almost always need professional help with getting them out, as sometimes you may need to have a part of your wall cut open. When this occurs, you may have damages to your insulation or electrical wires which, you’d need an electrician to help fix as well.
Sometimes ceilings can have some small spaces that a raccoon can hide or nest in. Although getting a raccoon out of these spaces will likely not be as difficult as getting one out of your wall, you may still need some help with getting them out.
This is especially true if there are raccoon kits present or if the space is difficult for the raccoon to get out of. In addition to this, a raccoon could do some damage to the internal and external structures of your ceiling and roof if they’re left in that spot long enough.
As a general rule, raccoons find their way in ducts when they are exploring and then get trapped there. However, it is not impossible for mother raccoons to use this space as a place to give birth to and care for their kits.
If there are kits present, then you should always hire somebody who is qualified and knowledgeable on how to remove the raccoon family in a safe way that does not separate them. You may also need someone who knows how to remove ductwork and take it apart safely to free a trapped raccoon.
Inside Crawl Spaces
Crawl spaces can be a very attractive place for a raccoon to set up their home. This is because it is warm, dry, and safe from predators naturally! Your crawlspace is the ideal den for an expecting mother raccoon.
Due to this and a lack of space, you will likely need someone who knows how to remove raccoons, and raccoon families, safely and effectively. In addition to this, you may also need someone to make repairs on your insulation and possibly your electrical wiring depending on your situation and how your house is set up.
Should You Call a Professional To Remove Raccoons?
Although raccoons often leave after a while when people use humane harassment techniques, there are times when it either just doesn’t work or is not appropriate to use. During times like this, you should seek qualified and professional help to get rid of your raccoon infestation.!
If a Raccoon Seems Aggressive
A raccoon could be aggressive for many reasons. However, usually, a raccoon becomes aggressive if they are territorial or if there is something wrong with them.
Whatever the reason may be, you should NEVER approach or attempt to remove a raccoon that appears to be aggressive and leave it to a professional to handle the issue.
If a Raccoon is Exhibiting Unusual Behavior
You should always seek qualified and professional help if a raccoon seems to be exhibiting unusual behavior. Raccoons usually do this when they are either injured or ill. Therefore, a qualified professional will be able to remove the raccoon in a way that is safe for both humans and the raccoon alike. This will not only keep you out of harm’s way but doing this could also save an injured raccoon’s life.
If There Are Raccoon Kits Present
Let’s face it; most people are not willing to wait until raccoon kits can escape on their own before they take care of their raccoon infestation.
However, you should never attempt to get rid of the mother raccoon on your own. Separation from their mother can be fatal for raccoon kits. Similarly, you should never trap and relocate a raccoon mother and her kits. Although you may feel as if you are doing the right thing, this usually leads the mother to separate herself from most, or all, of her kits.
A qualified professional will know how to remove the raccoon mother and her litter properly. They will also be knowledgeable on how to reintroduce the raccoon kits to their mother. This way, your raccoon problem will be in the past, no humans or animals will get hurt, and all raccoons are reunited.
If a Raccoon Just Won’t Leave
Sometimes people attempt humane harassment techniques, and it just doesn’t work. They will likely be able to employ more advanced techniques such as “the one-way door” technique. They essentially set up an escape route for the raccoon to leave your attic but design it in a way that makes it impossible to go back in.
This, along with some other techniques, are sure to take care of your raccoon infestation problem. It will also ensure that all humans and animals will be out of harm’s way during the removal process. In addition to this, a qualified professional will be able to assess whether or not raccoon kits are old enough to be able to escape on their own or if they are still too young.
That’s a Wrap!
The noise, mess, and damage that a raccoon can make in an attic are enough for anyone to want them out as soon as possible.
Raccoons can enter your attic through holes and structural problems in your roof, vents that go to the outside, and more. For this reason, it is important to check all of these areas to make sure that there is no way that a raccoon can squeeze into your attic and make it their home!
In addition to this, raccoons can find their way into our chimneys, ducts, crawl spaces, ceilings, and even our walls.
To get a raccoon out of these areas in your home, you can use humane harassment techniques. This combines light, sound, and scent to make raccoons hide out inside of your home less inviting for them.
Happy Raccoon Repelling!
Camino, L. P., Idnurm, A., & Cerdá-Olmedo, E. (2015). Diversity, ecology, and evolution in Phycomyces. Fungal biology, 119(11), 1007-1021.
Huxoll, C. M., Messmer, T. A., & Conover, M. R. (1994). Raccoons: Wildlife Damage Management Series.
Kern Jr, W. H. (2012). Northern Raccoon. EDIS, 2012(2).
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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