How To Get Rid of Raccoons (A Homeowner’s Guide)

Raccoons—the garbage-eaters we love to hate—are adorable from afar but problematic up close.

These nuisance animals are universally recognized by their bandit-like faces and mischievous squeaks, but for those who don't know, raccoons are small mammals that can grow up to 23 pounds.

how to get rid of raccoons

Found ransacking trash piles throughout the United States, these scavengers enjoy a variety of environments. Right off the bat, most people recognize these little guys by their distinctive gray coat and black facial markings. 

A raccoon usually lives for 2-3 years and can make a den almost anywhere. Unfortunately, these freewheeling creatures are opportunistic and love being around humans, who provide tons of food. This means that they'll invade your backyard without a second thought, burrowing in your garden and nesting on your property in order to eat your scraps.

Where Do Raccoons Live?

Raccoons can live in almost every environment in the United States except the hot southwest and northern mountains.

Colloquially called "trash pandas," they are dumpster divers capable of living in urban regions like cities and neighborhoods. Many also enjoy the countryside where they can find crops, eggs, and even young chicks for food.

Want to skip all this research and just hire a decent exterminator for your raccoon problem?

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What Do Raccoons Like To Eat?

Here's an easier question to ask: what don't raccoons eat?

They are omnivores, which means they feast on a diet of both meat and plants. These hungry creatures love berries, eggs, rodents, frogs, fish, vegetables, and many other natural foods. When in urban areas, they will dig through the trash and eat things like pizza, cheese, vegetable peelings, and any other human food they find.

Here's an unexpected fact: though these animals are called "trash pandas" in English for their dumpster-diving tendencies, they are actually quite clean! In fact, their name in German is Waschbär, or "wash bear," because they actually wash all their food before they eat it! This is also true of their Latin name, lotor, which means "the washer."

get rid of raccoons facts

People need to be careful around raccoons, however, as it's not uncommon for them to target outdoor pets or animals like chicks or pond fish.

Safe Ways to Get Rid of Raccoons

Most homeowners don't want to kill raccoons. Instead, there are a couple of tips and tricks people can follow to make sure these cunning critters stay away from houses and neighbors.

Traps

Most raccoon traps are cages designed to capture the animal alive. Many pest and wildlife control services will release the raccoon in another area. These designs are optimal, because they pose no bodily harm to the raccoon and are effective without the use of chemicals.

Generally, the traps are metal cages which can be baited. The raccoon enters in search of food, steps on a spring which snaps the door shut, and then become stuck inside. The raccoon can easily breathe and won't be harmed by this humane style of containment. To see a trap in action, check out the video below.

A single trap is usually reusable and costs anywhere from $20-$50.

Proper Garbage Maintenance

Let's face it: many people don't take care of their garbage the way they should. Open bins or flimsy bags are easy for raccoons to break into. These critters have been known to smash durable bird feeders, so it should be no surprise that they will shred bags when they can.

To avoid raccoons digging through the trash, invest in some bins with lids that seal or click into place. The animal won't be able to open it or reach food by knocking the container over. Placing all garbage bags inside the bin will also stop raccoons from ripping them open in search of popcorn and goodies.

Motion-Activated Lights

Raccoons are nocturnal, which means they are active at night. Scaring them is an effective tactic to keep them away from a yard, and people can do this by installing motion-activated lights around their lawn.

These lights are common in country homes where the driveways are dark and hard to see. Sensors detect when someone or something enters within range, and the lights will flash on. The light scares the sneaky raccoon, and it will immediately flee without digging around. 

What Are Some Natural Raccoon Deterrents?

A lot of people are uncomfortable killing raccoons because they are small, furry animals, so natural deterrents are an optimal compromise.

Even if you don't have these qualms, some states do have laws against harming raccoons without proper permits and licensing. Other places require any deaths to be reported to the Game Commission. 

Take a look at the video below to see how Washington D.C. solved the problem of large-scale raccoon infestations in homes across the capital.

Here are a few tactics we can recommend which are great at keeping these animals away from you and your stuff.

Sprinklers

Automatic sprinklers triggered by motion are ideal for homeowners with raccoon problems, because the sudden activity and spray of water scares the animal away without harming it. So long as the sprinklers activate regularly or by motion, it is unlikely to come back.

Animal Urine

Raccoons, being such small animals, have many natural predators. Some of them are other creatures like coyotes, cats, and regular dogs. If you own a pet, it's pretty easy to make them urinate around the yard to dissuade raccoons. But if you don't, what can be done?

Believe it or not, a lot of animal, game, and hunting stores sell predator urine that can be applied around a campsite or lawn to stop nuisance creatures like raccoons in their tracks. It's easy to buy a container and use it sparingly to keep animals away.

Want to skip all this research and just hire a decent exterminator for your raccoon problem?

Click here to check out our exterminator search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) exterminators in your local area.

(Process takes about 30 seconds)

The Bottom Line About Raccoon Removal

Raccoons can be a nuisance, but they don't need to stay in your yard forever. If you have some patrolling your property, look into some tactics to trap or scare the animals away. It's also possible to deter them entirely by simply not having food available.

Get rid of these unwanted tenants safely and cheaply, and you'll be on your way to a more serene, bandit-free yard.

Other Raccoon Guides

Curious about other raccoon related guides? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.

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