Raccoons are notoriously adorable, but they can also be a major nuisance in or around your home. They can make their way into almost any area and find food in places you might not even realize they can get to. Some of the areas they like to hide include:
- Inside walls
- Under houses
Knowing how to identify a raccoon issue is an important step for any homeowner in getting rid of these critters safely and humanely. There are many ways you can prepare your home and keep it protected from raccoons, so you don’t have to worry about running into one in your yard or garage.
Read on to learn more about:
- How To Get Rid of Raccoons
- How To Keep Raccoons Away
- How To Identify Raccoons
- Signs of a Raccoon Infestation
- Causes of a Raccoon Infestation
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
Table of Contents
How To Get Rid of Raccoons
If you know you have a raccoon infestation, you probably want to get rid of it as soon as possible. There are a few ways to go about removing raccoons from your home, garage, or yard, and if you know what they are, you can find the right solution for your particular raccoon control issue. It’s important to note that raccoons are incredibly intelligent. They will quickly figure out ways to get around deterrents, so moving on to DIY preventive measures as soon as you remove them from your home is essential.
1. Live Traps
If you know you have one or more raccoons living in an area of your home like your garage or basement, a live trap could be your best option. Live raccoon traps are large cages with a one-way door that shuts when the animal enters so you can release them somewhere else far away from your home. These traps are some of the most humane ways to remove wildlife from in or around your house.
However, if you choose to use a live trap, you should be very careful when handling it and releasing the raccoon out into the wild. Raccoons can be dangerous if they’re trapped or cornered. Always be sure to wear protective gear like thick gloves when handling the cage or releasing the animal.
2. Granular or Liquid Repellents
Raccoon repellents use smells and tastes that raccoons hate. They’re generally harmless but will keep animals from coming back to the places they have made their nests. Repellents usually come in granular or liquid forms. If you’re using a liquid spray, you should only apply it outdoors and in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using a granular repellent, it should be used on flat surfaces like floors or pathways. If you don’t want to use commercial repellents, cayenne pepper can also work.
Substance repellents like these will usually require quite a few applications before the raccoons start to learn to stay away. If you have found a nest, apply the repellent in or around the area after clearing it out. This will prevent the raccoons from coming back as they figure out that it’s no longer a pleasant place to live.
3. Electronic Repellents
Electronic raccoon repellents use motion-activated water sprinklers to spray raccoons or bright lights to scare them as they try to get to their nests or areas where they can find food. They can work well as a conditioner to frighten animals away and don’t use any chemicals or harmful pesticides, making them a good option for areas like your garden or koi pond. One issue with electronic repellents is that it won’t take long for raccoons to figure out that the water or lights aren’t harmful. They’re very smart animals, so repellents may not work long term. You’ll need to take steps to prevent them from getting back into the area after repelling them.
How to Keep Raccoons Away
Once you’ve gotten raccoons out of your home or yard, you’ll have to prevent them from getting back in. It’s one thing to remove them temporarily, but once raccoons have found a spot where they can be relatively safe, they’ll do everything they can to come back. This is why deterrents are not good solutions in the long run. You’ll need to take more steps to keep them from returning.
1. Seal All Entry Points
If you have any access points like gaps or openings under your doors or in your walls or loose shingles, raccoons will find a way to get inside. This is especially true during colder winter months when they hunt for shelter and warm places to make their nests. If you have a chimney, make sure the top has a wildlife guard to prevent raccoons from settling inside.
If you have spaces underneath your home or deck, you can use 10-gauge galvanized hardware mesh to seal off the area. This will keep wildlife from getting into crawl spaces and creating a nest while still allowing for drainage.
2. Remove Food Sources
Raccoons will go anywhere that food is readily available. They have an amazing sense of smell, and trash cans, compost bins, and trash bags are all prime areas for raccoons and other wildlife to find food. Invest in a locked garbage can shelter to keep animals from getting into your garbage and making a home near it.
If you have pets, make sure their food is hidden away as well. Raccoons love things like cat and dog food and birdseed and can easily rip open bags to get to it. It’s best to store your pet’s food indoors if at all possible and keep it from being out in the open. If you have a bird feeder in your backyard, make sure it’s as high up off the ground as possible and inaccessible from any neighboring trees.
3. Install Raccoon Guards
Raccoon guards are metal plates that are screwed to the bottoms of trees and fences that prevent raccoons from climbing up and making their nest or accessing your yard. Even though they’re excellent climbers, they still need to grip the bottoms of the trees to get enough purchase. Metal raccoon guards keep them down on the ground.
You can also use standard sheet metal instead of the specialized guards. Screwing sheet metal to the bottom of the outside of your fence can keep raccoons from getting into your yard in the first place. If you keep your trash cans in the back, this is a great way to prevent them from getting to your garbage or other food sources.
4. Trim Your Vegetation
If you have trees or shrubs that bear fruit like a plum tree or blackberry bush, keeping them trimmed back and pruned is a great way to keep raccoons out of your yard. Raccoons will search for fruit that has fallen on the ground, and keeping the trees trimmed back and harvested keeps them from dropping an easy source of food that raccoons will gladly clean up.
5. Install Electric Fencing
Electric fencing is one of the best ways to keep raccoons out of your yard. Installing a perimeter of electric fencing on top of your wooden or chain-link fence can keep them out and be a fast-acting deterrent. Raccoons can climb nearly anything, but if they get a mild shock from the electric top of the fence, they will quickly learn to stay out.
Why does Ammonia get rid of raccoons?
Raccoons are fastidious creatures. They like to keep their dens clean and will leave a home if they believe it is soiled. Because ammonia smells like urine, the raccoon will be tricked into thinking the den is dirty and will leave.
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How To Identify Raccoons
Raccoons are fairly recognizable, but they can often be mistaken for opossums, especially in the dark. These two animals also leave very similar footprints, making getting rid of them difficult since each has different techniques. Knowing how to identify a raccoon when you see one can help you find the best solution.
One of the most distinctive features of raccoons is their coloring. Their fur is an intermittent gray, white, and black with black hands and feet. Of course, their most distinctive trait is the black mask that covers their eyes. The mask will also usually be surrounded by white highlights and a white and gray muzzle.
One of the main differences between raccoons and opossums is their size. Adult raccoons can be incredibly large, and they’ll be significantly larger than most opossums and cats, with some of them growing as much as three feet long, not counting their tail. This makes them easy to identify if you see an animal that is bigger than what you’re used to seeing around your yard. You may also see a mother raccoon being closely followed by several baby raccoons in a single-file line.
Raccoons have a distinctive stocky shape with short legs and a round body. Their walk is extremely distinct, with an arched back and a gait that relies heavily on their front legs. They also have a ringed tail that is very furry and will often stick up in the air as they walk.
Type of Nest
Raccoons will build their nests anywhere they can find warmth. They’ll usually consist of small branches, leaves, and shrubbery, but they also use trash and discarded paper. Anything that can be used to insulate their den and keep it as warm as possible will be gathered and brought back. If you have an area like a hollowed-out tree in your yard, this would be a good place to look for a nest if you suspect you’re dealing with a raccoon infestation.
Signs of a Raccoon Infestation
Since raccoons are nocturnal, it can be difficult to know if you have an infestation. They’re very good at hiding and will work very hard to ensure their nests are out of sight. However, there are some things you can look for that will be tell-tale signs that you have a raccoon problem.
Footprints – Raccoon footprints look just like human footprints, except they’re only a few inches long. They will usually be in places like your garage or basement floor.
Droppings – You’re more likely to notice raccoon droppings around the bases of trees or woodpiles, and you may also notice a feces smell in your garage or attic.
Trash – If you notice your trash cans have been knocked over or that the trash has been spread around your yard, this is a surefire sign of raccoon activity.
Causes of a Raccoon Infestation
Accessible shelter – If your garage or attic is easy to get into from the outside, raccoons will be much more likely to make their home there. Anywhere they can find warmth and protection from the elements is fair game for an infestation.
Water source – Outdoor ponds and water features are perfect for attracting raccoons. Not only do they drink the water, but they are also known for washing their food.
Food source – If you leave trash or discarded food unprotected, you’ll likely get a raccoon infestation. Although raccoons are omnivores, some of their favorite foods include:
- Pet food
Protect Your Home from Raccoon Infestations
While raccoons are relatively docile, having them in or around your home can be unsafe for you, your family, and your pets. If you notice any signs of a raccoon infestation, it’s best to be proactive and remove it as soon as possible. You can start with your prevention and removal before it becomes a safety issue by recognizing the signs.
While there are many ways to remove raccoons yourself, it’s important to remember that they’re wild animals and can be dangerous if cornered. If you’re uncomfortable dealing with a raccoon infestation, hiring a professional wildlife removal or animal control technician is highly recommended for your raccoon removal. Not only will a professional exterminator in your area be able to remove the animals, but they’ll also be able to give you guidance on how you can prevent another infestation in the future.