How to Get Rid of Raccoons Effectively – In-Depth Guide

Discovering raccoons in your house is a very annoying thing to deal with. Raccoons are nuisance animals.  It’s always a disaster when they occupy the same space as us

You are right in wanting to remove raccoons from your property.  They are hazards to your house and your health. You should get rid of the problem before it gets worse.

Applying the tips in this article will give you the means to finally get rid of them. 

Raccoon life cycle

Getting to know the problem is the first step in solving it. Let’s get to know first what we’re dealing with here. Understanding a raccoon’s life cycle can help us prevent infestations in the future. 

In terms of life expectancy, wild raccoons on average have a lifespan of only 3 years. If they’re lucky they might live 1 or 2 more years. In captivity or a safe and well-monitored environment, they can live up to 20 years. Common causes of their deaths are falls, car accidents, and hunger. They also prey to larger animals like dogs, coyotes, and cougars.

Here’s a summary of what you should know about a raccoon’s life cycle based on data from Animal Diversity Web. I organized it in three easy-to-understand stages.

Stage 1: Giving Birth

Mother Raccoons are pregnant for 63-65 days. On average, they give birth to 1 litter per year. 1 litter means around 4 baby raccoons (kits). Kits are born blind and helpless.

Stage 2: Growing up

Young raccoons stay with mother raccoons from the start of winter to early spring.  Even after maturity, raccoons often stay with their mothers. It takes around 10 months for them to have independence and leave their mothers.

Stage 3: Finding Partners

After leaving their family, breeding season happens from February to June. Female Raccoons usually mature in 10 months. Males usually mature in 2 years.

And the cycle repeats itself.

Now you know why:

  • a lot of raccoons tend to gather around your house
  • adult raccoons tend to stay in one place.
  • there are so many of them in general.

Common causes for a raccoon infestation

Raccoons will take the opportunity to satisfy their basic needs. Like all animals, the basic needs they have are food, water, and shelter. If your property gives them access to these resources, they will be attracted to your house. Consider these when planning your raccoon removal efforts.

Openings in the house

Naturally, the raccoon population is located in forest areas.  They tend to live in dark and cramped places called dens. Their dens can include hollow tree cavities, caves, and thick brushes.

Unfortunately for us, parts of man-made buildings can qualify as dens in which they can live. Raccoons are good at crawling and climbing. they tend to hide inside small difficult-to-reach places in our buildings.

They are also nocturnal which is why they are difficult to catch in action.  They can easily live amongst us with their abilities. They occupy your house because they are ideal spots for a den.

Let’s take a look at the places they can go through your house. They will usually go through gaps and openings like: 

  • Chimneys 
  • Roof vents
  • Soffit intersections
  • Weak parts of walls (they can tear and chew through them).
  • Pet doors that were left open. 

When they’re inside your house they can make these places their dens.

  • Crawl spaces
  • Attics
  • Basements
  • Cavity walls

These places are dark, cramped, and enough to fit a raccoon family. They stay at these places because they resemble their natural habitats.

You might occasionally see them inside your house. Since they’re fearful of humans, most of the time it’s just by accident.

Darkness

Raccoons are nocturnal meaning they are awake at night.  Dimly lit houses at night can signal to raccoons that your house is a potential den. These are common for houses without security lights. 

Food in Trash

They tend to occupy dens with the nearest food source. Trash cans are a raccoon’s favorite foraging spot. It’s common to see raccoons feeding on trash. When you leave leftover food for a long time in the garbage, expect raccoons around your area to stay.

If this happens for a long time raccoons may find a den near the area. that then will often be inside your house. This is the same for when you leave pet food bowls outside your house 

Gardens and farms

A garden is like a paradise for a raccoon. They are an easy source of food and water. If you have edible plants, especially the sweet ones, it may attract raccoons. 

They are also a problem on farms. Raccoons are well-known for destroying crops. They are also known for destroying more than what they could eat.

Raccoons are mainly a threat to smaller farm animals. Small animals like chickens might attract raccoons in your area. At night, they will kill and eat your chickens. If you have pet birds outside your house they might kill them as well.

What’s worse is that they leave a mess. Raccoons rarely eat chicken or small birds whole. They usually just feed on easy-to-eat parts like their innards.

They are nocturnal animals so you won’t likely catch them in action.

8 Tips on how to get rid of raccoons for good and prevent a raccoon problem

Raccoons occupy an establishment because of food, water, and shelter. To deter raccoons, you need to make your place uninhabitable for them.   Our tips will focus on what’ll make your place as raccoon-proof as possible. This can also help in getting rid of raccoons while they’re already in your house 

For best results follow all these tips and combine the methods together.

Tip #1: Make it clear your property is not a raccoon den

An ideal raccoon’s den is warm, dark, and cramped. Property that is usually dark signals them to occupy the place. Keep your yard well-lit at night. Install lights that resemble daylight. You can also put lights where raccoons usually hide.

Tip #2: Block the openings in your house 

Seal openings that are larger than 3 to 4 inches in diameter. yes, raccoons can potentially fit in holes the size of two middle fingers.  It’s recommended to use products that help seal those gaps. 

As a temporary solution for gaps and holes, you can use newspapers, urethane caulk, or steel wools to cover them. For chimneys, you can install a wire mesh chimney cap. It’s best to hire people to fix these problems.

Tip #3: Cover your garbage cans 

In urban areas, garbage cans are one of the main sources of food for raccoons. use these methods to make your trash cans inaccessible to these tests.

Use trash cans that have non-locking lids that clip the cover in place. You can also put something heavy on top of the trash can like a hollow block.

Tip #4: Make your garden uninhabitable

To keep raccoons away, it’s best not to have a garden at all. If you want a garden or have it already, follow this tip to make it raccoon-proof.

Put a small ruler-sized fence around your garden. Keep in mind that raccoons are good climbers and they’re very agile. a normal fence won’t do the trick. Install a 2-wire electrical fence to keep them away.

If you can’t use a fence, use strong scents to keep raccoons away. Raccoons have a  keen sense of smell. Use their sense of smell against them.

I highly recommend the use of Epsom salt instead of the other scents.  The other scents don’t last long and might not be effective.

Epsom salt is the best standalone repellent listed here. For gardens, they are good for plant growth. Spread Epsom salts around the area.

For the food-based scents, boil the onions and hot peppers in water.  Use the boiled water And spray it on areas where raccoons may go to. 

Peppermint oil-based repellents can be used. You can use pure peppermint oil in the area but this is an impractical approach.

For vinegar and ammonia apply them on a spare cloth and dab them in areas where raccoons go to.

Tip#5: Remove food around your property

Raccoons will eat any food that is lying around your property. Gather any Leftover pet food, fallen fruit from trees, and food scraps near your property. Throw them in a secure trash can that raccoons can’t access.

For those using bird feeders, only put as many seeds that the birds would eat. Clean left-out bird seeds on bird feeders before night arrives. Hang your bird feeders on poles that are less than half an inch in diameter so raccoons won’t be able to climb. It’s also better if you can put bird feeders back inside the house before night and put them out the next morning. 

Tip#6: Your big pets could be useful but  you need to protect them too

Keeping dogs may scare raccoons away. That doesn’t mean they are safe.

Raccoons are mostly scared of bigger animals than them. Keep in mind that when they are cornered they can turn vicious. Your pets can get diseases through close contact with raccoons. Humans are not the only ones in danger. 

Do not forget to lock or seal off pet doors. Do not leave pet bowls outside of the house especially if there’s leftover pet food. Pet food bowl may have traces of water or food that raccoons can feed out of.

Have your pets get all the necessary vaccinations. Especially for the scariest disease that raccoons could carry, which is rabies. More about that later.

Tip#6: Never feed raccoons

Some people might think raccoons are cute. There are even others who keep them as pets. In general, raccoons are a nuisance to us.

Feeding raccoons is a bad idea.  You might encourage a raccoon and its family to live near humans.  They might also expect food from other humans. Raccoons being near human populations can increase the risk of unwanted animal confrontation.

Kindness goes a long way. In this situation, it’s best to respect wild animals and keep our distance. Do not go out of your way to feed them no matter how sorry you feel. 

Tip#7: Clean up your yard

 Simply cleaning the yard can work wonders to prevent raccoon problems. Our goal is to make sure they can’t make dens out of any place in your yard. We should also prevent them from getting access to our roofs.

Trim overgrown bushes, cut out tree branches, and throw away woodpiles. 

Tip#8: Secure your barn and livestock

You should keep animals there safe. They don’t post much of a threat to bigger livestock.  They are a big threat to chickens. Like I mentioned earlier, raccoons tend to eat chickens. They also leave a big mess afterward.

If you own a barn apply tips # 1, 2, and possibly 3 mentioned in this blog. We can’t risk raccoons biting or harming animals there.

For chicken coops, our main goal is to make sure that your chickens are safe from them.

For well-built stationary coops, Make sure to cover openings where raccoons can enter. If it has a chimney, cover the entrance with wire mesh.

For more exposed mobile coops, make sure that the wire meshes are properly installed. Adult raccoons can climb way higher than the highest wire mesh lengths. The height of the wire mesh doesn’t matter. The wire mesh should also cover the top of the coop.

Step-by-step guide on how to get rid of raccoons naturally

The previous section covered both prevention and raccoon removal. Let’s dive into specific steps on how to remove raccoons humanely where they’re located. 

These steps will work for simple locations like attics and basements.

Step 1: Find the raccoons

When you suspect your attic has a raccoon, do an inspection. Wear high-quality disease-preventing respirators. Expect that if there are raccoons in your attics or basements, they are usually a pregnant raccoon mother or a mother with newborns. 

The mentioned places are warm, dry, and dark, ideal for a mother raccoon to raise her kits. Try to find where the litters are first. If you only remove the mother and not the litter, the newborn will die from neglect.

It would be inhumane to let newborn raccoons die of starvation. They will also leave an unbearable stench when they decompose. Search the entire attic for the litter. You need to also check the small gaps in holes where the mother might have hidden them.

It’s fine if you don’t manage to find the litter. It might mean there are none and the raccoon just happened to wander there and make the place their then. You need to be 100% sure that there are no litters there before you rule them out.

Step 2: Use Traps or Simple DIY ways to get them out

The use of traps is best left to pest control workers. They can make use of traps efficiently. Having regular homeowners operate the traps can lead to accidents and wasted time. State laws also differ about trapping raccoons. Consult wildlife departments in your area if you’re going to trap a raccoon.

If you use foods like leftovers or pet food you are more likely to catch another animal by accident. When using traps the best bait that is sure to lure the mother in the trap is her litter.  Handling raccoons require the use of leather gloves. Wear them even if you’re handling litter. This is to protect your hands from biting and scratching.

If you find the litter first without the mother around, place them in a secure container like a box or pillowcase. Move them inside the trap. the mother will surely go to the trap.

You can also buy ready-to-use raccoon traps.

If you trap the mother, first place the litter in a secure separate location like a box. DO NOT place the litter inside the cage with the mother.  You’ll get attacked the moment you open the cage/trap.

The most humane way to let raccoons out is by making them uncomfortable. With a little persistence, you can pull this off. We will use their senses against them. Remember to do this at night time when they are active.

Make use of bright or flashing lights in the area where you found them. You can also put loudspeakers or radios in the attic during nighttime. You can also make use of the scents raccoons hate mentioned earlier in this article.

When they’re gone seal up possible entry points for them.

Step 3: Clean up afterward

Wear disease-preventing respirators and gloves.

Raccoon’s dropping and urine are a common sight in their dens. Remove those contaminants. use disinfectant on the areas where you found the urine and feces.

Other Situations – there are cases where raccoons are located inside walls, up a tree, garden, or in your chimney. There are also cases where your house is infested with a family of grown-up raccoons. In such cases or when the steps mentioned don’t work, it’s best to get pest control workers.

Suggested products for raccoon control in your garden, garage or attic

Here are purchasable products that deter raccoons. Unlike the tips and steps from earlier, these are specialized products. Here are the products and their details. these products help deter raccoons humanely. what do i have 

Small animal electric fence kit  

These are effective deterrents in your yard. They usually come with instructions on how to assemble. Quick and easy to install

Raccoon eviction fluid    

It works by mimicking the scent of male raccoons.  This tricks female raccoons into believing that a male raccoon is nearby. Most small-scale infestations are caused by mother raccoons and her kits. 

The presence of a male raccoon is a threat to mother raccoons because males might kill her kits. This product only works only with mother raccoons though

Peppermint based rodent repellent sprays 

The active ingredient here is peppermint oil. As mentioned earlier it’s effective at keeping raccoons away. it’s formulated in a way that it lasts long.

Light and ultrasonic repellents

There are Raccoon repellents that make use of lights and sounds. 

Sound-based raccoon repellents make use of ultrasonic sounds. It has high-frequency humans can’t detect. Raccoons can hear these types of sounds and are very averse to them. 

Light-based raccoon repellents are usually red solar lights.  Raccoons perceive red lights as threatening. You can also save electricity because it’s solar-powered. They also come with a flashing feature that scares raccoons away.

Can raccoon lifestyle harm human health or the environment?

are raccoons dangerousRaccoons can be a health risk to humans and pets. They usually leave urine and feces around the house which can spread disease. When cornered, raccoons can defend themselves by scratching and biting you. Their saliva from their bites and scratches can spread disease. More about that later in the article.

Raccoons are deceptively strong for their size. They can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage. Their claws are sharp enough to tear through certain areas in your property.  Here are examples of the potential damage they can cause:

  • knocks your trash cans, tears through trash bags, and spreads your garbage around the area
  • dig holes in your lawn in search of food or potential dens
  • in attempting to go inside your house they can tear through roofing and dent your gutters 
  • while inside your house, they can chew through wiring, tear through thin walls, damage soffits, rearrange insulation, and injure your pets

What Scents do Raccoons Hate?

Here is the list of strong scents raccoons can’t stand:

  • Hot Peppers and other types of peppers like Cayenne Pepper
  • Onion
  • Peppermint Oil 
  • Ammonia
  • Vinegar 
  • Epsom Salt (The best one)

Epsom salt is technically the best scent to use especially in gardens. Peppermint oil is good in houses since it also smells good for us.

Frequently asked questions

Are raccoons nocturnal?

Yes, raccoons are nocturnal creatures. they are mainly active at night.

Will vinegar keep raccoons away?

Vinegar is a popular solution to get rid of raccoons. They’re easily accessible and they irritate the raccoon’s nose. Its effects however are short-lived. if you don’t combine this with other prevention methods, raccoon problems will continue. 

Can Raccoons Transmit Disease?

Yes, raccoons cause diseases. Here are the diseases raccoons can transmit according to a webpage from the University of Florida

  • Rabies –  A nearly 100% fatal disease once symptoms show that can be transmitted to humans. Causes neurological symptoms, mainly aggressive behavior and salivation.  Transmitted by the saliva of raccoons(bites, scratches, licks on exposed skin). If you were exposed, wash the area where you got bitten, scratched, or licked. Seek medical attention afterward 
  • Canine Distemper – Leading cause of death to raccoons. Transmissible to dogs.Causes upper respiratory and rabies-like neurological symptoms. Transmitted by saliva, urine, and blood. There is no specific cure for this disease. Talk to your vet and keep your dogs vaccinated.
  • Feline Distemper  – Deadly to raccoons. transmissible to cats Causes a wide range of symptoms including fever, depression, anorexia, dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Transmitted by Nasal secretions, blood, feces, urine, and fleas from an infected animal. There’s no specific cure for this disease. talk to your vet about vaccinations for this disease.
  • Canine Parvovirus – Not deadly to raccoons. can transmit this disease to dogs. Spread by direct contact with infected animals, feces, or contaminated surfaces. Causes gastrointestinal symptoms. might be deadly to unvaccinated dogs. talk to your vet and keep dogs vaccinated. 
  • Salmonella – Raccoons can spread this disease when they make contact with your food. Causes potentially deadly gastrointestinal symptoms. This disease causes around 20,000 hospitalization and  400 deaths yearly in the US.
  • Francisella Tularensis –  also called Rabbit Fever. Spread via ticks, handling animal carcasses, eating undercooked games, and inhaling dried infected animal tissue. Most people will recover but usually with the help of antibiotics taken for weeks.
  • Edwardsiella Tarda – Rare but potentially fatal disease to humans (44% mortality rate). Sprinter feces of infected animals.
  • Leptospira – Causes a wide range of potentially fatal symptoms or none at all. All mammals can be carriers of this disease. Rodents including raccoons are the main carriers of this disease. Spread mainly through urine through contaminated water. 

Conclusion

Raccoons are a problem that you shouldn’t ignore. they reproduce fast and are good at making your homes their homes as well. Most raccoons inhabit your property because they see that it’s a potential den. If your house provides them access to food, shelter, and water, there’s a risk they may occupy a home.

To prevent raccoons from entering your home focus on making your home uninhabitable to them. We should cut off their access to necessary resources. They’re nocturnal and have excellent hearing. We should also make use of bright lights and loud sounds.

To remove them we should locate them and make the place they stay uncomfortable. We can drive them away through normal means. You can also use traps but it’s best to a wildlife control professional trap raccoons.  Some products can make it easy to remove them. You should also clean up the waste they leave afterward. It’s important to remove raccoons humanely

A raccoon infestation is a problem you need to deal with promptly. They can cause thousands of dollars is worth of damage. They can also spread a lot of potentially life-threatening diseases.

Sources:

  1. https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Procyon_lotor/
  2. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/UW478

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