Raccoons breaking into your attic is one of the most common and complicated nuisance wildlife situations you will encounter. What makes it challenging is that there are almost always babies involved. If the break-in happens between late winter and mid-summer you should assume this to be the case. The worst thing you can do is simply patch up the entry point and hope the problem will go away. Female raccoons have a strong maternal instinct and will go to great measures if separated from their young. You must act quickly and effectively. Raccoons are dexterous, intelligent and powerfull; your roof vents, soffits and rooflines are no match if they are determined to get in.
What To Do If Raccoons Are Living In Your Attic
You have a few choices on how to proceed once you confirm the pests are there. We will touch on them below:
DO NOTHING AT ALL
This is not advised for several reasons, however sometimes due to extenuating circumstances dealing with the issue immediately is not an option. In most cases, there will be babies and they will not be mobile for approximately 6-8 weeks. You can expect to have unwanted guests for that duration. Since the bulk of the damage is done when the mother breaks in and gets settled, waiting out this period is not likely to cause any further significant physical damage.
Raccoons have several dens within a given area and by mid-summer will start leaving for extended periods. During one of these absences, you can clean up and secure the area. Keep in mind the mom will try and get back in several times, so we recommend hiring a professional wildlife company to do the prevention work.
The downside to this approach is that you expose yourself to a myriad of potential issues. The raccoons made a hole somewhere, typically on your roof and used this area to come and go daily. This exposes your home to the elements and several other species of wildlife and pests. Having a gaping hole in your home for 8 weeks is not ideal. Also having wild animals use your attic as a latrine is unsanitary and will lead to a foul smell in your home. You can aslo expect a significant amount of clean up and decontamination once you successfully kick them out.
DO IT YOURSELF
This should ONLY be considered from late summer to January. Any attempts at prevention during the active mating period are sure to put your home as well as the raccoons at risk. Keep in mind unless you are very lucky these measures rarely permanently resolve the issue.
Raccoons choose attics because they are secure, dark, quiet and isolated places. If you want to encourage a raccoon to leave, you want to create the opposite type of environment. To create this you have three things to focus on. Keep in mind any one of these on their own will not disrupt the animal’s habits. However, if you use all three and are patient (this may take a week or more) eventually the raccoon may leave. These are the three steps to attempt:
- Sound: raccoons are looking for a quiet space first and foremost. Therefore if you place a radio or another noise-making device near the area they are in, this will make the environment unpleasant. Don’t waste your money on ultrasonic pest repellant devices, they are no more effective than an old radio.
- Light: another big reason they chose your attic is that it’s dark. If you have a way to illuminate the attic, this will make the area less hospitable. Again do not waste money on specially designed light repellent systems.
- Activity: raccoons are sensitive to activity, so if you periodically toss things into the attic and bang on the ceiling or walls near their location it will disturb them. This will keep them on edge and make the experience more stressful.
Even when consistently using all three approaches, it’s still likely the raccoon will remain, especially if it’s a female on the verge of giving birth. And once again please do not attempt any of these measures between late January and middle of summer. Scaring the mother out of the home will simply endanger the babies and your home.
If you are successful and you suspect the animal is gone, place a piece of paper over the area and leave it for three days. If it remains untouched you can be assured you are animal-free. You can then patch up the area and secure against future intrusion. Once again we recommend contacting professionals to do this.
HIRE A WILDLIFE REMOVAL COMPANY
If you have the means this is the quickest, safest and in the long run the cheapest of all your options. Your home is a huge investment and having a 30-pound live animal running wild amongst the wires, insulation and baffles up in your attic is not a long term recipe for success. With a hole somewhere in your roof letting in rain or snow as well as other pests, it’s best to act quickly and efficiently. Hire a local wildlife expert and get it all resolved properly the first time.
Wildlife removal companies carry liability insurance, are trained to work at heights and have the training and equipment to resolve the issue, deal with any babies and properly secure against future intrusions. Reputable, well-established companies will over a warranty on their work as well.
First and foremost they will safely deal with any babies. The technician will gently remove any little guys and gals and place them in an insulated baby box. This will be left near the exit point for mom to retrieve them later that day. The next step is to secure all vulnerable areas making sure nothing can get in or out. Lastly, they will place a one-way door on the entry/exit point previously used. This will ensure the mother raccoon can leave that evening and will not be able to get back in.
What Not To Do
Because of their size, agility and the high likelihood of babies being present, there are so many opportunities for disaster when dealing with raccoon break-ins. You should proceed very carefully when deciding how to resolve the issue. Here are things you should never do:
It may seem like a quick and humane solution to go buy a trap and simply relocate the animal. It is the exact opposite of humane. Raccoons rarely survive when relocated to unknown areas. Furthermore, if a mom is separated from her litter, the babies will not survive. For these reasons, it is illegal in Ontario to relocate wild animals more than 1 km. Going through the trouble to trap the raccoon and relocate it a few hundred meters away is pointless. It will be back in before you get home.
SEAL UP ENTRY POINT
Another DON’T is simply sealing up a visible entry point and hoping that resolves the issue. So many things can go wrong. Locking a raccoon in or out will lead to significant damage to your home. Whether its a trapped raccoon trying to get out or mother trying to get back in, the consequences will be expensive. On top of the damage and expenses, you will endanger the animals unnecessarily.
BUY ADVERTISED QUICK FIX GIMMICKS
The internet is full of quick-fix solutions and gadgets; from ultrasonic noisemakers and specialty, strobe lights to coyote urine and various raccoon repellents. Don’t waste your time and money. If any of these things were effective they would be stocked in every hardware store. These gimmicks simply don’t work.
In almost all situations, hiring a local wildlife removal company is the best approach to take.