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Dead Raccoon In House Air Handler

05.03.2003 - This house was the worst-smelling house that I've ever been in. The odor was unbelievably wretched, both in stench and power. The house was completely unlivable. I knew, as did the owner, that a dead animal lay somewhere in the house, rotting. The smell had afflicted the house for ten days.

I put on my HEPA filter mask and searched all around. I searched the attic extensively, but I couldn't find the source of the odor. Amazingly, I did find some living baby raccoons. I suspected that the mother raccoon must have died somewhere, but I could not find it. I even searched outside the house for clues, and there, in the gutter, I found another living baby raccoon. It was over 100 feet away from the other raccoons, and tiny and its eyes were still sealed shut, and it had somehow crawled away and out of the attic and outside into the gutter. The resilience and will to survive of these animals is absolutely astounding. These little babies were only 2-3 weeks old, and hadn't yet starved. I collected the young and put them in a warm, safe, box, and later brought them to a wildlife rehabilitation clinic.

But what about the horrible smell? I was having no luck finding it. I spoke with the homeowner about it, but he could offer no good clues. In fact, we didn't speak the same language, so it was very difficult to talk to him at all. I remember that we spent fifteen minutes as he struggled to get across the idea that perhaps it was the mother raccoon's afterbirth that was causing the odor - a ridiculous notion, given the strength of the smell, but even more ridiculous to try to convey in Spanish, while I spoke only English.

I went back into the ceiling and I noticed that much of the duct work in the attic had been torn open. I wondered if a raccoon had crawled through the ducts. I continued to search and sniff around, when suddenly I stuck my head into one of the ducts, and the odor was horrible, even through my mask. I knew that the raccoon had to be inside. I looked around and noticed that this duct came directly out of the air handler. There was no access to the air handler from the attic, so I went back into the house, and motioned that the animal was inside the air handler.

I got permission to cut it open, so I got my knife and cut an opening in the air handler, and sure enough, therein lay the dead and rotting raccoon. I believe that it became electrified and died on the coils inside the air handler. As I removed it, all sorts of sparks flew. It was dangerous, but I did not get shocked. I borrowed some sort of gripping tongs from the man, and pulled out the raccoon, as showed in the above photo. I removed all of the spare bits and pieces, and bagged it all and sprayed the area and fixed the air handler.

The owner of the home was incredibly grateful. It had taken about an hour and a half. In addition to paying me my $40 fee, he gave me some of his native Cuban raisin wine. It was almost as ghastly as the smell of the dead raccoon. Still, I was proud of a job well done, and I brought the little raccoons to the rehabber, and everyone was happy foreverafter.

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