How to Solve Raccoon Problems


06.18.2005 - Crikey!  Florida attics get hot!  It's now late June, and the temperatures outside are in the mid-nineties.  But the temperatures inside attics are in the mid 140's.  Some of these attics are like ovens!  The air is so hot, it's hard to breathe!  I don't know how raccoons can stand to live in an environment like this, but they do.  I went to this home today because of scratching in the attic, and I came out completely drenched with sweat and with these two little critters!  Usually a mother raccoon has four young per litter here in Florida, but there were only two of these 10-week-olds.  I set them in a trap for mama raccoon, so I'll have her tomorrow morning, sure thing.

Raccoons can cause a variety of problems. From breaking into the attic, to eating your ornamental fish, to tipping your garbage cans, eating your pet food, or pooping in your pool, raccoons are a common nuisance critter.  There are a variety of approaches when it comes to solving a raccoon problem.  Basically, you can either trap and remove the animals, or you can exclude them and keep them out.  Most of the time, I trap and remove and relocate, because this is the surest way to solve the current raccoon problem.  I then undertake preventative measures, such as sealing shut all the entry points into the house.

Some people attempt to solve raccoon problems with various repellents and deterrents.  I have seen them all over the years, and none of them work.  From mothball flakes to coyote urine to ultrasonic sound machines, these things do absolutely nothing to keep away raccoons.  Even large dogs don't do the trick.  Physical barriers will often work, but they have to be good.  For example, if you've got a raccoon living under your house, you can install a heavy duty steel screen around the perimeter to keep it out (just be sure it's outside before you close it up!).  If you've got raccoons in the attic, you can seal the openings shut once it's outside.  Of course, it's only going to tear its way back in (it can rip right through the roof), especially if there's baby coons inside, which there almost always are.

The best way to solve most raccoon problems is to either take away whatever is attracting them (such as bringing in pet food at night or storing garbage cans in the garage) or by trapping and removing and relocating the animals.  Or like me, you can just go up into the scorching attic, sweat your nuts off, and grab them by hand!

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The raccoon (Procyon lotor), is a unique animal native to North America. It's not closely related to any other animals, with distant relatives such as bears and weasels. Coons are easy to recognize, with a black mask and ringed tail. Raccoons tend to weigh between 10-20 pounds as adults. They are mostly nocturnal, and are omnivores. Racoons average a lifespan of about 5 years in the wild, and have a litter of 3-6 young each spring. They are very strong, excellent climbers, very intelligent, and they are very skilled with their hands. Raccoons have learned to thrive in urban areas, and live in very high densities in cities, where they eat garbage and pet food. They commonly break into homes and attics, where they cause considerable damage, and they also destroy other property, and thus racoons are considered pest animals by many people. Raccoon control and removal, especially from inside homes, is best left to a professional.

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This article will primarily deal with more miscellaneous aspects of raccoon control, mainly the removal of raccoons from chimneys and the removal of raccoon corpses.

Removing raccoons from a chimney
If you are fortunate enough not to have unwelcome guests in your chimney, you should consider investing in a chimney cap to prevent any raccoons from settling in. A chimney cap capable of repelling raccoons will have holes for smoke which do not exceed four inches (10 cm) in diameter, as raccoons can only squeeze into gaps smaller than their head, which happens to be around four inches.

Should there be any raccoons already settled in your chimney, do not start any fires to chase them out: starting a fireplace requires opening a damper, which will inevitably be closer to the raccoons. Once the raccoons detect fire, they will take the shortest available escape route—via the damper—and end up inside your house. In the worst cases, the raccoons will not move at all and cook alive, leaving dead, reeking, smoldering raccoons stuck inside your chimney, rendering anything connected to it inoperable until the chimney is cleared. If you accidentally flush the raccoons into your house by setting a fire, leave all doors and windows open, and let the animals leave on their own. Cornering or chasing the raccoons may result in retaliation, as raccoons are known to stand their ground during a confrontation.

A better way of ousting raccoons is by releasing an odor of ammonia, predator urine, or male raccoon urine (which usually is labeled ‘raccoon eviction fluid') down a chimney: chimneys are narrow spaces, meaning that odor-based repellents linger for a long time and are very potent when released in chimneys.

Removing a deceased raccoon

When a raccoon dies in a house, it is usually noticeable due to the presence of an unmistakable, putrid scent. However, the smell is often the only sign that gives away the presence of a dead raccoon: animals that die inside a house usually die due to suffocation, poisoning, or electricity, meaning that they die stuck inside walls, AC ducts, small crawlspaces, or chimneys, which complicates their removal.

To locate a dead raccoon, you will likely have to utilize your sense of smell: ensure that your house is free of any breeze, and seek out where the smell is strongest. Once you have located the approximate location of the corpse, seek out other, more subtle signs, like insect activity: any spot with an abnormally large concentration of flies and ants should be explored, as these insects often feast on dead flesh. Sometimes, a dead raccoon will have died not too far from a wall or ceiling, meaning it will leave a stain at the location of its death. Although appalling, this is an excellent indicator of a corpse's location.

Once you have found the raccoon, do not touch it directly: diseases raccoons carry do not disappear after death, and are compounded by bacteria and maggots feeding on the corpse. Wear a HEPA mask, a protective jumpsuit, and thick gloves, and handle the dead body with a set of tongs or other indirect gripping equipment for safe removal. Once you have the body safe inside a bag, dispose of it and boil any equipment you have used in the process of removal. Spray down any surface the raccoon has touched with disinfectant, and open all vents and windows to dissipate the stench.

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