Raccoons Situations & Solutions

raccoon © Roberta DellAnno
raccoon © Roberta DellAnno

Raccoons can occasionally create significant issues for homeowners. Trash cans provide a plentiful supply of food, and chimneys and attics have replaced hollow trees as popular nesting sites. Exclusion serves as the only long-term solution for preventing raccoons from unwanted areas.

Raccoons in Chimneys

Capping a chimney before a raccoon moves in serves as the best deterrent. You can purchase caps at hardware stores and home centers, or hire a professional chimney sweep to install one.

If you discover raccoons in your chimney between March and June, you likely have a mother and her young. Since the kits are helpless and incapable of climbing out of the chimney during the first eight weeks of life, you have only two removal options:

1. Hire an animal control agent experienced in handling wildlife. He or she will remove the young and (after the chimney cap is in place) put them outdoors to wait for nightfall when the mother will move them to a new site. Contact MassWildlife (Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife) for the names of agents in your area.

2. Allow the family to remain in the chimney, until the young become mobile. After eight weeks, you can gently encourage the mother to relocate by placing an ammonia-soaked rag in the fireplace, and sealing the fireplace opening so the odor wafts upwards. A loud radio and bright light in the fireplace can add to her discomfort and encourage her to leave. As soon as you determine that the family has left, install the chimney cap.

Raccoons in Attics

Should a raccoon take up residence in your home, begin the eviction process by inspecting the attic for openings that provide the raccoon access indoors. Persuade the raccoon that your attic is not the, dark, quiet haven it desires by placing dishes of ammonia, a loud radio, and bright lights in the room. Continue this harassment for two or three days, and the raccoon should leave.

Between the months of March and June, when a mother and her young may occupy the attic, allow her time to carry them to an alternative site. Once you’ve determined that no raccoons remain inside, secure the openings with hardware cloth. Also, examine the outside of the building for tree limbs that provide bridges to your house.

Raccoons & Trash

Raccoons (as well as skunks and opossums) rummage through trash looking for edibles, usually leaving a mess in the process. Discourage raccoons and other wildlife by keeping trash in a secured building or enclosure. (This does not include screened porches, which raccoons can easily claw through.) See figures below for raccoon-proof enclosures to protect trash barrels.

Racoon proof trash can
Raccoon proof trash can

Raccoons & Gardens

Raccoons will readily harvest the fruits and vegetables of an unprotected garden, but you can install a fence to deter them.

At the edge of the garden, place three-foot wide chicken wire flat on the ground; then erect a four- or six-foot high vertical chicken wire fence on top, making sure you have a little more than two feet of exposed ground wire on the outside edge. Animals tend to start digging at the base of a vertical fence, but the horizontal chicken wire makes it impossible to get through.

You can also try stringing bright flashing lights around the garden or blaring a radio to discourage night raids by raccoons. Eventually, however, the animals acclimate to these tricks if they deem the prize tempting enough.

Raccoon proof garden fencing

Raccoons & Public Health

Raccoons can transmit disease to other wildlife, domestic animals, and, occasionally, people. Although there’s no need to panic at the sight of a raccoon walking through your yard, you should avoid contact with raccoons, their feces, and den sites. Learn More

Raccoons & The Law

Relocating wildlife is illegal in Massachusetts. It’s detrimental to the wellbeing of wildlife as well as the public. Learn More