How to Get Rid of Raccoons

Raccoons can be cute, from a distance. But you definitely don’t want them living in your attic or using your garbage cans as an all-they-can-eat buffet. In addition to making a mess on your property or in your home, raccoons can spread diseases such as rabies, roundworm and canine distemper, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

If you see what you think are signs of a raccoon invasion, here’s what you can do to get rid of the creatures and to protect your home and family.

1. Recognize Raccoon Damage

The first thing to do is to make sure the problem is raccoons and not another type of animal. Raccoons are nocturnal animals, meaning they are active at night. The Humane Society notes that tou most likely have a raccoon on your hands if you start to hear sounds in your house at dusk and at dawn. If your garbage cans are knocked over or raided in the night, there’s probably a raccoon to blame.

Raccoons also leave certain traces behind. Their pawprints look like miniature human handprints. The animals will leave prints on soft ground. They might also leave a stain on surfaces that they pass by frequently.

Another sign of raccoon damage to keep an eye out for is their scat. Raccoons often defecate in the same location. The Centers for Disease Control explains that a raccoon “bathroom” is called a latrine. If you see scat that is tube-shaped, dark-colored and pungent, you’ve most likely found a raccoon’s latrine.

2. Know Your State’s Rules About Raccoons

Before you take any action against your raccoon invaders, it’s a good idea to read about your state’s rules when it comes to removing raccoons from your home. Some states require permits to trap raccoons while many make exemptions for homeowners.

For example, in New York, a homeowner can destroy raccoons that are causing property damage, but gentler methods, such as removing food, are recommended first. In Pennsylvania and Indiana, homeowners can also trap raccoons and either kill or release them into the wild without getting a permit.

If you don’t know the particular rules of your state, check with the game commission, department of natural resources or department of environmental conservation to find out what you can and can’t do about raccoons on your property.

3. Take Away Their Food

An ounce of prevention is often worth a pound of cure. Rather than having to get rid of nuisance animals who move into your attic or visit your yard, it can be easier to make your property a place not worth visiting.

One way to do that is by taking away any sources of food for the raccoons. If you have dogs that you feed outside, consider moving their food bowls inside or to a covered, secure area such as a screened-in porch.

Some raccoons will raid bird feeders looking for a midnight snack. If you want to continue feeding the birds, but don’t want to feed pesky raccoons, try moving the bird feeder indoors at night. You can also hang the bird feeder high up, mounted on a thin pole. According to the Humane Society, raccoons won’t be able to climb up poles that are less than half an inch in diameter.

4. Secure Your Garbage Cans

One person’s trash is a raccoon’s treasure. Raccoons will stop coming around if you stop giving them access to whatever tasty treats are in your garbage cans. If you can, store garbage cans indoors between pick-ups. A garage or shed with a door that closes securely can be a good location.

If you do have to keep your trash outside, find a way to secure the bin itself. One option is to attach a bungee cord across the top of the lid. Raccoons won’t be able to remove the cord and get into the bin. The bungee cord will also stay in place if the animals knock the trash can over.

5. Use a Raccoon Repellent

Few things are more frustrating than growing fruits or vegetables in your garden only to have a raccoon swing by and harvest most of the crop as it ripens. If you want to get rid of raccoons in your garden, it helps to find a way to repel them.

Spray an all-natural animal repellent around the perimeter of your garden to keep raccoons and other rodents from coming by. Repellents often contain peppermint oil or hot pepper to deter small mammals.

6. Scare Them Away

Another way to get raccoons out of your garden or yard is to trick them into thinking people are hanging around. The Humane Society recommends setting a radio in your backyard, tuned it to a talk radio station. Leave the radio on overnight for a few nights and the raccoons will most likely stay away.

If a raccoon or family of raccoons has moved into your attic, turning on the radio might convince them that it’s time to leave. You can also shine strobe lights or flashlights in the area to make the attic an unpleasant place to be.

7. Use Traps if Necessary

If you’ve got raccoons squatting in your attic and they won’t take the hint, you might have to set traps to catch them. Put bait, such as fruit or fish in the trap to make it convince a raccoon to wander in.

Figuring out what to do with the animal after you’ve caught it can be the tricky part. If you decide your best option is to trap the raccoon, it’s a good idea to call in animal control or an exterminator first. They can handle setting up the traps for you and will take care of removing the animals once they are caught.

After you’ve gotten the raccoons off of your property, find ways to keep them from coming back. Seal off any openings in your attic and make sure pet doors are locked securely at night.