Dealing with Nuisance Raccoons

Sometimes raccoons can seem like mischievous little bandits, but it's just because they're trying to survive in a shrinking habitat due to people building homes where they naturally live. Raccoons are extremely intelligent animals and highly adaptable, occasionally taking advantage of human structures to nest or find food. Most problems occur during the spring and summer months, when raccoons are raising their young, which makes it very important to find a humane solution to the problem and not accidentally orphaning baby raccoons. Trapping and relocating wildlife is not only illegal, but can be expensive, cruel, and only a short-term measurement. Here are some ways to stay safe, keep the animal safe, and live peacefully with raccoons.

  • Keeping raccoons out of the garbage. Hungry raccoons can be attracted to garbage left outside overnight for trash pick up in the morning. Raccoons are generally nocturnal, so leaving exposed and easily-accessible trash outside overnight is like providing an all-you-can-eat midnight buffet! The easiest solution is to simply put your trash outside in the morning before it's collected. If you must do it the night before, keep these hungry critters away from the trash by getting the kind of plastic garbage can with a tall (4’ high) TWIST-ON lid which raccoons can’t open, or purchase an animal resistant trash can. Another option is to build a simple wooden box outside for storing garbage cans. For easy access, the top should be hinged and have a latch in front secured with a snap hook. Here are some additional tips to deter raccoons from your trash cans or garden:

    • Place your garbage cans on top of chicken wire that extends a couple feet beyond the cans.
    • Fill a small plastic tub (like a margarine tub) with a rag soaked with ammonia by the trash can.
    • Lay a 3 foot wide strip of heavy duty trash bags around your trash can or garden. Raccoons do not like the slippery feel.
    • Put up a string of blinking Christmas lights close to the trash can.
    • Make a hot pepper spray to deter raccoons and other critters from your property.
  • A raccoon is trapped inside a large dumpster. Like being attracted to trash on privately-owned properties, raccoons can also be attracted to smells coming out of large dumpsters. Once they jump inside to eat, they can't climb the tall, slippery sides to get back out. A safe and easy way to lend a helping hand is to put a branch, wooden plank, etc. inside the dumpster. This provides a way for the raccoon to climb out. If trapped raccoons is a persistent problem in your local dumpster, post signs to encourage the garbage disposal companies that empty the dumpsters to always shut the lid after they collect the garbage.
  • A pesky raccoon is seen on your property several times. Do not try trapping it yourself in an attempt to relocate it, because that's illegal. Hiring a professional trapper can be expensive and cruel, so instead try to drive it off in another way. As said before, raccoons are attracted to garbage left outside, so do your best to not invite critters into your yard by taking the measures listed in the first bullet. Raccoons also dislike loud noise, so playing loud music (without disturbing neighbors as well!), or rattling pots and pans when you see them will make them think twice about coming back. If the raccoon persists, feel free to email RRV at with your situation and we'll give you further advice.

    Havahart, National Geographic and the Humane Society provide additional advice on how to get rid of raccoons humanely.
  • Will a raccoon attack my pet? Raccoons are not usually aggressive animals. They are not out seeking to ambush unsuspecting Rover or Miss Fluff. A raccoon will not attack unless they feel threatened by your pet. In any circumstance, it's best to keep your pet away from a raccoon if you see one.
  • A raccoon is spotted during the daytime. Does this mean it's rabid or unsafe? Generally, raccoons are considered to be nocturnal animals, but venturing out during the day can also be natural behavior. Mother raccoons might forage during the day, or be seen napping in trees. In coastal areas, raccoons are influenced by changing tides and can often be spotted out during the day. Your local animal control officer or the police should be contacted if the raccoon is showing behavior that seems abnormal, such as disorientation as if drunk, circling, partial paralysis, screeching, unprovoked aggression, or even unnatural tameness. In either case, you should always leave the animal alone, and keep children and pets a safe distance away from it.
  • Raccoons stealing cat food. Any food left outside for pets will attract raccoons and other local wildlife. The best solution to rid yourself of any unwanted visits from raccoons is to feed your pet during the morning or midday, when raccoons are likely to be home snoozing, and remove any uneaten food after your pet is through. If your cat spends its time outside loose, your pet will adjust to this feeding schedule and come to eat at the designated time. If the raccoon is being particularly bold and entering through a pet door to get to the food, consider only feeding your pet indoors and not using a pet door at all. If this isn't possible and you must have a pet door, you should purchase a strong, electrically controlled dog or cat door that only lets your designated pet in through a signal transmitted by their collar. These doors can be found at many local pet supply stores and catalogs.
  • A raccoon in the attic or chimney. In spring and summer, mother raccoons often take advantage of chimneys and attics as denning sites for raising cubs. The easiest and best solution is to wait a few weeks for the raccoons to move out on their own. As soon as the cubs are old enough to go on nighttime outings with their mother, she will take them out of the chimney once and for all rather than continually carrying them back and forth. Remember that mother raccoons clean their babies meticulously to avoid attracting predators. If you absolutely must evict the raccoon family, remember that raccoons look for a quiet, dark and non-noxious smelling places to raise their young. By creating the opposite conditions, you can evict them using the following methods: 
    • Eviction of chimney raccoons:  Keep the damper closed and put a blaring radio (rock or rap music works best) in the fireplace.  Then put a bowl of ammonia on a footstool near the damper.  Apply these deterrents JUST BEFORE DUSK; mother raccoons won’t want to move their cubs in broad daylight.  Be patient, it may take a few days for the mother to move her young.  Once the raccoons are gone, promptly call a chimney sweep to install a mesh chimney cap (the best kind has a stainless steel top) and this situation will not recur. 
    • Eviction of attic raccoons:  Leave all the lights on and place a blaring radio (tuned to a rap or rock station) and rags sprinkled with ¼ cup of ammonia around the attic. You can also enhance the deterrent effect by placing the ammonia-sprinkled rags inside plastic bags and poking air holes in the bags.  This will hold the smell of ammonia longer, as ammonia ceases to smell as soon as it evaporates.  Apply these deterrents JUST BEFORE DUSK; mother raccoons will not want to move their cubs in daylight.  Be patient, it may take a few days for the mother to move her young.  Once the raccoons are gone, promptly seal any entry hole and this situation will not recur.



Here Are Links to More Tips on How to Coexist With Raccoons:

Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

Backyard Chickens--How to Protect Your Chickens from Raccoons