A raccoon living in an attic from January to September should ALWAYS be assumed to be a mother with babies. Be careful—you don’t want to orphan the baby raccoons. Raccoons are excellent mothers and will move their babies to a new den site if given the chance, but evicting a mother raccoon always runs the risk of her abandoning or getting separated from her babies.
What to do if a raccoon is living in the attic
Be patient with a mother raccoon in the attic
Your first option is to do nothing at all. Raccoons typically live in attic dens for short periods. Raccoon babies are independent by the end of summer, when they leave the den and disperse from their family groups. Raccoon mothers commonly move their babies between den sites during the nesting season, so she may leave on her own. If you wait until the babies are grown and/or have left, then you can close off the access point to prevent other raccoons from using the attic as a den in the future.
The mother raccoon is living in the attic because it’s a dark, quiet, safe place for her and her babies. If you make the attic not dark, not quiet, and not safe (using light, sound, and smell) the raccoon can usually be convinced to leave your attic and take her babies with her. All harassment techniques should be placed as close as possible to the den entrance, so the mother raccoon can’t ignore them when she comes and goes.
Place a bright light at the den entrance, either inside or outside. Make sure it’s fire-safe. Raccoons are nocturnal, and don’t like bright lights in their homes. An outdoor spotlight or a mechanic’s light should do the trick.
Tune a radio to a talk station and place it near the den entrance. Music doesn’t mean anything to raccoons, but the sound of human voices is threatening to them. The radio should be turned up as loud as you can stand it without annoying your human neighbours.
Soak some rags in Apple Cider Vinegar or ammonia, and put them in a plastic bag. Poke holes in the bag to let the smell escape, and hang it next to the den entrance. You can us dirty kitty litter in a plastic bag the same way. Scent deterrents are least effective with raccoons, but can help when used in combination with light and sound methods.
Patience and persistence
Keep all of the above going for at least 3 days and 3 nights. You’ve got to be persistent to convince the raccoon to leave.
When you think the raccoon is gone, before closing the hole, make sure with a paper test. Either stuff the entrance with balled up newspaper, or tape a double sheet of newspaper over the hole. Wait another 3 days and nights. If the paper is still in place, and you don’t hear anything in the attic, the raccoons are probably gone! Temporarily patch the hole with ¼” wire mesh or hardware cloth until you can do a more permanent repair.
What NOT to do
Trapping and relocating a raccoon might seem like the “humane” option, but it isn’t. Relocated raccoons don’t tend to survive when they’re moved off of their home territory. Relocated mother raccoons leave behind babies who will die without a mother to care for them. A mother raccoon relocated with her babies will be so frightened she will abandon them when faced with a new, unknown territory. In Ontario, it is illegal to relocate any wild animal more than 1km from where it was found.
Every year, Toronto Wildlife Centre receives hundreds of calls about baby raccoons orphaned because well-meaning people trapped and relocated their mother. Unfortunately, we don’t have the resources to care for them all.
Many humane removal companies will recommend putting up one-way doors so the raccoon can get out but not get back in. One-way doors are a good option between October and December, when tiny baby raccoons are unlikely. Between January and September, one-way doors can exclude the mother raccoon and leave tiny baby raccoons trapped inside. If they are too young to follow their mother, the babies will starve inside without her care. Separated from her babies, a mother raccoon will cause major damage to property as she tries desperately to get back to them. Make sure the baby raccoons are old enough to be mobile and following their mother before installing a one-way door.
Animal Removal Companies
Sometimes the best and easiest way to get a raccoon out of an attic is to hire a company to do it for you. Wildlife removal companies are not well monitored or licensed, so it is up to you to ask questions about a company’s practices before hiring them. Consult our guidelines for choosing a removal company.