A raccoon living in a shed or garage from January to September should ALWAYS be assumed to be a mother with babies. Be careful, as you don’t want to orphan the baby raccoons. Raccoons are excellent mothers and will move their babies to a new den site when frightened, but evicting a mother raccoon always runs the risk that she might abandon or become separated from her babies.
What to do if a raccoon is living in the shed or garage
Be patient with a mother raccoon
Your first option is to do nothing at all. Raccoons typically use sheds or garages as 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 also commonly move their babies between den sites during the nesting season, so the raccoon may move her babies on her own. If you can wait until the babies are grown and/or have left, you can then close off the access point to prevent other raccoons from using the shed or garage as a den in the future.
In our experience, a raccoon mother whose shed or garage den has been discovered is usually frightened enough to move her babies within 48 hrs with no other intervention.
The mother raccoon is living in the shed or garage because it’s a dark, quiet, safe place for her and her babies. If you make the shed or garage not dark, not quiet, and not safe using light, sound, and smell, the raccoon can be convinced to leave your shed or garage 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.
Turn on as many lights as you can in the shed or garage. Make sure they’re fire-safe, especially if you have to use extension cords. Raccoons are nocturnal, and don’t like bright lights in their homes. An outdoor spotlight or a mechanic’s light should do the trick. In a small shed or garage, it may be enough to leave the lights on inside.
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 use 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, you want to 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, do a visual inspection of the shed or garage to make sure the raccoons are gone. Temporarily patch the entrance hole with ¼” wire mesh 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.