How to keep raccoons away from your home

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raccoon

If you know what kind of damage raccoons can cause, it’s no surprise you don’t want them hanging around. It’s not limited to a tipped over trash can from time to time. Female raccoons in search of a nesting site may rip off shingles, fascia boards or rooftop ventilators to get into your attic. Once they are inside, they will tear up insulation, go to the bathroom and bring with them a host of parasites. Then again, they might avoid the attic all together and make themselves at home in your chimney, crawl space or under your deck or porch. And of course, they’ll want a snack which is easy to access from a nearby garden, decorative fish pond, pet food bowl or trash can.

Like I said, the trash can should be the least of your worries if you have a raccoon problem. They cause a lot more problems than going through the trash.

How to determine the size of your problem

Raccoons are nocturnal, so they can be hard to detect. It’s especially important to pay attention to the clues they leave behind and to the frequency and amount in which they are left behind. Here are some things to look for:

  • Evidence of feeding — tipped over trash cans, damage to your garden or fish pond, a spilled or emptied pet food bowl, knocked over bird feeders, a disturbed compost pile.
  • Tracks
  • Droppings

In addition to the evidence they leave behind, you may also able to hear them visiting before you ever see them. No matter what alerts you, once you’re aware you have raccoons hanging around your house, it’s best to try to get rid of them as soon as possible.

How to get rid of raccoons

The availability of food sources in close proximity to potential den sites attracts female raccoons to nest. The presence of food sources is one reason raccoon populations can grow rapidly and become very large in urban and suburban areas. Eliminating food sources is the first step to deter raccoons.

If you live in a densely populated area with a known raccoon problem, it may be beyond the individual homeowner’s control to get rid of the problem. In these, instances a community effort is needed to resolve the problem. This is why early detection is so important.

If the above scenario, isn’t your reality, a few changes can help you manage the raccoon population around your home.

Secure the trash can. Leaving trash out that’s easily accessible is a great way to attract raccoons. When you take your garbage out or if you leave it outside, make sure it’s in a heavy trash can with a secure lid. You might also consider placing cans in a rack or tying them to a secure post and using a bungee cord or piece of wire to keep the lids in place.

Bring in pet food. Pet food that’s put outdoors should be brought in before nightfall to keep raccoons from finding and eating out of your pet’s dish.

Keep an eye on your bird feeders. Whether you use a special feeder, a shepherd’s hook or simply bring your feeders in at night, it’s a good idea to use at least one method to deter raccoons. The birds will appreciate it too!

Pick up fallen fruits and nuts. Yes, raccoons will venture into your yard even for the natural food that falls off the trees. Keeping it cleaned up will make your yard less attractive.

Put a fence around your garden, fish pond, compost pile or newly installed turf. Raccoons will look for food in gardens, fish ponds and compost piles. The best way to keep raccoons out of these areas is by installing an electric fence. Ordinary fences don’t hold up well enough as raccoons will dig under, climb over or find a way through them. However, an ordinary fence can become raccoon-proof by adding a single electrified strand of wire 8 inches above the ground and about 8 inches out from the base of the fence. A pulsating high-voltage, low-amperage fence charger is used to electrify the fence. You might also consider installing a low, two-wire electric fence to exclude raccoons from sweet corn, melons and other garden crops. Fasten two wires on evenly spaced wooden posts — one wire is 6 inches above the ground and the other is 12 inches above the ground. Then activate the fence charger from dusk to dawn. This type of low electric fence can also be installed around a newly laid sod lawn to prevent raccoons from rolling it back in search of insects or grubs. Then it can be removed once the turf has taken root. These fences are also used around decorative ponds to protect koi and goldfish from raccoons.

Never intentionally provide food for raccoons. You shouldn’t try to feed raccoons and you should discourage your neighbors from feeding raccoons. A readily available food source will only attract more raccoons and create and even bigger problem.

Reduce potential nesting sites

Once you’ve gotten rid of readily available food sources, you’ll want to reduce access to potential den sites. Without a place to nest, raccoons won’t be interested in sticking around for very long.

Yard work. You can start eliminating den sites by simply cleaning up your yard. Remove wood piles, thin out overgrown shrubbery, trim tree branches to reduce access to your roof. If you can, try to cut overhanging branches so that there is a 5-foot gap between your roof and the tree. You might also consider getting rid of trellises and arbors that offer easier access to your roof.

Seal off your chimney. Chimneys are a favorite nesting spot of raccoons, which is why it’s a good idea to cover yours with a spark arrester or chimney cap. Make sure the cap is tightly secured upon installation to prevent raccoons from pulling it loose. You also want to make sure there are no animals inside the chimney before covering the opening. If a family of raccoons has already taken up residence, you’ll probably need to hire a professional to remove them.

Seal off other entry points. While chimneys are a favorite, raccoons will find other places to nest in and around your house. Sealing of potential entry points, before they’ve been discovered, is the best way to keep raccoons away. Close off open spaces beneath structures, such as porches, decks and garden and tool sheds, with 10-gauge 1/4- or 1/3-inch galvanized hardware mesh. Then install it so the bottom edge of the wire is buried at least 6 inches deep, extended outward for 12 inches, and then back-covered with soil.

Other methods

Other methods to deter raccoons include using products to repel, scare or trap raccoons. All of these methods have their downfalls. Products intended to scare raccoons will only work until the raccoons realize there’s no threat associated with these devices. While commercial repellents and home remedies have been successful at repelling other forms of wildlife, none have been successful at getting rid of raccoons. Lastly, trapping raccoons can be very dangerous for someone who’s inexperienced. Raccoons are known to carry a wide range of diseases, not only do you risk exposing yourself but if by some miracle you manage to trap a raccoon and release it somewhere else without being exposed, you risk exposing a whole new environment to any potential diseases it may be carrying. It’s probably best to leave trapping to the professionals unless you are prepared to euthanize it yourself.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

32 COMMENTS

  1. What do I do when I can hear the raccoon in the walls of my house.
    How do I get it or them out, I hear it tearing up wood inside the walls.

    • Fish & Game in your area will provide a trap for free & when you catch an animal call them & they will pick up for you.

  2. yea me and my grandson had 2 baby raccoons like chase us man serious scary man like malled they acted like funny scared us to death so I did the football hold land on the flooring then I kiked with my foot to get them out but honest they kept charging back for more

  3. It’s sad when u have to live with these rodents. I reside next door to an abandoned home that’s not boarded up and the roof is falling off. It’s a family of 4 raccoons living there and the city will not help me get rid of them. City of Gary told me to purchase a cage to catch them and drive them to the forest preserve to set them free. I also have a 12 y.o. autistic son that really don’t understand the threat they pose. I am beyond pissed with the matter. Can someone help?

  4. What about chickens? There is no way I’m bringing my out door animals inside. This dang raccoon has already killed 2 of my favorite chickens. I put my 2 of my big dogs outside last night and slept on my couch so I could hear. That dang raccoon came back 2 more times even with 2 BIG dogs!!! Granted, the dogs scared it away, but will it keep coming back? I don’t like sleeping on my couch and waking up every couple of hours to my dogs barking and a raccoon trying to eat my chickens.

    • That is just silly!OF COURSE the raccoon will come back to eat your chickens! Unless you protect them with a proper encasing they are all doomed! Any predator that knows a food source will return.

  5. Good to see your comments “Raccoons, Have a Heart”, as I am on Acreage and have 2 outside cats to control the Rodent problem. So the Live Trap won’t work for me as before. Raccoons, Possums, Skunks tearing up my Lawn, & Gazebo Plants. How did you finally resolve the problem? Need Help!

  6. Raccoons are dangerous animals, carry various diseases & destroys our homes. I don’t understand why it is illegal to kill them. Rats, mice, & other rodents do far less damage to human beings & our homes and it’s okay to kill them. I spent a fortune (8,000) to get rid of raccoons in my attic & they didn’t stay away two years. Now they are in the attic & walls.
    The laws need to be changed regarding the treatment of raccoons & squirrels. If we can legally kill a person in our home without being in- voted, we definitely should be able legally to kill a raccoon(s) attacking us or destroying our home which is very expensive to stop the raccoons. And this is a costly temporary solution.

    • I am covered over with the raccoons. I think my whole subdivision has a problem. My son has trapped and carried off six raccoons and one possum. I STILL have them. They are coming in the door under the back porch that lets me into the mechanism of my hot tub. They are on the back porch at their leisure and ruining everything – – knocking the door apart – turning a tub of chemicals upside down. Trying to pull rugs under the porch. Now that the pandemic is active I am stuck and they are not. Lord, I am sick of these things.
      Please, someone, tell me what to do.

  7. Put 9 lives cat food in a “have a heart” trap once its trapped drive it 25 miles out of the city limits, and release it. They won’t be coming back! That’s the humane thing to do.

  8. I am so grateful for your advice to clean up your yard by getting rid of woodpiles, debris, and branches to help prevent potential den sites for raccoons. My grandma was out on her patio last night reading a book and saw a raccoon in her backyard. I am going to go over to her house now to tell her this tip for the future and suggest she call a rodent control service in Orland Park, IL.

  9. I live in a apartment i hear the racoons walking all night i live up staies and tonight one was on my balcony how to get rid of them living im a apartment

  10. This whole post completely ROCKS! Much thanks to you for all the difficult work you put into it. It truly appears.

  11. I am on Acreage and have 2 outside cats to control the Rodent problem. So the Live Trap won’t work for me as before.

  12. Barb Woodson I live in a apartment building on the 3rd floor. and they climb up to my window and on my balcony. What can I do to get rid of them please help

  13. Thanks for mentioning that it’s not a surprise if you don’t want raccoons hanging around your home knowing the damage they can cause. My wife is thinking of looking for a raccoon removal specialist because she saw three of them digging in our trashcans last week. It seems like a good idea to consider hiring a reputable professional that can help us rid our home of unwanted animals so that they don’t damage our home.

  14. I hired someone to remove a raccoon from my attic 10 years ago. I had the chimney and attic damage repaired. She or another raccoon moved back in a couple of years ago. She had babies recently… I heard them chattering the beginning of March. My 8 year old son and I have been staying with my 78 year old mother for 3 months to help her during the Covid quarantine. We came home late tonight and I noticed my laundry room is trashed. There was a plastic vent cover in the ceiling that I never noticed before but is now lying on the floor and there is a wide open square foot hole in my ceiling. I had a bunch of canvas paintings on the walls that have all been knocked down and a laundry basket turned upside down. My guess is a baby fell through and the Mama came down to rescue it. Although, there is no evidence of them entering any other rooms in my house… I’m too scared to sleep but my son is sleeping and we have no other options tonight. I plan to have someone come tomorrow to try to trap them but Good Grief I hope & pray they don’t come back down into my house and hurt us. I’m in bed with my Bogs boots on, two baseball gloves, a can of raid wasp spray and a metal wreath hanger… just in case they are psycho killers. 😱🤣🥴🤦‍♀️ For the Love of God!!!

  15. I live in a large subdivision. I have been visited by 3 young racoons who come by mid morning.
    Ive closed my front door porch which contains cat food for strays but need to know other ways to eliminate young,motherless racoons.

  16. I saw on another site that they hate ammonia smell or Apple cider vinegar and also Irish spring soap!! It says soak a rag in ammonia and put it where you think they are getting in. Good luck everyone. We have caught and relocated 4 in the last 10 days. We live in super small town and they have been getting in trash bags on pick up night.

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