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How to Get Rid of Raccoons

June 7th, 2024 | 7 min. read

By Louis Greubel

A raccoon sitting on a lawn inside of a cage trap.

They’re crafty. They’re cunning. They’re cute. And, left unchecked, they can cause thousands of dollars in damage to the facade and structure of your home.

Raccoons are fascinating and intelligent animals, but if they decide they want to live in your attic or soffit, the situation can become a major headache. A raccoon infestation can leave you feeling stressed out and uneasy (and your wallet feeling lighter). But we want to help.

At HY-C, we manufacture a line of wildlife exclusion solutions under our HY-GUARD EXCLUSION brand name. We’re also an official partner of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association (NWCOA), and we want to explain exactly how you should deal with a raccoon invasion.

In this guide, we’re going to cover four key aspects of dealing with a raccoon in your home:

  1. How raccoons get into your home
  2. How to detect a raccoon
  3. How raccoons are removed
  4. How to keep raccoons from coming back

By the time you’re finished here, you’ll know exactly how to deal with a raccoon problem from initially identifying its presence all the way to locking them out of your home for good.

Discover HY-GUARD EXCLUSION Wildlife Exclusion Solutions

How Do Raccoons Get into Your Home?

A raccoon peeking through a crack between a home's drywall and studs. The critter's paws, nose, and face are visible.

Raccoons, like any animal, desire shelter. And modern homes are fit to provide it. Once a raccoon discovers the safety, security, and weather protection of a home, they won’t want to leave it anymore than its homeowner would.

To get in, raccoons exploit construction vulnerabilities that may have been present since your home was built or that have developed over time through damage and disrepair. Some of the most common include:

  • Chimneys — besides chimney swifts, raccoons are one of the only animals that can lodge comfortably in a chimney.
  • Soffit openings — raccoons are great climbers and have no problem getting past any soffit vulnerabilities.
  • Gable vents — gable end vents are an easy target for raccoons to get into your attic.
  • Dormers — damaged roof dormers also provide easy attic access for raccoons.
  • Roof vents — raccoons can easily peel back cheap, aluminum roof vents.
  • Crawl space openings — these are especially vulnerable as they require no climbing to reach them.
  • Pet doors — if your cat or dog can fit through it, a raccoon can, too.

You may be surprised at how long this list is, and it doesn’t even include non-structural openings that are purely the result of damage.

Raccoons are wily, and once they decide your home is their home, you’ve got trouble. That’s why it’s important to be able to detect their presence.

How Do You Detect a Raccoon in Your Home?

A nighttime security camera still image of raccoons sniffing around on a home's porch.

Obviously if you see a raccoon in or around your home (or if you happen to catch one on video), that’s evidence enough. But sometimes, their presence is more subtle, and you’ll have to be more attentive.

Take noise, for instance. Raccoons in an attic will often make a distinct thumping sound. They come and go for food in the middle of the night as well, so keep an ear open during those times.

If a female raccoon has a litter of young somewhere in your home, it’s easy to identify the young by the distinct trilling noises they make when they’re hungry.

And of course, all of that food and water needs to go somewhere. Raccoons tend to use a common latrine area, so the smell of urine and feces in your home will get worse over time if you have a raccoon living with you. Also, raccoon poop looks similar to dog poop, so if you see any around your property or in your house, that’s a good clue that you may have a raccoon.

Finally, one of the most subtle indicators that you may have a raccoon house guest is any discoloration around your gable, soffit, or roof vents.

A raccoon hanging out of a white gable end vent. The animal's sebum has stained the white siding a grayish-brown.

Raccoons (and animals in general) have oil and dirt on their fur called sebum. As they come and go, their fur brushes up against your home’s surfaces, leaving behind a dark stain. If you see this kind of discoloration (especially around your home’s vents), you may have a raccoon living with you.

How Are Raccoons Removed from Homes?

Down to brass tacks: once you know you have a raccoon in your home, how do you get it out?

The first step is to get in touch with a trained and licensed wildlife control operator (WCO). They understand how to handle animals like raccoons, and they have the proper personal protective equipment to defend themselves from potential hazards like rabies or raccoon roundworm.

Once your WCO has diagnosed your raccoon problem and identified potential entry and exit points the critter may be using, they’ll use one of two methods to remove the animal:

  1. Positive placement traps
  2. One-way doors

Positive-Placement Traps

A mushroom-style roof vent surrounded by a cage. One opening in the cage is connected to a positive-placement trap.

The first method a pro might use to trap a raccoon is what's called a positive-placement trap. Using one of these traps involves discovering the entry/exit point the raccoon has been using and setting a trap at that point to capture the critter.

Raccoons don’t horde or store food. They come and go from their shelter in the morning and at night to forage. Wildlife control operators exploit this fact when trapping raccoons. The animal has to leave at some point, and when they do, the trap will be waiting for them.

Once they’re captured, the operator can safely and humanely relocate the animal.

One-Way Doors

A one-way door set up over a roof vent opening. A raccoon is examining the top-right corner of the device.

Some state and local laws prohibit the use of positive-placement traps. If you live in one of these areas, your WCO will likely use a one-way door instead.

One-way doors are also used in dealing with bat problems. They operate under the same principle as a positive placement trap: the animal has to leave at some point for food and water, and when they do, the door will be their only way out.

As their name implies, these doors only open in one direction. The raccoon pushes their way through the door from inside your home and it closes behind them. If they try to get back in through the door, though, they won’t be able to open it. They’ll be sealed out of your house and will need to find another place to take shelter.

How Do You Keep a Raccoon from Coming Back?

Imagine you get locked out of your house. Would your first reaction be to say, “Oh well, I guess I’ll just leave”? No, of course not. You’d try to get back in by picking the lock or going around to the back door (or, if you’re really desperate, breaking a window).

As far as an evicted raccoon knows, your house is their house. And when you lock them out, they’ll do everything they can to get back in, especially if their young are still inside (adult female raccoons have been known to decimate roofs or walls to gain access to their litter).

As much as people may want to believe it, there’s no magic device or liquid that’s going to keep raccoons from coming back (or from invading in the first place, for that matter).

Popular so-called “miracle deterrents” include vinegar, coyote urine, ammonia, cayenne pepper, or even sonic devices meant to vibrate and intimidate the critters.

The truth is, though, there’s only one sure-fire way to keep raccoons out for good: installing strong physical barriers through which they can’t gain access. These are called wildlife exclusion devices, and they come in a few shapes and forms:

  • Chimney caps
  • Soffit vent covers
  • Foundation vent covers
  • Mesh panels
  • Roof vent guards

It’s important that these devices only be installed by a professional wildlife control operator. They know how to attach them, as well as the habits and traits of the animals they’re meant to exclude.

Chimney Caps

Due to their dexterity and ability to climb, raccoons are one of the only animals that nests inside of chimneys. Raccoons have even been known to set up camp on a fireplace’s smoke shelf, birth young, and come and go with fresh food for the newborns.

The humble chimney cap serves several purposes, wildlife exclusion being just one of them. Adding a chimney cap to your flue will help to ensure that raccoons can’t get in. Just don’t use an aluminum cap; they’ll be able to pull it apart.

Discover HY-C Chimney Caps

Soffit Vent Covers

Newer homes tend to forgo the soffit vent system altogether. Instead, they’re built with perforated soffits that offer the same level of venting surface area without allowing even tiny insects to get in.

Older homes, on the other hand, were made with soffit vents that typically measure 4” x 16”, 8” x 16”, or 4” x 50”. As these vents’ prefabricated covers deteriorate over time, an aftermarket soffit vent cover is needed to help keep critters like raccoons from using the vents to access your attic.

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Foundation Vent Covers

If your home has a crawl space, it very likely has foundation vents, too. These vents are pivotal in providing necessary airflow to your crawl space, ensuring moist, stagnant air doesn’t cause mold or mildew buildup.

These vents, like soffit vents, are a prime raccoon invasion spot. Installing a galvanized steel foundation vent cover will keep them out, though. Securing this spot is especially important as its ground-level location is particularly vulnerable to raccoons and other critters.

Discover HY-GUARD EXCLUSION Foundation Vent Covers

Mesh Panels

A HY-GUARD EXCLUSION tight mesh panel. There are labels showing the length and width of the panel, as well as a magnification of the mesh size.

Mesh panels are versatile. Made from tight galvanized steel, they can be cut to fit over a number of vulnerable raccoon entry points like gable vents, damaged roof dormers, or even unusually sized soffit or foundation vents.

HY-GUARD EXCLUSION mesh panels are made with ¼” diamond mesh — small enough even to exclude bees, wasps, stink bugs, and cicadas. They measure 31-¼” x 28” and come 5 to a box to provide over 30 square feet of wildlife exclusion coverage.

Discover HY-GUARD EXCLUSION Mesh Panels

Roof Vent Guards

Finally, there’s roof vent guards. Most roof vents come with some kind of wildlife exclusion coverage built in. The problem, though, is that the vents are made from aluminum — a metal that raccoons (and other nuisance wildlife) can chew right through.

Consider adding an additional layer of protection over your roof and attic with a roof vent guard. These guards are available both in galvanized and stainless steel, locking out raccoons and keeping your attic safe from invasion.

Discover HY-GUARD EXCLUSION Roof Vent Guards

What to Do after Your Raccoon Problem is Fixed

And that’s it — a comprehensive guide to all things raccoons. From how they get into homes to how to detect them to how a professional removes them, you should now know exactly how to deal with a raccoon problem from start to finish.

But what should you do after your wildlife control operator removes your raccoon(s)?

As we’ve mentioned, sprays and devices won’t keep the critters away. They’ll adapt quickly to them, and they’ll be right back inside your home wreaking more havoc.

To ensure your wildlife invasion problem stays solved, ask your WCO about installing wildlife exclusion products. It’s a bit of an investment up front, but it can save you thousands of dollars down the line.

You’ll keep out not only raccoons, but squirrels, birds, bats, insects, and any other nuisances that may have their eye on your home.

Louis Greubel

Louis earned a bachelor's degree in English with a focus in rhetoric and composition from St. Louis University in 2017. He has worked in marketing as a content writer for over 5 years. Currently, he oversees the HY-C Learning Center, helping HY-C subject matter experts to share their decades of home solution products experience with homeowners and sales partners across the country.