Chimneys are death traps for most animals; notable exceptions are raccoons and chimney swifts. If noise stops, it usually means the animal has died.
The starling shown here was rescued from a woodstove. It flew through an uncapped chimney into the woodstove, where it was captured with a pillowcase. The woodstove had no fire or live coals in it at the time.
Step 1. Look carefully at Diagram 1 to understand how a typical chimney works. Although not all chimneys are exactly like this, it is a good model to begin with. You will find most animals behind the damper. Don’t open the damper!
Step 2. Do you hear noises coming from the chimney or fireplace?
- Young raccoons sound like birds chirping.
- Chimney swifts make grinding noises.
- Squirrels scratch or have a chrrrr sound.
Many different species of animals can become trapped in a chimney, including ducks, owls, and crows.
Step 3. Is the chimney capped? If so, is the cap broken?
Sometimes the cap rusts out. This is why we recommend stainless steel caps manufactured by professionals.
Step 4. Inspect the corners of the house and along tree branches for signs of raccoons. Often, you will see smudges where their feet gained tracking for the climb.
Step 5. If possible to do so safely, look down the chimney. You may see the cause of the noise. Removal of an animal from a chimney may require the help of a professional. To prevent future chimney incidents, see Chimney Cap.