Overview of Damage Prevention and Control Methods
- Remove obvious sources of food or shelter around the premises
- Close outbuilding and exterior laundry room doors
- Usually the best method for coping with raccoon damage
- Effective for a short time
- Ro-Pel® is registered for use on surfaces
- None registered
- Shotgun with No. 6 shot
- No. 1 longspring
- No. 1.5 coilspring
- No. 160, 220 Conibear®-style
- Species-specific traps
- 10- x 12- x 32-inch single-door cage or box traps
- 10- x 12- x 42-inch double-door cage or box traps
Other Control Methods
- Direct capture
- Removal from chimneys
Damage Prevention and Control Methods
Remove any obvious sources of food or shelter that may be attracting raccoons to the premises. Raccoons forage over wide ranges and anything other than local habitat modification to reduce numbers of raccoons generally is not effective for reducing damage.
Protect property by removing as many potential sources of food as possible. Trash cans, preferably metal, should have tight‐fitting lids that remain attached even if upended. Loose lids can be secured with bungee cords or wire. The best solution is to store trash containers inside secure buildings.
Use only plant and vegetable matter (no meat, eggs, fats, or oils) in compost piles to avoid attracting raccoons, opossums, skunks, and other scavengers. Avoid leaving food and water out overnight for pets. Put free‐ranging poultry in fenced, predator‐proof runs overnight. Avoid planting sweet corn patches near creek bottoms or other wooded areas.
Both raccoons and opossums eat birdseed, so hang bird feeders on a wire between trees or on a baffled pole to prevent raiding. Reduce the amount of seed that falls to the ground by avoiding the use of mixed seed (use 1 type of seed per feeder) and using feeders that recapture fallen seed.
When raccoons are rolling up freshly laid sod, pin the strips of sod down with long wire pins, wooden stakes, or nylon netting to allow the grass to take root. If damage is extensive, install electric fences if legal. Sod‐turning behavior is most prevalent in mid‐to late summer when family groups of raccoons are learning to forage. Homeowners may be able to avoid problems by having sod installed in spring or early summer. In most cases, removal of the problem raccoons is necessary. Application of grub control insecticides is only effective if grubs are controlled before damage starts.
Exclusion usually is the best method of coping with damage by raccoons. Electric fences, where legal, are effective in protecting property from damage by raccoons. Damage to sweet corn or watermelons can be stopped by excluding raccoons with a single or double hotwire arrangement. Turn the fence on in the evening before dusk and turn it off after daybreak. Use electric fences with care and install appropriate caution signs.
Damage to poultry can be prevented by excluding raccoons with tightly covered doors and windows on buildings or mesh‐wire fences with an overhang surrounding poultry yards. Raccoons are excellent climbers and are capable of gaining access by climbing conventional fences or by using overhanging limbs to bypass a fence. A “hot wire” from an electric fence charger at the top of a fence greatly increases the effectiveness of a fence for excluding raccoons.
Wrap filament tape or place plastic bags around ripening ears of corn to reduce raccoon damage to sweet corn by 70% to 80%. Each loop of the tape should be wrapped over itself so it forms a closed loop that a raccoon cannot open (see image to the right). When using tape, it is important to apply the type with glass‐yarn filaments embedded within so that raccoons cannot tear through the tape. The use of tape is more labor‐intensive than fencing, but may be more practical and acceptable for small backyard gardens. Tape and fences are more effective than bagging.
Store garbage in metal or plastic containers with tight‐fitting lids to discourage raccoons from trying to access garbage. If lids do not fit tightly, it may be necessary to wire, weight, or clamp them down to prevent raccoons from lifting the lid to get at garbage. Secure cans to a rack or tie them to a support to prevent raccoons from upending them.
Limit access to rooftops by removing overhanging branches and wrapping and nailing sheets of slick metal at least 3 feet square around corners of buildings. This prevents raccoons from being able to get a toehold for climbing. While this method may be practical for outbuildings, some clients may consider it unsightly and generally unacceptable for their homes. It is more practical to secure chimneys or other areas attracting raccoons to the rooftop or to remove the offending individual animals than to completely exclude them from the roof.
Prevent access to chimneys by securely fastening a commercial chimney cap over the top of the chimney. These are available commercially and should be made of heavy material. Tightly clamp or fasten them to chimneys to prevent raccoons from pulling or tearing them off. Homeowners attempting to exclude or remove raccoons in the spring and summer should be aware of the possibility that young also may be present.
Do not complete exclusion procedures until you are certain that all raccoons have been removed from or have left the exclusion area. Raccoons frequently use uncapped chimneys as natal den sites, raising young on the smoke shelf or the top of the fireplace box until weaning. Homeowners with the patience to endure several weeks of scratching, rustling, and chirring sounds normally will be rewarded by the mother raccoon moving the young from the chimney when she begins to wean them. Homeowners with less patience often can contact a WCO to physically remove the raccoons. In either case, raccoon exclusion procedures should be completed immediately after the animals are gone.
Although several techniques have been used to frighten raccoons, particularly in sweet corn patches, none have been proven to be effective over a long period of time. Frightening techniques include the lights, radios, dogs, scarecrows, plastic or cloth streamers, aluminum pie pans, tin can lids, and plastic windmills. Frightening devices may have some temporary effectiveness in deterring raccoons, but none will provide adequate long‐term protection in most situations.
Ro‐Pel® is a contact/taste repellent that is applied directly to surfaces to keep chewing animals, including raccoons, from causing damage. Do not apply Ro‐Pel® to edible plants or crops that bear fruit because it will impart a bitter taste.
No toxicants are registered for the control of raccoons.
Healthy raccoons are seldom seen during the day because of their nocturnal habits. Raccoons can be shot at night with proper lighting. Trained dogs can be used to tree the raccoons first. A .22‐caliber rifle will effectively kill treed raccoons if shot placement is restricted to the head. Otherwise, use a shotgun with No. 6 shot if legal in your state. Many states have restrictions on the use of artificial light and light strength (voltage) to spot and shoot raccoons at night and shooting is prohibited in most towns and cities. Check with state and local authorities before using any lethal control methods for raccoons.
Raccoons are relatively easy to catch in traps, but it takes a sturdy trap to hold a raccoon for long. For homeowners with pets, cage and box traps usually are preferable to foothold traps.
Cage and box traps for raccoons should be at least 10 x 12 x 32 inches and well‐constructed with sturdy materials. They can be baited with fish‐flavored cat food, sardines, fish, or chicken. Place a pile of bait behind the treadle and scatter a few small bits of bait outside the opening of the trap and just inside the entrance. The back portion of the trap should be tightly screened with ½‐inch or smaller mesh wire to prevent raccoons from reaching through the wire to pull out the bait.
Pay special attention to the 12‐inch area around the trap; cage‐trapped raccoons will reach for anything they can and pull it into the trap, including shingles, grass, dirt, siding, and garden hose. Cage traps with ½‐ x 1‐inch mesh, particularly in the lower portions of the trap, help reduce the risk of this problem. Traps should be secured; trapped raccoons have been known to move and flip traps.
If a trap must be placed in proximity to sensitive areas, protect them by wrapping the cage with ¼‐inch mesh or plywood boards or other durable objects to prevent damage from a trapped raccoon. Place a small bottle, cap, or other item inside the cage to keep the raccoon occupied, reducing damage to the area and self-inflicted injury to the raccoon.
No. 160 and 220‐sized Conibear®‐style body-gripping traps are effective for raccoons and can be used in natural or artificial cubbies or boxes. These traps do not allow for selective release of non‐target catches, and they should not be used in areas where risk of non‐target capture is high. Box or foothold traps should be used instead in such situations. It is possible, however, to use body‐gripping traps inside structures, such as attics and basements where control of access is possible. Conibear®‐style traps can be successfully used in boxes on roofs.
Traps should be set so that the jaws close top-to‐bottom and NOT side‐to‐side, so that the jaws strike the spine and stomach of the animal. Traps should be secured to the box to prevent the 2 from being separated. Raccoons do not always die quickly so avoid using this set in areas readily visible to people. Check local state laws for restrictions regarding use of Conibear®‐style traps out of water.
Raccoons can be captured in foothold traps. Use a No. 1 or No. 1½ coilspring or stoploss trap fastened to a drag such as a tree limb 6 to 8 feet
long. Choose sites carefully, particularly where dogs are walked, as unleashed dogs may attack trapped raccoons. For water sets, use a drowning wire that leads to deep water. As with cage traps, always be aware of the surroundings, particularly when the traps are not set in a lethal manner. Trapped raccoons will destroy whatever they can reach.
Pocket sets are very effective for raccoons, and are made along the water’s edge where at least a slight bank is present. Dig a hole 3 to 6 inches in diameter horizontally back into the bank at least 10 to 12 inches. The bottom 2 inches of the hole should be below the water level. Place bait or a lure (fish, frog, anise oil, honey) in the back of the hole and above the water level. Set the trap (No. 1 or 1½ coilspring, doublejaw, or stoploss is recommended) below the water level in front of or just inside the opening. Attach the trap to a movable drag or 1‐way slide to a drowning wire leading to deep water.
Dirt‐hole sets are effective for raccoons. Place bait or a lure in a small hole and conceal the trap under a light covering of soil in front of the hole. A No. 1 or 1½ coilspring trap is recommended for this set. It is important to use a small piece of clean cloth, light plastic, or a wad of dry grass to prevent soil from getting under the round pan of the trap and keeping it from going down. If this precaution is not taken, the trap may not go off.
Raccoons have incredible dexterity in their front paws and a variety of traps have been designed to exploit that ability. These traps significantly reduce the likelihood of non‐target catches because the narrow tube makes it difficult for dogs to trigger the trap. Very few animals have the dexterity and small foot size of a raccoon. Species‐specific traps include the Egg Trap®, Coon Cuffs®, Duffer’s Raccoon Trap®, and Lil’ Grizz®. Species‐specific traps can be used just like footholds. Anchor them securely and consider what the trapped raccoon might damage.
Other Control Methods
Sometimes raccoons are ill or are in locations where immediate removal is required. Raccoons present special challenges due to their mobility and ability to climb. Required equipment includes gloves, catch pole, cat grasper, hand net, and a raccoon‐sized cage or box trap. Due to the variety of situations where raccoon removal may occur, we only provide some basic strategies.
Restrict the movement of the raccoon in the building by closing doors, cabinets, and rooms. In general, slow-moving raccoons can be captured with a catch pole. Faster raccoons will require a hand net. Raccoons may defecate and urinate during capture. Carefully monitor the behavior of a captured raccoon. Each animal is different. Always consider your personal safety.
While rare, cornered raccoons may attack. A cornered raccoon may duck its head, making it difficult to place the noose of the catch pole around its head. In these circumstances, poke the chest of the raccoon with a catch pole. The raccoon will lift its head, providing an opportunity to place the noose around the head and chest. Clean up the area and inquire about any exposures before disposing of the raccoon.
Removal of Raccoons from Chimneys
Unused chimney flues provide excellent habitat for raccoons to raise young. People may complain of hearing noises emanating from the fireplace, a classic sign of juvenile raccoons. Removal of raccoons from the chimney is a 2‐step process: secure the female and then remove the young.
The Chim‐Trap® sets on the flue. Bungee cords are stretched from the top of the trap and secured to a strap on the chimney. Some WCOs use cables for the top half of the distance to prevent raccoons from chewing up the bungee cords. View the video entitled Removing Raccoons from Chimneys by Rich Daniotti for more information.
Another method for removing raccoons from a chimney requires only a single visit. Insert a modified chimney brush about 4 feet down into the flue, leaving 4 feet of rod extending above the flue. Secure a cage over the rod and attach the cage to the top of the flue. Push the chimney brush down the flue and attach rods as needed until the brush reaches the firebox. The frightened female may enter the flue above the brush, climb the flue, and enter the cage. When the female is secure, enter the home to remove the young through the damper. Equipment needed includes: chimney brush with extension rods, raccoon cages for adults and young, drop cloth, lighting, respirator, gloves, mirror, and eye protection.
You can use a No‐See ‘Um Chimney Trap, which fits down into the chimney flue, out of public view. Leave the trap set overnight. The locking mechanism of the No-See ‘Um Trap has a flag that drops when the trap is sprung. This lets you or your customer check the trap from the ground.
To catch young that remain in the flue, lay out a drop cloth in front of the fireplace and remove items that may become damaged or soiled. Light a propane torch and put on your respirator and goggles. The propane torch helps create an updraft in the chimney to reduce dust and debris falling into the living area. Open the damper ¼ inch. Some dust likely will fall down. Let the propane torch continue to send warm air up the chimney. Avoid burning the young. Open the damper more and use your mirror to confirm the presence of the young. If you can reach them, put on gloves and grab the young one at a time and place them in the cage. Handle them carefully but do not be concerned with their screeching. Equipment needed includes: chimney brush with extension rods, drop cloth, lighting, eye protection, respirator, gloves, mirror, raccoon cages for adults and young, hammer, tin snips, screw driver, pliers or vice‐grips, assorted cotter pins, propane torch, and lighter.
Thick leather gloves are enough to protect you, as the young are not developed enough to bite with any real force. If you cannot get all the young, you may need to remove the damper. Straighten the cotter pin and try to pull it out. If it is too rusted or difficult to move, cut the head of the cotter pin off and remove. Be careful, as soot may fall down into the fireplace area when the damper is removed. Remove the remaining young and replace the damper with a new cotter pin. Confirm that the damper is working properly.
Have the chimney inspected for damage. If the fireplace flue and chimney are in proper working order, build a fire to sterilize the chimney and fireplace area. The fire should continue for 2 to 4 hours. The home should be occupied during this process.