How to Get Rid of Raccoons

By Amanda Lutz Updated March 7, 2024

Raccoons are found in most parts of the United States, venturing into suburban and urban areas to find food and shelter. While raccoons often cause mild damage by knocking over trash bins and digging in your yard, they can create serious problems if they choose to shelter in your roof, attic, or shed.

Homeowners can get rid of raccoons by trapping them or hiring professional pest control services. You can also make your property uninviting by removing food sources, blocking easy nesting areas, such as crawlspaces, and securing your trash cans. Read this guide for a detailed overview of how to identify and remove raccoons from your property on your own or with professional help.

Identifying Raccoons

There’s a variety of wild animals and neighborhood pests that can dig up your garden beds or try to get into your attic. While raccoons are a likely culprit, squirrels, rats, and mice could also cause damage in and around your home. Before you develop a plan to get rid of raccoons, identify them as the pests that are wreaking havoc.

Raccoons themselves are small mammals that can reach up to 3 feet long. They’re typically gray but have a distinctive black “mask” across their eyes and dark rings on their long tails. Because of their agile paws, they can easily climb fencing, siding, trash bins, and trees.

Raccoons are nocturnal animals and aren’t very social, so they can be hard to spot. The best time to identify them is early dawn or late dusk when they’re most active. You may also be able to identify raccoons based on their dens. Raccoons prefer hollow logs in forested areas, and their dens are much larger than other rodents’ dens. As omnivores, they can live in almost any environment that gives them food and undisturbed shelter, from brush piles and attics to under floating decks or in garages.

If you don’t notice any dens around, identify raccoons based on their tracks. They have nimble, five-fingered paws that look like 2- or 3-inch handprints. These are different from the tracks left behind by voles and rats, which are five-fingered tracks that are less than five centimeters in length.

Signs of a Raccoon Infestation

If you see a raccoon on your property, it doesn’t mean that you have an infestation—sometimes, these pests are just crossing through and may have been attracted by an open trash can or bird feeders. If you have proactive raccoon prevention strategies in place, these raccoons will typically move on. However, if they find shelter or food on your property, they may stay longer, create a nest, and infest the property.

Look out for these common signs of a raccoon infestation:

If you notice any of these signs of a raccoon infestation, we recommend calling a professional pest control service to assess the situation. You can also install security cameras with night vision to surveil your yard. The earlier you confirm your suspicions and start creating a plan to remove the raccoons, the less damage they’ll cause and the easier it will be to remove them.

Damage Caused by Raccoons

Rodents and other pests, raccoons included, can cause a lot of property damage. They can dig up your landscaping; damage your home, car, and other structures; and spread diseases.

Here are some common types of damage caused by raccoons:

If you notice any of these signs, use do-it-yourself (DIY) or professional strategies to get rid of raccoons.

DIY Raccoon Removal

There are a variety of options for DIY raccoon removal. We recommend focusing on methods that are both safe for you and your family and humane for the raccoons. Three of the most popular methods include exclusion strategies, live traps, and natural deterrents. These, combined with prevention techniques, can help you get rid of raccoons around your home.

Exclusion Strategies

An exclusion strategy is an option for removing raccoons once they’ve established a nest or den. The strategy’s objective is to make sure raccoons leave their nest and are prevented from getting back inside. You can install barriers if you’re certain no raccoons are in the nest, or you can install one-way doors and funnels that lock them out once they leave.

To use this strategy for your raccoon problem, follow these steps:

  1. Identify the entry point(s) of the den: The most common areas for raccoons to enter your house are through vents, soffits, eaves, or your chimney.
  2. Make sure the rest of your home is sealed against raccoons: Reinforce any other potential openings into your home with wire mesh, remove attractive shelter spots around your yard, and remove any food sources like loose trash or pet food bowls.
  3. Install an exclusion door or tunnel: You can bolt a wire tunnel or one-way door over the remaining access point. These devices are available in most home improvement stores. Because raccoons are stronger than most other pests, make sure the exclusion device is firmly bolted in place.
  4. Survey the area, and wait for the raccoon to leave: If you have a security camera, monitor the entrance of the raccoon den. Once the raccoon realizes it can’t return to its nest, it may try to rip away the one-way door or create another way inside. Be ready to scare the raccoon away by going outside and making a loud noise.
  5. Stay vigilant for returning raccoons: Most lone raccoons will give up easily if they can’t get into their den, but some may create a new home. Monitor common raccoon entry points to ensure that more don’t return.

This method does have some drawbacks. If the raccoon has created a nest in your attic, there may be young raccoons in the attic. Raccoons are also strong and agile enough to rip away different types of one-way doors or make a new entrance. If you suspect there’s a nest of baby raccoons in your attic, we recommend calling in a professional pest control service to handle the infestation.

Live Traps

Another popular strategy is catching raccoons in live traps for relocation. Follow these steps to set a live trap:

  1. Remove food sources in and around your yard so the trap bait becomes the raccoon’s most appealing food source.
  2. Set up the live trap where you’ve noticed a lot of raccoon activity or damage. Common places to set a live trap include in your attic or on your porch.
  3. Bait the trap with sweet food like peanut butter, and engage the trigger plate.
  4. Monitor the trap with a motion detection camera, or check it twice a day until the raccoon is caught.
  5. Once you’ve captured the raccoon, cover the trap with a towel, and move the raccoon to a safe relocation area. You can contact your municipal authorities or a local pest control company to learn where it’s safe to release a captured raccoon.

After the raccoon is gone, repair any damage, and remove any possible shelter or food sources that can attract more raccoons.

Natural Deterrents

Raccoons can flock to your property because of the safe, comfortable shelter it offers. If you employ natural deterrent techniques, including lights, smells, and sounds that make the raccoons feel unwelcome, there’s a chance they will leave your property on their own.

Here are a few popular natural deterrents:

While these more natural deterrents are humane, they’re not always effective. For the best results, consider pairing multiple techniques together to get rid of your raccoon infestation.

Avoid strategies such as poison and fatal traps. These methods of raccoon removal are considered inhumane and can pose a danger to neighborhood pets and anyone who accidentally encounters or ingests them. Poison, even if it’s effective, can leave you with dead raccoons hidden in your attic, garage, or home walls.

Once the raccoons are gone, clean and remediate any affected areas, especially raccoon latrines. These latrines are problems near every nest or den and are contaminated with feces and disease. Likely latrine sites are trees, sandboxes, decks, and the nests themselves. Wear appropriate safety gear like long pants and shirts, gloves, and safety goggles. Carefully clean and disinfect the area with hot, soapy water, and remove any raccoon feces using a shovel and inverted plastic bag.

Professional Raccoon Removal

If you don’t want to use DIY raccoon removal solutions, you can hire professional raccoon removal services. Animal control specialists can offer humane animal treatment, nest site remediation with safe and comprehensive techniques, and convenience.

If you suspect you have raccoons visiting or nesting on your property, contact a raccoon removal service as soon as possible for a timely solution. Here’s what you can expect if you hire a professional raccoon removal service:

  1. The professional will inspect your home to determine how many raccoons are on your property and where their den and den entrances are.
  2. They’ll use exclusion methods and live traps to remove the raccoons. This includes relocating any captured raccoons according to local and state laws.
  3. They’ll repair or patch up your home to prevent more raccoons from entering the property.
  4. They’ll provide prevention services, such as sealing gaps in your home, removing potential den sites, and replacing your trash cans with pest-resistant options.
  5. They’ll reinspect your home to prevent new infestations.

Professional raccoon removal costs can vary. In general, raccoon removal can cost between $75 and $650 for each raccoon, with additional prevention services averaging $100 to $200 per visit. Traps and relocation can cost around $100, but manual removal services (such as removing a raccoon from an attic nest) can cost up to $650.

Our Recommendation

Raccoons can be dangerous and destructive. If you encounter signs of a raccoon infestation, such as roof damage, dug-up garden beds, and frequent sightings, we recommend using deterrence and natural prevention methods. If you suspect an infestation, use more serious DIY raccoon removal strategies, such as exclusion methods and live traps; hire a professional exterminator; or call in a wildlife removal service.

How to Get Rid of Raccoons FAQ

Where are raccoons usually found?

Raccoons are usually found in woodlands, parks, and farmland. However, they can live in rural, suburban, and urban areas.

How do you get rid of a raccoon ASAP?

You can get rid of a raccoon as soon as possible by using a baited raccoon trap and relocating the pest according to local municipal laws. You can also make your property less appealing by sealing trash cans, removing food and potential shelter, and using natural repellents.

What are raccoons afraid of?

Raccoons are afraid of daylight and predators. Use motion detection lights to scare away these critters or apply chemical solutions that smell like coyote urine to keep them away.

What is the best homemade raccoon repellent?

The best homemade raccoon repellents are pepper (including black pepper and cayenne pepper), cinnamon, and peppermint oil. Apply these repellents along your fence, roof, and trash cans.

Will raccoons leave on their own?

Raccoons will not leave on their own if your property offers them food and shelter. Take immediate steps to eliminate sources of food, including overflowing trash cans or bird feeders full of birdseed, and employ DIY or professional removal strategies to get rid of raccoons.