How to Get Rid of Raccoons in Your Attic

A group of raccoons looking into a house through a door with glass panes

Milian Kurten/EyeEm

They may seem cute, but raccoons in the attic (or anywhere in your home) are a real problem. How do you know if there's a raccoon up there?

For starters, you'll hear them scratching and scrambling around. They'll also make a mess, tearing up insulation to build their nest and leaving behind droppings. If you have raccoons in your attic or crawlspace, it's important to get rid of them as soon as possible. Not only can they cause serious damage, but they also are territorial and can carry and spread diseases.

What is Insulation?

You may already know this, but insulation is the fluffy stuff in your attic, crawlspace and walls that keeps your home warm by keeping heat in and keeping cold out. Raccoons, rodents and other animals can get comfy in the warm, wooly insulation where they shred it and leave droppings, urine, and sometimes babies.

The best way to get rid of raccoons is to call a trustworthy local company that handles wildlife removal. They'll be able to safely, effectively, and legally remove the animals—and they may even be able to help repair the damage the raccoons have caused.

Warning

Not only are raccoons notorious for being nuisance pests, but they can also pose serious health risks to humans. They are common carriers of a number of diseases including rabies, leptospirosis, and Giardia. They also transmit parasites such as ringworm, fleas, ticks, and mites and contaminate areas with bacteria from their droppings and urine. If you're dealing with a raccoon issue and you want to handle it DIY-style, be sure to wear proper PPE (personal protective equipment) such as long sleeves and pants, a respirator, eye protection, and gloves.

A territorial raccoon aggressively bearings its teeth to scare away any threats.
An aggressive, territorial raccoon

Alan Vernon

What do Raccoons Look Like?

Raccoons are often confused with other animals, the top examples being opossums and skunks. Sometimes, people hear the activity of raccoons and assume that it's rodents or something else. Only a visual sighting or thorough inspection will give you a clearer picture of what you're dealing with.

Raccoons are medium-sized mammals with the following characteristics:

  • A thick coat of black, brown, or blonde fur
  • A long, bushy tail with ringed coloring
  • Black "mask" around the eyes

As adults, raccoons weigh somewhere between 9-11 lbs. (4-5kg). They are found in North and South America and have adapted well to urban areas, where they often live in attics and other small spaces (especially crawlspaces) and enjoy the variety of food and water supply options available to them.

A raccoon with classic black-brown, white and grey coloring

Copyright Michael Cummings

Two blonde-white raccoons in the forest, peering out from behind a tree trunk.

Thomas Winz/Photodisc

A raccoon with dark coloring on its face and reddish-brown fur sitting in a tree.

Marik Lengauer/EyeEm

4 Ways to Get Rid of Raccoons in Your Attic

Warning

Make sure to read your local and state laws regarding raccoon control and removal. Relocation is sometimes illegal depending on where you live. As inhumane as it may seem, some states require raccoons to be euthanized upon capture. There's a reason for this: raccoons are incredibly territorial. Think of them as small, aggressive, little bears. Trapping and releasing raccoons in a new area can create conflict (and damage) to the raccoons and other animals that are already living in there, and the process of trapping and releasing raccoons can also be dangerous for the trapper (you).

Habitat Modification

Habitat modification involves making changes to the environment around your home to make it less appealing for raccoons to live there.

For raccoons, habitat modification will likely involve some, if not all, of the following methods:

  1. Removing sources of food
  2. Eliminating sources of water if possible
  3. Sealing up entry points
  4. Installing fencing
  5. Removing or trimming back limbs, trees or shrubs that are close to the house and allow raccoons to climb up to the roof

All of these steps can help deter raccoons and keep them from taking up residence in your attic or other parts of your home.

Two raccoons have used their sharp claws to climb the bark of a large tree.
Raccoons are incredibly good climbers.

Photo by Marianna Armata

Call a Professional

When it comes to raccoon control, it's often best to call the pros from the get go.

Professional wildlife removal specialists will know how to handle your raccoon problem legally according to state and local laws, and they will have the proper equipment to get the job done safely. This equipment can include anything from specialty traps to strong metal screening and pheromone deterrents.

Getting rid of raccoons in the attic often requires ladder and roof work, which can be very dangerous. If you are not comfortable with ladders or heights, or if you startle easily, know your limits and don't be afraid to hire someone to handle your raccoon removal.

Trapping

Trapping is the most common method used to remove raccoons from an area. It can also be dangerous considering it involves ladders and live, potentially aggressive animals.

You must be prepared to deal with the animal according to your state laws. These laws are in place for a reason, and just because it seems more humane to trap and release a raccoon doesn't mean it is.

Raccoons carry a number of risks including:

  1. Transmitting disease
  2. Causing damage to homes
  3. Exhibiting aggressive and destructive behavior toward native raccoons and wildlife when introduced to new environments

The aggressive and territorial behavior of raccoons can cause them to become a danger to themselves and other animals when in a new environment, and that's not really humane for anyone involved. In many states, catch and release of raccoons is illegal and euthanization is legally required upon capture due to their aggressive nature and ability to spread disease.

A raccoon has been captured in a metal live trap made of wire.

Utah-based photographer Ryan Houston

Deterrents and Repellents

There are a number of deterrents on the market that can help keep raccoons away from your spaces. It's best to use a product specially formulated to repel raccoons. These repellents can involve synthetic predator urine or pheromones that make the raccoons want to hit the road.

Keep in mind that labels need to followed closely and in some cases, these types of solutions can be hit or miss.

The last thing you want to do is tick off the raccoon that's already living in your attic or crawlspace. A professional wildlife removal specialist will have a variety of tools available to them to help solve your raccoon issue. If you're not sure whether you should DIY or hire a pro, it never hurts to call a wildlife removal specialist and ask some questions.

Signs of a Raccoon Infestation

Raccoons are cunning and resourceful and can easily make their way into your home in search of food and shelter.

An infestation of raccoons in your home can cause significant damage to your property, and it can also be dangerous for you and your family. There are a few telltale signs that you may have a raccoon problem:

  1. Droppings - This is the most obvious sign of the presence of raccoons. Raccoon droppings are usually dark in color, tubular in shape and around 2-3 inches in length.
  2. Tracks - You may spot raccoon tracks, either in mud, dust or snow. Raccoons have very distinct prints, with smaller, finger-like claws in the front and larger, more padded ones in the back.
  3. Damage - Have you discovered damage to your insulation, attic or crawlspace due to nesting raccoons? This problem is common with infestations.

If you suspect you have a raccoon infestation in your home, it is important to take action right away, as waiting will simply allow more time for damage to be done. Calling a professional wildlife control company is the best way to ensure that the raccoons not only leave, but stay away for good.

Distinct raccoon tracks in fresh snow, two smaller claw prints in front and two larger ones in back.
Raccoon tracks in the snow

W. Perry Conway

What Causes Raccoons?

Raccoons are common animals that live throughout North America. They are mostly nocturnal and have a varied diet. They enjoy eating:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Small mammals
  • Garbage

In general, raccoons are not considered a danger to humans, but that doesn't mean they won't hurt you if you get too close, and it doesn't mean they can't spread disease. Raccoons are a terrible nuisance. They can be incredibly territorial and can also cause damage to your property as they rummage through trash cans and recycle bins or dig through gardens in search of food.

A couple of pesky raccoons dig through a pile of trash hoping to find a meal
Trash is a major raccoon attractant

Kevin Schafer

How to Keep Raccoons Away

Raccoons are intelligent, crafty, and can cause a lot of damage.

There are some things you can do to deter raccoons from accessing your property, with the most effective method being to remove all potential food sources. Raccoons are attracted to:

  1. Pet food
  2. Garden vegetables
  3. Trash
  4. Any other foods they can get their little claws on!

Keep any potential food sources securely stored and put away and consider trimming back any branches or vines that allow for easy climbing onto your roof.

Tip

If raccoons have been a repeated issue at your property, consider installing an electric fence around high attractant areas such as gardens, chicken coops or trash receptacles.

Raccoons vs. Skunks and Opossums

Oftentimes, it can be difficult to positively identify raccoons because they are nocturnal. Unless a game camera can be set up in order to capture video footage of the little masked bandits, they may go unnoticed or be mistaken for something else. The two most common animals raccoons are confused with are skunks and opossums.

Skunks are easily recognized by their characteristic black fur, which is also part of the reason why they are confused with raccoons. Most raccoons are also dark in coloring, but not nearly as dark as skunks. If you think you have raccoons, do your best to look for the signature mask and fluffy ringed tail.

Opossums are marsupial (related to kangaroos) and have a pouch for carrying their young. They can grab onto things with their tails and have opposable thumbs, making them good climbers. Opossums have a long snout. They range in size from cat-sized to small child-sized. Luckily they are nocturnal and tend to be timid.

A skunk in the woods with black fur and white stripes down its back and tail
A skunk in the woods

Mark Newman

A close up of a possum with a white face, grey coat and pink nose
Opossum

Lee Robinson/EyeEm

FAQ
  • Where do raccoons come from?

    Raccoons are spread worldwide and live throughout North America. They prefer environments that offer shelter, water and ample food options.

  • Will raccoons go away on their own?

    While raccoons may leave on their own eventually, if you have raccoons in your attic or home, this is not an issue you want to leave unattended. Be sure to get help to address a raccoon issue as soon as possible.

  • Do raccoons bite?

    While considered mostly harmless to humans, raccoons are territorial and can bite when provoked. A raccoon bite can be dangerous, as they are known to spread disease, including rabies.

  • How long do raccoons live?

    In the wild, raccoons live around 2-3 years, but can live far more if they have plenty of food, water and safe shelter. A female raccoon can have 1-2 litters per year with an average of 3-5 babies per litter.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Raccoon | State of Tennessee, Wildlife Resources Agency.”

  2. Living With Wildlife: Raccoons.” USDA Wildlife Services,

  3. Infectious Diseases of Raccoons Fact Sheet.” Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management

  4. Raccoons | University of Maryland Extension.

  5. “Other Wild Animals | Exposure | Rabies | Cdc,” January 26, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/animals/other.html.