Masked Bandits in Your Attic?
You’re sitting in your recliner watching TV and you hear noises in your attic or walls. What could it be? What do I do? First of all, don’t panic. Chances are you’re dealing with critters and there are humane ways to get rid of these freeloaders. For this article, let’s talk about raccoons which seems to be the biggest problem this time of the year. The first thing you need to do is walk around your house and find out where the entry point is. The entry point is usually an unsecured grate, a hole in your siding or a small gap in a vent. Look for shredded paper or insulation on the ground around your home. This may help you find where they’re getting in. Raccoons are very opportunistic and if there’s a way to get in, they’ll find it. By identifying the entry point, you’ll know what you need to repair once they’re gone. Make sure you get the critters out before you do any repairs.
Why have they taken up residence in your attic? They are not evil animals, they’re not there to cause you aggravation. During spring, pregnant raccoons are looking for a protected place to give birth. What good mother wouldn’t do the same? Normally they will nest in a hollow tree trunk, cave or crevice but if they happen to find a way into your attic, the pregnant raccoon will temporarily move in. My suggested solution to ridding your property of a mother raccoon and her babies is to do nothing. Yes, I said it—do nothing. When the babies are old enough, mother and babies will leave on their own. Be patient. It will take a few weeks. Now you need to repair the entry point or this will be a problem again in the future.
If you can’t tolerate the thought of wild animals in your attic, there are some things you can do to encourage them to leave. These are very humane solutions and I highly recommend them.
• Mama raccoon is in your attic because it’s a dark and quiet place for her and her babies. So, make it light and noisy! Making sure it’s not a fire hazard, place a high wattage light in the attic. You can also try using a spotlight at the entry point if you know where that is. Now, place a radio in the attic tuned to a talk radio station. Music doesn’t seem to bother raccoons but the sound of human voices has more of an effect. Play it LOUD. This may bother you for a day or two but you have to be persistent for this to work.
• Smells. Depending on what website you’re looking at, you’ll find several suggestions on smells that will encourage raccoons to move out. One site suggests soaking rags in ammonia or apple cider vinegar, putting them in plastic bags with holes punched in the bag and placing them in the attic. Other sites suggest putting cotton balls soaked with peppermint oil in the attic. You can purchase something called raccoon eviction fluid but I can’t vouch for its effectiveness.
One site I looked at suggested an ultrasonic sound emitter. It emits a high frequency noise that only they can hear. Again, sounds good but does it work? I don’t know.
I must emphasize, once again, to be patient! These tactics can take several days to work.
Now, what NOT to do. Do not set up a live trap. Raccoons can be dangerous especially if you are dealing with a mama. It’s inhumane as well. When I worked at one of the wildlife centers in Houston, we heard horror stories about mama raccoons chewing off their own limbs to try to escape the trap and get to her babies. Trapping the mom and leaving the babies doesn’t solve your problem. If you trap Mom, you now have orphans that need to be taken to a wildlife center. Remember, too, that Texas Department of State Health Services states that it is illegal for a person to transport animals such as fox, skunk, coyote or raccoon within Texas so you can’t relocate the trapped female raccoon or the babies. Please note that relocated raccoons will have to fight with established raccoons for survival in the new territory. For those of you that think trapping and relocating animals will help rid your property of critters, relocating them solves nothing. New ones will move in when one leaves.
There are many exterminating companies out there that claim to be humane. BE VERY CAREFUL if you decide to hire one. Ask questions about what they do with the animals. Many of them kill the animals.
At this time of the year, please try to refrain from cutting down trees. Many trees are home to spring babies including birds, squirrels and raccoons. If you find yourself with animals needing help, contact a wildlife center or rehabilitator. Do not try to care for the animal yourself!
Download this free application to find rehabilitators in your area: ANIMAL HELP NOW
Friends of Texas Wildlife 281.539.0039
TWRC Wildlife 713.468.8972
Wildlife Center of Texas 713.861.9453