Humans and raccoons can coexist. Wild raccoons usually stay in the woods with a nearby water source. But with the rise in urban development, their natural habitat was snatched from them and turned into residential homes. Now, they have no choice but to rely on people’s properties for shelter and food. Raccoons usually live under your deck. If they are beginning to become a nuisance to you, this article will provide you with ways on how to properly eradicate them. 

Are raccoons dangerous animals?

Raccoons are generally wild animals so there’s no telling what they can do. But it’s safe to assume that whenever they are provoked or threatened, they will retaliate with their sharp teeth and claws. 

These animals tend to rummage through your home and your yard. They will topple down trash bins, destroy your vegetable patches and your garden. They have no problem diving onto piles of garbage and when they emerge, they will harbor odor and bacteria in their body. 

Raccoons have also been reported to be carriers of deadly diseases like tetanus, salmonella, listeriosis, and roundworm infections. When transmitted to humans and other animals, these diseases can be fatal. When bitten or scratched by a raccoon, give medical attention as soon as possible. 

How to tell if a raccoon is rabid

When raccoons are out and about during the day, they are usually not hostile. These are the times when they will search for food or new shelter. You will know a rabid raccoon when you see one or more of these signs:

  • Look sickly
  • Formation of foam at the mouth
  • Strange noises
  • Disoriented or confused
  • Difficulty walking
  • Oblivious to the environment
  • Wet and matted hair 
  • Watery discharge from the eyes or mouth
  • Loitering

Raccoons are typically intelligent creatures. They do everything with intention. If they are moving around, they most likely have a reason why. When you see a raccoon that is loitering or wandering around without a particular destination, chances are, they might be suffering from a disease. But under no circumstances should you ever approach one. If there is a stray raccoon outside your home, make sure your children and your pets are safe indoors. 

You have to keep in mind that any raccoon that is out and about during the day is most likely searching for shelter and food, or is sick. The best way to handle this is by calling animal control. 

Why are raccoons living under my deck?

Underneath your deck and patios are great living spaces for a mother raccoon and her young. These areas are dim and quiet and they feel safe in the confined space. Raccoons will most likely use this spot as their nesting area for an entire summer season. 

Residential properties are also attractive to raccoons because of the easily available food sources like your trash bins, pet food, and vegetable garden.

These raccoons will just stay there for a couple of months of one season. When summer is over, they will most likely find another nesting area. But they can still come back and they also tend to feel territorial when they are threatened. 

Signs of raccoon presence under your deck

If you feel as though raccoons have taken up residence below deck, you can confirm with these indicators:

  • Nesting materials: Organic materials like newspaper, clothing, or straw laying around your yard could mean that there are raccoons using these items for their nest. The mother raccoon could snatch these from your trash bin or the clothesline. 
  • Raccoon prints and droppings: If you see paw prints that closely resemble little human hands plus claw marks, then it’s a clear sign of raccoon presence in your property. You may also see fecal droppings in the form of dark tube-like shapes that are 2-3 inches long with traces of berries and twigs. These are commonly found near your trash cans, flower pots, and even in your garage. 
  • Patrolling. As they are generally nocturnal creatures, raccoons like to loiter at night. You may see them peeking through your windows or climbing some trees or rummaging through shoes that are left outside your house. 
  • Noises. They will make the most noise at night because that is when they are awake the longest. When they are feeding their young, they tend to do some thumping, scratching, whining, or high-pitched screeches made by the young raccoons. 
  • Damage. Trash bins toppled over, garbage scattered around looking like a tornado passed through it – there is a high chance that a raccoon may have rummaged through your trash for food. You may also encounter chewed electrical wirings, dug up underground tunnels, and scratch or gnaw marks all over the exterior of your home. 

Speak to a professional

Wildlife professionals are the experts when it comes to handling wild animals like raccoons. You should not attempt to eradicate the raccoons by yourself if you do not have any knowledge whatsoever on how to safely manage them. Animal control is your safest option or licensed and accredited wildlife management groups. 

They would usually recommend strategies or techniques that you can do to make the raccoons move to another home without the use of force or captivity. You should not trap them because it would most likely lead to the collective deaths of the mother raccoon and her young. 

Eradicating raccoons 

Identifying points of entry

You have to know the entrances and exits of your deck and seal them shut. This way, there won’t be any points of entry for raccoons and your deck will be inaccessible. If you want a humane way of eliminating them from your residence, we recommend contacting Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control. Below are their methods:

  • Removing the young raccoons by hand to lure out the mother raccoon
  • Safe storage of the baby raccoons in a single box
  • When the mother exits, she will relocate her young to another area.
  • A heavy gauge screen is then dug into the perimeter to prevent them from entering again. 

Waiting it out

If it does not bother you that much but you still want them gone, you’re just going to have to wait until the end of the summer season for them to relocate. They only live below ground for a limited amount of time within one summer season and they normally move to another nesting area as soon as the summer is over. 

When they finally leave on their own, you can seal shut the points of entry to stop them or other wildlife creatures from coming in again. But before you do it, you have to be absolutely certain that the raccoons have really relocated. To confirm this, you can place a newspaper at the den’s entrance. After three days and nights if the newspaper is still where you initially placed it and there are no traces of the raccoon’s presence, then you can start sealing off the deck. 

You can use galvanized steel mesh for the durable and indestructible barriers. At least 6 inches deep into the ground is a good height because raccoons are great at digging. This steel barrier that you install around your deck should be enough to keep unwanted residents away.

Make them uncomfortable

The raccoons may have chosen to stay at the spot underneath your deck because they feel safe and comfortable there. But if you make them feel otherwise, then the mother raccoon might end up relocating. Of course, do it gently and humanly. Light, sound, and smell are three of the top elements you can use to drive them away. You have to place them near the entrance of their den so they cannot ignore it and they encounter it every time they come and go. You have to be persistent for it to work. Follow these tips.

  • Light: Because they are nocturnal creatures, they are not huge fans of bright lights. You can install a light source at the entry points of the den they made. A fire safe option can be outdoor spotlights or a mechanic’s light since these are good for outdoor use and are quite durable. When they are exposed to constant light during their active hours, it may help drive them away.
  • Sound: Noise disturbances can also drive raccoons away. Loud human voices, thumping, clashing pots, screams, and other unpleasant noises can make them feel threatened and afraid which will force them to find another nesting place. You can place a radio or a speaker near their den and play those noises. 
  • Smell: Soak some rags in apple cider vinegar or ammonia solution and place them at the entrance of the deck and around it. The strong smell of these chemicals is unpleasant for raccoons. You might encounter raccoon repellents in the market but most of the feedback stated that it does not really work. Scent deterrents aren’t that effective but incorporate the other two techniques and it should work. 

Remove food and water sources

Like we mentioned before, raccoons make a home out of your deck because of the proximity to food and water sources. If you eliminate those factors, then they will have less reasons to stay. You can just feed them in the morning and get rid of any leftovers in your trash or water left in pet bowls. Bird feeders should be emptied or kept away at night. Your trash bins should also be locked at night so raccoons cannot rummage through it. 

When they no longer have any source of food, they will move elsewhere where they can easily access food and water. These wild animals are not picky with their diet so they will most likely eat anything such as:

  • Frogs
  • Mice and rats
  • Insects
  • Snails
  • Fish
  • Birds
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dog or cat food

Raccoons are known to be opportunistic eaters and would rather eat trash than endure hunger. When you want to eradicate them from your property, you should make use of all the techniques we mentioned altogether because they won’t go easy. Be persistent and consistent. 

Paper test

When it seems as though the raccoons have left, you have to confirm their departure via a paper test. Basically what you have to do is block the entrance of the deck with balled-up newspapers or cover up the hole. You should wait around 3 days and nights. If the papers are untouched and you did not hear any noises from below your deck, check it for yourself to ensure that they have really moved out. A ¼” wire mesh should be a good temporary seal until you can come up with a permanent solution to seal the deck. 

Here is a step-by-step procedure on how to do the paper test:

  • Check your deck for raccoon presence.
  • Look for a possible entry point like a hole with a 4-inch diameter. This is wide enough to serve as an entrance for a raccoon. 
  • Cover up the hole with a newspaper and keep in place by taping the edges. You can put as many layers of newspapers as possible to make a thicker cover. 
  • Wait until three days after but make sure to inspect every day. If your makeshift seal has been tampered with or destroyed, then it’s clear that the raccoon may have returned. 
  • However, if the newspapers are intact, check for any noises inside the deck or you can do a visual inspection in case there is another entry point. 
  • If there is no presence of the raccoon, you can seal off the entrance to the deck with a galvanized steel or wire mesh and patch the hole using a ¼ inch mesh. Dig a 1-2 feet deep hole into the ground for the mesh to be buried deep enough to cover the underground entrance into the deck. 
  • Do the same to other possible openings and entrances. You can also build a one-way door at the main entrance to prevent reentry. 
  • Continue with the inspection for the next two to three days. 
  • If everything’s clear, you can now remove the one-way door and build a more permanent seal in the form of a steel mesh to cover all the holes that lead to below your deck. 
  • Before you do, be absolutely sure that there are no more young raccoons left in the den. 

Permanently keep animals away from your deck

For a permanent solution of keeping animals from taking up residence below sheds or decks, you can put up a barrier. Dig a 12”x12” trench around the shed or deck and line the edges with a ¼” wire mesh along the bottom of the trench. 

Angle the mesh into the ground at a depth of 8-12 inches. Bend the wire mesh at a 90-degree outward angle. Refill the trench you dug up. Before doing so, ensure that there are no more animals residing underneath the deck.

The Don’ts

Live trapping: Contrary to popular belief and many suggestions, trapping the animals and relocating them is not a humane method. It is also banned in the USA and Canada due to aspects of animal cruelty associated with such methods. The process of relocation can cause stress to the animals and they may not live through it. Even if you relocate the mother raccoon and her young altogether, it’s not a guarantee that the mother will be able to cope with the stress of the process and end up abandoning her young to adapt. 

One-way doors: This is a better option compared to the live trapping but it’s not the best. Basically what you do here is put up a one-way door to serve as a cover to the hole created by the raccoon to be the entry and exit point to the deck. With this door, the raccoon will be able to get out of the deck but unable to come back in. However, with their intelligence, they will most likely gnaw through the door or find and dig up a new entrance. 

There is also a limited amount of time in which you can use these doors safely and that is only from October until December when it isn’t the birthing season. For the rest of the year, there is a high chance that there are baby raccoons in the deck and with the one-way door, you are keeping the mother from her young. Without the care of the mother raccoon, the baby raccoons won’t have any source of food. You should also note that mother raccoons are extremely protective and territorial so they will stop at nothing to get to their young. 

Be consistent

The measures that you take to eradicate the raccoons like light, noise, and odor can be tolerated by them for a while so that means you need to keep it up for quite a long time until they can no longer take it. You have to be consistent in applying these methods for a span of three days or more. 

Patience is needed for any deterrent method according to ontariospca.ca since it will really take a couple of days to drive the animals away from the spot that they have been accustomed to. It would take time for them to find a new site to move to and the relocation process would even take longer especially if there are young raccoons. To guarantee the effectiveness of your efforts, you can seek the assistance of experts. 

You should also contact them if you are not entirely certain about what you should do with them. They will offer assistance and implore humane methods of removing the wild creatures from your residence. 

How to safely live trap raccoons

If you have no choice but to employ live trapping as a last resort to get rid of the raccoons, you should understand the risk and the danger that you are putting yourself in. This will involve close contact with the animal which means you will be exposed to the possible diseases that they carry. They may also be aggressive and retaliate when provoked or threatened. You should approach with extreme caution.

When they are already trapped, make sure you handle the trap carefully as they will try to escape by thrashing around inside the trap and reaching out to you. As they struggle, they will grab on to anything that they can reach and that includes you. 

Wear heavy-duty gloves when you do live trapping and don’t reach into the trap or hold it at close proximity to your body. You may cover the trap with a piece of fabric while you transport it to keep yourself safe and to calm the animal as well.

Now the risky part is releasing the raccoon safely. But you’re in luck because these animals typically run to safety as soon as they are released instead of attacking their captor. There are traps that allow you to open it from a distance so you won’t be anywhere near the raccoon when they’re loose. 

What you should do is place the trap on an even surface, remove the cloth that you covered it with, and open it from behind. The front of the cage’s opening is the worst place you can be since the raccoon will most likely jump towards you when they get out. 

Are raccoon sprays and repellents effective?

There are a lot of these available in the market but most of them are ineffective. Like we mentioned above, employing the scent method alone is not enough to drive them away. It might work on a temporary basis just for the purpose of driving them away to set up other methods. 

If you want a quick solution, physical removal and exclusion are your best options. 

Bonide Hot Pepper Wax Animal Repellent and other hot pepper spray variants can be used in areas where raccoons frequently stay like the trash bins or sheds. 

It’s not a long-term remedy but it could contribute to repelling them from some areas. You can also try soaking a piece of fabric in apple cider vinegar and place it near deck or shed entrances to send them away so you can install a permanent barrier.

How to avoid future raccoon infestation

A lot of studies have proven that raccoons possess a remarkable kind of intelligence. They have good memory retention and they will most definitely remember that your property has a spot where they are safe and there is also a nearby food source. 

If you want them to move out of your property, you can erase this notion from their minds by simply making it seem as though they are no longer safe and well-fed in that area. You can also install barriers around your property to stop them from coming in. 

Build a fence around the perimeter of your property. It can be made of bricks or concrete so it won’t be easily climbed or destroyed by wild animals. It should be dug deep into the ground for at least a foot and a half too so raccoons cannot easily dig their way past through it. Areas under the patio and deck should also be fenced. 

Seal your trash bins: Your trash bin is where raccoons commonly scavenge for their food. They will dive into it and rummage through whatever they deem edible. They could knock over the bin just to do so. The best way to prevent this is to have a lock or a strap around the lid. 

Hide pet food: Raccoons do not shy away from whatever kind of pet food. If you have a pet that eats outside, any leftovers will serve as a meal for raccoons. Make it a point to always keep or dispose of any pet food at night.