Living With Wildlife

Living With Raccoons

This page provides problem-solving advice and ways to make your yard and home less attractive to raccoons in the first place.

For more information on these mammals, including what they eat and where they live in the forest preserves, visit the main raccoons page.

 

Dens

The best way to prevent a raccoon from establishing a den in your yard or attic is to keep it away from attractive areas from the start.

  • Use welded wire to block access to crawl spaces and areas under decks, sheds, patios and porches.
  • Repair broken, weak or rotted areas on your roof, soffit and fascia.
    Install and maintain chimney caps.
  • Place welded wire inside attic vents to block access if the covers are removed.
  • Trim tree limbs that provide access to your roof, or wrap a 4- to 6-foot-wide piece of aluminum flashing around the trunk at least 4 feet off the ground so raccoons can’t get a foothold on the bark. Leave it up for five to seven days.
  • Grease downspouts with petroleum jelly and crushed red pepper for five to seven days.

If a raccoon has already established a den, try the techniques below, preferably two or three at the same time. After a few days, pack crumpled newspaper into the entrance. If the raccoon is still there, it will pull the paper out. If the paper stays in place for a few days, repair any openings.

  • Place flashlights, flood lamps, blinking holiday lights or a constantly noisy device such as a radio, alarm clock or toy in the den. Leave them on day and night — or at least at night to disturb the animal’s sleep.
  • Place ammonia-soaked rags in the den for one week. Resoak the rags daily, and pack crumpled newspaper in the entrance to hold in the fumes. Never use ammonia between March and August; it can harm infants too young to escape.
  • If the den is in a chimney, usually on the smoke shelf in the flue, lower a light into the chimney, and place a bowl of ammonia and a radio on the fireplace grate. Do not “smoke out” the animals. They can pass out, and you’ll have to physically remove them yourself.
 

How to Make Your Yard Less Attractive

  • Never feed raccoons.
  • Keep pet food and water dishes inside.
  • Keep grills and barbecues clean.
  • Keep garbage cans inside. If this is not possible, pour 1 cup of ammonia inside each can, sprinkle black pepper on the top bags, or place ammonia-soaked rags on top of the lids and secure them with bungee cords. 
  • Use closed compost bins.
  • Keep the ground below bird feeders and fruit trees clean.
  • Install a 4-foot-high wire fence around your garden. Leave the top 12 to 18 inches unsecured and bent outward. If a raccoon tries to climb the fence, its weight will pull the top down and land the animal back on the ground.
  • Spray plants with a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of hot sauce or garlic puree. Reapply after a heavy dew or rain.
  • If raccoons are digging up your lawn in search of grubs, place cayenne pepper and ammonia-soaked rags in the area, or spray it with a mixture of 8 ounces of Dawn dish soap, a handful of chewing tobacco and water. Call the University of Illinois Extension office at 630-653-4114 for more advice.
  • To prevent raccoons from using part of your yard as a community latrine, use a shovel or gloves and a plastic bag to clean up any feces, and then treat the area with boiling water. Place ammonia-soaked rags in the area for a week, and resoak them daily.

 

What You Should Never Do

  • Trapping and removing an animal is not always the solution to the problem. Removing the animal is illegal without the proper permits and only creates an open space for another animal to inhabit. A trapped adult may also leave young behind to die of starvation. Focus on removing the attraction, not the animal.
  • Never move young from a den.
  • Never use poisons. They’re inhumane and may be illegal. They can also result in secondary poisoning of other wild animals or pets.
  • It’s illegal to keep wild animals, even for a short time. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs, and inexperienced individuals who try to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that can’t survive in the wild.

 

Public Health Concerns

Most raccoons carry Baylisascaris procyonis, a parasite that’s harmless to raccoons but can be dangerous, even fatal, to other animals, including humans. Transmission occurs when a person or animal ingests the parasite’s microscopic eggs, which raccoons pass in their feces. Children are at a greater risk because they may be more likely to put contaminated soil or other items in their mouths.

Promptly removing feces from your yard and treating the area with boiling water to kill any eggs can reduce the risk of infection. (Most chemicals, including bleach, do not destroy the eggs.)

Raccoons may also carry canine distemper and roundworm, so keep pets’ medications and vaccinations up to date. They can carry rabies, but there have not been any recent reports in DuPage County.