Raccoon outdoors on a downspout (C) Daniel FriedmanGuide to Keeping Raccoons out of your Building
A true story of raccoons (Procyon lotor) invading an attic at Christmas

  • RACCOONS in the ATTIC - CONTENTS: How do raccoons get into a building, where do they go and how do you get rid of raccoons. How to keep raccoons out of your buildings. How to Find & Close the Source of Animal Entry Points in buildings. How to Keep Mice and Rats and Squirrels and Raccoons out of Your Home
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Raccoons indoors: entry points, behavioir, repellants in buildings:

This article combines a true story with advice about dealing with raccoon invasions of buildings. We describe the raccoon's noisy appearance in a home's attic during the Christmas holidays and how the occupants responded.

This article series discusses how to find where animals are getting into your building and how to keep them out, including bats, birds, rats, mice, and squirrels and even raccoons. This article series focuses on removing pet or other animal odors from buildings due to pet urine, pet feces, wild animal urine, or even human urine on and around buildings or on clothing and other soft materials.

The little stuffed animals in this photo include a skunk - both were innocent of any pet-crimes, but they had been placed at either side of a basement door jamb to cover stains from basement water entry.

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Raccoons in the Attic: A Christmas Story

Raccoon outdoors on a downspout (C) Daniel FriedmanThe history of carnivores and humans in North America has not been one of amicability or tolerance. ... To some extent this continues today within mnay urban landscapes ... I will characterize the relationships between people and medium-sized carnivores that seem to be highly successful in urban systems: raccons (procyon lotor), striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis, and coyotes (Canis latrans). - Gehrt, in People and Predators: From Conflict to Coexistence (2004).

In fact Tibbs (2007) and Ridenour (2011) both point out that raccoons actually prefer the indoors of buildings when selecting a winter den, while Bozek (2007) added that racoons are not above finding habitat in sewers and storm drains. The following raccoon story illustrating Gehrt's point that racoons are not a bit afraid of us is true, only Laura Waterman's name has not been mentioned.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Dan and Laura were snuggled up reading in bed on a cold Poughkeepsie January night. Suddenly overhead they heard

SMACK! rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, roll. Something or someone was in the attic! Now they heard the sound of little clawed feet scampering across the attic floor just over their heads. The home, built in 1900, was a neo-Victorian with a large walk-up attic wherein were stored the usual detritus, old rugs, suitcases, trunks, broken lamps, bicycle parts, and other who-knows-what. Some animal, maybe more than one of them, was smashing something around in the attic. What the hey?

Dan tiptoes over to the door at the bottom of the attic stairs in his pajamas. He leans an ear against the cold red-varnished wood. Cold air leaks out of the attic and rolls across his bare toes adding to the chill of the sounds of intruders above.

SMACK! rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, roll. More scurrying about, excitedly running to and fro across the wooden attic floor.

Trained in several forms of combat and three martial arts, Laura nevertheless cowers in their bedroom doorway.

"Don't open that door!" she advises in a voice quavering with emotion. "I'm telling you, for god's sake, don't open that door!"

Dan remembers having recently freed a real estate agent who'd been shut tight into the attic of another New York home by Dennis the Menace, the first and last child of her clients. Dennis slammed the attic door shut and ran downstairs, hopped into the family car, and Dad drove them away. The agent was later heard shouting out of a third floor window. "Soooomebody, Get me outa here!" It took some hammering, prying, and some gouging scarring of the door to get her out.

Dan grimaces in thought. He is glad that their attic door too can be difficult to open.

SMACK! rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, roll. More scurrying. SMACK! rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, roll. SMACK! rattle roll, roll, roll, smack rattle, roll.

Dan leans harder on the door to be sure it is latched tightly and inspects the lock.

"We'll check up there tomorrow when whatever it is has gone out for water" he concludes.

SMACK! rattle, rattle, roll, rattle, SMACK! rattle, rattle, rattle, roll, roll, roll. More scurrying, this time they hear nasty little feet scampering about, maliciously tearing paper, and gleefully rolling things about on the floor. Only the sounds of human giggling and laughter were missing.

By dawn the smacking, rattling, rolling and scampering had subsided. The intruders were asleep. Or they had gone out for breakfast at the convenient and always-open Poughkeepsie Diner dumpster. Dan knows about the dumpster because his dog Katie made a beeline for it whenever she ran away.

Laura waited. Dan waited. Mara was still sleeping in her own bedroom - they'd shut her door too.

After the humans had eaten their own breakfast (from the refrigerator not the dumpster) they took a walk around the house outside. Close inspection showed an open board on the under-side of the left rear roof soffit, lots of soot smudges, and a short leap-distance away, the huge old oak tree near the corner of the house.

They waited some more. Listening against the attic door: silence. Nobody really wanted to open the door but finally, carefully Dan and Laura ease open the door. Then, thinking some more, they close and go back to the kitchen where they gather their biggest pots and pans.

Throwing open the attic door and shouting "BEAT IT YOU BUMS" they bang the pots and pans together. BANG! CLANK!

The pans become lopsided, the pan handles bend and two pots are ruined. So is their hearing. Some neighbours are on the verge of calling the sheriff but they don't. But the attic is empty of intruders. Most likely the attic was already empty before Laura and Dan even started all that bang-clank foolishness.

Next they tiptoe up the attic stairs to see an amazing sight: there are sooty racoon footprints everywhere. Everywhere! The attic has been ransacked.

Scattered about the floor are two dozen bright, shiny green, red and gold Christmas ornaments that the raccoons have found irresistible. Ornaments are everywhere. A Christmas miracle, not one ornament has been broken broken. They're dirty, though. How could this be? The Christmas ornaments had been stored in a cardboard box that was itself at the bottom of a pile of other stored items. The raccoons had found the box, opened it, taken out the ornaments, and initiated a smack, rattle and rolling ornament festival on the attic floor.

Laura begins picking up the fragile blown glass bulbs, pyramids, Santa-Houses, stars, and whatnots. Together they replace the ornaments back into the compartmented box.

Thinking about the raccoons and that the soffit is still open to intruders, Dan opens a large chest, lifts out its contents (old wedding dress, towels with frayed edges and holes, bathing suits worn by his parents in 1939, shoes and a faded Confederate flag from Richmond). He places these aside. The box of ornaments is placed in the bottom of the chest and the chest is then re-filled with the rest of its contents. The heavy cover is closed. There's no lock.

After some sweeping-up they close the attic door and put a couple of bricks against it from outside.

"Tomorrow we'll borrow Art's 40-foot ladder and nail up that soffit", Dan offers. Laura smiles and looks doubtful. It's still cold outside. Mara, home from school passes the attic door and asks "Hey Dad, why are all those bricks leaning against the door"?

After a quiet dinner they read, then retire to read some more. (Any other possible activities that they might have pursued will not be discussed in this raccoon field report). Reading. Reading. There is no TV. They don't have a TV, but Mara's teachers don't believe that and accuse her of being sassy.

SMACK! rattle, rattle,rattle, rattle, rattle, roll !! Scurry, scurry, scurrying feet. SMACK! rattle, rattle, roll. SMACK! SMACK! SMACK! rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, roll. More scurrying.

"You have to be kidding me!" Dan exclaims. He and Laura run barefoot out the back door to the barn. From there they carry all of the spare bricks from the barn back upstairs and pile them against the attic door. It takes four trips. Then they wait for morning.

The second morning they again enter the attic. More sooty footprints. The raccoons had not a moment's trouble sniffing out the box of ornaments where it had been hidden. They must have teamed up - surely it would have have taken at least two of them, maybe four, to open that old storage chest. Once opened by PROST, the Poughkeepsie raccoon ornament smacking team, the chest quickly yielded up its old wedding dress, towels with frayed edges and holes, bathing suits worn by his parents in 1939, shoes and the Confederate flag from Richmond - these have been tossed aside and the box of ornaments has again been taken out, opened, and its contents served-up to all four corners of the attic.

Again not one ornament has been broken. But this time one of the raccoons from Poughkeepsie has peed on the Confederate flag from Richmond.

The humans now understand. This event is going to continue until the raccoons get tired of it or until Dan nails new plywood onto the soffit.

Jewish people ought not to store Christmas decorations. What are they doing with them anyway?

Also see POETRY & SHORT FICTION, Daniel Friedman

Health Warnings When Handling Dead Raccoons or Cleaning Up Raccoon Mess

Avoid trapping a raccoon indoors where people are also present and don't try to handle or catch one unless you're a trained, equipped professional. Avoid raccoons that you see stumbling about in the day time.

Raccoons that were found during the day or that exhibited abnormal behavior and those that had interacted with a domestic animal were more likely to be rabid. - Jenkins (1988)

Watch out: when cleaning up raccoon poop you should use only HEPA-rated vacuum equipment, and protective gear may be in order. Besides the popularly-discussed rabies hazard (Jenkins 1988), Kazacos (1985) and others we cite just below point out that there are some rare but serious human illnesses that may be spread by raccoons.

Raccoon Behavior, Disease Hazards & Raccoon Control Research

Stuffed animals were hiding building damage (C) Daniel Friedman

Watch out: in addition to their common role as allergens, animal feces, urine, even hair can offer serious health hazards including from various pathogens: bacteria, viruses, even possibly rabies.

Watch out: also for wild animal bites, bacterial and viral hazards when entering confined spaces where invaders are or have been present. The author (DF) became temporarily ill after (foolishly) working in a "clean looking" crawl space that later he realized had a heavy contamination of fecal and urine contaminated mouse dust. Bat and rodent droppings as well as bird droppings can be a source of a pathogen potentially dangerous to humans, the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum.

Watch out: before sealing up a hole in a soffit or wall where squirrels or bats are entering your building, make sure the animals are not going to be trapped inside where they will be mad, frightened, hostile, even dangerous (like a rabid raccoon), or ultimately dead and another source of stink.


Continue reading at ANIMAL ENTRY POINTS in BUILDINGS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



Or see BLACK STAINS from ANIMALS for a description of the cause and cure of various types of stains caused by pets or other animals in buildings.

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