Baby raccoons have been found guilty in numerous towns across the U.S. for stealing the hearts of unsuspecting homeowners. It seems the crime begins as a simple case of being born in a chimney or attic—something over which baby raccoons obviously have no control. Sometimes raccoon mothers choose to raise their young in our homes because we’ve given them easy access in the form of broken gutters, a damaged soffit, rotting wood, or an uncapped chimney. That’s when the trouble begins. Raccoon cubs do what all babies do—they whine for food—and the sound gets bigger as they do. Homeowners have no idea they’re providing housing for raccoons until they investigate the source of the racket and discover the mom and cubs.
The crime of “the unbearable cuteness of being” is then set in motion. The cubs look out at the homeowners with big brown eyes, set in that little bandit mask—a devastating hybrid of innocence and mischief—maybe they even gesture with those tiny little hands, and, well, you guessed it. Homeowners are stunned, smitten silly, frankly. This unleashes a range of responses by both humans and raccoons, some sweet, some hilarious, and others escalating to difficulties for the raccoons. Oh, and in case you’re wondering—no, you cannot legally keep wildlife babies (sorry). It would be a bad situation for both you and them.
Baby raccoons in your attic or chimney
If you think your home may be susceptible to future wildlife intrusions, you should without a doubt get a head start and prevent conflicts by wildlife-proofing your home. If you fail to prepare, you may be faced with the chaos that could ensue if raccoons end up, say, coming down the chimney and through the fireplace into your living room! They’re a heck of a lot faster than us, especially when frightened, and can turn things topsy-turvy in mere minutes.
Or maybe you suspect you may have raccoons in your attic or chimney now? If that’s the case, then you can always let them stay until the cubs are old enough to leave on nightly forays with mom—usually around 8 weeks. If they’re in your chimney, you can quieten their whining for food by placing a piece of foam rubber under the damper. But if you don’t want to wait, you can forgo the foam and try some gentle harassment in an effort to get mom to move her young on her own. NEVER try to smoke them out. This is inhumane and will result in injured or dead animals. Instead, place a radio playing loud music inside the fireplace along with an old rag soaked in apple cider vinegar (never ammonia!). This multi-sensory harassment is usually enough to encourage mom to move on and is also effective at deterring a mother raccoon in your attic.
If you’re not willing to wait things out for a few weeks or don’t want to try gentle harassment, resist the urge to buy a trap and instead hire a humane professional wildlife control company. Traps aren’t a long-term solution, and it’s crucial not to separate the mom from her young while they’re still dependent. If you do, they’ll perish without her, and she’ll damage your home trying to get back in to rescue them. A reliable company will have an understanding of baby season and experience reuniting a mom and her young as well as the knowledge to determine when it’s best to just wait a few more weeks.
Baby raccoons in a roof void
While a wildlife control company can help evict and reunite raccoon families in attics, roof voids can’t be searched for young. Therefore, if you act too soon, there is an enormous risk of separating a mother from her babies. If you think a raccoon has chosen to den in your roof void, the only realistic option you have is to wait until the end of baby season when the young will be mobile enough to leave the house each night with their mom. At that point, you can hire a professional wildlife company that will install and monitor a one-way door, which will allow the family to leave but not get back inside.
Don’t let all that cuteness go to waste. Those baby raccoons’ innocent little eyes are asking you to be knowledgeable, compassionate, and responsible when you decide what to do about finding them somewhere you don’t want them. Raccoons are reasonable and resourceful animals if you give them a chance!
Baby raccoons: Recommended homeowner reading list
- Learn a little bit about raccoon communication sounds and behavior as well as how to know when a baby raccoon needs the help of a wildlife rehabilitator.
- Learn about a variety of wildlife babies you may encounter in your yard—looking for food on your fruit- or nut-bearing trees, or in your veggie garden, pet food dishes on your deck, birdfeeders, trashcans, and compost piles—and how to eliminate or reduce each raccoon temptation.