Raccoons think of chimneys as a perfect condominium, similar to the hollowed out tree they normally make their homes in. So it’s no surprise when they find an uncapped chimney with no other raccoons inside, they are tempted to take up residence and you wind up with a raccoon in your chimney.
Sometimes it’s a solitary raccoon seeking shelter, but often, it’s a mom, looking for a place to safely raise her young until they’re ready to be on their own. What’s a homeowner to do? Read on for tips on assessing which scenario you have, and what to do or not to do to get a raccoon to vacate your chimney Here, too, are tips for excluding them permanently (installing a suitable chimney cap), if you don’t want another raccoon taking up residence again.
Know what you’re dealing with first…
Knowing whether you have a solitary adult or a family of raccoons is crucial. If you evict a mother raccoon when dependent young are inside and cap your chimney, the young will starve to death. In addition to that awful outcome for the raccoons, the mother understandably do some damage to your roof, trying to get to them. If you are not sure, have a professional assess the situation, so you can proceed sensibly and effectively.
DO’s and DON’T’s when there’s a raccoon in your chimney
DO wait to be sure you have just a solitary adult before proceeding with sensory harassment techniques to encourage him to leave. Place a loud radio playing rap or rock and roll by the fireplace, and a bowl of cider vinegar emanating its pungent and unappealing odor from a small table placed in the fireplace. These tactics will make your chimney seem like a bad choice to the raccoon, and he will likely soon exit.
DO consider giving mom a grace period if young are present. Usually the mom moves her young out by the time they’re 6 weeks old, because at that point they need to go on outings with her, and they’re getting too heavy for her to haul them up and down the chimney every night. So she usually moves them instead to another den site. A humane professional should be able to assist with the proper timing and process of evicting the raccoons without causing either separation of the family or undesirable consequences for you as the homeowner.
If necessary, a reunion box can be used to move them out earlier. This is a box constructed of heavyweight, weather-proof cardboard with a flap entry/exit and will safely contain the babies and will be strategically placed outside. When the process is done correctly, the mom then retrieves her babies one by one and moves them to an alternate den site., This process take expertise so be sure to hire a humane professional animal control company to coordinate this tricky process so that it works as intended.
DO follow these guidelines to find a humane professional animal control company, one that will help you effectively deal with the current problem and prevent future conflicts.
DON’T consider outdated approaches, such as killing the raccoon with poison or by some other lethal means, or trapping and relocating the raccoon, which creates other avoidable problems. Effective approaches are consistently those that aim for a satisfactory outcome for both the raccoons and the homeowners.
DON’T ever attempt to use smoke or fire to evict raccoons from your chimney. This approach is ill advised for their safety and yours. Even adult animals may perish before they can escape, but babies are certain to be killed, because they are unable to exit on their own.
DON’T cap your chimney until you take all proper precautions, as explained below.
Tips for success when installing a chimney cap
Make certain that all animals are safely out before you cap a chimney. Shine a light up into the shelf and damper areas from your fireplace to check, and down from the chimney opening, as well—or hire a chimney sweep to do the work.
- If nesting material was brought into the chimney, have a professional chimney sweep clean out the debris before capping.
- Check on local building codes before choosing a chimney cap (available from home improvement and hardware stores and chimney sweeps).
- Make sure that installation—whether by you or by someone you hire—follows both local codes and instructions for the particular cap you purchase.
- Maintain your chimney and chimney cap to ensure safety from fire and protection against animals entering.