a raccoon, skunk, tree squirrel, or other animal will find
a suitable shelter in or under a house, shed, or other structure.
These animals may occupy an area sporadically, using the site
only two or three consecutive days or nights usually until
available food sources are exhausted. However, some may choose
to overwinter there if the surroundings remain favorable.
During the mating and nesting season, females attracted to
warm, dry, easily defended areas may attempt to den or nest
in these settings.
choose to let the animal use the area if it doesn’t
pose a direct problem to you, your family, or your pets and
other animals. However, its discarded food, urine, or droppings
may create odors and become a potential health hazard. Animals
also may make considerable noise, chew on building parts,
or destroy insulation during the nest building process.
you choose to remove the animal, you can complete the process
yourself or hire someone to do it (see Hiring
a Wildlife Damage Control Company). A wildlife damage
control company is recommended for work that poses health
or safety hazards. Examples include removing a large accumulation
of droppings, removing a mother and/or her young in emergency
situations, or working in a precarious location.
an animal to move on its own or to evict it from a place where
it is undesired, follow the steps below. (For information
on evicting bats, see Bats.)
anything else occurs in a wildlife/human conflict in or
around a structure, it is absolutely necessary to be sure
of the following: the species involved, where the animal(s)
are entering, and whether or not young animals are present.
After that it is important to proceed in such a way that
is humane and prevents the problem from reoccurring.
the species of animal causing the conflict is vital to resolving
the problem. Note the time and location of calls, cries,
or scampering noises heard coming from inside the structure,
and have a look outside for the animals themselves. Tree
squirrels (except flying squirrels) and marmots are heard
exiting around sunrise and returning from late afternoon
until dark. Both can be seen outside during the day. Flying
squirrels, raccoons, river otters, skunks, and opossums
are heard rummaging around shortly after dark until just
before dawn, and are generally seen outside at night.
the animal isn’t seen, try to identify it from its
method of entry, odor, tracks, droppings, or any damage
it is causing. (Read the appropriate handout in this series
for specifics on any suspects.) Always be cautious around
animal droppings; they can contain organisms extremely harmful
the outside of the structure for visible entrances. More
than one entry may be used, and entry holes are often smaller
than expected. (Small native squirrels enter holes 2 inches
in diameter; Eastern gray and fox squirrels chew open baseball
points of entry are around utility cables and pipes that
come into a structure, attic louvers, and roof vents, as
well as holes in roofs, siding, soffits, and foundations
(Fig. 1). Raccoons often leave scratches, tracks, and body
oil stains where they shimmy up downspouts, trees, or the
corners of buildings to access roofs. Rats, skunks, and
marmots often dig under foundations or concrete slabs.
a bright flashlight to locate holes in shadowy areas, and
a ladder to search for holes high on a structure. You know
there is a hole when you shine the light at an area and
it remains black. (This is because the light is entering
the hole, instead of reflecting back to you off the structure.)
that you’ve found the animal’s main entry include
a newly dug hole or dirt stains, nest materials, and/or
hairs stuck around a narrow hole in the roof, siding, or
foundation. Fresh animal tracks may be found in dry soil
near the entry.
verify that an entry is being used, lightly stuff wadded-up
newspaper, burlap, or dirt in the entry and watch daily
to see if the material has been moved. (Don’t use
this technique if you think it may be bats or birds entering;
they will get trapped inside.)
alternative approach at ground level is to spread a tracking
patch outside the entry, covering an area large enough to
record footprints as the animal enters or exits. A tracking
patch is a light layer of an inert material such as unscented
baby powder, fine dirt, or sand. Don’t use flour;
it may attract a hungry animal.
you can’t find the entry, during daylight and with
a strong flashlight or headlamp containing fresh batteries,
very carefully enter the attic, crawlspace, or other area.
Wear gloves and a dust mask or a respirator, and be on alert
for animal life. From inside, you can better inspect the
screening on the vents for signs of entry. Turn the light
off to reveal light coming through any potential entry holes
in the roof or walls. Securing something in these holes
will make locating them from the outside easier when it
comes time for repair.
finding the main entry you need to verify that no young
are inside before proceeding with the eviction process.
Because each situation and each animal is different, do
this even if it seems early or late in the year for young
to be present. Failing to do so can lead to major problems
from an unhappy female animal separated from her young.
the attic, crawl space, or similar place and search for
a nest or young. Focus on the area near the active entry
or where you have been hearing noises. Squirrel nests are
often made of insulation and other material that is torn
up or piled within 20 feet of the entry, and close to the
outer edges of the attic. Raccoons, skunks, and river otters
don’t make an obvious nest.
get the young to move or make noise and alert you to their
presence, pound on a floor joist, ceiling joist, or wall.
A stick may be used to search for babies in hard-to-reach
places, such as in a wall between studs.
Note: Use care to prevent injuring any animals, and never approach
a mother with her young; her protective instincts can make
her very dangerous.
are present, the most humane thing to do is to leave the
family alone until they move on their own. Squirrels, raccoons,
opossums, and other young mammals generally leave the nest
area eight to ten weeks after being born. Occasionally one
of the young may stay behind, in which case the eviction
methods described in Step 6 may be used.
the young need to be moved, you will want to get the mother
to move them on her own using one of the techniques described
below. Even in an emergency, females can often be persuaded
to move their young, thus avoiding the need to trap or euthanize
Anytime you try to evict a mother animal and her young there
is a chance that she may leave some or all of her young
behind. If the young end up as orphans they will not survive
in the wild without mom. In such a case, they should be
taken to a local wildlife rehabilitator. Do not attempt
to care for the animals yourself. Not only could you further
harm the animals, it may be illegal for you to do so. (See Wildlife Rehabilitators
and Wildlife Rehabilitation for information.)
Note:State wildlife offices have requirements that you’ll
need to follow, including mandatory euthanasia of certain
species, such as skunks, Eastern gray squirrels, and opossums.
you are lucky and the weather is fair, the mother may move
her young, even newly born ones, to an alternate den within
an hour or so after they have been disturbed. If the weather
isn’t favorable, or she has to find a new den or build
a new nest, it may take a couple of days.
animal is different, and river otters in particular tend
to be quite stubborn when they have young with them. To
help the eviction process go smoothly, keep children and
pets away from the animal’s entry.
steps taken to evict the family are unsuccessful and the
young must be moved immediately, the female can be live-trapped
and the dependent young placed in a weather-protected releasing
box. Place the box outside and adjacent to the point of
entry after the entry has been sealed to prevent reentry.
This will allow the mother to relocate her young at her
own pace. It is recommended that a wildlife control company
experienced with live trapping and releasing boxes complete
young are present, an option at this point is to live-trap
the animal (see Trapping
trapping presents additional problems for both the trapper
and the animal, the preferred option is to get the animal
to leave on its own. This will require effort on your part
in the form of encouraging the animal to leave, and then
following up to make sure the animal doesn’t return,
or a different animal take its place.
the removal process by sealing off all entries but the active
one. First, carefully seal any potential entries, as the
animal will seek other ways to get back inside. Use wood,
¼-inch mesh galvanized hardware cloth, sheet metal,
aluminum flashing, or another sturdy material that will
prevent the animal from entering. Small holes in hard-to
reach locations can be plugged with wadded-up wire, copper
Stuf-fit®, or copper or stainless steel mesh scouring
pads (steel wool quickly corrodes after becoming wet). High-quality
and reasonably priced bulk material is available for larger
jobs. If necessary, foam or caulk the openings to seal them.
Paint will help hide the repair job.
create a barrier along a foundation to prevent skunks and
other species from burrowing, refer to Figure 3b and “Preventing
Conflicts” in Skunks.
all entries except the active one are sealed, and during
a period of fair weather, encourage the animal to leave
using one or more of the following methods:
the remaining entry hole while the animal is outside feeding. Note: Do not do this if young are present;
they will be separated from their mother, which will quickly
create other problems.
have all materials ready that are needed to seal the entry.
Next, place wadded-up newspaper in the entry or use a tracking
patch as described in Step 3 to determine that the animal
has gone outside. For squirrels and other species that are
active during the day, look for the signs that they have
exited early in the morning; for raccoons and other nocturnal
species, begin the surveillance an hour after dark. Survey
the entry frequently, as animals will return to rest or
escape bad weather. When you are certain the animal is outside,
seal the entry to prevent the animal from reentering.
alternative approach and one to use if mobile young are
present is to lightly pack the active entry hole with wadded-up
newspaper, burlap, or dirt, and repack it whenever you see
it open. Just block the hole enough so the animal must expend
energy to reopen it, but not get trapped inside. When the
barrier has not been removed for three days during fair
weather, the animals have gone and repairs can be made to
the animal. Simply banging on the ceiling, wall, or floor
in the vicinity of the animal may cause it to vacate; also,
your initial search for young may have already made the
animal uncomfortable enough to leave.
with a powerful flashlight or headlamp containing fresh
batteries, and wearing gloves and a dust mask or respirator,
carefully enter the area where you think the animal and/or
its young are sleeping. Shine the light on the adult animal,
bang on a rafter, clap your hands and tell the animal to
leave, or do anything that doesn’t put you or the
animals in danger. If the adult is outside, gently tamper
with the nest, pull off the top and/or slide it over a foot
addition, roll rags into tight balls and secure them with
twine or tape. Sprinkle the rag balls with predator urine
available from farm supply centers, hunting shops, or over
the Internet, and throw or place them near the nest. Sprinkling
stinky kitty litter around the nest will also create an
unpleasant atmosphere; Raccoon Eviction Fluid® works
well on raccoon families.
animal(s) may leave within the hour or it may take a couple
of days. Revisit the area to see if the young are gone,
and to make sure the adult didn’t move them elsewhere
within the structure.Use
wadded-up newspaper as described above to verify that the
animal is gone, and make the necessary repairs to prevent
harass the animal. Using a mechanic’s bright droplight
(grid enclosed bulb) or other portable light located away
from burnable objects, light up the sleeping area being
used by the animal. (A fluorescent light will conserve electricity
and keep the heat level down.) In addition, put a radio
in the area and play a talk station as loud as you can tolerate.
If the animal moves to an unlit area, move the light and
radio to that area, or install an additional light and radio.
is no scientific evidence that commercially available ultrasonic
devices will drive animals from buildings. Animals quickly
become accustomed to the noise or move to a noise-free area
because the devices do not penetrate objects, and the sounds
quickly lose their intensity with distance.)
the lights and radio on 24 hours a day to interrupt the
animals’ sleep. Use a visual verification, a one-way
door (see “One-Way Doors”),
or the wadded-up newspaper or tracking-patch approach described
above to verify that the animal has gone. Be patient it
may take several days for the animal to make the move, especially
in urban areas where animals are used to lights and noises.
hear noise coming from inside the enclosure after sealing
the entry, an animal may be inside. Reopen the area and
repeat Step 6 until all the animals have departed. Then
reseal the entry. If for some unknown reason an animal will
not leave the area, it can be live-trapped (see Trapping
frequent inspections for two weeks to make sure an animal
hasn’t tried to get back inside using the original
entry or a new entry. Where one animal enters, a scent trail
is left which others may find and use. This scent lasts
for several months, sometimes longer. As a preventative
measure, pepper spray or a commercial taste repellent such
as Ropell® can be applied to the area. Applications
will need to be repeated if the area is exposed to damp
hiring a wildlife damage control company to inspect for
piles of droppings and other contaminants. If an animal
has spent a lot of time in an area with exposed wiring,
inspect the area for wire damage or have an electrician
inspect it. (You should also inspect for damage done to
insulation and heating ducts.) In the meantime, check your
smoke detectors to make sure they are functioning in case
of a fire.