I was dispatched to a home in Forked River to deal with a wildlife infestation. According to the homeowner, a family of raccoons had invaded his property and he requested that a Cowleys wildlife technician come out to his home ASAP to trap and relocate the animals. We treat raccoon infestations as a genuine emergency, and I was at the home within hours of the call. Raccoons, with their clawing, droppings, and urine, can quickly destroy an attic and its insulation. Also, they can bring in all sorts of fleas, ticks, and other parasites that can start spreading throughout the home. Even raccoons nesting in outside areas like under patio decks pose risks to homeowners. Raccoons can be highly aggressive creatures, especially females protecting their kits. And they are surprisingly big: a raccoon can easily weigh 20 pounds, and sometimes more! Besides their droppings that contain disease-transmitting microorganisms, raccoons are the primary rabies vector species in New Jersey.
Upon arrival, I always speak with the customer to gain a better understanding of the situation. With wildlife intrusions inside, underneath, or around the perimeter of a home, I start with three key questions that help me figure out the nature and extent of the infestation and the general area of infestation:
1- Where are you hearing animal noises?
2- What types of sounds are you hearing and how loud are the noises?
3- What time of day are you hearing these noises?
The client stated that the family was hearing noises around the back side of the home, that they were hearing loud walking and scratching noises, and the sounds were either at night or very early in the morning. Those answers helped to confirm that is was indeed a raccoon infestation. Most animals scratch to clear out space for nesting or other activities. Since the sounds were coming at night or very early in the morning, it was likely a nocturnal animal like a raccoon. However, the timing of the noise may vary, and sometimes raccoons will stir during the daytime. Besides scratching, since raccoons are larger animals, you’ll sometimes hear thumping noises. For example, with raccoons in the attic, you may hear thumping sounds when they jump from one area to another, or when they are shoving or dragging something around. Also, raccoons are notorious for making a wide range of vocal noises that most other types of nuisance wildlife don’t make. You’ll hear raccoons purr, whimper, snarl, growl, hiss, scream, and if there are baby raccoons, even cry!
Raccoons birth their young usually once a year, in the spring, but it is not unheard of for a female to birth two litters in one year. Raccoon mothers can get particularly vicious when protecting their babies, and after experiencing one too many close calls with a snarling mother with razor-sharp claws heading toward me, I no longer take any unnecessary chances. Any experienced wildlife technician has a healthy dose of respect for the power of wildlife. As such, I do not investigate the attic until I am positive that a mother raccoon is not up there caring for her babies. Being trapped in an attic with a hostile mother is a bad situation to find yourself in, and trying to quickly escape down steep attic steps often results in injury. So rather than head straight to the attic, I start my inspection elsewhere to get a better understanding of the infestation and how to best resolve it.
I went to the back of the house where the family had heard animal noises. Sure enough, I found the major entry point. The attic vent louvers had a huge hole in them (see photo 1). When investigating attic infestations, I also want to know how wildlife is gaining access to the roof in the first place. With this home, it was easy to find the route. There was a tree next to the rear right corner of the house whose branches had grown right over the lower part of the roof. For an agile raccoon, moving from the tree to the roof would be a cakewalk.
Now that I knew the path that the raccoons were taking to access the home, I could strategically set my traps in the optimal locations. Also, now that I knew the access point, I could set up an exclusion over the attic louvers to provide a one-way exit. The exclusion lets the raccoon exit, but it’s a one-way trip. They are blocked them from going back inside. I also put an "X" of tape across the opening to help me monitor the raccoon activity. If a raccoon vacates the building, the tape will be broken, and I’ll know at least one raccoon has left the attic.
I placed one trap on the roof above the access, (see photo 2), and one trap on the ground next to the tree the animal is climbing to get onto the house. (see Photo 3). Traps were baited my special raccoon-trapping recipe: Marshmallows dipped in peaches and cream paste, along with some tasty sugary pop tarts. I also drizzled some berry liquid lure to lead the scent into the trap.When baiting a trap, I always wear gloves because raccoons can be wary of a human scent.
With the traps in place, I’m confident that the raccoons will be safely and humanely trapped in a matter of days. Once trapped, I’ll relocate them to a location far away from this homeowner and other human habitats.