Case Studies

Wildlife Removal Case Studies: Raccoon noises terrorize homeowners - Nuisance wildlife control in Old Bridge

Friday, November 18th, 2016 by Tom Reilly

Challenge

This Old Bridge raccoon trapping job is a textbook example of how we handle these ornery little rascals from beginning to end. Usually, the process starts after a homeowner has been hearing unusual “animal” noises (such as loud scratching, chewing, clawing, and scurrying noises as well as a variety of vocal sounds) and smells, especially the smell of urine, in uninhabited areas of the home. Often wildlife will infest attics or crawl spaces, but they can find their way anywhere including inside wall voids and even inside duct work. Other common signs of wildlife are finding animal droppings and shredded insulation or other property damage. Sometimes, a homeowner may find herself dealing with flickering lights because of chewed electrical wire.

Upon arrival, I always speak with the homeowner to clarify the nature of the problem. A good nuisance wildlife technician focuses on three main areas to get a good preliminary sense of the type of infestation. First, I want to know the types of noises being heard. Second, I want to know the areas of the home where the noises are coming from. Finally, it is very helpful to know the frequency and time of day of the noises. This helps me understand whether I’m dealing with an animal that is primarily nocturnal — like a raccoon! This homeowner told me that in the early morning hours, before dawn, he or other family members would hear a loud thump on the roof. After, he said that for about 20 to 30 minutes "it sounded like there was a person walking around in the attic.” Finally, he said that the noises would stop. Needless to say, residents of a home who are awakened by these types of noises from wildlife activity can be extremely frightening, especially for children. Based on my discussion with this homeowner, it was clear to me that this home was likely being invaded by a raccoon, and possibly a gaze (or group) of them.

Solution

Now that I knew the likely type of wildlife infestation, it was time to investigate. I always start with the outside of the home to look for signs of entry. A raccoon, the masked menace of homes, has not only the face of a burglar, but tiny hands that can only be described as human-like. They have five digits, including a thumb, but instead of delicate fingernails, they have strong, powerful claws. The shape of their hands gives them tremendous dexterity for grabbing and tearing. Raccoons look for weak spots in wood, plastic attic louvers, and soffits, and are able to easily rip them open to gain access. I start by looking for possible ways that wildlife can access the roof, and with this home, I immediately noticed that there was a tree next to the garage with branches that were overgrown over the garage roof. Then, looking on the roof, I found the access point (see photo 1). This raccoon found the weak spot — old dried plastic attic ventilation louvers. For a raccoon, this was no trouble at all to break through. It may as well have been a paper bag.

There was no way to tell how many raccoons I was dealing with. So, out of an abundance of caution, I placed two traps. I placed one trap on the roof above the louvers where the raccoon was climbing down to enter the attic, and placed the second one on the garage roof nearby the tree that they raccoons were using as a ladder to access the roof. When trapping on a roof for raccoons, it is paramount to use a small-holed trap. Raccoons will vigorously attempt to escape once caught, frantically trying to scratch and claw their way out of any container. If the bottom holes on the trap are big enough, a raccoon’s sharp claws can get through, and cause extensive damage to the roof. I specially baited the traps with my secret irresistible coon paste recipe, a mixture of anise oil and pop tarts. There was nothing left to do, but wait for these now-sleeping nuisances to forage for food during the evening. Whenever I have wildlife traps set, I have trouble sleeping because I’m so anxious to get up in the morning and find out what “surprises” are waiting for me!

The next morning I received a text message from the homeowner — a raccoon was trapped! I returned to the home and picked up the raccoon in the trap. I safely relocate the critter to an area far away from any people so he could live out the rest of his life in peace, bringing him to a safe release location more than ten miles away from the home. There was no way this little critter would find its way back to this house.

I replaced the trap with a freshly baited trap. Raccoons live in groups during their early years before becoming solitary, and it is important to determine, in any infestation, whether you are dealing with more than one animal. The raccoon that I captured was only about one year old, and raccoons are known to tool around with their siblings for a year or even longer before becoming solitary. I needed to be sure this was the only one. After re-baiting and resetting the traps, I place a piece of silver tape across the access point in the roof. I use this as a signal to let me know whether any more raccoons are still coming and going. I know there is still active wildlife activity if the tape is broken and fur is stuck to it. After two days, I returned to the home for a site check. Good news! The tape was not broken, and both traps were empty. There was one one invader, and he was successfully evicted.

With no more signs of active wildlife, I removed the two traps and placed a temporary patch over the attic louvers, so the homeowner did not have to  worry about any invaders returning before finding a good handyman to properly fix the louvers. I also re-inspected the attic to survey whatever damage this animal may have caused. Fortunately, in this case, the homeowner was proactive and called us right away, and this animal was only in their attic for one or two nights before we were trapped it. To the homeowner’s relief, there was no ruined insulation or any other property damage.

The homeowner was pleased with how quickly this problem was resolved. The entire process took only four days start to finish, and I only needed to visit the home three times — to set the traps. to pick up the raccoon, and to determine that there was no more activity. Unfortunately, life isn’t usually that easy for a wildlife technician and not all jobs go this smoothly. This particular job was a textbook case when everything goes right. But I’m not complaining. As a wildlife technician, it’s nice to have these types of jobs come along every so often!