The first hint that there’s something up there generally comes at 3 a.m. when you wake up suddenly to the sound of thumps, scratches, rattles and bangs just above your bedroom ceiling. A quick check outside at dawn’s first light will probably reveal a pushed-up piece of siding or perhaps a hole in the roof where you used to have a ventilator. Raccoons are amazingly strong.
It is now quite possible that you have a raccoon napping in your attic.
Please don’t rush up the stepladder to chase it out. A three to four-foot-high dark crawlspace is no place to match wits with a 30 pound, short-legged, bushy-tailed ‘pit bull’. Nor is hoping that it will eventually go away the answer. Your attic has probably been selected as a winter breeding den or a spare hideaway for a wandering male.
What do you do?
Call in the experts. Your Yellow Pages will provide you with a choice of ‘urban wildlife consultants’ listed under ‘Pest control’.
Once the nature of the beast has been established, the hole must be securely blocked when the critter has left for the night. Unless you are a proven handyman, hire a carpenter.
Your pest consultant will set up a wire mesh cage trap in your backyard, baited with sardines.
You may or may not catch a raccoon right away. They are very cagey about traps. However, your raccoon may be very hungry or inexperienced with traps and walk in. Not to worry. Nothing bad happens to it except a fast 25-kilometer ride into the country, and a warning not to come back.
Don’t give the trap back just yet. Reset it and wait. Your former tenant may have one or two (or 10 or 12) friends and relatives.
While the trapping is going on, it is essential to examine the attic. If the critter(s) have been in residence for some time, we’re talking about ravaged insulation and a nasty smelling raccoon latrine. Call your insurance company. Who knows? You may be covered.
Even if the stay was brief, the raccoon’s scent, which is like a flashing neon sign to other wandering raccoons, must be masked by strewing the attic with unsealed bags of mothballs. Repeat every three months until the scent is gone.
The carpenter/pest control solution is time-consuming and will cost you something, but a quick solution with the family musket is noisy, dangerous and illegal. Remember, a wounded animal will crawl to the most inaccessible part of the attic to die. Your desire to give it a decent burial and to eliminate the stench may involve removing yards and yards of siding, bricks and roofing. The lady of the house and insurance company will not be amused.
For more information on this topic or any other nature-related subject, contact us.
* Thanks to the Sarnia Observer who originally published this series and granted LWI permission to use it online.