As we head into raccoon baby season there is some important information we should all be aware of that can facilitate early detection and humane removal should you find yourself unwittingly hosting a young family to be.
Raccoons will mate in late winter, with their litters born in April/May. However, we have seen babies come as early as March and as late as June. On rare occasions, if the mother lost her first litter early in the season, a secondary litter will be born, as late as July. But this is not a very common occurrence.
So once March hits, it's important to keep an eye out for any signs raccoons could be attempting to break into your attic, garage, shed or under your deck. Having said all that, the most common place they are found is still the attic.
While raccoons live outdoors, in order to create nests for their babies, they actively seek out warm spaces. Your attic is by far the best choice. It's an elevated space which means protection from predators, it has nesting materials readily available and offers an element of built-in privacy.
The silver lining in all this (if there is one to be found) is that this process is seldom subtle. You will notice immediately if raccoons are getting ready to have their babies in your attic.
Recognizing Their Presence
The biggest difference maker in this whole process will be how quickly you become aware of the problem and address it. Raccoons are not discreet animals, weighing in at anywhere between 10-60 pounds, it's in your best interest to deal with them immediately.
Signs raccoons have gained entry to your residence:
- Visible entry points on the exterior of the building - often you will see bent siding, damaged soffits/roof vent or other obvious signs of animal entry.
- Thumping and rustling - because raccoons are large animals we hear them moving around and preparing their nest.
- Baby's cries/chirps - much like their human counterpart, baby raccoons are very vocal in during the early days. You will hear them crying regularly throughout the day (and unfortunately nights). See video below this section to hear an example of what baby raccoons sound like.
- See the mother hanging around on the property. She will not wander too far while her kits are young and helpless.
Potential Damage if Left Unattended
If these pests are left unattended for any duration of time in your attic, the damage can (and will) be devastating. Contact a wildlife professional immediately. A day or two wasted trying to do-it-yourself is all the time they need.
Types of damage most often afflicted by raccoons during mating season:
- Contamination of attic space (urine, feces, nesting, birthing process).
- Damage to the building - soffit, siding, roof vents, etc.
- Damaged, ineffective insulation.
- Damage to structural beams, air ducts, electrical, etc.
The costs associated with repairs and remediation of wildlife inhabitation will often run into the thousands of dollars. It's in the homeowner's best interest to quickly and humanely evict the unwanted guest as soon as possible.
How Long Do They Stay?
It takes roughly three months for baby raccoons to be able to move around on their own. Before the three months are up, you’re unlikely to see any baby raccoons in your home; they’ll be nestled away in the insulation while their mother goes out to forage. A litter will contain between 1 and 8 kits, with the typical size being 3-5 babies. The mother has to wait till they are all mobile.
At three months of age, baby raccoons will begin to forage on their own, branching out into the attic space at large and the outdoors. However, raccoons won’t necessarily vacate the premises after the baby raccoon season has finished. If they’ve found a safe, warm, and comfortable space, they’ll continue to return to that space over time. This is especially true if the raccoons were living in your attic prior to mating season.
Another reason you want to avoid having these animals give birth on your property is that the following year, the female babies will return to the same location to have their litter. And each subsequent year that follows the young females will attempt to return. Don't let the cycle get started.
What To Do
One of the very worst ways you can deal with this issue is by sealing the raccoons in the attic. While it will prevent them from wandering throughout your home, the mother and babies will starve to death in your attic space.
Raccoons mean no harm by living in your attic; the raccoon mother is simply trying to find a warm place for her babies. Contact a wildlife removal service immediately to deal with the issue. Reputable and humane companies employ measures that not only ensure quick and safe removal of the mother raccoon and her babies but will also provide a lifetime warranty for their service. Raccoon removal should only be done by professionals.
Do not contact a traping company as they may not be the most humane option available. There are humane ways of removing raccoons that allow the animals and their offspring to relocate on their own to another den in the area. Untouched by the human hand and free to resume tearing apart our garages and patrolling our neighborhoods at night.