Raccoons In The Attic

I am going to tell you a little story. Yeah, I thought you would appreciate that, especially since things have been a little dry around here lately. First, I must apologize for not offering any photos of the occasion. Laura has been swearing to me that she took pictures of the whole thing and that I have them somewhere. I don’t know what she is talking about. I can’t find them and I have no recollection of taking them. The best I can do is to paint a mental picture for you, because trust me, the mental picture I have is very vivid.

Okay, let’s go.

A long, long time ago (about 5 years), we lived in a small lake cottage a few blocks from a small lake in New York. It was a tiny, but cute rental. We lived there for three fairly uneventful years. I can still remember the night we arrived at this particular house. We had just driven 5 hours from all the way up in Naples, NY and were totally beat. About an hour before we arrived at the house, I was forced to stop short in the middle of the road while driving the huge moving truck I had rented. I was sitting there with my eyes wide open, reading the big sign on an overpass in front of me that read, “Maximum Height – 11’9″.” Unfortunately, I was driving a truck that was 12’3″. I guess that wouldn’t have been all too bad if I wasn’t towing my car on one of those two wheeled tow dollies. With all those pivot points, backing up wasn’t an option. Even better, I was facing downhill and it was pitch black outside. Let’s just say that it took a good long time to get that situation squared away and there were some mildly annoyed fellow drivers. It was not one of my best memories. I can only imagine how many times I was called an “idiot” that night.

Anyway, we eventually made it to the house, which was good. We parked the truck on the road and slept the night away, only to unpack the next day. Things were fine for about two years.

It was a beautiful sunny spring day. I was walking out to my car on my way to work when I turned around to check out the house, like I always do. It’s just a habit of mine. Well, on this particular day, everything looked fine, except for that small hole in the corner of an attic vent that was facing the street. It was up near the peak of the roof on the front of the house. I thought to myself that I had never really noticed that hole before, but was pretty sure that it had always been like that. Besides, this was a rental; it wasn’t my place to give daily inspections of the building’s exterior. I went to work and forgot all about it.

Upon returning home that evening, I did my thing inside and then grabbed a beer. I remember having no shirt on and walking to the mailbox to get the mail. Just as I got about half way across the front yard, a pickup truck rolled down the road and stopped right in front of me. The guy opened his passenger side window and starts telling me something in an excited kind of way. “Hey man, you got a raccoon living in your attic,” he said. I replied with a, “What?” “Yeah, I was driving down the road this afternoon and I saw a huge raccoon crawling through the little hole in your vent. I have no idea how she got in there because the hole is so small, but I sat here for a good 10 minutes watching her. She finally got through after a while,” he replied. I said thank you and started devising a plan on how to patch up that hole in the vent. I mean seriously, how hard can it be to keep a giant raccoon out of your attic?

Well, let me just tell you that it is a little trickier than one would think.

Before the kind fellow with the pickup truck even made it to the corner of the street, I already had the mail in my hand and was walking across the backyard looking for a piece of plywood. I was going to cut it to size and screw it to the 2″x4″ beams from inside the attic.

Picture this – standing on a table in your living room to push open a small trap door that leads up to a tiny attic in a tiny lake cottage. That’s really not that bad. Now, picture doing this while thinking that an enormous raccoon is sitting up in that attic just waiting to see the whites of your eyes. It’s a little unnerving. The problem was, I had no idea if the raccoon was up there or not. It was the early evening, so I was hoping she was out gathering some food. You know, just as I began pushing that little trap door open, I remembered that I did hear some strange noises a few nights earlier coming from up above me. I just chalked it up to some branches hitting the roof or something.

Laura was in the living room holding my legs as I jimmied up through the trap door. You should have seen my head whipping around in every direction I could think of. There were no lights up there and I was totally freaking out. As every second passed by, I kept expecting to hear a “whoosh” and have 20 claws and something furry attach to my face. As it turned out, the raccoon wasn’t even up there. She must have been outside doing something. I shined the flashlight that Laura handed me all over the place and saw nothing, so I slipped through the hole in the ceiling to screw the piece of plywood over the vent at the front of the house. I was totally confident that this raccoon wouldn’t get through this rock solid piece of wood and that our little raccoon problem was solved.

That night, around midnight, I heard a “bang, bang.” I woke up and started looking around. I walked to the front of the house and heard, “scratch, bang bang.” I really had no idea what in the world was going on, but my adrenaline was pumping and I was ready for anything. I kept hearing this noise as I was standing at the front door and it was coming from above my head. I walked back into the bedroom to grab the flashlight. I opened the front door and walked out to the front yard. As I shined the flashlight up towards the roof, I immediately saw two beady little eyes staring at me. Apparently, the raccoon was trying to scratch, rip, tear and push her way through the vent to get back inside the attic. I stood there in disbelief.

I went back inside to get some clothes on. I kept wondering why in the world this raccoon wouldn’t let this go. Why was she being so stubborn? I went back outside and started yelling at the raccoon, in an attempt to scare her away. All she did was look at me and continued to try to get through the vent. At this point, I was getting annoyed and wanted to end this adventure. I walked to the back porch, grabbed the garden hose and hooked it up. I turned it on and dragged it to the front yard. Now, Laura was standing there and was manning the flashlight. I started spraying the raccoon with the water and she ran across the roof towards the back of the house. I looked at Laura and gave her a smile. No raccoon was going to ruin my beauty sleep. We went back inside to crawl back under the covers.

About 10 minutes later, I heard the same “bang, bang, bang” and sprung to my feet. I am not even going to tell you what we did, because it’s basically a repetition of what we did just 10 minutes before. This time, I went outside and chased the raccoon all over the place, but she just kept trying to get back in that vent. I had enough. I really didn’t know what to do, so we went back inside and lay awake for the rest of the night.

When it was light out again, I went outside to see what kind of damage the raccoon did to the vent. There were a few more cracks in it, but nothing too drastic. I didn’t see the raccoon anywhere, so I held out hope that what we did to her the night before taught her a lesson. If she didn’t want to experience getting sprayed by a hose again, she would find a new home.

I went back inside, got ready for work and left.

That evening, when I got home from work, I found the house and vent exactly as I had left it. I felt very happy that I beat the raccoon at her own game. Laura and I sat around until it got dark, chatted a bit and decided that I would go out to grab some Chinese food to celebrate. You know, it’s the little things in life.

I will remember this conversation for the rest of my days. As I was getting out of the car in the Chinese food place parking lot down the road, my phone started ringing. The caller ID said, “Home” on it, which surprised me. Laura never called my cell phone from home. I answered the phone and I was greeted by a flustered female voice telling me that something was screaming up in the attic. It was Laura and she was jumping from one thought to the next. She said that either we had 20 birds up in the attic, or there were BABY RACCOONS!!! Holy man oh man. Baby raccoons? No wonder that lady raccoon was trying to get back in the attic so badly. I ran into the Chinese restaurant, paid for the food and ran back out to drive home faster than I was supposed to. I figured I should still get the food, even during a time of crisis.

When I pulled in the driveway and got out of the car, I heard a faint squealing. As I got closer and eventually entered the house, the squealing got louder. When I stood in the middle of the living room, the squealing was really loud and right above my head. I put my hands to my face and wondered what in the world I was going to do. It was dark outside and I was really tired from getting no sleep the night before. One thing was for sure; I wasn’t going to live through another night of that momma raccoon banging on the side of the house. Add the squealing of hungry baby raccoons in the attic, and I was ready to move out.

Within a few minutes, I had devised a plan. I would go outside, climb up on the roof and pull the vent down. Then, I would go up in the attic and unscrew the piece of plywood that was blocking the mother raccoon from getting to her babies. This way, the big raccoon would be able to get in the attic to feed her babies and they would shut up. Also, she wouldn’t need to tear at the vent any longer and I would get a good night’s sleep.

I informed Laura that we were going to be getting into some hairy stuff here, so she better be at her finest. She was going to man the garden hose. I walked around to the back of the house, grabbed the step ladder and the hose and brought both up to the front of the house. I handed Laura the hose. She already had the flashlight in her hand. Her job was to spray the mother raccoon if she showed up while I was pulling off the vent. Her other job was to shine the flashlight at what I was working on, so I could see what I was going. It was quite dark up on that roof.

I climbed up on top of the porch and pointed out what I wanted Laura to shine the light at and she did. I began working the vent off the front of the house, while constantly looking below me to see if the mother raccoon was climbing up the porch beams. If I saw the raccoon climbing up, I was going to throw myself off the roof. I know, I know…not a good plan, but I had limited options. Plus, my heart was beating a mile a minute.

Things were going pretty well. I was tugging on the vent and talking to Laura at the same time. I said, “Do you see any sign of the raccoon?” She replied with a, “No.” I was a bit neurotic that night, so I kept on asking Laura if she saw the raccoon. She kept answering, “No” and I was sensing a little annoyance in her voice. I didn’t care, because she wasn’t the one on the roof who was going to get tackled by a crazy raccoon who was trying to protect her young.

I was almost finished getting the vent off the front of the house and I heard the faintest scratch above my head. I shot a glare down at Laura who was standing there pointing the flashlight at me and holding a garden hose. She looked so cute; poor kid. I said in the quietest voice ever, “Sweet doll, please shine the flashlight above my head.”

She did.

I slowly looked up.

About a foot above my head was the mother of all mother raccoons, staring right into my eyes. She was standing on the peak of the roof above me. “HOLY FREAKING MOTHER,” I screamed. Luckily, I had a bit of wit about me and I ran for the ladder instead of jumping off the roof. I climbed down the ladder at record speed and ran to the front lawn to stand next to Laura. I had to jump up and down to shed some of the shakes and adrenaline off of me. “MAN,” I started saying, as we watched the raccoon climb down to inspect the vent. “I have to get that vent off of there or we are never going to hear the end of this,” I said to Laura.

New plan – Laura would spray the raccoon to keep her away from me as I finished getting the vent down. She did and I did. The vent was off. You should have seen that raccoon trying to get to that vent while I was working on it though. Laura showed her good aim that night.

The next thing I had to do was to go up in the attic and unscrew the plywood I put up the day before. This was going to be a little trickier because now I knew there were going to be animals up in that attic with me, as well as a fully grown raccoon on the other side of that plywood.

I crawled up into the attic again. I had my screw gun and a flashlight and was ready to go to work. I made my way to the front of the house, while constantly looking around for those baby raccoons. I didn’t have any idea how big they were, so I was pretty nervous. When I got all the way up to the plywood, I heard some sounds coming from my left, under the overhang of the roof. I shined the flashlight over there, but didn’t see anything. I grabbed a piece of scrap wood that was laying on the floor and pushed some insulation away from the beams. Right then and there, I saw four of the cutest little raccoon heads pop up and look at me. I don’t think they wanted the light shining in their faces, but seeing them sitting there changed the whole dynamic of what I was doing. I softened up and my mission turned from one of war to one of rescue. They looked so helpless. Since they weren’t about to go anywhere and obviously weren’t any threat to me, I started slowly unscrewing the plywood.

(The above video is not of the actual baby raccoons, but of imposters.)

As I was almost finished with the last screw, I lost my silly little grin. I remembered the beast sitting on the other side of the wall with a very determined mindset. I knew what I had to do.

I held the plywood hard against the beams and finished taking out the screw. I held the screw gun in my hand and picked up the flashlight with the same hand. The plan was to move as far as I could away from the board, while still holding it. Then, I was going to run and jump through the hole in the floor back to the living room. After that, I was going to slide the trap door board back over the hole, so the beast couldn’t follow me down through the ceiling.

If you have never seen a grown man scream like a little girl and run across about 15 beams of an unfinished attic and jump through a hole in the floor, you are a lucky person. If you are that grown man, you’re not so lucky. After I jumped through the hole, I landed on the table and slipped off it to land on the floor (on my back). I had to quickly scurry up to put that board back in place before we had one extra mammal living with us. I got the board back in place and ran outside to see if the raccoon went through the hole.

Apparently, Laura had the same idea and gave me a full report as I met her on the front lawn. She said that the minute I let that board down, the raccoon flew through the hole. I remember standing there and how good I felt. It was like I just won the lottery. Then, I remember thinking about how we now had five raccoons in the attic instead of just one. It felt like someone just took all my lottery money away from me.

It was time for a real plan…a plan that would solve the problem.

Laura used to work with animals and had access to really heavy duty animal handling gloves. They were about three feet long and about a half inch thick. These gloves were meant to hold down a mountain lion. If the mountain lion bit, you probably wouldn’t feel it. Okay, you would feel it, but the teeth wouldn’t go through your arm. Okay, maybe they would, but these gloves were really heavy duty.

My plan was to wait until mid afternoon when the mother raccoon was out for the day. Then, I would go up into the attic and screw the piece of plywood back to cover up the gaping vent hole. I would capture each baby raccoon and put them into a cat carrier that we had hanging around. After that, put the cat carrier outside and just wait for momma to come back.

That was the plan and I must say that I executed it perfectly the next day. I think the worst part was that the attic was about 150 degrees then and moving the insulation around covered my bare top half with sweat and fiberglass. It was pretty terrible.

You really should have seen it. I was like a professional animal handler. With the exposed baby raccoons looking at me and the cat carrier open and ready to hold the animals, it was show time. I put the gloves on and started reaching back into the corner of the attic. I grabbed the first baby raccoon and put it in the carrier. You should really see the claws on these raccoons. They are very long and really stick on everything they touch. I can only imagine wrestling with a full grown one. No thank you.

The first three raccoons went into the carrier without incident. The fourth one gave me a little problem. I am assuming that this last raccoon was the big brother of the bunch, because he kept trying to go deeper and deeper into the corner of the attic. He was hissing and being very aggressive. Eventually, he saw things my way and was placed into the cat carrier with the rest of his siblings. Another thing you should have seen was how much fun I had while trying to place each baby raccoon into the cat carrier while there was already one in there. Each time I opened the carrier door, the raccoon that was in there tried to climb out. It was crazy.

After I got the last little devil in the carrier, I beamed a great big smile. I kept the plywood over the vent hole, picked up the carrier and slid through the hole in the ceiling to enter the living room. I walked the carrier outside and sat it down in the shade at the side of the house. I kept the carrier locked, because I didn’t want any baby raccoons walking around without the protection of their mother.

I am sure you can imagine the excitement on Laura’s face when she got home from work that day and I showed her a cage full of baby raccoons. I’m not sure which she was excited more about, not having to deal with the “raccoons in the attic” issue any longer or getting an up close look at these little cuties. She asked what I was going to do with them. I answered that I was going to leave them there just like they were and wait until the mother raccoon returned to get them. We were certain she would be back.

A few hours passed and we were watching TV in the bedroom when we heard something outside tampering with the cat carrier. We ran out there to see what was going on. Well, low and behold, the mother raccoon was tossing the cat carrier around, trying to get it open. She wanted to get at those babies badly. I tried to walk over to open the carrier, but the mother raccoon lunged at me. Okay, obviously our mutual understanding of not harming one another was over. We were enemies once again.

Since I wanted to get this ordeal behind us and I wanted this raccoon family to reunite, I ran to the back of the house again to grab the hose. I came back and handed it to Laura again, with the same instructions. “Spray the raccoon while I open the carrier,” I said. Laura started spraying the raccoon and she backed up into the neighbor’s driveway. Each time I went over to attempt to open the carrier, the raccoon ignored the water and lunged at me. Laura had to keep getting closer to spray the mother raccoon harder. Eventually, I got the cage open and took off. Big momma ran in there and grabbed the first baby. She raced up the willow tree across the street and placed the baby in a “V.” Laura and I walked inside to give her some peace and privacy.

About five minutes later, we walked back outside to see if the mother got any more babies. We were surprised to see an empty cat carrier sitting on the ground. Man, she was fast. We would be resting easy that night.

The next morning, I walked across the street and looked up into the “V” where the raccoons were placed and noticed four small heads looking down at me. What a sight.

Comments

  1. Brian says:

    Silence of the Raccoons: “Stay out of the attic or it gets the hose again.”

  2. Mom says:

    Great story Jay. I actually wrote a similar story (fiction) once about baby racoons and will try to find it and forward it to you. Wish you could find those pictures.

  3. David says:

    I love baby raccoons! They are the cutest animal ever. Unfortunately, a lot of them are orphaned and die during attempts to remove adult raccoons from attics. Read more about this situation here at the raccoon attic guide and also here at the raccoon blog. This is an important matter in order to protect baby raccoons any removal methods must be done correctly.

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