Raccoons think of chimneys as a perfect condominium, similar to the hollowed out tree they normally make their homes in. So it’s no surprise when they find an uncapped chimney with no other raccoons inside, they’re tempted to take up residence and you wind up with a raccoon in your chimney.
Sometimes it’s a solitary raccoon seeking shelter, but often, it’s a mom, looking for a place to safely raise her young until they’re ready to be on their own. What’s a homeowner to do?
Keep reading to learn how to properly get raccoons out of your chimney and stop them from coming back.
How to Confirm You Have a Racoon
Before taking any action to remove raccoons, carefully inspect your chimney to check for signs of current or previous habitation. Look for these indications raccoons may have taken up residence:
- Droppings – Raccoon feces are small, tubular, and black or dark brown in color. Several on your roof, near the chimney opening, or in the fireplace likely means raccoons.
- Scratch Marks – Look for scratches on wood surfaces or scraped mortar where raccoons have climbed with their sharp claws.
- Nesting Materials – Tufts of fur, leaves, twigs are signs raccoons have created a nest.
- Strange Odors – As noted before, raccoon urine and feces have very distinctive, unpleasant smells.
Use a sturdy flashlight to peer up inside your chimney flue from within the fireplace or down from the rooftop opening. If you’re unsure if an animal is present or actually spot a raccoon, contact a professional wildlife control company before proceeding. Otherwise you risk harming animals or damaging your home attempting do-it-yourself removal.
Remove the Raccoon
Once you’ve confirmed that just an adult raccoon has taken up residence, you can attempt removal using simple sensory deterrents. However, take caution and call a professional if a raccoon family has moved in.
For a solitary adult raccoon:
- Wait until evening when they are likely to leave and be away all night foraging.
- Place a bright light and portable radio tuned to loud rap or rock music facing up inside the fireplace.
- Set a bowl of strong apple cider vinegar nearby. Strong lights, noise, and acidic smells mimic danger.
- Build a one-way exclusion door and install at chimney top once dusk falls. This keeps the raccoon from re-entering when it departs for the night but allows it to shimmy back out.
If There Are Baby Raccoons
Consider giving mom raccoon a grace period if young are present. Usually the mom moves her young out by the time they’re 6 weeks old, because at that point they need to go on outings with her, and they’re getting too heavy for her to haul them up and down the chimney every night.
So she usually moves them instead to another den site. A humane professional should be able to assist with the proper timing and process of evicting the raccoons without causing either separation of the family or undesirable consequences for you as the homeowner.
If necessary, a reunion box can be used to move them out earlier. This is a box constructed of heavyweight, weather-proof cardboard with a flap entry/exit and will safely contain the babies and will be strategically placed outside.
When the process is done correctly, the mom then retrieves her babies one by one and moves them to an alternate den site. This process take expertise so it’s best to hire a humane professional animal control company to coordinate this tricky process so that it works as intended.
DON’T consider outdated approaches, such as killing the raccoon with poison or by some other lethal means, or trapping and relocating the raccoon, which creates other avoidable problems. Effective approaches are consistently those that aim for a satisfactory outcome for both the raccoons and the homeowners.
DON’T ever attempt to use smoke or fire to evict raccoons from your chimney. This approach is ill advised for their safety and yours. Even adult animals may perish before they can escape, but babies are certain to be killed, because they are unable to exit on their own.
DON’T cap your chimney until you take all proper precautions, as explained below.
Clean and Disinfect the Area
Once raccoons have vacated your chimney, it’s imperative to fully clean and disinfect the area before sealing it back up. Remember, raccoon urine and feces can transmit dangerous diseases and parasites to humans.
Follow these chimney cleaning steps or have a professional chimney sweep or duct cleaning company do the job using specialized tools.
- Remove all waste and nesting materials. Using sturdy gloves and a particle mask, bag all droppings, fur, leaves, twigs, and other debris. Seal bags tightly before disposal.
- Wash the chimney crown and flue. Use a long chimney cleaning brush and soap and water or disinfecting solution to thoroughly scrub the entire chimney from roof to fireplace.
- Clean the fireplace and hearth. Remove soot and debris. Use soap and water followed by disinfectant to clean the fireplace interior and surrounding surfaces.
Preventing Future Animal Intruders
Once you’ve evicted the raccoon squatter and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, take these important steps to deter future unwanted residents.
Install a Secure Chimney Cap
A properly installed chimney cap provides the best protection.
- Check on local building codes before choosing a chimney cap (available from home improvement and hardware stores and chimney sweeps).
- Make sure that installation—whether by you or by someone you hire—follows both local codes and instructions for the particular cap you purchase.
- Maintain your chimney and chimney cap to ensure safety from fire and protection against animals entering.
Cover Exterior Holes
- Inspect exterior of chimney and roof around it. Cover any holes or cracks in masonry with 1⁄4 inch hardware cloth fastened with masonry nails.
Trim Back Tree Branches
- Raccoons use nearby trees as launching pads onto roofs. Trim any branches extending over or near to the chimney.
When to Call a Professional
While some chimney raccoon issues can be tackled as a DIY project, don’t hesitate to call professional wildlife control experts for assistance if:
- You spot a raccoon family – A mom and babies require special handling to remove safely. Attempt this yourself risks separating babies from their mother or orphaning young still dependent on her.
- You can’t determine what type of animal may be inside – Various animals seek shelter in chimneys and no two require the same removal techniques. Improper approach risks harm.
- An exclusion door doesn’t work – Some smart, stubborn raccoons learn to shimmy back inside past one-way doors. Unique equipment and innovative techniques may be needed to evict them.
- You need to transport animals – Wildlife experts have access to specialized transport cages and the knowledge of release sites. Moving animals requires both finesse and permits.
- You want full prevention service – From thorough chimney interior filming, final cleaning service, to custom-fitting durable chimney caps, professionals have the right tools and expertise to seal out future critters.
For ethical, effective solutions from inspection to eviction to prevention, expert wildlife pros bring invaluable experience. They employ only humane removal strategies for the safety of raccoons, homeowners, and property. Trust their skills for the best results.
Issues Caused by Raccoons in Chimneys
Raccoons may initially seem like quiet chimney dwellers, but it won’t take long before they make their presence (and nuisance) known. Here are some of the most common problems caused when raccoons take up residence in your chimney:
- Strange Noises – The patter of little feet and odd vocalizations are often the first tip-off that a raccoon has moved in. You may hear scratching, rustling, or chattering as raccoons climb around and shuffled in tight spaces.
- Property Damage – As raccoons try to enlarge their lodgings, they may urgently gnaw or scratch at wood or masonry. They can destroy surfaces around the chimney or fireplace.
- Safety Issues – Raccoons could potentially enter the home through the fireplace, especially if they have babies to protect or feel threatened. Their presence also introduces health risks to humans.
- Unpleasant Odors – Raccoon urine and droppings in a confined space like a chimney leads to strong, unpleasant odors seeping into the home.
Raccoon “tenants” also present potential issues including exposed electric wires being chewed, nested debris clogging a flue, or even baby raccoons falling down the chimney into the fireplace.