With spring finally here, homeowners across Illinois and beyond have been going through their to-do lists, cleaning up homes and yards, and making plans for the warmer months ahead. While homeowners have been preparing the way for future plans, female raccoons across the state have been making preparations for the arrival of new litters. Read on to find out what homeowners need to know as raccoon baby season approaches.
1. Raccoons Start Preparing Nests Early
Raccoons don’t have their litters until mid-late spring, but expecting mothers tend to start preparing early. In some cases, homeowners and their families begin to notice the telltale noises of raccoon activity starting as early as February. If there’s one thing that’s important to note about your raccoon problem, it’s that the best time to deal with it is before a new litter arrives.
Waiting until April or May, when raccoons start giving birth, to get rid of these nuisance animals can create entirely new problems. While preparing nests, female raccoons can make a lot of noise, leave a lot of mess, and destroy attics, crawlspaces, and other less-frequented areas. Once they give birth, though, there will be two to eight more critters around to wreak havoc in the home. Take action now instead of waiting until there’s a much larger mess to deal with.
2. Most Raccoons Nest in Attics
Mother raccoons often take up residence in attics because these spaces are perfect for raising raccoon kits. They’re warm, elevated enough to keep predators away, and offer plenty of nesting materials, usually in the form of the attic’s insulation. Unfortunately, homeowners and their families tend to find this situation far less ideal.
In some cases, raccoons may find other places around the house or yard to nest. Crawl spaces beneath homes and sheds, garages, or other outbuildings are all good candidates. Because these areas are less frequented, it’s wise to check them periodically for animal activity during the nesting season.
3. There Are Plenty of Signs to Look For
Once a female raccoon moves in, the disturbances and damage will begin almost immediately. The first thing most people notice is thumping and rustling sounds coming from overhead as large mother raccoons start to prepare nests. It may also be possible to identify visual indications of animal entry, such as damage to the roof shingles, siding, vents, or soffits, at this point.
If somehow no one has noticed a mother raccoon breaking into the attic and tearing things apart, her presence will be abundantly clear when she gives birth. Baby raccoons are extremely vocal, crying and chirping all day, and sometimes all night. Once a mother gives birth, she’ll also be more likely to start foraging closer to the nest, which means families may notice more frequent raids on their outdoor trash cans.
4. Baby Raccoons Remain in the Nest for Months
Some homeowners like to assume they can wait out nesting season to deal with their raccoon problems, believing misguidedly that it won’t do any harm to let the mother raise her kits in peace. What they don’t realize is that baby raccoons remain fully dependent on their mothers for three months or more. Families also tend to stay together for around a year, which means they’ll stay in the attic and the mother raccoon will only forage in the immediate area for a full season, and the yard could start showing signs of significantly increased raccoon activity.
The problems don’t end there. At around three months after birth, raccoon kits start exploring on their own. They’ll begin moving out of the attic and into the backyard, but they won’t go far. Raccoons tend to stick around the same areas once they find warm, safe places.
The mother or her female kits may even attempt to return to the same nest in the attic the next year when breeding season comes around. In fact, it’s very common for young female raccoons to return to their places of birth to have their own litters. Getting rid of the whole family as early as possible is the best way to stop the cycle.
5. DIY Raccoon Removals Are Unsafe and Inhumane
Trying to get rid of one or more raccoons without the help of a professional is never a good idea. The situation can go from bad to worse very quickly, especially for homeowners who don’t know how to trap animals safely and humanely.
It’s common for homeowners to assume that patching the holes in their roofs or attic walls will be enough to solve the problem. Taking this approach is very likely to lock one or more raccoons in the attic, though, which can create all kinds of practical and ethical problems. Even worse, if a homeowner patches the entry hole while the mother is out foraging but her kits are still in the nest, the mother raccoon will almost certainly destroy the roof trying to get to them.
Don’t underestimate how destructive raccoons can be. They have tiny opposable thumbs, which means anxious and angry mothers will have no problem ripping off shingles, tearing through siding and soffits, and creating a path of destruction in their wakes attempting to rescue trapped babies.
Trapping the whole raccoon family in the attic is no better. Over time, the mother and her kits will starve to death. This is cruel and unnecessary when homeowners could simply call an animal control expert for help. Plus, it will leave a disgusting smell in the attic and attract other pests.
Call for Professional Help Right Away
If homeowners think there may be raccoons living in their attic, the best thing to do is call for professional help right away. Approaching raccoons is never safe, especially when mothers are nesting or have already given birth to their litters.
The problem isn’t just that mother animals tend to be aggressive when defending their young. Raccoons can also carry dangerous diseases and can easily cause serious harm to household pets or small children that get in their way. The best solution is to reach out to a local animal control specialist to provide safe and humane raccoon removal services.