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How to prevent small animals?

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Key Points:

  1. Small animals around home can be quite difficult to deal with, while squirrels and raccoons are the most common ones. WikiHow has many articles talking about dealing with those animals, but we have picked the best article available for your convenience. Also, we have rewritten and integrated several articles together to create a better version.

Small animals could be cute, but when they get in your home or flip your trash can, there could be some troubles.

Here we quote the best way to prevent small animals provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Get Rid of Squirrels, How to Get Rid of Squirrels in the Attic, How to Get Rid of Raccoons. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Part 1: How to Get Rid of Squirrels

1. Deterring Squirrels in Your Yard.

Rake up food sources that fall into your yard. Acorns, nuts, and berries are all yummy food sources for squirrels. If you have these in your yard, you need to rake them up as often as they fall to avoid drawing squirrels to your yard. You may need to get out there to rake daily when the nuts are falling.

Place plastic or metal collars on your trees to keep squirrels from climbing them. Most of the time, squirrels won't climb past these collars, making them an effective deterrent. You can purchase them from home improvement stores or make your own out of sheet metal.

Cover your trashcans so squirrels aren't tempted by your trash. As squirrels are rodents, they'll dig around in your trash to find tasty morsels they can eat. To get rid of this temptation, always make sure your trash is secured with a lid.

2. Keeping Squirrels from Entering Your House.

Trim branches that hang close to your roof and chimney. Squirrels can jump directly from the branches to your roof. Cut back branches that hang over your roof, along with any that come within 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m) of your house to help keep them away.

  • Just trim off enough of the branch that the squirrel can't make the jump anymore. Use a hand saw or pruning shears.

Install a chimney cap if you have a fireplace. Typically, you fit the square metal mesh bottom over the top of your chimney with the cage coming down the sides. Then, you can screw in the 4 screws onto the sides, which will go directly into the tile or stone of your flue. The cap on top and metal mesh on the sides will keep squirrels out.

Go over your attic space to look for entry points. Squirrels can burrow their way into your house through small areas. Go up during the day so you can see sunlight shining through. Fill the holes with metal mesh to block their entry. You can nail or staple the edges into place on the inside or outside of the hole.

Spray a repellent around any holes you find. Once you cover the areas, add an extra layer of protection by using a repellent. Try one that has capsaicin in it, for instance. This chemical is the one that makes peppers hot, and squirrels don't like it!

3. Getting Squirrels out of Your House

If you’ve heard scratching sounds in your attic, you may have squirrels. Sharing your home with squirrels can be frustrating, especially if the squirrels start to cause damage. Although getting rid of the squirrels in your home may seem impossible, you can take back ownership of your attic. To remove the squirrels, you can use repellents, trap and release the squirrels, or install an exit tunnel.

1) Using Squirrel Repellents.

Soak a rag in ammonia and place it near the squirrels' nesting spot. The strong smell of the ammonia will irritate the squirrels and make them view the attic as a bad place to nest. This may get them to leave on their own.

  • It’s best to use this repellent alongside others to maximize its effectiveness.

  • If you don’t have ammonia, you can use another strong household cleaner instead.

  • Pepper-based and mint-scented repellents may also be effective.

Turn on bright lights in your attic. You can use the overhead light or install temporary lighting if there’s no light in the attic. The squirrels will feel uncomfortable and exposed under the lights, so they’ll likely leave your attic in favor of a new home.

Disturb the squirrels with a loud radio placed in your attic. Turn the radio to a talk station so the sound of human voices fills the attic. The squirrels will likely decide your home is unsuitable, causing them to go elsewhere.

Use a commercial squirrel repellent for an easy option. You can choose between a natural or chemical repellent. Natural repellents often use the scent of predator urine to scare away the squirrels. Read the label on your repellent and apply it directly to the area where the squirrels seem to frequent, such as near entry holes, around urine and feces, and where you see tracks.

2) Trapping and Removing Squirrels.

Place a squirrel trap near the entry point or where the squirrel is active. You’ll have more success if you place the trap in a location the squirrel frequents. However, they aren’t as likely to enter a trap that’s placed in the middle of the floor, so position it in a corner or near the wall. To find the best spot for your trap, look for the hole where it enters your home or a place where you’ve noticed tracks, urine or feces. You can choose a trap that catches the squirrels for release or a trap designed to kill the squirrels.

Bait the trap with peanuts or peanut butter. Put the bait inside the trap, far enough away from the sides that the squirrel can’t reach in and pull out the bait. Then, set the trap. The squirrel should enter the trap to get the bait, triggering the door.

  • If you don’t have peanuts or peanut butter, you can also use walnuts, soda crackers, bread crusts, and apple slices as squirrel bait.

  • If you’re using a catch and release trap, you’ll need to take the squirrel outside as soon as you can.

Remove a live squirrel from your home and release it. Put on thick, heavy work gloves before handling the cage. When you're ready to release the squirrel, put the cage on the ground at your release site. Then, slowly lift the cage door using your gloved hand or a string tied to the door. As the squirrel exits, keep a distance between you and the squirrel so it doesn’t bite or scratch you.

Reset your trap if more squirrels remain. You’ll need to leave the trap in place until all of the squirrels are gone. Most traps will only be able to hold 1 squirrel at a time, so it may take a while to get rid of an entire family of squirrels.

3) Use a 1-way door to let squirrels out to encourage squirrels to leave on their own. Squirrels will need to leave eventually to get food and water. You can mount a 1-way door meant for this purpose in your attic. It will allow the squirrels to get out, but it won't let them get back in. Bait the end of the tunnel if you want to speed up the process. Put a handful of peanuts, some peanut butter, crackers, or apple slices at the end of the tunnel or just outside of it. This will entice the squirrel to make its exit quickly.

4) Call in the professionals if you can't handle the squirrels yourself. When all else fails, professional pest control may be your best option. They know how to deal with rodents and can trap and remove the squirrels from your home for you. Plus, they can find the holes squirrels are using to enter your home and close them up for you.

Part 2: How to Get Rid of Racoons

Raccoons are cute to watch on TV, but they're not so cute when they leave your trash strewn all over your backyard. The good news is that you can use humane techniques to get rid of raccoons around your house. Make your trash cans unattractive or impossible to enter. Remove or prevent access to any potential food sources from your yard. Finally, block any areas that would allow raccoons to enter your home.

1. Keeping Raccoons Out of Your Trash

Secure trash can lids. Use a rope, chain or bungee cord to tie the lid into a secure position. Alternatively, you could weigh down the lids with weights, bricks, or other heavy objects. Aim for about 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of weight to prevent the strongest adult raccoons from getting in.

Clean out your trash cans. Wash them out with the hose every week or so. Sprinkle the inside with baking soda to remove any lingering food odors. Tip them upside down so they don't store water for mosquitoes or for raccoons to drink.

Don't put out the trash at night. Raccoons are active at night, and trash cans are among their favorite "hunting grounds." To prevent them from breaking into your trash, store your cans in the garage or other indoor location. Take them out to the curb the morning of your scheduled pickup.

Double bag food scraps. Raccoons have a very keen sense of smell that allow them to detect food sources from far away. Double bagging will help to contain food odors. This is especially helpful if you absolutely must keep your trash outside the night before the next garbage pickup.

2. Removing Food Sources

Clean up all food debris from your yard. Sweep up berries that fell from trees. Make sure that any picnic tables and chairs (or anything else outside) are completely free of food scraps and crumbs. Clean the area completely. Double check the area after you finish.

Pay attention to pet food. Raccoons are omnivores, so they won't pass up any dog- or cat food scraps left outdoors. You can avoid this problem entirely by feeding your companion animals indoors. If you must feed Fido or Tiger outside, clean up every last scrap of wet or dry food when meal time is over. If you have a doggie door or cat flap, keep food bowls far away from these access points.

Keep bird feeders out of their reach. Even a bird feeder with sunflower seeds might be tempting to a raccoon. Hang your bird feeder on a pole about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) in diameter. Raccoons can't climb such skinny poles. Secure the pole firmly so that it can't be knocked over. Store any bird seed in metal trash cans or an indoor locations that raccoons can't access.

3. Removing Access Points

Identify points of entry. Inspect your house, garage, and fence. Look for holes 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter or bigger. Check downspouts for scratches and body oil stains where racoons might have been climbing. If they're in your attic, look under nooks, dormers, or broken vents. If you hear them in your crawl space, look for broken vents or borrows. It might also help to check for footprints, especially if recent rains have created muddy conditions.

Identify nesting areas. Raccoons don't use nesting materials like birds do. The only way to identify a nest is by the fecal matter they leave. Look for brown cylindrical objects with digested berries. Raccoon feces look similar to those left by small dogs. When in doubt, contact your local extension office.

Repel raccoons from entry points and nesting areas. Boil one cup of cayenne pepper and 3-5 chopped habanero chilis with water in a pot and let it cool. Transfer it into a spray bottle. Spray the entry points you've identified. Because raccoons follow their noses, this spray will make their nesting area unbearable.

  • Use goggles and a respirator before spraying in enclosed areas. Although hot peppers are technically non-toxic, they can irritate mucous membranes in your eyes and mouth.

Identify the main entry point. Check around your roof, foundation, or siding. Look for telltale signs like freshly dug holes, nesting materials, dirt stains, or hair stuck to the entry point. If the point of entry is in or near your foundation, you can also check for paw prints in the soil.

Close off most points of entry. Make sure the raccoons have left the area before you seal off any openings. You're most likely to find an empty space if you start working between 8:00 and 11:00pm, when most raccoons are out scavenging. Cover the entry points with 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) of wire meshing. Then, seal the mesh with a foam or caulking gun.

Use newspaper on the main entry point. Wait until between 8:00 and 11:00pm. Stuff the newspaper lightly into the opening. Check the newspaper in the morning. If it's been moved, the raccoons might have left. Put it back in place. Continue to monitor the area for 48 hours. If the newspaper is still in place, you can permanently seal the hole.

  • If it has been moved, the raccoon(s) might be back. Check if you're dealing with a mother and her young. If this is the case, let the young grow up so that the mother can move them on her own. If you find abandoned young, call your local wildlife rehabilitation center for assistance.

  • If no young are on site, hire a professional to install a one-way door that will allow raccoons to exit but not re-enter.

  • Don't permanently block any vents with newspaper.

Seal off your yard. Raccoons can easily scale wood or metal fences. They also use nearby tree limbs or shrubs to help them over fences. Run electrified wires at the top and bottom of your fence to deter intrusions. Prune tree limbs near fences.

  • If you decide to replace your fence, make sure the mesh is no wider than 3 inches (7.6 cm). This will prevent young raccoons from entering your yard.

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