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Column: Chasing out raccoons, humanely

We live on a hobby farm just north of Duluth. My husband has a large garage/shop building that has an enormous attic. Last spring he told me he heard a critter up in that space. I figured it was most likely squirrels. You know how small critters ...

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Last spring, this raccoon found a temporary home in the author’s attic. She and her new kits were gently encouraged to find a new home when the time was right. (Photo by Heidi Nelson)

We live on a hobby farm just north of Duluth. My husband has a large garage/shop building that has an enormous attic. Last spring he told me he heard a critter up in that space. I figured it was most likely squirrels. You know how small critters can sound BIG when you can’t see them.
A week or so later, he actually laid eyes on the culprit. An adult raccoon had found a hole on the backside of the building and was able to climb right up the inside wall of the shop and slip through a very small opening into the attic. Shortly after that first sighting, I caught her peering out of the attic window.
We assumed she had claimed the space to have her kits. That was confirmed when we started hearing their baby cries. We decided to let them stay until they were old enough to travel with their mother.
By mid-summer, the toddlers were wrestling and running around up in their “penthouse nursery,” so much so, we were afraid they’d be coming through the ceiling in no time. It was time for this family to move along!
Following the advice of Wildwoods, we opened the hatch to the attic and placed a radio up in the opening with MPR turned up loud! Starting at dusk, we left the radio on and let it go for 48 hours. She came to see what the heck was going on immediately. The toddlers came too.
Although we felt bad about disturbing this family, we knew it was best for all concerned that they vacate the premises, and they did. Then we climbed up to make sure no one was left behind. The space was indeed vacant, not much of a mess and, surprisingly, no odor. We sealed it up and patched the initial entry point.
It was fun having them as summer guests and rewarding to safely get them all to move out together, by their own choice. Waiting until the kits could follow their mother out better insured no orphans.
Wildlife living in close proximity often means trouble for the animal. Learning from having raccoons on our property, I changed up my routine by filling our bird feeder only half way and only in the morning, so it would be empty by nightfall. I didn’t want to encourage the raccoons, or bears for that matter, to hang out at the feeder.
I’d highly recommend this talk radio method and approach to anyone with unintended guests on their property. It worked for us.

Heidi Nelson has worked at the Great Lakes Aquarium for 12 years and has been curator there for seven years. She started working with with wildlife over 25 years ago.

Wildwoods is a 501(c)(3) wildlife rehabilitation organization in Duluth which contributes a column in the Budgeteer every other week. The column-writers are volunteers at Wildwoods and/or experts in the field which they write. For information on how you can help wildlife, including volunteer opportunities, visit www.wildwoodsrehab.org or call 218-491-3604.

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