The Washington Post

Raccoons in the attic? How to deal.

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Meet the bandit in my attic. | Share photos of your pests (Pat Kennedy)

I was having a leisurely soak in my Jacuzzi when I heard it. My ceiling was shaking, like someone jumping up and down on the air conditioning ducts running through my attic. Another earthquake perhaps?

Then I heard plodding footsteps and I realized there was something big, alive and energetic a few feet above my head.

Because I live in Crestwood, a D.C. neighborhood surrounded on three sides by Rock Creek Park, I’ve grown to expect some wildlife in the back yard, but not in the house!

I called the D.C. government animal control people, and they chuckled: It’s mating season for raccoons, and they love nice warm attics. They gave me the names of three professional raccoon removal companies and suggested that I call one right away.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve learned a lot about urban raccoons:

They are really smart, and if they’ve been caught in a trap, they won’t go for the bait again during this lifetime.

They can get into your house through tiny openings.

They are great climbers and, in my case, they came up a pillar then up some bead board.

And they can make a huge mess in your house.

So the pros installed a HaveaHart trap and baited it with an open can of sardines. But my raccoons resisted. After sundown, I’d hear the creatures taking off for an evening of overturning garbage cans, and in the very early morning, they’d come home to cavort in the attic. The trap remained empty, except for the smelly sardines.

After a week, I went online to checking the D.C. code. How illegal might it be to shoot them? If it was against the law would I have to pay a fine (it might be worth it) or would they throw me in the slammer? And as I tapped the keyboard, I could hear them rumbling around and chattering.

Were they were talking about starting a family? Or had they already done that, expecting to turn my attic into their nursery?

Finally one night, I heard a crash on the veranda, and when I looked out, I saw one big, angry raccoon, probably the male, glaring at me from behind the trap’s bars. But he seems to have left his probably now-pregnant mate behind.

The trappers then installed a one-way door out of the attic and onto my upper deck. On Monday, I finally noticed raccoon footprints in a little bit of snow. It looks like she got out but couldn’t re-enter – and that’s the whole idea!

Here are some tips if you encounter these pests:

Make sure that your attic windows are closed and your chimney is properly capped. But no matter what you do, they are like burglars. If they really want to get into your house, they will find a way.

Call a professional trapping service immediately. And no, the city will not remove animals from your attic.

If you have stairs leading to your attic, do not let any family pets go up. In a fight with a raccoon, raccoon trumps most dogs and probably all cats, and they carry nasty diseases.

If you see them in your neighborhood, do not feed them! I’ve now heard through my neighborhood grapevine that a sweet senior citizen is putting out cat food, which raccoons love!

Once they are gone, it’s wise to have professionals come in and give your attic a thorough cleaning.

If components of your central air conditioning system are in the attic, have them checked before you power up this spring.

After three weeks of waiting for both raccoons to leave, I can safely say that the only good raccoon is a gone raccoon.

Other blog posts by Pat Kennedy:

Rosedale Cottage — historic renovation

Restoring old homes in D.C.

Pat Kennedy is a real estate agent at Evers & Co. and a blogger on Active Rain.

Are you a real estate or neighborhood blogger who would like to contribute to Where We Live? E-mail us at



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