Raccoons live all over North America. It is very possible that they live in your neighborhood. In fact, I would bet they do. You may be saying “Hey Dusty! We don’t have any raccoons around here. I grew up on a farm, I’d know.” Raccoons are nocturnal and crafty. Because you do not see them does not mean they are not there. The likelihood of you having raccoons in the neighborhood is greater than not.While raccoons are nocturnal, it is possible to see them during the day. Often, the public knee-jerk reaction is that a raccoon out during the day must be rabid. Not true. I do not care what you uncle told you. It does not matter that you grew up on a farm. A raccoon out during the day may be a symptom of rabies but is not a diagnosis. This would be like assuming someone has brain cancer because they have a headache. Again, it is a symptom, not a diagnosis. More than likely, you have a raccoon that is either comfortable enough to come out during the day (common in parks with garbage cans) or that she is so hungry she needs to eat more. This is where you find mother raccoons out foraging that need extra food to make up for feeding nursing kits. Typically raccoons are not a problem and they can happily exist with people with the occasional exception of tearing up a garbage can here and there. The problems arise when they decide to break into attics or live in neighborhood chimneys. A chimney to a raccoon may as well be a hollow tree. My intent of this book is to give advice on how to handle particular situations yourself or at least what to expect. If you have a raccoon in your chimney, the best advice is to call a professional. NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER light a fire or put ammonia in the fireplace or chimney UNLESS you are the meanest person ever that is looking forward to a life in Dante’s Inferno. Many times raccoons will go into chimneys looking for a place to have babies. Raccoons are also very dedicated mothers and while lifeguards at the shallow gene pool may have told you that lighting a fire will prompt the mother to leave, what will actually do is slowly cook the baby raccoons while the mother desperately tries to save them. In order to this she needs to climb head first down the chimney which means she will burn her face, sometimes sealing her eyes should with melted eyeballs. If your children knew you did something like this, they would pack up their belongings, put in on a pole with a wrapped up bandana on the end and set out for an orphanage. Don’t be that parent. Ammonia and mothballs are also the “go to solution” for the amateur. Read this part out loud…”I vow to never, ever, ever use mothballs or ammonia on raccoons or any other animals. I realize people that have no clue will tell me to use these things but professionals hear ever day how people have tried these things and they don’t work.” Yes, I realize some of you will think this is a conspiracy of professional trappers. In our monthly meeting of the Trapper Dons we discuss how we have to keep the secret of the power of mothballs and ammonia from the general public so we can continue to charge absorbent about of money to remove the animals ourselves. I’m not the usual business guy. I am probably not even cut out to be a business owner. I would rather tell someone how to take care of a problem themselves or explain to them how to live with it rather than go out and trap an animal. It may seem that being a trapper and catching animals daily would be the most awesomest job ever…and while it is way cool, the reality is once you have seen 500 raccoons up close, the shiney wears off. I would rather never see a raccoon again and know they will never be harmed than have to trap another. Just trust me, stay away from mothballs and ammonia, they are toxic to the animals and to you. One of the other “go to” amateur moves is to put a radio in the area. I have been told that raccoons hate rock music and they hate talk radio. I have also been to many homes where people had been blaring radios into chimneys and attics for weeks and there has been no effect, accept that the people are going nuts. One of my most amazing raccoon stories was when I was called out to a home in Illinois for raccoons. The people were wintering in the South when they came home to quite a surprise…upon coming home to house that had been vacate all winter, the homeowners discovered all of the kitchen and bathroom cabinets open, the water gone from the toilets along and droppings everywhere. Foot prints were all over the furniture, counters and toilet bowls. A pair of raccoons had come in through the chimney, entered through an open flu and had free reign of the home. I felt guilty for removing the squatters. I am always amazed by the skill and thought of raccoons. On an other occasion, I was investigating a raccoon call in the north side of Chicago around Wrigleyville. After looking down the chimney in question, I saw two little eyeballs staring up at me. I decided to look in all of the other chimneys of the building. Out of 10 chimneys, I could see raccoons in 5 of them. The amazing thing? This was a FIVE story building. Each night, the raccoons would climb 5 stories straight up a chimney, cross the roof then climb 5 stories down the fire escape. Then, after a night of foraging, they would climb 5 stories up the fire escape and down a 5 story chimney. I am not sure if I could even do that. A raccoon in a chimney is best left to a professional. Although if you just have no budget to pay a trapper, I will tell you something that if done properly can be very effective. If done incorrectly can be an expensive mess. Raccoons are very persistent but if they get the feeling where they are living is no longer safe, they will take their babies and leave. If you can frustrate them enough so they no longer feel safe, then you are golden. This does require you getting on your roof and accessing the top of your chimney. If you cannot safely do that, then do not do it. My disclaimer is….CALL A PROFESSIONAL. First, make sure the flue is closed. Chimneys come in all different sizes however, 13x13 is the most common size. Go to your local handy dandy hardware store and buy a good chimney cap. Do not skimp on this. If you had a raccoon in your chimney once, it is likely to happen again and a raccoon will tear through a cheap chimney cap-guaranteed. Place the cap on the top of the chimney and semi-secure it. The idea is that the raccoon has to fight to get out. I recommend tying a small rope around the cap and connecting it to the chimney because if the raccoon does tear it off, you not want the cap falling to the ground and bending into some now useless form. If the raccoon tear the cap off and you still have her coming back to live in the chimney, repeat the process until she gets fed up and leaves. IMPORTANT: If the raccoon is still in the chimney the next day but the cap is still in place, immediately take the cap off. One night of being trapped in a chimney is typically enough for a raccoon and she should most likely leave the following night. You never, ever, ever, ever want to trap a raccoon in a chimney for more than one night. Doing so may result in a dead raccoon in the chimney OR she may pull open the flue and head into the house. To ensure the raccoons have left, visually inspect from the inside if possible. Then take some plastic, like visqueen and cover the top of the chimney, this is called “marking “. Wrap duct tape around to secure it. The plastic will tell you with 100% certainty if anything is still going in and out. Let that sit for 3-5 days. Once you are 100% sure there are no more raccoons, secure the chimney cap permanently. I recommend screwing it down and using an adhesive.