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Deal with raccoons quickly. (Under Our Roof: Around the House).

Q: A family of raccoons moved in under the eaves of my house during the winter. When I'm on the upper floor, I can hear them thumping around in the walls and the crawlspace. What's the best way to get them out?

Joe T., Methuen, Mass.

A: The best way? Fast. Raccoons, squirrels and other unwanted guests from outdoors can do major dam age to a home's insulation, wiring and walls. Allowing them to stay can be costly.

Raccoons are smart critters. At one house I helped restore, a pair of raccoons actually chewed and clawed through the roof sheathing, bent back a shingle and propped it open with another piece of shingle for easy access to the crawlspace. At another house, -squirrels and raccoons chewed through the old plaster walls to gain access to the third floor. It turned out that a former tenant had been feeding them during the summer, and the animals decided to move in when the weather cooled down.

Setting out poison or placing it in the walls might be a quick way to rid your home of critters, but it's not the best. Rodents that consume the poison will most likely die inside the walls, out of your reach. A decomposing-animal odor will permeate every room in your house for a week or more. Additionally, the surviving rodents may learn to avoid the poison.

Crawling through the attic or crawlspace with a pellet gun and picking off intruders also is not advisable. You will most likely either miss or just wound the critter. If you wound the critter, and it crawls into the walls and dies, you've got a smelly house. Added to the risk that you might hurt yourself or someone else, it's not a good idea.

I recommend setting live traps -and deterrents. These aren't foolproof, but they will remove the problem without resorting to poisoning or otherwise harming the animal. Professional removal services are advisable. The services set traps, check them regularly, move them if necessary and remove the animals once they are caught.

To deter wild animals from moving in again, spray ammonia at the old entry and exit points daily while you repair the damage. Spray areas that might provide an entry point or shelter for the animals in spring, summer and fall. Clean the gutters and eaves in spring and fall, and screen off potential shelter areas with steel mesh.

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Date:May 1, 2003
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