Most of my family and close friends know that the last few years when I was living in Rockport, Texas, my house got invaded by raccoons. Generations of them. Year after year, they set up camp in my attic and raised families, home-schooled their children, had barbeques, used my kitchen ceiling as their toilet, tore into my A/C ducts and piping looking for water, had fights, and conducted their annual barrel races up there.

So some of you have heard my frustrations and comical stories, and my increasingly expensive repairs and attempts at trying to eradicate them from my life. But no one knows the full story. Until now.

Raccoon in a tree
Chased up a tree by my Chihuahua, less than half its size! Click to enlarge photo.

First and foremost, in hindsight I guess I have to take full responsibility for creating this nightmare in the first place. When I started trying to alleviate the stray and feral cat/kitten problem in my neighborhood, a story I tell in full here, I was feeding some of the cats outdoors. I know now that what I should have done is bring all the food indoors at night. Because I was stupid and did not do that, I didn’t realize I was attracting possums and raccoons who would finish off whatever food was leftover each night. And once they got wind of free food, that was it—they were permanent residents of my yard, just as much as the feral cats were.

I’ve also told in a previous story that the walls in my 100-year-old home were hollow, with no insulation in between the exterior asbestos siding and the interior shiplap walls. So it was an easy matter for any animal to get under my pier-and-beam house with lots of open crawl space, find an access hole, and crawl straight up those hollow walls to the attic. I guess in the colder winter months, it was just the cozy spot the raccoons were looking for to hunker down each night.

My first realization that there was a sizable animal in my attic came one evening when something was actively trying to paw its way through the flimsy door that separated the attic crawlspace from my upstairs bathroom. It was a half-size door you had to bend over to walk through and only made with thin plywood—on one side is my small upstairs bathroom in a dormer and on the other side was the attic with the A/C system and all its flex ductwork. I could hear something walking around on all that flex duct (like scratching on tin foil) and then pushing on the lower corner of the door, trying to get it open. Fairly frightening!

The very next day I called an extermination company, and for $80 they came out and set up a Hav-A-Hart trap in the attic to try to catch the bugger. He said he could tell by the smell of the urine it was a raccoon. It would cost me $25 for each trip out to check on the trap, and a final disposal fee if we actually caught anything.

Oh, by the way: my flex ductwork was all torn to shit. Cool air was pouring into the attic space, instead of into my house where it belonged. So as soon as we caught this guy, I would have an expensive repair on my hands.

It took a few days before we caught this particular raccoon, but we finally did. Then he told me the bad news: this was a young one, meaning there were probably others from his family that found their way up there too. He said I might think about getting my own trap at the local feed store and trapping them myself before they made it to the attic space. Or, getting Rockport Animal Control involved. He said, “If there’s an area overrun with raccoons or possums, they’ll let you use one of their traps and will come and pick up the animal the next day. Give them a call. Because it will get expensive to keep using us.” (Obviously, he wasn’t the business owner.)

That repair bill for my flex ductwork was around $350.

Of course, the exterminator was right. Rocky Raccoon had a brother, and he came back to the attic. As soon as I heard those familiar scratching sounds, I called Animal Control the next day and asked if I could place one of their traps in my attic. They seemed happy to help and dropped one off.

That evening I baited it with cat food like the exterminator showed me. I carefully set it down in the crawlspace and closed the door in the upstairs bathroom. About midnight, I hear WHAM! When the trap door slammed down, it was so loud I heard it all the way down the hall in my bedroom. And then I started to hear that raccoon fight—and scream—and screech—and try to wrestle its way out of that trap—for the next 9 hours. It was one of the longest nights of my life.

I called Animal Control at 8:00:01 the next morning, and said “COME OVER HERE AND GET THIS RACCOON!!” I was so traumatized over listening to that animal suffer all night—if you’ve never heard an animal shriek in a trap for hours on end at close range, it’s a really disturbing, disorienting thing. I vowed then and there: no more traps in my attic. I would find another way.

After that, Animal Control would lend me the traps and I would put them where it looked like they were gaining entry to my house. They would come and pick them up the next day if I caught anything. But there were several problems with this plan. First, it wasn’t always a raccoon in the trap in the morning. Sometimes there would be a possum, or a feral cat (or one of MY cats), none of which ever got up into my attic space. So I was tying up their traps for weeks but only catching a raccoon maybe 1/3 of the time. Then, they took their sweet old time after I called them in the morning to pick up the critter, sometimes well into the afternoon. This stressed me out—I just didn’t like seeing a caged animal any longer than I had to, and I think it was harder on the animals than it needed to be. Also, they didn’t work weekends. So if some unlucky critter walked into that thing between Friday night and Sunday, it was up to yours truly to relocate it.

They eventually let me know that this couldn’t go on any longer—I was monopolizing their traps too long and they needed them for the City’s other work. I would have to buy my own traps if I wanted to continue trapping raccoons, and they could come pick them up in the morning and return my traps to me.

So I trudged down to our local feed store and bought a couple of my own Hav-A-Hart traps and tried their proposed system out. I liked these ones in particular because the animal didn’t get injured at all in the trap, and the store employee showed me how it was almost impossible for animals to get out of them. This worked well until I caught my first whopper of a raccoon over a weekend. One Friday night I set the thing up, forgetting that no one would be working until Monday morning to do a pickup. Saturday morning there was a huge, very pissed off male raccoon trying frantically to free itself from the trap.

What was I going to do?? No way could I wait until Monday; it was summer, it would die in there. I quickly realized I would have to get that trap into the back of my SUV and release it somewhere out in the country.

Every time I approached the trap, the raccoon would lunge at me and make the fiercest, scariest growl I’ve ever heard out of something the size of an overweight cat, causing me to jump back in fright. This was one mean mo-fo. It could reach its paws about an inch through the crate and extend those claws, trying to scratch at me. It looked to be about 20 pounds and the trap was long and rectangular, so every time I tried to pick it up from the top handle, the raccoon would lunge and spin around and make the thing rock wildly back and forth, and I didn’t know how long the flimsy handle would hold out. (Note to self: write a letter to the manufacturer about how not ergonomically designed this piece of crap was, especially once it contained a still very much alive, very angry wild animal. For starters: two handles balanced across the top might have been nice.)

Now being thoroughly freaked out, I found the thickest pair of gardening gloves I owned, a long gardening hook to open the trap without having to have my hand right there in harm’s way, and an old can of mace that I had no idea if it was still in working condition. Thus fully prepared, I managed to wrestle the trap into the back of my car, all the while with this thing lunging at me, and me talking to it softly as if to a child, trying to calm it down.

I drove out into the country and found a spot with a small pond (“that’s good, there’s water nearby so it can get a drink”) and pulled off to the side of the road. I got out and lifted the trap down onto the grassy shoulder with it still shrieking at me. Then I geared up with gloves, garden hook, and mace.

I positioned myself at the back end of the trap, opening end facing away from me. I very shakily maneuvered the hook underneath the trap door, getting ready to release it with my left hand. My right hand held the can of mace.

“OK, mother fucker. This is how this is going to go down. I’m going to open this door, and you are going to run straight out, AWAY from me. You do anything else, and I’m going to nail your ass with this mace. You got that?”

Even with all my bravado, it took a good 10 minutes of overcoming pure, white fear for me to open that trap door. When I finally did, the raccoon ran out about 2 feet, then hesitated and looked back at me, as if to say:

“I’m memorizing your face, BITCH. I’ll be back.”

After that trial by fire, I became an old hand at trapping and releasing both raccoons and possums in Rockport. Because I’d stopped leaving cat food outside for my kitties, I could no longer blame myself for the wild animal population in the neighborhood. Other factors, such as the abandoned property right next door to mine, were part of the problem.

When someone from Animal Control finally told me that the only way they’d never find their way back to my neighborhood was if I relocated them over a large body of water, such as Copano Bay, I finally started having a modicum of success. I started releasing them in the vicinity of a local state park on the other side of the bridge heading into Rockport, and it seemed to make a difference in my local population.

3 raccoons in a trap
Three juvenile raccoons in my trap. “Move over! No, YOU move over!” Click to enlarge photo.

One morning I went out to check the trap and saw that I’d hit the Mother Lode: three juvenile raccoons had managed to squeeze themselves into the same trap! Just my luck this was on a weekend again, so I had to release The Three Stooges by myself. These three were younger and quite timid, and gave me no trouble when I picked up the trap and put it into my car. When I stopped the car in the vicinity of the state park, put the trap on the ground, and opened it up, they just sat there. No one moved. One of them sat back down in the trap and relaxed. They didn’t realize they had their freedom. Jus’ chillin’. I had to rattle the trap and bang on the back end before the first one finally woke up to the fact that he could get out of there and “runnoft.” The other two stretched, yawned, and followed suit. [10 points to whoever gets the movie reference.]

My final episode is not for the faint of heart; in fact I should give it an R rating. It’s not sexually explicit, but it is gruesome.

About a year and a half into this Battle of the Titans, it became clear in the spring of 2016 that there was a mama and her babies in my attic. Just too much noise, too many baby sounds for it to be anything else. This really had me worried on multiple levels. I’d already experienced raccoon pee streaming down my kitchen walls and through the ceiling (yes, literally) on previous occasions.

Hammered tin ceiling tiles
My newly installed hammered tin ceiling, which first got ruined by the raccoons and a leaking A/C system, and later by Hurricane Harvey rains. Click to enlarge photo.

I had a beautiful kitchen ceiling of hammered tin tiles that were installed over 50+ year-old beadboard, and God knows what behind that. All these older layers of ceiling were half-rotted and the previous owners (and me) simply kept covering them up with newer materials. So, lots of permeable seams. Nothing was sealed like a sheetrocked, taped and bedded room in a modern house.

So when I say it was easy for something to stream through, well, just take my word for it. Now with an entire family living up there, I could potentially have a colossal problem on my hands. But the problem I was worrying about was not the problem I got.

One of the babies starting screeching one afternoon and into the night. It continued the next day. It sounded like the thing was being attacked. I didn’t know if the mama took all her babies out and left this one behind and it was in distress. I didn’t know if something else got up there and was attacking this baby, or if two adult raccoons were fighting up there. The crying echoed through the ceiling into my living room, loud and clear.

I called people—what should I do, this is horrible!! I was told to put a trap back up there and maybe it will walk into the trap and we can rescue it from its misery. I tried that. Nothing walked into the trap and the screaming continued. For about 2 days. Then it suddenly quit. I didn’t know what that meant either. Did the thing die? Did mama come back and rescue it? What?

About a week later I had my answer. I was sitting in my kitchen one day, having lunch. Something white dropped on my table next to me. Something white that was moving. I looked closer.

Oh. My. God. It was a live maggot. Another one dropped. I looked up to my ceiling, my lovely, hammered tin ceiling. There were patches of wriggling, white maggots that had somehow wormed their way through the seams of that ceiling and were dropping onto my kitchen table.

I admit it. I said it. This die-hard feminist finally broke. I screamed those three little, forbidden words: “WHERE’S MY HUSBAND??”

I applied the dumbest remedy I could think of: I grabbed my long-handled Swiffer mop, put a pad on it, sprayed it with Windex, got on a footstool, and wiped my ceiling back and forth, hoping to suffocate those little bastards and all their little wiggling friends with ammonia. I repeated this every few hours until it looked like no more were going to come through.

But they weren’t done with me yet. In the next few days, hundreds, nay thousands of houseflies invaded my house, and me without a flyswatter. I could almost open the doors and let them out easier then to try to kill them. They drove my animals as insane as they drove me. Needless to say, it put the kai-bosh on any entertaining plans I might have had.

Oh, by the way: my A/C ductwork repair bill after The Brady Family moved out was more than $500.

This was the last straw for me battling with raccoons. The abandoned house next door had been purchased and was being renovated, and I kept an eye on the crews over there. As soon as they were wrapping up that huge job, I asked the general contractor who he would recommend to do a job for me. He sent a small crew over, who I hired to rip out all the lower flashing on my house. They then installed rabbit fencing to block every access hole where any critter the size of Mini Mouse could crawl up through my walls and gain access to my attic spaces. Then they replaced the lower flashing, which led to a new paint job for the entire exterior of the house.

Should I have done this earlier? You bet I should have! Lesson learned! It was a nonstop battle of putting out fires in that historical home…which fire do I put out first? I’m grateful I no longer have to hold that particular fire hose.

After blocking all possible passageways, I had peace and solitude for the next 2 years. No more scratching in my ceiling. Finally, the nightmare was over.

Until…it’s November 2018, 2 weeks before I’m moving out. I had just sold my home. Hurricane Harvey was a year ago; I’m moving to Houston. I can’t believe my ears…what’s that up in the attic?? I’ll be a son of a…those little bastards found their way back up there. I’m not saying a word. 😊

If you have any raccoon or other wildlife stories, I’d love it if you’d share them in the Comments section below!

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9 Responses

  1. Gail, thanks for the belly laughs. Love this story & that it didn’t happen to me. I would have moved that 1st night! 😳😐

    1. Darlene – always glad I can provide a little entertainment for you! Thank God it’s all behind me now…I feel more sane.

  2. What a great story Gail. We have had raccoons in our yard, but never in the house. A friend of mine who lives in town once said “They are so cute ” HA ! This would make a great movie – remember Arachnophobia ? 🙂

    1. BARB!! Is it really you?! I’m so thrilled you’ve found my blog and liked my story! Wow that means the world to me. Well thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to the person who helped me get my driver’s license and other important rites of passage…really appreciate it! Please subscribe to my mailing list!


    1. Thank you Matt, and welcome! Yes it seems that no matter whether it’s raccoons or squirrels, the wildlife always defeats us in the end. Thanks for commenting!

  3. You should have called Walt Disney he could have made a cartoon out of your story minus the swearing of course

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