Is it Illegal to Kill a Raccoon on Your Property?

Raccoons are intelligent, adaptable mammals that are native to North America. They are omnivores with a diverse diet and are well-known for their dexterous paws and distinctive facial markings. Despite their charming appearance, raccoons can become a nuisance for homeowners when they rummage through trash bins, create messes, or invade attics and crawlspaces. This guide aims to address the legality of killing raccoons on private property and answer common questions regarding raccoon control.

Federal and State Laws Regarding Wildlife and Raccoons

Federal Laws

Federal laws pertaining to wildlife protection in the United States include the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). While raccoons are not considered endangered or migratory birds, it is important to understand that there are overarching federal laws that protect wildlife in general.

State Laws

Laws regarding raccoons vary from state to state. Some states classify raccoons as game animals, while others designate them as furbearers or nuisance wildlife. In many cases, it is legal to kill raccoons on your property, but there are often specific regulations regarding the methods used and the time of year when it is permissible to do so. Be sure to research your state’s specific regulations to ensure compliance.

Legalities of Hunting and Trapping

Hunting and trapping raccoons are subject to state laws and regulations. A hunting license may be required, and there might be restrictions on the use of firearms or other weapons. Similarly, trapping laws dictate what types of traps can be used and any guidelines for setting and checking traps. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with these regulations before attempting to kill raccoons on your property.

Legal Methods of Raccoon Control

Non-lethal Methods

Preventative Measures

Taking steps to deter raccoons from entering your property is the most effective and humane method of control. Some preventative measures include:

  • Securing trash bins with bungee cords or latches
  • Removing pet food and other potential food sources from your yard
  • Sealing entry points to your home, such as vents and holes in the roof or siding

Live Trapping

Live trapping is a popular non-lethal method of raccoon control. When using live traps:

  • Choose an appropriate trap size to safely and humanely capture raccoons
  • Follow your state’s legal requirements for trap usage, which may include marking the trap with your name and address or checking the trap at specific intervals
  • Research your state’s relocation laws and recommendations, as some states have strict regulations on where and how trapped raccoons can be released

Lethal Methods

Shooting (where legal and safe)

Shooting raccoons is legal in some states, but there are often restrictions on the use of firearms or other weapons. If considering this method, be aware of:

  • Local firearm regulations and restrictions
  • Safety concerns and precautions, such as ensuring a clear line of sight and using a proper backstop to avoid injury to others or damage to property

Euthanizing Trapped Raccoons

If a trapped raccoon must be euthanized, it is important to follow legal guidelines and use humane methods. Consider:

  • Your state’s specific regulations on euthanasia methods, which may include the use of carbon dioxide or other approved methods
  • The ethical implications of euthanizing an animal and whether other control methods may be more appropriate

Risks and Consequences of Illegal Raccoon Control

Legal Penalties

Illegal raccoon control can result in various legal penalties, including:

  • Fines for violating hunting, trapping, or wildlife protection laws
  • Loss of hunting or trapping privileges
  • Criminal charges, depending on the severity of the offense

Ecological Consequences

Illegal or irresponsible raccoon control can have negative impacts on local ecosystems, such as:

  • Disruption of the balance between predator and prey populations
  • The spread of diseases and parasites due to improper handling or disposal of carcasses

Seeking Professional Assistance

When to Contact a Wildlife Control Expert

If raccoons are causing significant property damage or pose a health risk, or if you are uncertain about how to legally and humanely handle a raccoon problem, it may be time to contact a professional wildlife control expert.

What to Expect from Professional Services

Hiring a wildlife control expert typically involves the following steps:

  1. Assessment and diagnosis: The expert will assess your property to identify the extent of the raccoon problem and determine the most effective control methods.
  2. Humane and effective control methods: A professional will employ humane techniques to remove raccoons from your property, such as exclusion, one-way doors, or live trapping and relocation.
  3. Cleanup and prevention recommendations: After raccoons have been removed, the expert may provide guidance on cleaning up raccoon waste and preventing future infestations.

Finding a Reputable Wildlife Control Company

When searching for a wildlife control company, consider the following factors:

  • Licensing and certification: Ensure the company holds the appropriate state licenses and certifications for wildlife control.
  • Experience and customer reviews: Look for a company with a track record of successful raccoon removal and positive customer reviews.


Understanding the legality of raccoon control is essential for responsible homeowners. While it may be legal to kill raccoons on your property in some cases, non-lethal methods are often more humane and effective. Always research your state’s specific laws and regulations before attempting to kill or remove raccoons, and consider seeking professional assistance if you are unsure about how to proceed. By using legal and humane methods, you can effectively manage raccoon populations while minimizing risks to the animals, your property, and the environment.


  • Nathan Collins

    Having spent years working in the landscaping industry, Nathan Collins has cultivated a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. He is committed to helping others appreciate the beauty in their backyards, whether it's through identifying rare rocks and minerals or crafting the perfect landscape.

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