How To Decipher What Critter Is In Your AtticImage of raccoon in chimney



The first symptom of an animal problem in the attic is the noise. You can hear scraping or thumping, or scittering or nuts rolling around or even vocal noises. But you really don’t know what kind of animal or animals are up there! It’s really useful to know what kind of critters are living in your attic, so the solution to solving the problem varies greatly depending on the type of animal. Removing raccoons is a very different tactic than removing rodents! Let’s discuss the different hints. First up is the noise. If the sounds are in the daytime, particularly early morning or evening, you have squirrels in your home. If the noise is at night but very heavy sounding, and sluggish, it’s likely raccoons. Opossums are another choice, but they are rarer. Raccoons are also more likely to produce vocal noises. If the noise is a quick pitter-patter at night, particularly if there’s some noise going up and down the walls, then it’s likely rats or mice, though it may be flying squirrels. If you hear fluttering and chirping, it may be bats or birds. Read all about the kinds of animal sounds in the attic.

Entry Point

Second clue is the entry hole. Examine the outside of the building, particularly around the eves, vents and roof, and you’ll find the entry holes. If it’s a big hole with damage, like a torn open roof or a busted eave, that’s a raccoon! If it’s a hole maybe 2 inches in diameter with chewing around the perimeter, that’s squirrel. If it’s tiny holes, maybe with brown grease, that’s rats or mice. Read all about checking the house for animal holes to assess the sort of animals entering the home. There may be other clues on your house or at the entry hole, such as footprints, hair, and so on.


Third, what is left behind in the attic is the real clincher. There you can find various clues, most importantly, you will recognize the feces. If you know how to recognize these, you will know your culprit. You can look up many examples of all the various animal feces. Look at examples of Raccoon Feces, or Squirrel Feces, or Rat Feces, or Mouse Feces, or Bat Feces.


You should also look at the animal tracks left in the dust in the attic. Check on almost every surface not covered by insulation, and there should be a layer of dust with animal tracks. Or you can look for muddy footprints. Raccoons are infamous for this. Rats and mice leave brown grease traces in areas of heavy movement too. The infographic to the left shows what different animal tracks look like. Though truth be told, it’s probably unlikely that an amateur can locate and recognize tracks correctly.


Finally, you should look at the animal damage such as chewing. If you see tiny chew marks on wires, that’s the work of a rodent. But a duct entirely ripped up is the work of a raccoon. Large quantities of plant debris in one location were typically from squirrels. Click here for pictures of animal damage in the attic to help you decide what critters you have up there. If you have experience like me, you can probably know right away by the odor in the attic! Each animal has a signature scent.

Of course, you can also watch your house outside, particularly if you know the entry hole and time of operation, and catch the animal in the act. Rarely can you really see the animals in the attic. It happens for me less than 5 percent of the time. Much of the time the animals will crawl down a dark wall or under insulation, or in the shadows, and remain super still. But when you read the signs, it’s easy to identify what species you have.