Does the Law Allow You to Kill Raccoons?

Raccoon-5Killing raccoons is lawful under limited circumstances. Some jurisdictions in the United States and Canada do not allow killing raccoons under any circumstances, while some jurisdictions in the United States allow killing raccoons with almost no restrictions at all. In some states of the South in the United States, raccoon hunts are a state-sanctioned religious activity, and in some cities in Canada killing raccoons may result in charges of cruelty to animals and possession of a deadly weapon.

Places Where It Is Never Legal to Kill Raccoons

The capital city of the United States, Washington, D.C., forbids the killing of all non-commensal animals, that this, all animals that do not depend on humans to survive. Raccoons may be trapped by methods that do not result in injury. They could be captured in a Havahart trap but not in a "coon cuff" or dog-proof trap. District of Columbia law requires that captured raccoons must be released on public lands suitable for their survival at least 25 miles (40 km) outside the capital, in Virginia or Maryland.

The most populous city in Canada, Toronto, also permits the capture of raccoons, but HealthCanada regulations discourage releasing pest animals in other locations. In Toronto you would be expected to take the trapped raccoon to a veterinarian for euthanasia, but because most veterinarians will not allow wild animals into their offices because of the diseases they carry, there are very limited options for killing the animal lawfully. Killing the animal with gunshot or with a blunt object could result in criminal charges of cruelty to animals.

It is a good idea to check with wildlife or animal control officials in any large urban area before killing raccoons. Even smaller cities that are designated as wildlife sanctuaries may prohibit killing raccoons. Smaller cities that are wildlife sanctuaries, however, often have very helpful animal control departments. In some larger cities, animal control will only concern itself with a dead or sickened animal.

Places Where It Is Sometimes Legal to Kill Raccoons

Raccoon in trap3Most US states and most Canadian provinces regulate raccoons as fur-bearing animals and permit hunting, trapping, and killing raccoons with a license. The licenses were originally intended to allow killing raccoons for their fur, although skinning the raccoon is not necessary to use the license. A license must be obtained before setting out traps or going hunting, and there may be limits to the number of raccoons that can be killed, usually five per day. Most states also have limited hunting seasons, typically during the winter months. When raccoons are not in season, they may not be lawfully killed.

It is important to read hunting regulations carefully. Some of the hunting violations that can result in major fines include:

  • Hunting on Sunday. Some states allow hunting of raccoons but not other game until 2:00 A.M. Sunday morning.
  • Hunting with vehicle headlights or with lights attached to a vehicle. Other forms of lighting are likely to be legal.
  • Having a firearm in possession during crossbow season. Simply having a firearm with you is sometimes illegal.
  • Failing to make a distinction between calendar days and midnight to midnight days. There is usually a limit to the number of raccoons that can be caught in a 24-hour period, but the period may run from midnight to midnight or from noon to noon the following day. And of course,
  • Forgetting to carry your hunting permits for public lands. You will typically not be hunting on government property for raccoon control unless it adjoins your own.

Places Where It Is Always Legal to Kill Raccoons

Some states have "continuous seasons" for hunting raccoons. It is still necessary to obtain a hunting license or permit. It is still necessary to avoid discharging a firearm within city limits or where otherwise prohibited. It is necessary to avoid hunting on private property that does not belong to you without explicit permission. However, in some rural locations it is always permissible to kill raccoons if basic rules are met.

It is also usually (but not always) legal to kill a raccoon that is living inside your house. A snap trap that kills raccoons instantly may be the fastest way to get rid of raccoons in the attic, but it is necessary to make sure that pets and children do not have access to the space where you have set the traps and it is necessary to check traps daily to avoid having a carcass rot under your roof. Always handle live or dead raccoons with gloves to avoid catching or spreading disease, and always disinfect traps before they are reused or stored. You can read more about non-lethal methods for fending off raccoons <—by clicking this link.


  1. deb says

    we have used the trap for several days now . coon gets inside eats all the marshmellos then leave with trap sprung. it killed our mama bird and her 3 chicks. just bit their heads off. i even put out rat sticky cardboard hoping to deter it. not working.

    • Simon says

      Here are some suggestions for you:
      You could try putting the trap on a slope with the door at the top. You could try a smaller cage so the raccoon can’t turn around and open the door. You try a trap that has a stronger spring door.

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