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March 13, 2012

Raccoons and Birdfeeders

Keep hungry raccoons from eating too much of your birdseed

Adapted from the book Wild Neighbors

  • This may be comical and cute, but a raccoon in the birdfeeder is no laughing matter for most folks who feed the birds. Michael Szabo

  • Raccoon guards keep raccoons from climbing feeder poles. You can make one at home with easy-to-follow instructions or... Debra Firmani

  • ...you can buy one online, at a wild bird store, or at your local feed and seed supply store. Janet Snyder/The HSUS

  • Be sure to secure feed storages to keep raccoons for raiding the bird food kitchen. Janet Snyder/The HSUS

  • Use our tips to make sure you're just feeding the birds--and not clever raccoons like this one. iStockphoto.com

One quick and easy solution to keep raccoons from eating seed intended for your backyard birds is to put out only as much seed as the birds will eat by nightfall. Raccoons forage at night, so they’ll miss the free lunch you’re providing.

Another equally simple solution is to bring your birdfeeders in at night and put them back out the next morning. Either way, your birds won’t miss out and you’ll likely save on seed costs.

Here are some other options…

Crash Diet — Remove your birdfeeders for a week, or slowly reduce the amount of food in the feeders. When the banquet disappears or dwindles in size, raccoons may seek other places to dine.

Hang 'em high —Hang your birdfeeders on poles ½ inch or less in diameter, securing the pole firmly so it cannot be knocked over. Raccoons cannot climb such a thin pole, and they won’t be able to tip it over to access the seed.

High-wire act — Suspend your birdfeeders from a wire extending between two trees. String soda bottles lengthwise along each side of the feeder if you also want to prevent squirrels from walking the wire to get to the feeder—if a squirrel approaches, the bottles will spin, returning him to the ground.

Waste not, want not — Reduce the seed that falls to the ground (an attractant for raccoons) by using only one type of seed per feeder and using feeders that catch fallen seed.

I can do that — If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can make a raccoon guard for your pole-mounted feeders. Or if you are not so handy, you can purchase a raccoon guard at most places that sell birdfeeding supplies.

The old clothesline trick — Set up a clothesline for hanging the birdfeeder, isolated from tree branches or other structures that might provide access for raccoons.

Never apply greasy, oily, or jelly-like substances to feeder poles or wires.

Skip the grease — Don't grease up feeder poles or wires. If it gets on a bird’s feathers they cannot preen it out, and when feathers cannot be preened, they don’t work well for flight or insulation.  That leaves the bird vulnerable to predators, bad weather, and disease.

Keep a lid on it — Finally, store your birdseed supplies in galvanized metal cans with tight-fitting lids. Such containers do not rust and they keep the seed safe from water, insects, and animals who might chew through a plastic container. To keep the lid extra secure, add a bungee cord or place a brick or large stone on top.

Resources

» Purchase a copy of Wild Neighbors, the go-to guide for useful, humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife. 
» If you are located within the D.C. Metro Area, take advantage of our wildlife conflict resolution service.
» Read Dorcas MacClintock’s Natural History of Raccoons (Blackburn Press, 2003) to learn more. 

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