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March 13, 2012

Raccoons Raiding Your Garden or Garbage?

Easy prevention techniques will keep raccoons out of your yard, garden, pond, trash, or woodpile

Adapted from the book Wild Neighbors

  • Raccoons are very fond of water and are naturally attracted to ponds, but those ponds with fish offer a special bonus. Michael Taylor/iStockphoto.com

  • The Scarecrow™ is effective in chasing raccoons off of newly planted lawns. John Hadidian/The HSUS

  • Trash cans secured with bungee cords prevent raccoons from rummaging. The HSUS.

Smart and resourceful, raccoons often get into trouble when they take advantage of the enticing foods we offer in our yards and gardens. 

Yards

Raccoons can damage lawns—especially recently sodded ones—by digging for earthworms and grubs.

Often they simply reach under the strips and feel around for their meal, pulling out the grubs and worms without causing any damage, but sometimes they’ll tear up the sod. This is generally a short-term problem that lasts only as long as the watering does.

Solution
On small areas, try a hot sauce (capsaicin) repellent. On larger areas a band of repellent can be applied around the perimeter, lights can be left on to confuse the raccoons or tip you off to their presence, and a scaring device such as the "ScareCrow™" sprinkler can be set up to frighten any approaching raccoons.

Got raccoons in your birdfeeders? Here's what to do »

Gardens

The key here is to act quickly: Step in at the first sign of raccoon damage, because one taste probably won’t be enough. Raccoons like both fruits and vegetables: among their favorites are grapes and corn.

They often forage just before your crops are ready to be picked, so pay extra attention just before harvesting the crop.

Solutions

  • Set up a battery-operated radio by your crops, tuned to an all-night talk show, and turn it on for a few nights.
  • Set up single-strand electric fencing around areas where damage is frequent.

Ponds

Ornamental ponds attract raccoons. They’ll eat fish, frogs, or other aquatic life, and they may tear up plants while searching for food.

Solutions

  • If your pond is at least three feet deep in places, try creating hiding places for the fish and frogs by stacking cinder blocks (the kind with the holes) next to one another in groups of three or four, piling rocks, or sinking sections of ceramic tile (the sort used to line chimneys).
  • In extreme cases, and where it is allowed and will not present a hazard for children or pets, you can erect single-strand electric fencing around the pond anywhere from four to eight inches off the ground.

Trash

When raccoons get into the trash it’s not a raccoon problem; it’s a trash problem.

Solutions

  • Purchase trashcans made to keep wildlife from getting inside.
  • Secure the lids with bungee cords, rope tie-downs, or weights.
  • Take cans to the curb on the day on the day of trash pick-up rather than the night before.
  • Keep cans inside a shed or garage.
  • Freeze smelly food items such as fish between pick-ups.

Woodpiles

Raccoons may make a temporary den in a large woodpile, or they may use a woodpile as a latrine site.

Solution
If the latter occurs, do not use the wood in your fireplace. If it must be used for that purpose, bring in only as much as you can place directly into the fire. Do not store it or even set it down inside. Contaminated wood can be burned outside, and this is the best way to ensure that any roundworm eggs are destroyed. 

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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