Discourage raccoons from pillaging the yard and garden

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Last Updated: 
November 1, 2006

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Raccoons are wonderful animals to watch, but can be a real pain in the garden. They dig in vegetable beds, eat fruit off trees and vines, knock down corn and break into bird feeders. Knowing a little bit about the life and habits of this gregarious animal can help you protect your landscaping and produce from these masked marauders.

Nocturnal by nature, raccoons often go about the business of searching for food late evening, night and early morning. They are omnivores, meaning they eat a wide variety of foods, from fruit, vegetables, eggs and birds to insects, carrion, fish and other aquatic animals, pet food and garbage.

Adult male raccoons are widely ranging, traveling territories of 3 to 20 square miles. Females cover much smaller areas, usually about 1 to 6 square miles.

Attracted to the abundance of food, water and shelter in urban and suburban residential areas, these masked mammals are often more plentiful than people think. Since they mostly come out at night, evidence of their passing is far more often seen than the animals themselves.

Raccoons den up in hollow trees, buildings, drain pipes, under decks, in brush piles and abandoned burrows.

What can a homeowner faced with raccoon problems do to discourage these visitors?

“Scare tactics rarely work as raccoons quickly acclimate to their use. Trapping raccoons is not an effective deterrent, but it is effective at removing a problem animal. However, you must have a plan for dealing with the animal once captured.” said Bruce Dugger, Mace Professor of Watchable Wildlife in Oregon State University’s Department of Fisheries & Wildlife. “Raccoons are cute but not cuddly, do not attempt to pet or pick up wild raccoons.”

Dugger offers the following suggestions for reducing temptations for raccoons in residential areas:

Bring your pet food and water bowls inside at night.

Net your fish pond, if it is small.

Have tight-fitting trash can lids or wire the loose ones shut.

Harvest your garden produce as soon as it is ready and pick up wind-fall fruit promptly.

Block foundation vents.

Prevent entry into under deck habitat with wooden latticework. Be careful not to trap animals already inside. If an animal is present, close up all but a 12” diameter opening, return at night, after the animal has left, and close completely. If a female has kits, the name for baby raccoons, you may need to wait until they have left their den (3-7 weeks after birth) to close the area safely.

Trim tree branches back away from house and shed roofs.

Use an electric “hot” wire around your fish pond, corn patch or berry vines. A 2-wire electric fence, with wires 5 and 10 inches above ground is most effective.

Author: Carol Savonen
Source: Bruce Dugger