Raccoons are probably one of the most tenacious—and clever—suburban pests, boasting a wide range of athletic skills. They climb, swim, jump, and run with ease, and their ability to break into trash cans is unparalleled in the animal kingdom.
Raccoons are nocturnal, wandering out at night to feed. They’re omnivores, which means they’ll eat pretty much anything. Sweet corn, grubs, fallen fruit, prize koi, leftover pet food—these critters aren’t picky. Despite their wild-at-heart nature, raccoons have adapted to suburban conditions, and yards with gardens provide the perfect hangout. Toss in a birdbath as a water source, and you’ve created a raccoon paradise.
Here are some signs that raccoons are visiting your yard or garden:
- Garbage cans opened and trash tossed about
- Holes in the lawn and mulch
- Fish missing from a water garden or fountain
- Empty birdfeeders each morning (feeders are often mangled and destroyed, too)
- Half-eaten produce and/or corn stalks pulled down and ears half-eaten
- Tubular droppings on logs, wood piles, or near the bottom of trees
Raccoons display a certain degree of ingenuity and persistence that’s alarming if you’re trying to deter them from their nightly jaunts through your yard. But there are ways to outwit this nocturnal marauder. Here are 7 simple ways to help keep raccoons away.
1. Protect your trash.
Raccoons can’t resist trash, so you’ll need multiple strategies in this area. Secure non-locking trash can lids with bungee cords or cinder blocks. Use heavy-duty trash bags and double-bag waste meat items to help reduce the odor.
2. Clean up.
Like many animals, raccoons love yards with places to hide as they scurry along. Remove brush, keep grass mowed, and prune overgrown shrubs. Limit other hiding places by sealing the space around the bases of sheds and decks with chicken wire or hardware cloth. (Don’t like the look? Hide the wire by adding a decorative lattice in front.) Seal entry points to chimneys, eaves, and attics.
3. Scare ‘em.
If raccoons are raiding your garden, try scaring them off with motion-detecting sprinklers or strobe lights. Radios and other noise-makers can also deter raccoons. Switch up your scare strategies to keep raccoons from becoming accustomed to one method.
4. Fence the garden.
A fence can help protect crops, but remember that raccoons are good climbers. The most effective fence to exclude raccoons is electric. Use a 2-wire electric fence, placing wires 6 and 12 inches above ground. Set the fence on a timer, running it only after dark.
5. Repel ‘em.
Though raccoon repellents tend to have mixed results simply because this pest is so persistent, they’re worth a try. In addition, some gardeners report success with deterring raccoon damage on corn if it’s surrounded by prickly squash or pumpkin vines. Others lace bird seed with cayenne (it doesn’t bother birds) to deter these masked bandits.
6. Remove food.
Gather any fallen fruit from trees, and don’t let overripe produce sit on the ground in vegetable gardens. If you toss food scraps in a compost bin, make sure it has a locking cover. Be sure to bring bird feeders in at night or hang them in a spot that isn’t accessible to raccoons.
7. Tend to pets.
Raccoons also love pet food of all kinds, so never leave food out overnight. Seal pet entry doors at night, especially if you know a raccoon has been visiting your yard. Make sure pets have all necessary shots just in case they interact with a raccoon (which are known to carry rabies and distemper).