Natural Pest Control Series– Declare War on the Raccoons!
Raccoons are a pain in the butt. They break into your garbage can and spread trash all over the street looking for their next rotting meal, they scratch up your fence by climbing over it, they come in to your house through your dog or cat door to eat your pets’ food, they poop in your garden, destroy your compost pile, live under your house or deck in your crawl space, and do you the kind favor of harvesting all of your tree fruit right before it ripens (thanks, racoons!) You may feel helpless against the wrath of the raccoon, but there are things that you can do to chase them out of your garden which starts with cutting them off from their food source or nesting area.
If you know that raccoons live under your deck, or in your crawl space, secure that area with a strong metal mesh, such as hardware cloth. Be sure to nail or screw it in tight since these pesky vermin can use their hands to pry things up. Before you secure these spaces, though, make sure they aren’t occupied first. It would be no good to have a litter of baby raccoons trapped under your house.
To remove the raccoons’ food source, you have to figure out what they are up to in your garden, which shouldn’t be hard since they normally make a mess. Make sure that your garbage bin and green waste bin are shut securely by making use of bungee cords, clamps, or some sort of garbage closure invention that is available at your local hardware store. Do you have a compost pile? If it is open, then avoid putting kitchen scraps in it and just focus on leaves and garden trimmings. If it is enclosed, and the raccoons still manage to get in, enclose the entire bin with chicken wire. Don’t forget to avoid putting meat or seafood scraps, fat, shells, or bones in your compost– not only is that a green flag for raccoons to rummage through, but it is also bad for your compost pile.
Fruiting trees ready for the harvest are another attractant to this beast. If your trees are small enough, you could drape a net or mesh material over the tree when the fruit is not yet ripe. Make sure that the net or mesh is big enough that you can secure it all the way around the canopy of the tree and to the trunk. That way the raccoons cannot sneak their way under the net. Finally, don’t leave your pet or backyard animal food outside and available– make sure your cat food, dog food, chicken scratch, goat feed, or whatever other kind of pet food that you might have is put away by the time that night rolls around. Raccoons are nocturnal, so if you really must feed the neighborhood feral cats, just make sure food is back inside by sunset.
Two more food sources for raccoons that you must consider is fish and grubs. Do you have a fish or Koi pond in your backyard? Do you have a hard time keeping the raccoons out? You could either quit keeping fish, or put some sort of mesh over the pond’s surface. Grubs are a fat, gray worm that live in the soil just below the surface. If you have raccoons digging in your garden, or rolling back the corners of your lawn sod, this is what they are looking for. Raccoons’ hearing is so good that they can detect the grubs moving in the soil. Kill the grubs with organic spray-on grub killer to get rid of the raccoons from tearing up your groundcover and lawn. Safer brand makes one that is safe to use in a yard that you keep your pets in.
Raccoons have very soft paws and they are adverse to stepping on pointy things. So, the next step at raccoon prevention would be to put spiky objects around your garden. Track your raccoons and figure out where they enter and exit your yard, and where they like to hang out in your garden. They tend to climb and hang out in tall trees, and if you have any holes under your fences, they will come through that way instead of climbing over. At the base of their climbing tree and at any fruit trees, and at the hole under the fence, and at any exit and entry points into the garden, spread items that they will be adverse to tread on. Next time you trim rose bushes or blackberry vines, instead of tossing the trimmed branches, put them in the raccoon path. There are many types of irritating objects you can put around the top of your fence– metal pigeon roost prevention spikes, low-voltage electrical fencing, barbed wire, nail or screw tips sticking out, or you could grow thorny vines there, such as climbing roses. Lemon trees, shrubby Palm trees, Firethorn (Pyracantha), Roses, and Barberries (Berberis) are all bushes that have thorns, and could be planted in a place that raccoons frequent. Also, certain plants have very sharp points at the ends of their leaves, such as Aloe, Yucca, Century Plant (Agave), and Cordyline.
Raccoons also have a strong aversion to a few different smells– if you put out shallow dishes around your garden filled with ammonia, vinegar, or “Critter Ridder”, the raccoons will be sure to stay away. Just remember that if you do that, you will have to refresh the dishes often. “Critter Ridder” can be purchased at specialty nurseries, and on the internet.
My last piece of advice is to eliminate their communal poop pile. If there is a pile of feces in your yard that is always in the same place, no matter how many times you pick it up, and it grows, this is a raccoon port-a-potty. Treat this communal bathroom spot as you would a pile of nuclear waste– stay away from it as best as you can while you are getting rid of it. I am not kidding when I tell you that contact with this pile of feces can literally kill you. Raccoons are host to all sorts of parasites, and they can be transferred to humans by direct or indirect contact with the feces. Some of the parasites are so tiny that they are like mushroom spores and just kind of float around the raccoon waste. Raccoons host a certain kind of parasite that will crawl up into a human’s brain and in turn kill the human. So, do not pick up this poop as you would with dog doo or cat droppings. Follow the instructions in the CDC’s guide to remove the raccoon latrine or call a professional to do it. Sometimes this isn’t enough effort as the raccoons will try again to build up their pile in the same area. Be persistent, and continue to bury the feces under dirt or soil. Eventually they will find a different bathroom.
I hope this information helps in your war with the raccoons. Don’t be discouraged– wars are won one battle at a time!
Dangnabbit! Go Away, Rabbit!