Monday, January 19, 2009

How To Deal With Problem Raccoons

There has recently been a discussion on our gardening forum about how to deal with problem raccoons. There are plenty of gardeners who feel that the only good raccoon is a dead raccoon. Now I know that (at least in Florida) there is an over-abundance of raccoons, so many feel that the best thing to do is to kill any problem raccoons that they encounter. As long as someone has compassion and consideration for the animal and makes sure that it has a quick and painless death, and it doesn't suffer undue stress (too many people don't consider that causing an animal fear is cruelty in itself), then I will turn my head and say, "To each his own."

When I worked in my past job in property management, I dealt with many employees and residents who complained about raccoons getting into their garbage. I heard horror stories of residents trapping raccoons, and then drowning them in the lakes. I told more than one that you can't say that raccoons are just stupid, valueless creatures that deserve no consideration and to which you can do anything you wish, and yet say that they are so smart that there is nothing that you can do to prevent them from getting into your garbage and to protect your garden. You can't have it both ways-- it's one or the other. You have to be smarter than them.

For those who wish to take a more patient and understanding approach, here are some suggestions for handling raccoon issues. These suggestions come from the book Total Critter Control.
  • Make garbage less accessible. Store cans in a secure garage, use bungee cords to secure the lid onto the can.
  • To further dissuade coons from your garbage, you can also make it less appetizing by spraying the compound like Ropel on the plastic bags. It is foul tasting, is relatively inexpensive, and is harmless to animals and the environment.
  • Some have found that by offering pet food, they were able to persuade the coons to leave the garden and lawn alone.
  • Coons like grub worms that infest the lawn. An old remedy to keep them off your lawn is to spray the lawn with a mixture of shampoo and ammonia (Hinder is a liquid concentrate that contains the ammonia soaps of fatty acids. It is approved for use on edibles. It can be obtained through a farm supply store or catalog.)
  • Also for grub worms (which is what the coons are after), you can apply milky spore to kill the grubs. Or alter the watering of the lawn, as grubs can't survive in dry soil.
  • Fruit trees: If the tree is isolated so that the coon can't jump from one to another, you can "flash" the tree trunk by putting a collar of slippery metal around the trunk.
  • Coons love dining at small ponds-- they corral fish into a corner of the pond and then grab them. Keep the pond deeper than 2 1/2 feet deep, and they can't do this.
  • Another pond solution is to put 16-18 inch pieces of terra-cotta pipe in the bottom of the pond to give the fish somewhere to hide. After the pipe is in the pond for awhile, the pipes become moss-covered and blend right in.
  • For birdhouses, you can try using a "Bird Guardian", which is a device that is added to the opening of the birdhouse and used to dissuade egg-eaters like coons.
  • To help prevent a coon from making its den in your yard, get a dog or listen to rock music-- many small animals dislike rock music. An outdoor speaker at their nest site can convince them to move on. And they don't like "unnatural" noises in general.
  • To keep coons from using your deck as a nesting or play site, spread mothballs on it or douse it with ammonia. Coons don't like strong odors.
  • If a coon gets in your home, usually you can just leave the windows in the room open, and the coon will find its own way out.
  • Make sure that chimneys are capped to keep out unwanted guests.
  • Trapping is a last-ditch effort, when all other avenues have been tried. Sometimes there is only one problem animal, although many may be joining in, and once the one instigator is removed the others move on. (Keep in mind that only about 50% of relocated animals survive. Once they are relocated, they find themselves in some other animals territory, and must suddenly fight for their own territory, seek out new food and water sources in a strange area, and try to find a new den. Many can't survive this.)
I hope that someone may find these suggestions helpful, and maybe it will spare both a raccoon and a homeowner some pain and heartache. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all learn to coexist?


  1. For years, I wondered why we didn't have any problems with raccoons. Then I found out last year that all of the raccoons that would have been visiting my yard or other neighbors' yards had converged on just one house on the street. It was the house that had a cat door leading to their garage, where they had a large supply of cat food out every day.

  2. hee hee

    They are crafty devils. My boss had raccoons that would pry up the bottom of the garage door to get into the garage. So far we've had no trouble here at my new place (fingers crossed)!


I'm new at all of this, and would love to hear any of your comments, questions or suggestions. Thank you for coming by!