How to Keep Raccoons Out of Your Yard
Your yard has many hot spots for invading raccoons. Find out which spots in your yard are most vulnerable to raccoon activity, and how you can keep them away.
1. Garden Beds
Main Attraction: Raccoons are omnivores, meaning that they eat all kinds of plants as well as animals. They’re accurately known as marauders of sweet corn patches, but they also commonly feast on melons, berries, grapes, and a variety of other garden vegetables.
Damage: The most recognizable signs of raccoon damage in your garden are corn stalks bent to the ground and, of course, the kernels chewed off the ears. You may notice melon rinds clawed open, with the flesh inside scraped out, and other vegetables may be partially or completely eaten. It’s difficult to catch raccoons in the act, since they are most active late at night, when people are not around.
Solutions: Raccoons have a strong sense of smell and taste, and they rely on their very dexterous paws to help them find their way and access food. You can keep raccoons out of your garden by irritating their sense of smell, taste, and touch with hot-pepper granules. Create a barrier by spreading a granular raccoon repellent around the garden. Motion-activated sprinklers can also be used to keep raccoons away by releasing startling bursts of water, sound, and motion.
Prevention Tips: For the most comprehensive protection, surround your garden with a low electric fence that has one wire about 5 to 6 inches from the ground and another 4 to 6 inches above the first. You can save power by turning it on only from dusk to dawn.
2. Trash Cans
Main Attraction: Your kitchen waste can includes lots of items that are appealing to raccoons, especially meat and fish scraps. Once raccoons find sources of high-value foods like these, they will make regular visits and be extremely persistent in getting to it.
Damage: Knocking over trash cans seems like raccoons’ favorite sport. They also remove trash-can lids and tear apart plastic bags, scattering garbage and leaving a mess for you to clean up.
Solutions: Attach the lids to the cans with straps or stretchable cords and, if possible, secure the cans so they can’t be tipped over. Liquid spray repellents are effective because they irritate the animals’ highly sensitive noses and feet. Liquid repellents can be applied directly to surfaces—spray them right onto trash bags and trash cans to deter pesky raccoons.
Prevention Tips: Store trash cans inside a garage or other enclosed structure except on pick-up days. If that’s not possible, set up a motion-activated sprinkler, which will repel raccoons by releasing startling bursts of water and sound.
3. Bird Feeders
Main Attraction: Nuts, seeds, and dried fruit—the ingredients in most birdseed mixes—and suet are high-calorie foods that raccoons seek out, particularly in winter when other sources of nutrients are scarce.
Damage: Raccoons may nibble from feeders just as birds and squirrels do, but when a feeder is knocked to the ground, broken open, and emptied, chances are raccoons were the culprits.
Solutions: Spray a liquid raccoon repellent on your feeders and poles. These repellents will irritate raccoons but won’t affect birds.
Prevention Tips: Place bird feeders well away from any structures (such as a fence) or overhanging tree limbs that make them accessible to raccoons. Choose sturdy poles for your feeders and fasten them firmly in the ground. Thread the poles through 3-foot-long pieces of PVC pipe before securing them; the slippery surface makes it difficult for raccoons to climb up the poles.
4. Fish pond
Main Attraction: Many homeowners create small backyard ponds so they can enjoy the soothing sounds of running water and the relaxing fun of watching koi swim back and forth. For raccoons, these ponds offer both fresh water and easily obtainable sources of high-protein prey.
Damage: An adult raccoon can eat all the fish in a small backyard pond in a single night. They also feed on frogs, which often live around established backyard ponds. Herons consume large quantities of pond fish, too, but they are active during the day, not at night. Potted plants in and around backyard ponds are typically knocked over when raccoons, rather than herons, are the raiding party.
Solutions: Keep raccoons away from the pond altogether by creating a repelling barrier around it. A granular raccoon repellent can be sprinkled around the perimeter of the pond to keep nuisance raccoons away. Motion-activated sprinklers are a great alternative and can be placed around the perimeter to repel raccoons from the area.
Prevention Tips: Raccoons don’t swim—they catch fish from the sides or shallow parts of a pond. Make the pond at least 3 to 4 feet deep with steep sides to deter raccoons from trying to catch the fish.
5. Shed, garage, or doghouse
Main Attraction: Undisturbed shelter safe from predators is highly desirable to raccoons raising their young, and the protected spaces inside sheds, garages, and unoccupied doghouses are ideal for them. Pet food or birdseed stored in or around these places can also lure raccoons to the area.
Damage: Raccoons have litters of three to six babies, primarily in mid- to late spring. Raccoon families stay together for up to a year, so they may be inside your shelter for months. Raccoons create entrances and exits by tearing off siding, rooftop ventilators, and other vulnerable access points.
Solutions: Capture and carefully remove raccoons sheltering inside your spaces with a live raccoon trap (be sure to first check your local regulations about trapping nuisance raccoons.) Once the space is cleared of raccoons, create a repelling barrier outside the area where they’ve been hiding. Sprinkle a raccoon repellent around the protected area, so that any others attracted to the space will be repelled by the irritating odor.
Prevention Tips: Adult raccoons can squeeze through openings as small as 4 inches in diameter. Cover the entrances and exits with 10-gauge galvanized hardware mesh (¼– or ⅓-inch-thick wire). The bottom edge of the wire should be buried at least 6 inches deep and the covering extended outward for 12 inches to prevent the raccoons from finding a way to pry it loose. Store pet food and birdseed in metal bins, tie down or otherwise secure the lids, and put the containers where they can’t be easily knocked over.
6. Fruit trees
Main Attraction: Raccoons are attracted to sweet foods, especially ripe fruit such as apples, peaches, and plums. They also feed on apricots, cherries, and mulberries. They may first come for fallen fruit—which no gardener would object to sharing—but as adept climbers, raccoons eventually move into the trees to eat the fruit that’s still on the branches.
Damage: Harvesting a crop of homegrown tree fruit takes patience, so it can be particularly frustrating to find nearly ripe fruit pulled off the limb and partially eaten by raccoons.
Solutions: Set up a motion-activated sprinkler to spray at the base of fruit trees or wherever raccoons are gaining access to climb up. The nontoxic but disturbing stream of water startles and repels raccoons. Sprinkle a granular repellent around the base of fruit trees and berry bushes so the raccoons associate the repellent’s irritating scent with your fruit.
Prevention Tips: Clean up fallen fruit as soon as possible so raccoons aren’t attracted to your trees. You can make it harder for raccoons to get into trees by pruning lower limbs or those that are close to other access points (a fence, for instance, or the roof of a nearby shed). To completely thwart raccoons’ climbing prowess, you can wrap a sheet-metal baffle (formed from flashing used in home construction) around the trunk of trees that they’ve been frequenting. Make it 2 feet wide and place it more than 4 feet above the base of the tree so raccoons can’t jump past it.