By Jeff Berti
Got raccoons? These cute, but mischievous, critters can wreak havoc around your home and garden, especially in high numbers. But learning how to keep raccoons away from a garden doesn’t have to be a trying task. There are steps you can take that will help you keep these pests under control.
How to Get Rid of Raccoons
Getting rid of raccoons can be as easy as cleaning up the area or as drastic as the use of traps. Other methods include the use of deterrents and exclusion, like fencing.
While you may normally come across their mischievous activities in the garden, raccoons will also get into garbage cans or your pet’s food. Therefore, it’s a good idea to secure garbage lids or trash cans so these animals cannot open them. Also, put away any pet food at night when raccoons are most active.
You may not always see them, but raccoons will certainly leave behind some evidence of their visit, especially in the garden. These may include tracks, droppings, and crop damage (like hollowed-out melons or half eaten corn).
Various methods can be used to frighten these animals away – some of which include the use of radios, flashing lights, scarecrows, windmills, pie pans, etc. However, these only work for a short while, if at all, as the raccoon will quickly get used to them.
There is not an effective raccoon repellent either, though mothballs may help in small areas like crawl spaces and sheds.
Nonetheless, there are still preventative measures you can take. For instance, simply cleaning up the surrounding area can help. Raccoons will den in hollow trees/logs, brush piles, barns, etc. Removing woodpiles, overgrown shrubbery, and other debris can help. Open structures should be closed, with screen or chicken wire. Overhanging tree branches should be pruned back to prevent the animals from gaining access to nearby rooftops.
How to Deter Raccoons with Fencing
Your best bet for getting rid of raccoons is through appropriate fencing. Since they are adept climbers (and diggers), ordinary fencing is not enough. To make it raccoon proof, you’ll need to add a strand or two of electric fencing at least 6 inches from the ground and 6-8 inches out from the fence. You should also bury the fencing at least 6 inches deep and bury chicken wire around the bottom of the fence to prevent digging.
As an alternative, you can simply place a strand or two of electric fence around your garden’s perimeter, keeping the bottom strand within 6 inches of the ground. Since raccoons are nocturnal, the fence can easily be turned on at night and off during the day.
If you cannot resolve a conflict with an animal by other means, a final alternative is to trap it. Trapping is the last option because it presents many problems for both the animals and the trapper. Also, it rarely is a permanent solution if other animals are in the area, and food or shelter remain available to them.
An animal that is simply passing through the yard or living in a tree in the backyard should not be trapped. There is no guarantee that the next animal to move in won’t be a problem. Living near animals is like having new neighbors—you never know what the situation will be until after the new family has already moved in.
Appropriate times to trap an animal in or around a home or property include emergency situations, the removal of a targeted problem animal, or when trapping is the only practical solution.
Poison is Illegal and Inappropriate
A popular, and highly illegal, raccoon control method is a mixture of fly bait (Methomyl) and cola meant to kill nuisance raccoons. Setting out a bowl of cola mixed with fly-bait granules kills problem raccoons – and also kills every other animal that happens to drink the poison.
Methomyl, in most formulations, is a restricted-use pesticide that is only sold to certified pesticide applicators. However, the fly-bait form is available over the counter.
The fly bait/cola control method has spread by word of mouth. Things get started out of desperation and frustration when people have problems with raccoons that they can’t resolve with standard approaches. When someone comes up with a quick, easy fix, people are tempted to try it. But they’re not thinking about the implications. Anything that drinks the poison mixture is going to die – their pets, neighbors’ pets, and wildlife that they may not even know is around. The bottom line is poison is not an appropriate response. Anyone using the fly bait poison method is in violation of the Wildlife Code of Missouri and, if caught, will be prosecuted for the violation.
Raccoons are smart and persistent, and they can be extremely frustrating to deal with – but that is not a reason to wage chemical warfare on every animal in the area. You can still control them if you take the time to learn how to effectively use legal control methods – removing habitat, electric fencing, live- trapping and removal.
By Jeff Berti