How To Keep Raccoons Out Of Your Garden

raccoons garden

photo credit: flickr

Raccoons can be a real pain for gardeners. While they prefer areas that host a source of water and trees, the pests are increasingly raiding gardens looking for easy sources of food. Because raccoons visit at night you might not notice them at first. But if you are seeing lots of holes in your lawn or your mulch, chances are you have at least one raccoon visiting you.

Raccoons are intelligent, agile and fast learners, which make them a particularly challenging pest to try and control. To control them effectively you may find that you need to use many different approaches and these approaches may need to be rotated frequently.

Make Your Garden Less Attractive

Raccoons are attracted to homes and to gardens because of food and also because of potential den sites. One of the first steps in making your garden less attractive is reducing the available food sources.

Doing this includes making sure you have metal garbage cans that raccoons cannot get into and that those cans have secure lids. You may also want to set the bins up so they cannot be knocked, such as by placing them in a rack or tying them to something secure.

Likewise, if you have a dog or an outdoor cat you want to get into the habit of removing any pet food before nightfall so it doesn’t attract raccoons. Picking up any fruit that has dropped from trees can also help to reduce the food available for raccoons. The raccoon we had in LA was trying to eat the cat’s food. Come to think of, so was the opossum. Who knew cat food was so tasty?

You can also make your garden less attractive by removing any materials that raccoons like to den under. This includes woodpiles and overgrown shrubbery. You can also trim any tree branches that overhang the roof to make it harder for raccoons to get up there. Though these guys are usually pretty resourceful, and you may end up trimming your tree back pretty far!

Repellents are often used to keep animals out of gardens, but none of these have been found to work well for raccoons. Raccoons simply adapt too quickly and will typically avoid a unappealing smell for no more than a few days.

Create Roadblocks

Fences are normally the most effective way to keep any type of pest out of a garden, but this is only partially true in the case of raccoons. Raccoons are particularly good at finding their way around fences and will often either climb over them or dig under them. Likewise, they tend to exploit any weaknesses in fences, such as small holes or loose boards. Their squishy bodies are great for squeezing through tiny cracks.

The most effective type of fence to keep a raccoon out is an electric fence, such as a low electric fence that uses two wires. However, this type of fence may not be suitable in all cases and you will need to check local laws to find out what you can and cannot do. Likewise, if you have pets or small children, having an electric fence of any kind probably isn’t a desirable approach. This may be a good way to keep the neighbors kids out of your yard though! lol

Trap and Release

It is possible to trap raccoons and release them more than three miles away from your home. Raccoons can be relatively easy to catch and one of the best approaches is to use a life cage-type trap. Some types of bait include canned tuna or cat food that is fish-flavored. However, there is a risk that attempts at live trapping could also attract other animals, like local dogs or cats.

When it comes to trapping raccoons, you do need to check the local laws and ordinances, because there can be considerable variation in what you are and are not allowed to do. It also means you need to invest in a cage, some bait, gloves, and the time to drive them out to the boondocks.

catch release raccoon

photo credit flickr

Trapping and releasing raccoons can be an effective way of dealing with problematic raccoons, like one raccoon that persistently ignores all other methods of control. However, this is not a good approach of dealing with an overall issue with raccoons, because you will find that they do simply keep coming back.

Scare Them Off

Noise can be a good tool for scaring raccoons, although it might not be a suitable approach if you have close neighbors or if the noise gets into your own house too easily. One example of this approach is to play a radio in the middle of the garden, tuned to a loud station, like rock.

Another approach is to make sure your dog (if you have one) is outside at night to bark at raccoons. However, this is an approach you need to be careful with, as raccoons can be fierce and can harm dogs. I’ve personally see a raccoon fight with my roommates cat when I lived in LA. They can be quite bold, and if forced to, will fight!

Visible approaches can also be a way of scaring raccoons. One example is leaving the lights on in the garden, because raccoons are nocturnal, this practice can be disconcerting for them. Another approach is using streamers or pinwheels in your garden. These tend to move in unpredictable ways, which can help to frighten off raccoons.

None of these are a cure-all though, because they just become part of the environment that the animal is used to.

It is also possible to find devices that make noise periodically or ones that that use motion detection to figure out when the pests are in your garden. Regarding motion detection, there are light, sound, and even water versions. Flashing bright lights or hooking up airhorns to a motion detector are possible (and they sell these online), but they will undoubtedly disturb your own sleep as well as anyone nearby.

Teach Them To Stay Away

The quietest and most effective way at scaring raccoons away is with a motion sensor sprinkler. Not only does the surprise of the noise and motion kick in their natural instinct to run, and shot of water blasted in their face is definitely unpleasant to anyone!

Raccoons are smart, and like any animal, can learn new habits. The great thing about motion sensor sprinklers is that they are consistent, and can create an area around your house that animals learn to regard as not-so-fun. With any other method, it takes just once or twice of “cracking the code” for them to learn how to outsmart you. A sprinkler which covers 1900 feet is pretty hard to avoid, and even if they do find blind spots, you can just add another sprinkler (like I did for my cat problem), or change the spray direction of the one you currently have.

raccoons lasers

photo credit flickr

Some sprinklers even have day/night settings, so you can use your yard as normal during the day, but turn it into mission impossible at night! You can read about my top 3 pics for brands and models here.


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