Raccoons

How to Identify and Get Rid of Raccoons

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Here are some tips for how to identify raccoons and how to get rid of a raccoon.

What Are Raccoons?

Raccoons (procyon lotor) have masks over their eyes because they could rob a truck. These resourceful animals are second in persistence and imagination to no animal, unless it is a squirrel at a bird feeder.

Raccoons are great climbers, swimmers, jumpers, and runners. Their five-toed paws make them very dexterous, and their agility can allow them to outsmart every human concoction used to deter them. If they aren’t breaking into your garden, they might try to climb into your chimney to use it as a den.

Raccoons do not hibernate during the winter, but they will live in dens for periods of severe weather, causing them to lose a lot of their body fat in northern areas. They often live in hollow trees during the warm part of the year. Populations of raccoons often include many youngsters, and families will stay together for about a year.

Even though wild raccoons prefer areas with trees and a source of water, more and more of them are raiding gardens because gardens are an easy source of food. They’ll be even happier if you have a source of water and some forest near your garden. Raccoons are omnivorous, but they’re happy to eat all the plants that you have growing.

    Identification

    How to Identify Raccoons

    Raccoons are small mammals 2 to 3 feet in length and weighing about 10 to 30 pounds. Raccoons have distinct black “masks” on their faces, which often characterizes them as bandits. They have fluffy, ringed tails. Their bodies are varying shades of gray. The forepaws of raccoons resemble tiny human hands with five toes, which makes raccoons very dexterous.

    Raccoons are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they feed at night. This might make it hard for you to identify them, as you might only see the damage they cause. Looking for raccoon tracks near the damage might also help you to identify them.

    What do raccoons eat? Raccoons are nocturnal feeders that eat your sweet corn, though they also eat fruit trees, peas, potatoes, and grubs.

    raccoon-tracks-identification.jpg

    Photo Credit: M. Sorrentino, University of Vermont. After a rainy night, five-toed tracks might appear in the mud around your garden. These raccoon tracks are easily distinguished from most other four-toed mammals.

    Raccoon Damage

    If your lawn has a lot of holes in it, or your mulch pile has a lot of holes, you probably have a nightly visitor. Raccoons will dig up lawns and mulch piles looking for insects to eat. They will also empty bird feeders, so keep an eye on your feeders to see if you have a raccoon problem.

    Of course, if you have corn, there’s nothing more infuriating than finding stalks toppled and ears ripped open and half eaten. (Even more frustrating is the idea, offered by animal researchers, that raccoons are wasteful because they don’t really like sweet corn all that much; in fact, they seem to prefer sunflower seeds, dog food, and sardines.)

    Control and Prevention

    How to Get Rid of Raccoons

    The persistence and proliferation of raccoons has inspired many solutions; one of them is bound to work for you. Here are tips from all our readers and staff! See what works for you.

    • If your raccoon problem is persistent, you can set live raccoon traps in your garden and release the animal at least three miles away (check local and state laws first). Raccoons will eat virtually anything; try fish-flavored dry cat food, chicken necks, ears of corn, or whole peanuts for bait.
    • Keep a dog in the yard—a good dog who doesn’t mind the night shift. This will save you a lot of corn, but, on the other hand, you may be too tired from lack of sleep to pick it.
    • To keep racoons at a distance, try scattering blood meal around corn plants. Try sprinkling wood ashes around your plants.
    • Grind up garlic, mix it with an equal portion of chili powder, and spread it around the garden. Frequent applications are needed.
    • One reader says, “Hang shoes and clothes that smell of human perspiration around your garden or corn patch.” Similarly, “You can try to repel raccoons by putting dog hair or human hair around the garden.”
    • Tune a radio to a rock station and set it in the middle of your garden and/or corn patch. Leave it on all night. The noise will scare away the raccoons.
    • Put lights in the garden. A bright lantern will sometimes keep Sun-shy raccoons away.
    • Plant enough corn for man and beast alike.
    • Add some pinwheels and streamers to your garden to scare the creatures.
    • Folk wisdom suggests that you spread newspapers around the perimeter of the garden.

    get-rid-of-a-raccoon.jpg

    How to Prevent Raccoons

    • Build a good fence around your garden. Beware though, raccoons are agile and intelligent; make sure your fence will keep them out. You may need to install an electric fence. This is a good measure. A two-wire fence, with one wire four to six inches above the ground and the other at 12 inches, should be effective.
    • If your home is near your garden, remove any possible food sources from the area, including pet food and bird seed. Buy garbage cans with locking lids and keep garbage inside if possible. Keep pet doors sealed shut between dusk and dawn. Cap your chimneys. Seal any holes or gaps in attics and roofs.
    • Grow tall varieties of corn such as ‘Silver Queen’, ‘Kandy Korn’, and ‘Lancelot’. Taller plants bear their ears higher, causing raccoons trouble getting leverage to topple stalks and ravage them. They prefer shorter plants.
    • You can also plant squash around your corn or other plants to deter raccoons; they don’t like walking on the prickly squash vines.

    Do you have any more tips for getting rid of a raccoon? Let us know below!

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    Reader Comments

    Leave a Comment

    About the last suggestion to

    About the last suggestion to plant squash. The trouble we are having is raccoons (or maybe something else?) eating our squash. We are currently trying dog hair and blood meal along with a simple fence and netting. We need to wait a few more days for more squash flowers to grow before we know if this works at all. I suspect we will end up needing to apply the garlic/spice mix every couple of days until we decide on something more permanent.

    Garden/Raccoon

    Never saw a raccoon before until a couple of weeks ago when I spotted a complete family in my small garden.

    getting rid of raccoons

    I've found sitting in a lawn chair late at night and covered with deet, along with a good accurate cal. .22 rimfire, sound suppressor and a gen II night vision scope to be very effective. I haven't seen a coon for weeks now. Oh, unlike Vietnam, the Coons don't shoot back.

    moving raccoons

    I live in a rural area. Thanks a lot for dumping your spare raccoons, dogs, cats garbage, whatever, out here. You are just passing your problem on for someone else to deal with. This place may look empty but it isn't. It is already chuck full of wild animals and plenty of rowdy raccoons I have to contend with.

    Raccoon's

    Raccoon's are dangerous and killed my cat...ripped to to shreds...Do not feed or try to befriend. The opened my screen door to my porch with their claws and I had Mother Father and 5 babies on my porch.

    I have one in my yard now and I am calling animal control to get it and all pets are quarantined until it is gone. They are wild animals and can spread disease and death to you and your pets...BEWARE

    Really interesting

    That was really informative.Even though we live in a fairly urban area we have a beautiful garden in our home and I have seen wild raccoons in our garden because gardens are an easy source of food. I didn't take any measures to get rid of them until my cat got killed by them :( Finally, with the help of Remove the wild, wild life removal service in Canada we removed all the raccoons in our area.
    there are so many animal removal services you can call to trap raccoons and other such pest animals and release it somewhere less populated.

    Really informative. We used

    Really informative. We used to have frequent visits from raccoons at our home in Toronto till a few months back. They used to dig up my plants and sprawl mud all over the place. My natural remedies did not work on them so I had to call a raccoon removal service called A1 checkmate for the job. They got rid of the problem once and for all and I haven't had any trouble from raccoons till date.

    We live on a farm...and a

    We live on a farm...and a couple of years ago, the raccoons seem to know the day you are going out to pick your corn...because they show up and strip it clean the NIGHT BEFORE!

    A year ago, I did the electric fence thing...I used one wire, and there was a pesky racoon that still got through it...when I used two wires, then not a problem.

    This year, I have discovered there is electrified "netting"...not every wire is electrified...in fact the lower wire in the netting can sit right on the ground because it is not a conductor.

    Just Google [Electric Net Fencing] and you'll find it.

    This netting comes in 3.5" or 7" squares...I'm going for the 3.5"...should keep just about anything out... Also you can get heights from 28" up to 48" tall...it comes in a roll and every 13' there is a fence post.

    Yes it is a little pricier than stringing up a couple of wires, but it can be used year after year, and it appears to be easy to erect and take down.

    I have decided not to just protect my corn, but I'm ordering enough to go around my entire garden.

    I live in town & the racoons

    I live in town & the racoons & possums are all over the place. The problem is my neighbors have an apple tree near my fence in the backyard by my garage/shed. How can I get rid of them with that issue, ask my neighbors to cut down their tree? I find their feces & chewed up apples all over my yard!!

    We'd suggest that you talk to

    We'd suggest that you talk to your neighbor about the issue. Raccoons are easier than deer. You could simply add four t-posts and some chicken wire about a month before harvest and the raccoons can't get to it. The cage doesn't have to be up year-round and then your neighbor can still eat the apples.

    I didn't realize it was

    I didn't realize it was illegal to use mothballs, but a friend of ours told us that was a good way to keep raccoons out of our corn patch. I spread the mothballs all around the patch and now I am wondering if the corn will absorb the chemicals in the moth balls because it rained. Should we not eat this corn crop?

    Yes, mothballs may be illegal

    Yes, mothballs may be illegal to use food crops in some areas. They are indeed dangerous to use around children and animals, but that's because they could ingest them. It's probably fine to eat this crop and just use them around ornamental crops in the future.

    I have a koi pond and my koi

    I have a koi pond and my koi are disappearing I think either blue heron or raccoon s are getting them any ideas to get rid of or scare off these critters

    My koi are disappearing from

    My koi are disappearing from my koi pond and I think blue heron or raccoon s are getting them any ideas how to keep them away or discourage them

    All of this is ridiculous

    All of this is ridiculous advice! Raccoons are full of parasites and disease. They can have rabies as well. The eggs in their feces can have ringworm eggs that can live from months to years on your ground and garden. Furthermore, the urine is highly parasitic and an animal that steps in urine and then licks its paws or drinks/eats from same dish, can get very ill. Ringworm, rabies, distemper, raccoon disease, blindness etc. If people would trust professionals to trap is best. No one should be advised to trap or feed them, please be wildlife smart!

    AmandaCB: What article are

    AmandaCB: What article are you responding to? This one does NOT advise anyone to trap or, especially, feed raccoons. Get a grip.

    On the contrary, the article

    On the contrary, the article is about protecting sweet corn from raccoons. The very act of growing sweet corn is potentially feeding the 'coons. In addition, one of the methods recommended in the article deal with 'coons was to plant enough for them too, in other words to feed them.

    I have a racoon that comes

    I have a racoon that comes into my yard/roof at night it loves to eat threw the garbage and eat all the baby quails and it gave my dog
    pravo that almost killed him, and finding pieces of baby birds is awesome. I could just picture him ripping them apart seeing as I find legs heads and other bird parts, I need that thing gone, it doesn't help that my mother makes her own fertilizer of left over fruits and veggies hmmm at least he is eating his vitamins mahahaha no srsly what can I doo?

    Trap n kill or shoot.

    Trap n kill or shoot.

    I've seen advertisements for

    I've seen advertisements for garbage bags scented with mint for deterring raccoons. Any truth to that? I'm having trouble with my potted plants on my deck - the raccoons keep digging them up - and I'm wondering if planting some mint in my planters will be helpful.

    Mint-X trash bags were

    Mint-X trash bags were developed to repel the Norway rat and raccoons. The active ingredients include wintergreen oil, corn mint oil, camphor oil, and eucalyptus oil. We're not sure if a raccoon would be repelled as effectively with just the fresh mint, but it is certainly worth a try! Good luck!

    I have raccoon with a sense

    I have raccoon with a sense of humor...I have the yellow rubber ducks for the kids in the pool. Had pool noodles until they had a party with those. They take the ducks out of the pool and place them in front of my shed. They pull rocks and shells from my planters and put in pool. I've noticed that the two pots that had no drainage, they dug into and made a mess! I have since closed two holes under the fence, but they are still coming over. I don't want to hurt them as at this point, no real damage has been done and it's become a joke each morning when we open the blinds. I live in a residential area since 94 and this is the first season we are experiencing this issue. How can I get them to visit someone else's yard!? Thanks!

    what works to keep raccons

    what works to keep raccons out of my glower pots on deck?Moth balls? cayane pepper? Help!! They are destroying my plants.

    Hi Guys. I wanted to

    Hi Guys. I wanted to interject my 2 cents worth on this topic. I own a wildlife trapping & removal company in Georgia. (Not a plug more to establish expertise) I am all about home remedies for everything. I want you to consider this though if you are trying to ward off Raccoon. First & foremost there are beneficial critters and insects that the home remedies might be chasing off. You want to consider the innocent victims of the material you are using.

    Also, if you ever try to catch a raccoon in a big box store animal trap and fail. Fail because of the strength of the trap or fail because trap set wrong or fail because of bait used... you have just educated that raccoon and now not only prevented yourself from catching it but also might make it harder on a professional to remove. Be wary of good intentions causing you even more effort.

    For skunks and other

    For skunks and other "critters" under our barn, we bought about 1 pound of the hottest peppers we could find. Put them in a saucepan we did not want to keep, and covered them in water. Put them on the stove to simmer till the peppers were cooked extremely tender.We had to add water several times. You want it as concentrated as possible. Then strain out the juice and put the juice in a spray bottle. We used 1/2 pepper juice and 1/2 water. Spray around the area you want the critters to leave. Do NOT let spray hit your eyes!!! Awful!!! It ran the skunks. Now we have raccoon's and are going to do it again! Had to re-do it after big rain, but, it's not expensive to fix.

    This solution works on bats,

    This solution works on bats, too. We had hundreds of bats in our enclosed dock and tried all types of remedies. Nothing worked until we came upon this idea for hot pepper spray. Sprayed the heck out of the attic spaces after dark when they went out to fly. After a couple of treatments--no more bats! Had to pre-treat the next couple of years in the spring. They have given up now and find other places to spend the summer. Would not have minded them if they had been housebroken--they really kept the mosquitoes down--but health concerns, and the smell!!!!

    How do you get rid of

    How do you get rid of raccoons in a corn field, about 6 acreas of land? My husband grows silver queen corn and then we sell it at our produce stand here at home, but the raccoons love the corn. (shot gun) ?

    Pre-harvest trapping has

    Pre-harvest trapping has proven to be the most effective solution. I think you will find this reference page helpful: http://extension.umass.edu/veg...

    I am not sure of the last

    I am not sure of the last comment about leaving a dog out in the garden. Raccoons can fight and carry rabies. People might take you literally and chain a dog out in the garden in the elements. I think that is a bad idea. My dogs went outside last night for a last pee and they treed a raccoon, the dogs were smaller than the raccoon. Not good.
    They were barking and I went out with a flashlight to get the dogs.. I wish we could live and let live...these animals are just trying to survive.

    Agree. I have had raccoons

    Agree. I have had raccoons walk right up to me so I don't know if I want my dog out there. A baby one was climbing out fence. All our dogs were barking like crazy and it didn't even faze it. It just started hissing.

    I have little problem with

    I have little problem with raccoons in my garden. They visit some and eat a few ears of my tall Golden Queen, but not enough to be a worry. My problem is with squirrels. They devoured at least one fourth of our sweet corn last year. HELP!!!!

    I wish I knew. I have 2 that

    I wish I knew. I have 2 that moved into my tree in the back yard and are eating cat food that I feed the ferals. I'm going to have to train them to eat earlier.

    My husband live on a farm,

    My husband live on a farm, which some folks have a bad habit of dropping off cats. Our animal control officer dropped off 5, which we do not mind because they keep the mice away. They have all been fixed, thank goodness, they are all female. :) What I do is feed them in the morning when I get up, then about 5:30 at night I check their bowls about 8:00 P.M. and empty it if there is anything left over. I have seen racoons, squirrells, possumms and skunks come up on our patio to eat the left over cat food. That is why I do not leave any out after I go to bed. Try this and see if it works, it did for me. Good luck !

    If you figure out how to

    If you figure out how to change their schedule, please email me! My ferals are not a colony. They come all times of evening up to 10-11 o'clock! Thanks!

    I think you are mistaken. I

    I think you are mistaken. I used to plant a large plot of sweet corn near my house. Gray and piney squirrels are all over the place here; I often here them playing together on the roof. But they have never touched my sweet corn.

    Raccoons, on the other hand, once they locate the corn, will visit every single night until it's all gone. It wasn't unusual to walk out to the garden in the morning and find twenty or so stalks broken off flat on the ground. (That's a loss of TWO ears per stalk, of course.) Raccoons will try to climb the stalks to get the top ears, and of course the stalk can't hold them and it breaks off just above the ground.

    What About Squirls?

    What About Squirls?

    I have squirrels tryng to get

    I have squirrels tryng to get into my attic. They are chewing my house both front and back. Also have something using my far backyard for a bathroom. Must be fairly large, comes at night, maybe a racoon or possum. Help!

    I just read another article

    I just read another article that stated it was illegal in all 50 states to use moth balls to deter raccoons?? I didn't know that until reading it but we used mothballs last night-propped a large piece of plywood supported by shovels against the ripped screen on our porch with the mothballs scattered across the ground. The raccoon pushed the plywood out of the way & might as well have just spit on the mothballs..clearly, they didn't work. I've been reading that ammonia & cayenne pepper works, we will be trying those tonight!!

    We have a problem keeping the

    We have a problem keeping the coon from digging up & eating the seeds we plant for our 1 acre pumpkin patch. Last year we planted half the hills with cayenne. After just a couple of hills were dug, the coon quit (there is no easy water for relief at our patch). HOWEVER, the pumpkin plants that grew from the cayenne peppered hills were clearly distressed - the were long & leggy - think "scream" (the movie)--and they barely produced. We have used hair (from the salon) - human urine - music - trapping. Once again, I am looking for ideas to repel. Maybe we'll try the mint and ammonia tonight.

    Thanks for the info about

    Thanks for the info about getting rid of raccoons. We have one that is pretty big but he stays away from us. ANy ohter idea's on how to get them not eat the potatoe plants?

    Thanks

    Perhaps plant broad beans

    Perhaps plant broad beans around your potatoes. The heavy vines are a deterrent. Otherwise, all the tips above work! You could also invest in a predator protector. See: http://www.almanac.com/product...

    I EMPHATICALLY advise AGAINST

    I EMPHATICALLY advise AGAINST the type of devices recommended above! A neighbor has one, and I've come to refer to it as sonic terror infliction. Of course, these neighbors are old and can't hear it and they are rather ignorant so they won't listen to my request to turn it off at least during the day, so we can't have a door or window open at the back of the house or use our yard without ear plugs...These sonic devices should be illegal!! They are far far far worse than someone blasting rock music from their backyard all day, and THAT is illegal. Maybe some devices are different, but the one I am all too painfully familiar with sends a high pitched frequency every time the wind blow a branch on their yard (sometimes every 30 seconds!)that makes my entire body tighten even with our patio door closed. Absolutely not pleasant. If you have reasonably good hearing yourself and/or care about the sanity of your neighbors, do NOT get one of these!!!

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