How to Identify and Get Rid of Raccoons



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Learn how to identify raccoons and how to get rid of raccoons in your garden with these helpful tips.

What Are Raccoons?

Raccoons (Procyon lotor) have masks over their eyes because they could rob even a bank vault. These resourceful animals are second in persistence and imagination to no other animal (unless it’s 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.

What Do Raccoons Eat?

Raccoons are nocturnal and omnivorous, meaning they eat anything from grubs to crayfish, as well as all the plants and vegetables that you have in your garden, too. Especially in the fall, they develop a taste for fruits like apples, peaches, and pears, but they also enjoy a variety of vegetables, like sweet corn, potatoes, and peas.

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.


    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 and their bodies are varying shades of gray, with hints of light brown. 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. Learn more about identifying animal tracks.

    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. Additionally, raccoons are known to raid chicken coops, stealing eggs and even killing chickens.

    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.
    • To keep raccoons at a distance, try scattering blood meal around corn plants. Also 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.


    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!

    Plants Affected

    Reader Comments

    Leave a Comment


    Raccoons are not only smart but they are also vicious creatures who will eat your cats and can kill your dogs. They also can collapse their bones allowing them to squeeze through little spaces you won't think them capable of fitting through. They carry a wide variety of nasty diseases. The biggest one I've shot had weighted almost 40 pounds (average size where I live is 30 to 40 lbs). One raccoon by itself killed both of my neighbors full grown German Sheppard's in the same attack in the middle of the day. To get rid of them, you need to shoot them. Yes. Shoot them. They are not cute little animals, they are s nasty, deadly disease carrying, over populated nuisance.


    Ok I have tried all that you list to get rid of raccoons except catching I don’t want to that . I bought the strobe light with cougar sound plus another sound both not affective. Once raccoons feel no threat they move the device out of their path for food . I was at wits end until a week ago. I read somewhere about using cougar urine . I felt this was my last chance because I have outdoor cats that were scared to death . Neededto something.
    Well I can tell ya it works perfectly. Setting the urine around perimeter especially if you know where they come out of . I am on my second week ‘’’knock on wood’’ it’s working .
    Making my life , my cats and the raccoons much better to live together.
    My cats can now eat at night without fear. As for the raccoons, lol there are now bother someone in neighborhood instead of me.

    Just wanted to share oh by the way a bottle of cougar urine 5.99 it’s too bad I had spent 150 on devices before a 5.99 cured my problem


    Several years ago we were having problems with raccoons - they were killing & eating my son's 4-H rabbits. We live trapped several & disposed of them. We even trapped some that had no bait in them. Someone told us about Nite Guard lights or Predator Eye - we bought about 8 of them and haven't had a problem with raccoons since. You can find the light on Amazon.


    A neighbor has allowed his beautiful Tudor style home to go to rack and ruin. He moved out, tried to sell the house, but wanted far too much, so no one would buy it. The house has been empty for over 5 years, and is now the dwelling place of many raccoons. Since he pays someone to cut the grass every few weeks, there is almost nothing to be done about the situation although many n our neighborhood have complained by phone and in writing to the Town Government and tot he County Board of Health. A few m onths ago, it seemed a repairman was at the house so I went over to ask if it had been bought, and if new owners were beginning restorations. The man replied the owner had wanted him to fix a gutter that is hanging off and to do something inside, but had placed the keys with our police department. When the repairman went to the police, they refused to give him he keys because of all the raccoons living there. They are afraid some may be rabid. Several of us called the Board of Health again, but nothing was done. I think this owner must be paying off someone with influence. Because we're in suburban Long Island, there are lots of laws, but the owner seems to be above them. We are grateful that his home is surrounded by large thuja trees and therefore we don't have to see the condition the house is in!


    We have a cabin in a remote area of the mountains of NE Georgia and feed the birds.. We have trail cameras out and see the raccoons destroying ornamental plants and even scaling a squirrel proof bird feeder. As they dug up the feeder's pole; they are quite ingenious..
    Originally, it was a family of 3 raccoons; now, it is down to one raccoon.. Although GA DNR will claim there aren't any cougars, period. As I have a picture of a 75-80# one, my trail cams disagree.. I have a picture of a large footprint also which implies an even bigger cougar...
    As I can't expect the cougars to protect our container plants; I take the dogs out to urinate by the containers which has proven to be effective.


    Trap and release is only giving someone else your problem. Trap with live trap using marshmallows and shoot them. Dispose of properly. Put them in a thick trash bag and roll up tightly and tape securely. Put in deep freeze until trash day and they will be gone.

    Raccoons in the attic

    I've lived in this house about 15 years now, and although we live in a small city, there's a ton of wildlife in my neighborhood. My neighbors and I joke about our "pet coons and groundhogs" and find the squirrels entertaining, as well as the rest of the wild life. It wasn't a problem until last year, when my next door neighbor took a fancy to a family of feral cats and started feeding them on his porch day and night. The coons love cat food, and started coming around and eating with the cats, scaling the houses, and playing on the roofs - keeping us up all night long. We trapped a few and relocated them, but I finally begged my neighbor to please only feed the cats in the morning, and not both morning and night. He did, for a while, then started to sneak & feed them late at night (I would hear him - our houses are very close). Long story short, one of the coons got pregnant and ripped a hole in my roof to get in and have her babies in the attic. The noise was deafening!! First, the sound of roofing and wood being torn apart, then the birthing, then the babies and the mewling and skittering and scratching, all night long. We couldn't figure out exactly where they were, because the noise seemed to be everywhere, until I was talking to another neighbor one day and looked up to see a large hole in my roof, surrounded by debris. Since then, we've had two "critter guys" and three roofers out here to get rid of the problem. It took about three months, but the coons are finally gone, but the three roofers have all refused to climb my steep roof to fix the hole (I live in a 100 year old faux-Victorian farmhouse), so there is always the possibility of another coon family moving in, not to mention the possible further damage from inclement weather. Anybody have any suggestions. Still looking for roofers, too...


    I have twice had raccoons as pets and consider myself as partial to them. But, now consider them an overpopulated nuisance. I can't keep chickens anymore because they kill every bird. Yes, they do occasionally kill cats, especially kittens. They will usually just eat all your cat's food.My cat hides from them. They will steal from your garden too. When something is in season that they like such as sweet corn, watermelons, canteloupe, tomatoes, etc; they can come in your garden several families together and wipe you out in a couple of nights. I have trapped alive many coons but finally gave up and kill them when I can.The best way to keep them at bay is an outside free roaming dog. Which can cause other problems...

    Raccoons in my yard

    I have raccoons that visit frequently, usually in the wee hours. They get up on my shed and cruise my yard. I do not have a veg garden. I do not keep pet food or bird feed out. Tonight I tried spraying with water to scare them off. It looks to be a family. I think the parents are out and about looking for food and the kids are holed up under my shed, then come out to play. When they see me, they go back under the shed, but keep coming back out. They’ve been at it for 3 hours tonight.

    Something leaving deep holes in my yard and muddy footprints

    I see muddy footprints on my pool deck (look like 3-4 toes) in the a.m. here in Florida not sure if it's going in the pool too, some mud in the pool but for sure deep holes in the dirt part of the back yard. How about moth balls? Does anyone know if that works? Ty

    raccoon repellent

    Although some older sources mention mothballs as a raccoon repellent, it is no longer recommended, now that we know more about pesticides. Unless the label says otherwise, mothballs are meant for indoor use only (as a pesticide, it is regulated by the EPA). One concern is that placing them outside can leach toxic pesticide chemicals into the environment (soil, water, plants). The mothballs can also be poisonous to children, pets, and all wildlife. In addition, even for adults, prolonged exposure to mothballs can be hazardous, and can cause mild to serious health issues. As an alternative, you might try mustard oil, which is said to deter raccoons in certain cases.

    Raccoons Endangered ??

    I was told (here in CA) that raccoons were an endangered species. Can anyone tell me why??????? They have already killed 6 feral cats in my backyard. How can I tell you ask - because they rip them apart. Hate these critters.


    No, raccoons are not classified as rare or endangered. That said, you’ll see need to check with your local laws which may have other legal restrictions.

    Are the racoons eating the

    Are the racoons eating the Cats or killing them only? Have you solved them killing them yet?


    I am so sorry to hear about your cats. I worry about one I am feeding. They scale my 4ft fence around my garden. I did’t plant corn last year. I know they are God’s creatures, but whew, infuriating.,

    raccoon killing cats

    I fear this is what may have happened to my feral cats that I trapped ,fixed and released a coon family has moved in and one by one the cats are disappearing. I know they are eating the food I put out for the cats I did not know until today they will kill a cat. I am so upset about this.

    Fish Pond

    My poor little fish pond has been hit twice now. I really just wanted it for the sound of running water and a couple of water plants. But I started getting mosquito larvae so I got some feeder gold fish from the pet store and no more larvae. Well, I guess the racoon likes fish even tho they are very small. He has torn up my plants and the pond and has eaten all the fish, twice now. I really don't know what to do about this. Animal Control seems to not care even tho I live in town. I do have an outside cat and a small inside dog, after reading some of the other comments I am now worried for their safety. I have set a trap but have not caught it, I also have several wind chimes in the area, he seems to not be afraid of anything. If anyone has better suggestions, I am willing to try anything at this point.

    Pond Netting

    For the disappearing fish problem, you may want to look into pond netting. It could prove to be just enough of an obstacle to deter the raccoon(s). Also try placing strong-scented substances in dishes around your pond, such as garlic and chili powder or Irish Spring soap. Make sure that any run-off produced by these substances doesn’t enter your pond and that a curious dog doesn’t sniff the wrong thing!

    coon eating fish

    suggest a dish of cat food mixed with broken razor blades bits.

    Fish pond option

    We had the same problem only we lost the expensive plants and pond filter. Bizarre, they would rip up the filter and plants. We called the pond our 'raccoon spa'. We ended up turning it into a pondless waterfall feature. That's another story.

    Raccoons like shallow water to wade in, etc. so if possible, make the pond deeper 1'+ and sharp drop edges into the pond; they're not into swimming if possible and if they can't walk directly in, they will likely look elsewhere.

    Another hint for deterring raccoons

    I've had to place a raccoon baffle around the pole on which multiple bird feeders are attached. This has worked. Prior to installing the raccoon baffle, they were constantly knocking the feeders off and carting them away. A good raccoon baffle can be purchased at Wild Birds Unllimited or some garden centers.

    Raccoon killings

    The raccoons this year, one in particular, has about wiped out all my ducks and chickens. I have never had this much trouble before. I moved all my birds to my side deck and covered them as one would do cage birds making my deck look like a refugee camp. Finally, I take the last pair into the house at night.
    A sure fire bait for trapping is raisins ... they love them and will follow a trail anywhere. Also, when setting live traps, make sure the only way they can get the bait is from the front. Keep the sids and back covered with non moveable items. Wood propted with a heavy rock will do the trick.
    The down side to all of this is the predator is a female she could have little ones stashed somewhere leaving them to starve if she is trapped. Talk about decisions.

    pesky racoon

    I have a yard pole with 3 birdfeeders, 1 sugar water for hummers, 1 suet for woodpeckers, 1 sunflower for others. EVERY night, a raccoon comes and cleans out my feeders. One day, he actually came into my house (thru the doggy door, I think). County Animal Control removed him from my house, but let him go in the yard. Any ideas on how to get rid of him?


    Hi Elizabeth,

    Raccoons are just looking for food, so the best way to stop them from coming around is to take away their food source. Also, bird feeders (not including hummingbird feeders) should be taken down around April to prevent wild animals from becoming domesticated to human food, particularly bears.

    hummingbird feeders

    my mother raccoon is a sugar junkie and empties the hummingbird feeder too... I have to bring them in as well as suet cages at night... she has even carried one of them off. if I forget to bring them in or wait too long, she hits the nectar first...

    Keeping raccoons from feeders

    I live in the country and these raccoons are the worst, dirty, filthy animals ever. I feed the birds but I went to a hardware store and purchased the heavy pvc pipe, 8’, with a toilet flange. I mounted a square piece of 3/4 inch plywood to the toilet flange. I anchored the pipe into the ground and put the flange on top. I use heavy duty hooks and I am able to hang 4 bird feeders from it. BUT, I also have to grease the bottom of the pvc with petroleum jelly or something slippery because the raccoons can climb up the pipe. Do not put the pole near a fence or tree. You will have to grease the pole at least once a week. It works for me and they can’t get to my feeders. But they do like to dig up my freshly annual flowers I plant. I have to replant several times if I want flowers.

    Deterring raccoon from bird feeding poles.

    As per my comment above, if you will install a raccoon baffle around your bird feeding pole, that will keep them off. You have to put it up high enough so they can't climb up the pole over the top of the baffle. Wild Birds Unlimited is a good source for purchasing a raccoon baffle. For those with squirrel problems, squirrel baffles are also effective. They must be installed properly, however. Be sure to follow the instructions to the letter.

    Out smarting raccoons.

    Try to put marine grease on pole about three (3) feet off the ground and upwards. When the squirrels and raccoons get their feet slippery, their attempts to reach the feeders are futile. Marine grease isn't washed away by rain. It can be bought at WalMart and most auto parts stores. Works here. Good luck!

    Raccoons killing cats

    I live in a rural area and care for a colony of feral cats. I've read horror stories about raccoons killing cats, including some of the previous comments, so I'm always frightened that the same may happen to one of mine. I've had cats just disappear and wondered if it's due to a raccoon getting it. One that has come around is huge and has to weigh at least 30 pounds or more.

    Raccoons are very cute and I even had one as a pet growing up, but they scare the hell out of me now. My company gets calls frequently for raccoon removal because they've either gotten into the house, are destroying the garden, killing chickens, or being a nuisance in other ways. It's illegal in many areas for people to trap raccoons themselves and then release them somewhere else. I don't recommend shooting them unless you are a crack shot and won't leave them wounded.

    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.



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