Michael is an author with a passion for the environment. He is trying to save the planet one reader at a time!
Signs of Raccoon Activity in Your Garden
They can be frustrating, but we should keep in mind if we leave food readily available—we can't blame them for taking advantage. But there are ways to figure out if it is indeed a raccoon digging up your plants. You can tell if a raccoon has been in your garden by:
- finding their paw tracks, they have very distinct five-toed paw tracks.
- fecal droppings that are commonly left behind while feeding.
- locating scratches on your fencing and trees.
- checking if your trash cans are being looted.
Raccoons aren't too finicky when it comes to food, which makes them very opportunistic omnivores. They are easily identifiable due to their black band masks across their faces. I think this is quite ideal considering they have a penchant for cleverly sneaking around and stealing food, usually undetected.
They're regarded as highly crafty and resourceful animals that will rarely give up on a mission. Especially if that mission involves raiding or ransacking an area for an easy meal. They have paws that mimic the human hand, which make them surprisingly agile and dexterous. They excel at running, jumping, swimming, and are able to climb with great precision and speed.
Nocturnal habits keep the raccoon mostly out of sight. Conflicts with raccoons come in many shapes and sizes, but all can be resolved humanely.
— The Humane Society
How to Make Raccoons Leave
Dealing with mischievous raccoons in your yard and garden can be a maddening situation, but with a bit of knowledge and patience, you can get rid of them and keep them away. Being nocturnal, they are obviously most active while you're in bed sleeping. It's difficult to safeguard your fruits and vegetables when this furry little pirate strikes at 3 a.m.
It is a misconception that they hibernate during the winter due to the fact that they will hide in makeshift dens during bad weather conditions. They usually prefer heavily wooded areas with a reliable source of water, but more and more are venturing into human populated areas with gardens for an easy buffet. Here are some tips on how to keep raccoons out of your home, yard, and garden.
Removing Other Food Sources
As aforementioned, these small invaders will pretty much scarf down anything they can get their little paws on. Aside from the food growing in your garden, it is best to remove all other sources of food near and around your home.
- Make sure your outside trash cans are secure with tight-fitting, locked lids. If you have a trash can that doesn't have a locking mechanism, you can rig it with bungee cords to strap down the lid. They have a nasty reputation for rummaging through garbage cans for food.
- Clean your external garbage cans regularly with bleach and water. This will keep the aroma of food to a minimum and will attract less unwanted attention from these nightly scavengers.
- If you have dogs or cats and leave pet food outside, make sure it gets taken in before sunset. It is well documented that raccoons enjoy eating cat and dog food.
- If you have bird feeders outside, be sure to hang it someplace inaccessible to them and other pests that might consume the bird seed. They might even try to shelter in the birdhouse itself, so better safe than sorry.
One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. Unless you’re a raccoon. Then it’s basically all one category.
— Frankerson Peterson
Make Your Yard and Garden Unappealing
Like fluffy little vampires, they do not like to conduct their business in the light of day and much prefer to move and act in the shadows. They also can't help themselves when we leave food out in the open and leave our yard and garden unprotected. Here are a few things you can do to repel raccoons from your home, yard, and garden.
- Since they have a natural aversion to light, try putting out motion sensor flood lights to disrupt their night time raiding. Make sure to place them tactically so the light shines over your yard and garden.
- They really dislike the stench of ammonia. Try soaking rags in ammonia and place them around areas where you suspect raccoon activity. Also, you can soak a rope in ammonia and set it down around your entire garden for 360 degrees of protection. (be cautious with this method if you have pets)
- They do not feel completely comfortable around noises. Leave a small radio out in the middle of your backyard and garden. This will help keep them from getting to your garden's fruits and vegetables. (make sure not to have the radio on too loud. An annoyed neighbor is just as bad as a pillaging raccoon.)
- I personally recommend a compact solar-powered raccoon repellent to keep them and other pests from ruining your garden. I've used this device to safely keep them away from my yard. It uses motion detectors to activate a super sonic wave to humanely keep them at a distance.
- Make your own pepper spray to keep them at bay! You can boil up water with hot sauce or any fresh hot peppers. Let the mixture cool and fill up some spray bottles. Spray the concoction near trees and around the perimeter of your yard.
Who Likes Raccoons?
Using a Live Trap With Bait
If all else fails, the last resort would be in capturing the raccoon in a live trap(I do not support or approve of killing any creature, unless there's an imminent threat involved.) Sometimes you will encounter an aggressive one that is stubborn and will not go away by conventional means.
Make sure you obtain a double-door design when looking for traps. Raccoons are renowned for their ability to think, adapt and overcome most traditional traps. Set the trap/traps in a shady area where they feel more at ease. Plus, if and when you do trap one, it'll be in a more comfortable spot out of direct sunlight.
Here is an effective list of raccoon bait to use:
- Sweet corn
- Almost anything coated in honey
- Cat food/dog food
- Meats with a good ratio of fat
- Mushed up marshmallows
You might have noticed from this list that they tend to have a sweet tooth. Try mixing a few different baits together to make it irresistible to them!
Remember to check on the traps frequently, we don't want them imprisoned for longer than they need to be. When you do catch one, be sure to approach slowly and speak in a gentle tone.
Also, it is best to drape a sheet over the trap before relocating them. This will aid in keeping them calm while you move the trap. If possible, have an extra pair of hands assist you. Relocate the raccoon at least five miles away from your home to ensure it won't find its way back.
Is It Illegal to Kill a Raccoon?
Unfortunately, in most states, it is perfectly legal to kill them because they are considered an aggressive nuisance. But I hope readers opt to relocate them swiftly to a more remote area. If you choose to put one down, at least do it in the most humane way possible. A gun is considered to be the most merciful way, aside from moving them elsewhere.
If you know more ways of dealing with raccoons in the garden, please feel free to leave them in the comment section along with any other comments and opinions. Thank you!
- Nationwide Animal Removal "How To Get Rid of Raccoons" 2015
- Living With Wildlife "Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest" 2016
- The Humane Society "Raccoons Raiding Your Garden or Garbage?" 2016
- Project Wildlife "Project Wildlife Animals: Raccoons" 2017
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Michael Kismet
Doug on September 01, 2020:
Will Racoons destroy or eat Gunnera plants, mine was destroyed last night!
Alberta on August 20, 2019:
How do you get rid of raccoons if you've already been cooking and feeding them pork chops every night? Asking for a friend.
Coll on May 07, 2018:
Raccoons have angled mouths which makes it difficult for them to eat low level amounts of food in containers, particularly cat or dog food from a bowl if you are feeding strays or ferals. I only full the bowl up a 1/4 of the way and they become frustrated and move on. Also they can't bend down into a horizontal, covered container like a Rubbermade container for more than a couple of seconds. That frustrates them and they move on. If you trap a raccoon put a blanket over the trap and transport quickly to the new location. Place food down at the new location for them so they stay there. Hope this helps.
Michael Kismet (author) from Northern California on August 28, 2017:
Those raccoons, God bless them!
I'm humbled to be of assistance, thanks for reading, Marlene!
Marlene Bertrand from USA on August 28, 2017:
I am camping for the summer and I overheard some fellow campers talking about their encounter with raccoons. It seems they had several coolers filled with food. Although the campers covered the coolers, they did not seal the coolers and in the morning all of the coolers had been opened and the contents consumed. They knew it was raccoons because of the paw prints and, like you mentioned, the droppings left behind. These are some fabulous tips that I will pass along to my camping neighbors.