If you know what kind of damage raccoons can cause, it’s no surprise you don’t want them hanging around. It’s not limited to a tipped over trash can from time to time. Female raccoons in search of a nesting site may rip off shingles, fascia boards or rooftop ventilators to get into your attic. Once they are inside, they will tear up insulation, go to the bathroom and bring with them a host of parasites. Then again, they might avoid the attic all together and make themselves at home in your chimney, crawl space or under your deck or porch. And of course, they’ll want a snack which is easy to access from a nearby garden, decorative fish pond, pet food bowl or trash can.
Like I said, the trash can should be the least of your worries if you have a raccoon problem. They cause a lot more problems than going through the trash.
How to determine the size of your problem
Raccoons are nocturnal, so they can be hard to detect. It’s especially important to pay attention to the clues they leave behind and to the frequency and amount in which they are left behind. Here are some things to look for:
- Evidence of feeding — tipped over trash cans, damage to your garden or fish pond, a spilled or emptied pet food bowl, knocked over bird feeders, a disturbed compost pile.
In addition to the evidence they leave behind, you may also able to hear them visiting before you ever see them. No matter what alerts you, once you’re aware you have raccoons hanging around your house, it’s best to try to get rid of them as soon as possible.
How to get rid of raccoons
The availability of food sources in close proximity to potential den sites attracts female raccoons to nest. The presence of food sources is one reason raccoon populations can grow rapidly and become very large in urban and suburban areas. Eliminating food sources is the first step to deter raccoons.
If you live in a densely populated area with a known raccoon problem, it may be beyond the individual homeowner’s control to get rid of the problem. In these, instances a community effort is needed to resolve the problem. This is why early detection is so important.
If the above scenario, isn’t your reality, a few changes can help you manage the raccoon population around your home.
Secure the trash can. Leaving trash out that’s easily accessible is a great way to attract raccoons. When you take your garbage out or if you leave it outside, make sure it’s in a heavy trash can with a secure lid. You might also consider placing cans in a rack or tying them to a secure post and using a bungee cord or piece of wire to keep the lids in place.
Bring in pet food. Pet food that’s put outdoors should be brought in before nightfall to keep raccoons from finding and eating out of your pet’s dish.
Keep an eye on your bird feeders. Whether you use a special feeder, a shepherd’s hook or simply bring your feeders in at night, it’s a good idea to use at least one method to deter raccoons. The birds will appreciate it too!
Pick up fallen fruits and nuts. Yes, raccoons will venture into your yard even for the natural food that falls off the trees. Keeping it cleaned up will make your yard less attractive.
Put a fence around your garden, fish pond, compost pile or newly installed turf. Raccoons will look for food in gardens, fish ponds and compost piles. The best way to keep raccoons out of these areas is by installing an electric fence. Ordinary fences don’t hold up well enough as raccoons will dig under, climb over or find a way through them. However, an ordinary fence can become raccoon-proof by adding a single electrified strand of wire 8 inches above the ground and about 8 inches out from the base of the fence. A pulsating high-voltage, low-amperage fence charger is used to electrify the fence. You might also consider installing a low, two-wire electric fence to exclude raccoons from sweet corn, melons and other garden crops. Fasten two wires on evenly spaced wooden posts — one wire is 6 inches above the ground and the other is 12 inches above the ground. Then activate the fence charger from dusk to dawn. This type of low electric fence can also be installed around a newly laid sod lawn to prevent raccoons from rolling it back in search of insects or grubs. Then it can be removed once the turf has taken root. These fences are also used around decorative ponds to protect koi and goldfish from raccoons.
Never intentionally provide food for raccoons. You shouldn’t try to feed raccoons and you should discourage your neighbors from feeding raccoons. A readily available food source will only attract more raccoons and create and even bigger problem.
Reduce potential nesting sites
Once you’ve gotten rid of readily available food sources, you’ll want to reduce access to potential den sites. Without a place to nest, raccoons won’t be interested in sticking around for very long.
Yard work. You can start eliminating den sites by simply cleaning up your yard. Remove wood piles, thin out overgrown shrubbery, trim tree branches to reduce access to your roof. If you can, try to cut overhanging branches so that there is a 5-foot gap between your roof and the tree. You might also consider getting rid of trellises and arbors that offer easier access to your roof.
Seal off your chimney. Chimneys are a favorite nesting spot of raccoons, which is why it’s a good idea to cover yours with a spark arrester or chimney cap. Make sure the cap is tightly secured upon installation to prevent raccoons from pulling it loose. You also want to make sure there are no animals inside the chimney before covering the opening. If a family of raccoons has already taken up residence, you’ll probably need to hire a professional to remove them.
Seal off other entry points. While chimneys are a favorite, raccoons will find other places to nest in and around your house. Sealing of potential entry points, before they’ve been discovered, is the best way to keep raccoons away. Close off open spaces beneath structures, such as porches, decks and garden and tool sheds, with 10-gauge 1/4- or 1/3-inch galvanized hardware mesh. Then install it so the bottom edge of the wire is buried at least 6 inches deep, extended outward for 12 inches, and then back-covered with soil.
Other methods to deter raccoons include using products to repel, scare or trap raccoons. All of these methods have their downfalls. Products intended to scare raccoons will only work until the raccoons realize there’s no threat associated with these devices. While commercial repellents and home remedies have been successful at repelling other forms of wildlife, none have been successful at getting rid of raccoons. Lastly, trapping raccoons can be very dangerous for someone who’s inexperienced. Raccoons are known to carry a wide range of diseases, not only do you risk exposing yourself but if by some miracle you manage to trap a raccoon and release it somewhere else without being exposed, you risk exposing a whole new environment to any potential diseases it may be carrying. It’s probably best to leave trapping to the professionals unless you are prepared to euthanize it yourself.