When you awake each morning to evidence left in your yard from a hungry and destructive nocturnal visitor, you may have a raccoon problem. Raccoons are one of the smarter nighttime food-foraging animals that can be a nuisance in both rural and urban neighborhoods, as they will search out any food source you have in your yard. Here are some tips to help you recognize signs of a raccoon problem and how to get rid of them from your yard.
Signs of Raccoon Trespassing
There are several different signs that will alert you to a raccoon problem in your yard and garden. Raccoons will tear open packages, garbage bags, feed sacks, and remove the lids from garbage cans to get to any food they can smell. It is interesting to note that raccoons were thought to be in the same genus as bears, as bears have a similar strong sense of smell for searching out food.
Raccoons will eat any garden vegetables you have growing in your garden, such as corn, peas, potatoes, and fruit trees. If you have corn growing in your garden, they will push over the stalks to get to and eat the ears of corn. Unfortunately, they will waste much of your corn by only eating partial ears, because corn is not one of their favorite foods. They will also eat any pet food left out at night, including bird seed. One of a raccoon's favorite foods is sunflower seeds; it can be common to find a bird feeder empty and broken apart after a raccoon has eaten the seeds.
Another sign you have raccoons in your yard is your lawn has holes dug into it. This occurs when raccoons dig into the soil to search for insects and grubs to eat. Raccoons also will dig through mulch piles looking for bugs and worms to eat. Raccoons need only the smallest of openings to get into a shed or garage looking for something edible, as they need only a four-inch opening to gain access into a space.
Options to Get Rid of Raccoons
After you have determined you have raccoons in your yard, one way you can get rid of them is to cut them off from any food access. Seal up any small openings into your garage or shed and lock up any pet food at night. Then, once they learn they are not going to find anything to eat in your yard, they will stop visiting.
It can also be helpful to secure your garbage can lids by buying cans with locking lids. Additionally, you can attach a bungee cord over the top of the lid, or place a cinder block or two on top to hold it in place. Do all you can to suppress strong food smells inside your garbage can. For example, if you discard any meat waste into your outside trash can, it is a good idea to double-bag the waste to help prevent raccoons from smelling the meat scent.
Protect your yard or vegetable garden by installing two-wire electrical fencing, with the bottom wire positioned four to six inches from the ground and the top wire at twelve inches from the ground. You will only need to turn the electricity to your fence on at night when raccoons are active and hungry. You can also install sprinklers around your yard set on a motion detector at night. Then, when a raccoon enters into your yard, the motion detector will be set off, turning on the sprinklers. The noise and the water spray from the sprinklers will scare away the raccoons.
Another option is to set a cage trap for the raccoons, baited with seeds or fruit. It is important to check the laws in your area, as many states require you to have a permit to catch raccoons, even in your yard. You can also hire a professional animal or pest control service or residential wildlife removal in the area to catch the raccoons and release them in a more appropriate area.
Use this information to help you recognize and handle any raccoon problems in your yard.