Raccoon infestations in a garden can be a serious problem for homeowners. These animals are known for their ability to dig up and consume large amounts of fruits, vegetables, and plants, causing significant damage to a garden. They can also burrow under sheds, decks, and other structures, causing further damage.
- Large holes or digging in the soil, often in search of grubs or other insects to eat
- Damaged or missing fruits and vegetables, such as berries, melons, corn, and tomatoes
- Uprooted plants or torn-up sod, as raccoons will often dig through the soil to find food
- Tracks or feces in the garden area, which can be identified by their size (about 3-4 inches long) and shape (cylindrical with pointed ends)
- Damage to sheds, decks, or other structures, as raccoons may use these areas to den or nest. This can include holes or damage to roofs, walls, or floors.
- Damage to lawns, as raccoons often forage for grubs and other insects in lawns, leaving large patches of dead or dying grass.
- Possible raccoon sightings during the night, as they are nocturnal animals.
It’s important to note that other animals such as squirrels, skunks, and opossums can have similar symptoms, it’s important to identify the specific animal causing the damage.
What is a Raccoon
A raccoon’s physical characteristics include:
- Distinctive black and white markings on the face, including a black “mask” over the eyes and black fur around the cheeks
- Thick fur that is usually grayish-brown in color
- Bushy tail with black and white rings
- Front paws have five fingers, each with sharp claws
- Pointed snout
- Small, rounded ears
- About the size of a large domestic cat, can weigh up to 60 pounds
- They have a plump body shape with short legs
- They have a distinctive gait as they walk with an almost bear-like shuffle
- They have a highly sensitive front paws which they use to feel, hold and manipulate objects.
- Their hind legs are longer than their front legs, which gives them the ability to climb and jump with ease.
- They have a keen sense of smell and are strong swimmers
- Raccoon have a lifespan of about 2-3 years in the wild, but can live up to 20 years in captivity.
Treating a Raccoon Infestation
It may be necessary to use multiple methods to effectively treat a raccoon infestation in a garden. For example, habitat modification can reduce the attraction of the garden to raccoons, but repellents and trapping may be needed to remove individuals that are already present. Exclusion can prevent raccoons from accessing the garden, but trapping and removal may be necessary to get rid of raccoons that are already inside a structure. It’s also important to note that repellents and trapping methods should be used with caution and in compliance with local laws, as raccoons are a protected species and humane methods should be used.
- Remove or limit sources of food and water, such as fallen fruit or standing water: raccoons are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, insects, and other foods that are readily available in a garden. By removing or limiting these food sources, raccoons may be less likely to visit the garden.
- Install barriers, such as fencing or chicken wire, to prevent raccoons from accessing the garden: Fences should be at least 4 feet tall and buried at least 6 inches underground to prevent raccoons from digging under them. Chicken wire can be used to cover vulnerable plants or gardens to keep raccoons out.
- Trim back trees and bushes to reduce hiding spots and potential den sites: Raccoons will use thick foliage for cover and as a place to den. Trimming back trees and bushes can make it harder for raccoons to hide, and may make them feel less secure in the area.
- Secure garbage cans and compost bins, as raccoons may be attracted to these sources of food: Garbage cans should be kept in a secure area, such as a shed or garage, and compost bins should be covered with a tight-fitting lid to prevent raccoons from getting inside.
- Keep pet food and birdseed indoors, as these can also attract raccoons: Pet food and birdseed left outside can attract raccoons to the garden.
- Use commercial repellents, such as sprays or granules, that contain ingredients such as peppermint oil or predator urine to deter raccoons: These repellents work by creating an unpleasant odor or taste that raccoons find unappealing. They should be applied around the perimeter of the garden or in areas where raccoons are known to be active.
- Place motion-activated lights or sounds in the garden, as raccoons may be frightened by sudden movements or loud noises: Motion-activated lights can be used to startle raccoons and make them feel less secure in the area. Sound devices that emit high-pitched noises or distress calls can also be used to deter raccoons.
- Use live traps to capture and remove raccoons from the property: Live traps are cages that are baited with food to lure raccoons inside. Once the raccoons are inside, the door will close behind them, trapping them inside.
- Contact a professional wildlife control operator to set and check traps: It is important to use humane methods and to comply with local laws when trapping raccoons. Wildlife control operators are trained to safely and humanely trap and remove raccoons.
- Release the trapped raccoons at least 5 miles away from your property: It is important to release raccoons at least 5 miles away from your property to reduce the chances that the raccoons will return.
- Seal off entry points to structures, such as sheds or decks, to prevent raccoons from denning or nesting inside: Raccoons are excellent climbers and can easily gain access to structures through holes, vents, or gaps. It is important to identify and seal off entry points to keep raccoons from getting inside. This can include patching holes in roofs, walls, or floors, or installing chimney caps or vent covers.