by National Gardening Association Editors
Raccoons are nocturnal animals that are thriving thanks to increased human contact, as anyone with an unsecured dumpster or trash can will attest. Wild populations prefer areas with trees and water nearby. But more and more they are found roaming city streets at night due to man's generosity in providing new sources of food, water, and shelter. Beside garbage cans, raccoons are notorious for their love of sweet corn. These omnivores will also eat strawberries, tree fruits, peas, potatoes, melons, and grubs found in your lawn. They will dig holes in maturing melons and munch on ripening tree fruit. They make holes in lawns and mulch piles looking for insects to eat. Like squirrels, they also have been known to clean out bird feeders.
To discourage raccoons from visiting your yard, stow water and food supplies, such as pet bowls and bird feeders, out of reach at night. You can also deter raccoons with repellents, scare tactics, and a good fence. Successful homemade repellents include a dusting of baby powder, cayenne pepper, or blood meal on vegetables and corn ears. In a small garden, cover individual corn ears or melons with bags taped shut. Place baffles on the trunks of fruit trees to prevent raccoons from climbing them. Prune overhanging limbs that raccoons might use to launch themselves into the fruit tree. To prevent lawn damage, control grubs and other insects. You can scare raccoons temporarily with loud, intermittent noises or lights, but the racket generated by motion-sensor noisemakers or lights may prevent you from getting much sleep at night! The best deterrent is a good fence. Raccoons are agile and smart, so build your fence well. If all else fails, remove persistent marauders with a trap.
Photograph by Jim Martin, courtesy of David Liebman