Raccoons are small brownish mammals, with a bushy, banded tail and their trademark black mask. Their front paws are shaped like little hands which allows them to pull, pry, twist, and turn their way into all sorts of trouble. They leave no stone or garbage can unturned in their quest for food.
Raccoons overturn and rummage through garbage searching for food, tear holes in roofs and siding, terrorize birds, and carry rabies. So they're not exactly Mr. Popular in the neighborhood.
Corn, corn, and more corn, although they eat almost everything - fish, turtles, shellfish, bird eggs, insects, young mammals, fruit, nuts, grain, anything growing in your garden, and any food associated with man - pet food, barbeque, pizza, etc.
Raccoons always seem to know exactly when corn is ripe, and unfortunately, you pay the price. They'll knock over whole rows in search of the perfect kernel. Melon damage starts out as a tiny hole, and ends up with big handfuls scooped out. Look for the telltale paw prints. They'll also dig holes in your lawn, and have even been known to roll back sod looking for tasty grubs.
Eliminate their food sources. In the lawn, eliminate lawn grubs by applying Milky Spore at the recommended rates. To keep them away from or out of other areas, apply Slug Stop or Total Pest Control as directed to help get rid of other insect food sources.
Protecting your garden means keeping the whole yard raccoon free. Secure all garbage can lids, leave pet food inside, and keep your compost pile turned so that it cooks properly.
- Even though raccoons seem to enjoy dipping their food in water, they sure won't stick around when doused with a sudden cold spray! The Scarecrow Sprinkler can really help send raccoons looking for a friendlier eating establishment.
- Protect your corn by interplanting cukes, gourds, pumpkins, summer squash - raccoons will not walk on the prickly vines.
- Sprinkle ripening corn with Cayenne pepper or baby powder, or dab the silks with a nylon stocking that has perfume on it.
- Use your imagination to keep raccoons out of corn. A low electric fence can be run between the rows. Old screens and bushel baskets, propped against cornstalks, act as booby traps to scare them away. Crumpled up newspapers, placed between rows of corn and held down with stones, make crackling noises as raccoons step on them. A string of electric Christmas lights can be draped on cornstalks, and the blinking lights deter raccoons in their nightly foraging expeditions.
- Sprinkle dog droppings, blood-meal, fox scent, or coyote urine around the base of plants.
- Other controls include sprinkling mothballs in areas where they like to congregate, directing loud, "heavy metal" rock 'n' roll (they seem to like "soft" rock or "easy listening" music) at their resting/nesting area, and placing long metal flash tubes around the trunks of fruit trees will keep them from their mission. A Scarecrow Sprinkler could do the trick too. Though raccoons love water, the idea of being forcefully sprayed while foraging for goodies can be pretty effective at sending them on their way.
- Your absolute best defense is probably a good fence, but it can't be just any old fence. It should be sturdy, at least 5 feet high, and have the top 2 feet made of unsupported chicken wire so that it bends over on the raccoon as he attempts to climb it.
- Rattling pie tins, scare tape, steamers, windmills, and the like will initially scare raccoons off, but they are only effective in the short term. Rotate and/or combine any and all of these methods so that the 'coons don't get used to one set pattern. Above all else, be imaginative