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Keeping Raccoons AWAY

Raleigh, NC

OK, I've seen the thread on attracting raccoons (why oh why?), but I've got the opposite problem. I've got a family of four visiting my second story screened porch. There is evidence they've been coming for awhile, and it was proven this weekend when we had to leave food out for our cat (which we normally don't do), and witnessed them actually opening the plastic cat food container. Seems to be Mama and almost grown babies????

We've had them before, at other homes, but always where there was food of some sort. Here, they have to climb a set of stairs to the second story to come in--no trees connect with the house there, so they are definitely using the stairs. Why are they coming in? There is never anything edible out there--this is the first time ever, and it was only for a day. I'm worried because I also have pet chickens, and definitely don't want them killed. I'm wondering if setting a few baited mouse traps would scare them? Or, preferably, non-baited ones where they have to step. Also wondering if its just better to start feeding them, but far from the house, to protect the chickens. Not fond of that option, though, as I hate to encourage them. Thoughts?

Edited to say- Don't have any bird feeders, garbage etc, around the house. Do have a dog and cat--both are in that area daily, so the smell did not deter them. Only other thing that could attract them is a closed bin of compost. Its not on the porch, though.

This message was edited Jul 27, 2009 10:56 PM

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

The other things that attract raccoons, and other animals, are shelter and water. Do you leave a dish out for the dog and cat? Is there a fountain or container pond? A steady faucet leak? Or, could they have a nest tucked into some corner of the porch or house? Are they climbing as far as the attic or a chimney?

Are there bird feeders, either seed or nectar? Do you toss out feed for the chickens? (I'd definitely check their coop for strong fencing to keep the coons out.)

I've heard people use tabasco or cayenne around trash cans or compost bins. You might try that for your bin and also on the access to the porch (with attention to whether the dog or cat will get into it). I've also heard various motion-activated things to startle them - a light, a sound, a spray of water. The snapping mouse trap would do it, but if one of them manages to get caught then you'll have the dilemna of how to get them out.

Raleigh, NC

Oh, good thought! I hadn't thought of what I'd do if it got caught. I'm getting a mental image of that.....!

I was just thinking that the snapping sound might scare them away. Our chicken pen is strong welded wire, with a wood base and rocks around that, but I never feel secure about the chickens. I don't think their feed is attracting the coons because there is no evidence they've been near the pen. Plus, if there was easy food there, why would they bother to climb a long flight of stairs? I have had raccons nest/sleep on our roof at another home, but this house is two story with a roof pitch, so I doubt it. Always possible, I guess. Maybe I should go up on the roof and check...Several ponds/creeks close to the house (but not in our yard), but can't do much about them. No water bowls or bird feeders etc. Guess I'll never know why they are coming, huh...

Dewitt, MI(Zone 5b)

A coon would laugh at a mouse trap! Even if one happened to get a mouse trap stuck on a foot it would just pull it off and go about its business. They are tough and strong. Coons are a problem for folks that maintain bluebird trails. Predator guards work until a coon really wants to get past one. My buddy outfitted his bluebird house poles with rat traps to discourage coons. They learned how to trip them without getting pinched.

They are coming because there is an overpopulation of coons. Ever since PETA drove down the price of fur nobody bothers to harvest coons and we have eliminated most of their predators.

Every state and in the U.S. and U.S. territory must have a wildlife action plan in order to get federal dollars for wildlife. Because I run a sort of "wildlife organization" I attended one of the early workshops in our state. The morning and afternoon workgroups on reptiles and amphibians called for a bounty to be restored for coons. A herpetologist pleaded for a bounty because he is running out of reptiles and amphibians to study.

They may be cute, but they are overpopulated and carry a number of diseases that can be transmitted to humans. The best thing that you could do for yourself and the balance of nature in your area would be to take care of the problem yourself or hire a licensed animal control agency to do it for you. I checked your state laws and it would be fairly easy to handle on your own.

Raleigh, NC

Thanks, Stelco. The information about over-population is interesting, as I haven't seen any in my yard until this year, and certainly can't think of much I have to attract them except chickens, and so far, they've left them alone. Makes me wonder......

Had to laugh at your last sentence..."checked your state laws and it would be fairly easy to handle on your own." Naturally, this is North Carolina.....we can hunt ANYTHING!!! And eat it, too. Ok, not really, but it sure seems that way. If they show up again, I'm going to have to live trap them, as I don't want to risk our chickens or, for that matter, six pound cat and nine pound dog. And I don't want to give my spouse an excuse to get out the weapons!!! Sorry, he ain't that good of a shot, so I doubt it would be humane.

Dewitt, MI(Zone 5b)


If you do not have a humane way to "handle on your own", I think that it is my obligation to let you know that relocating wildlife is against the law in every state that I'm aware of. In addition to being illegal, you move the problem to someone else's yard. It's a no win situation. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

Raleigh, NC

Thanks, Stelco. Yes, I knew that....funny how shooting it is ok, but removing it is not. I'm envisioning my neighbors if they see us lurking in our yard with a shotgun...oh well, they probably think we are pretty funny anyway with our rain barrels and chickens and compost pile! I guess I've already broken the law--I took a chipmunk from my cat and let it go in the local park. Egads, I'd better go into hiding!

Not that I'm thinking of breaking the law, but if I DID think of it, how late in summer is too late to move them in order that they can locate food/ housing before winter? Our winters are mostly mild until December. Are raccoons territorial? I'm assuming not, but haven't checked.

Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Yes, they have territories, I think more so the females than the males. I've heard different things about how strongly they defend them. The young ones would be striking out on their own Nov-Dec-ish anyways, so I suppose that would be the time to make their move. (Or, from the other perspective, that's the time they would be leaving anyways.)

Really, it's better not to move them. Aside from their chances of survival and dumping a problem on someone else... If there's something about your yard that is attractive to raccoons, it will just be a matter of time until another one moves in. (And if you have developed bad karma in the meantime, it will probably be a rabid chicken-stealing one.) Now that you know a little bit about this bunch, it might be in your interest to figure out what it is they find attractive, and then get rid of it or seal it up or whatever.

Looks like in NC you need a "depredation permit" to even trap them UNLESS they are in the act of destroying your property? Kind of like here in Texas it is legal to shoot someone who is stealing your horse.

dep-ruh-DAY-shun , noun:
1. An act of plundering or despoiling; a raid.
2. [Plural] Destructive operations; ravages.

Dewitt, MI(Zone 5b)

In Michigan the law reads:

Raccoon may be taken on private property by a property owner or designee all year if they are doing or about to do damage on private property. A license or written permit is not needed.

If they are on my property I assume that they are "about to do damage".

I live on a small lake. We had a potential drowning just last week and my property was full of police, search and rescue, fire officials, the dive team . . . There was also a coon in a trap that I had assumed was about to do damage, so it was no longer alive. One police officer (from a distance) asked me if it was a coon. I said yes. That was that. The law varies from state to state, but with the overpopulation problem most law officials are happy to see some folks addressing the problem.

If I get a cat, animal control makes a house call to pick it up.

Maricopa, AZ(Zone 9b)

Cats , racoons , ground squirels , rabbits, they all make for good owl/buzzard snacks .

Raleigh, NC

Funny thing is, we've lived here four years with no problems. My compost is in covered trash cans, and I turn it almost every day so there is little odor etc, but that's the only thing I can think of that would draw them in, seeing as there is no evidence they've discovered the chickens yet. I'm wondering if something has happened to some of the predators this year, as I'm also seeing rats for the first time ever. Normally, we have tons of hawks, but haven't seen any in our neighborhood this summer (I do see them elsewhere, though).

Stelco--I'm assuming that I can call a commercial wildlife control company and they are legal? Hate to do it, though, as I'm sure they would kill them. I can let them go where they won't be a problem for anyone else (large wildlife area).

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Just a few thoughts on this situation.

If you relocate them, and I'm not suggesting you do so, it would be better to do so in winter, preferably around Jan or Feb. I say this because the ones that visit your yard are almost certainly females and their kits (babies). In spring the females will be pregnant, not the best time to try to find a new home. In spring and early summer they will be nursing their young. If you move the female then, the babies will starve. After that they need time to teach the kits how to look for food and how to be raccoons. If you relocate them in Jan or Feb that should be the time when they are getting ready to send the yearling kits off on their on and just before they start the next family. I say this also based on the fact that winters are not so cold in your area.

Unfortunately, even if there was never food on the deck before, now that they found it there once, they will probably return just to check.

I'm told that a product called Ropel (available online) works to deter them from specific items. I doubt anything will work to deter them from an area.

I like the idea of finding and locating whatever is drawing them to the house. In addition to pet food, water, and garbage, they are also attracted to some insects such as grubs. If that's the draw you will see spots on the lawn where they are digging or cone shaped holes in the ground where they poke their noses in - in this case you might try treating the lawn for grubs at the appropriate time. They are attracted to mice, rats, bird's nests (for the eggs), turtle eggs, baby snakes. They are also attracted to a number of fruits and nuts that might be growing in your yard like: grapes, blueberries, quince including japanese flowering quince, apples and crab apples, melons, blackberries, peanuts, pecans, almonds, cherries including wild black cherry trees, and beechnuts among other things. I have even seen them eating the crab apple like fruits that grow on some camellias and rose hips.

Also, since you mentioned that you have chickens, the eggs produced by the chickens may actually be the draw. Raccoons LOVE fresh, raw eggs of just about any kind.

Good luck with you problem.

Raleigh, NC

Scutler--good info. I've got tons of grubs this year--maybe that is part of the issue. I'm assuming what we have is a family group, so I'm glad to know the timing of moving them. At least if I have to, I can know they have a good chance to reestablish themselves. I've thought about the eggs, but so far I've never lost any, or seen evidence around the chickens. I have a feeling its only a matter of time, though, which is why I'm trying to discourage their visits. Our chickens are pets, so I'd hate to lose one.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I rather doubt that a raccoon would go after something the size of a grown chicken. Raccoons are omnivores. From my experience they show a far greater interest in fruits, nuts, berries, melons, and dry cat and dog food than they do meat or chicken. They do, however, love eggs. That they haven't gotten the eggs yet, makes me think they must not want to take on the chickens - but that's no guarantee that they won't give it a try if they get hungry enough. For protein, they are much more likely to eat eggs, grubs, nuts, and smaller creatures such as mice or rats if they can find or catch one.

If a raccoon did manage to steal an egg, I doubt she would eat it around the chicken for fear of attack. Believe it or not, raccoons can actually carry raw chicken eggs without breaking them. I've seen them sort of jog upright on their hind legs while holding the egg in front of them in their two 'hands' and have also seen them carry a large chicken egg (raw) in their mouths without breaking it and even climb a fence and tree with it. They are quite amazing creatures.

Another thing I meant to tell you is that if you don't want the raccoons around, the very last thing you want to do is feed them. I've tried that experiment and can tell you that doing so is sure to multiply your troubles. I've learned to enjoy my visitors, mind you, but I don't have chickens. I do now have quite a few more than I had bargained for, which is why I caution against the feeding approach if you truly don't want them around.

Lastly, I am also inclined to agree with the person above who said that if you get rid of this one you will likely get another. They do defend a territory. If this one is causing trouble, it might be better to 'leave' her alone and just do what you can to keep from feeding her either intentionally or otherwise.

Can you close the chicken up somewhere at night where they will be safe? Maybe that would be the better solution.

Raleigh, NC

We have been closing them up at night, just worried about a break in. Wish the raccoons would eat my mice and my most recent "neighbors", a pair of rats. Or the chipmunks, or voles or rabbits or....oh well, you get the picture. I definitely don't feed the wildlife, with the exception that once in a great while if its really snowy or cold I might put out a few nuts and water for the birds and squirrels. I definitely don't need any more visitors!

Hartshorn, MO

I've always had luck with putting ammonia around the area the coons are invading. If they have one route to your porch, put a bowl of clear ammonia in their path, soak a towel in the ammonia and put one corner of it in the bowl and the rest on the ground or on top of a couple of bricks or something. The idea is to give the ammonia more surface area to evaporate, with the reservoir to extend the time it will stink up the area.
If coons are getting in your trash can, just spray some ammonia over the lids before going in for the night. The bowl and towel method even worked for my little patch of corn in the garden this summer.

Hot Springs Village, AR(Zone 7b)

We used to have a family of coons use the end of our deck for a bathroom every night. I bought a motion sensor which flashes a strobe and makes a very high-pitched squeal. After a couple of nights of that, they never came back onto the deck again.

We had a coon climbing bird feeders in our front yard recently, even though we had a "raccoon baffle" on the poles which they are not supposed to be able to climb. These are tubes about 3'-4' long and 12"-14" across which the feeder pole goes through. I sprayed WD-40 on the baffles to make them harder to hold onto, and that seemed to do the job. When it wears off and I see he has come back again, I spray it again. If you don't have WD-40, any other kind of lubricant may do.

I think that coons are smart enough to move on once they learn that you are going to give them some grief on a regular basis.

Baldwin City, KS

We live on the edge of several acres of woods and when we had cats, racoons would visit our open back porch often to finish the food the cats didn't finish. Our cats finally died so the food was no longer there and the racoons stopped coming on the porch. One time they must have been very hungry, or bored, and they climbed out on a couple foot board from which we hang a niger thistle finch feeder. They totally destroyed that feeder, but have not been back to visit the new feeder in years-guess they don't care much for niger seed.

Also, we have a large garden in which we grow (at least attempt to grow) sweet corn. We see no evidence of racoons, but about the day before the corn is ready, they (and all their extended family) carpool in and have a feast!!

Overall, racoons are worthy opponents! To preserve our corn crop, I usually put up an electric fence with a couple of strands of wire at about 6 and 12 inches above the ground. Sometimes this works, but sometimes they get to the corn anyway. This year I am going to use three wires--the electrified (with electric fence charger from the farm store) wires at 6 and maybe 16 inches with a ground wire at about 11 inches.

Good luck with your racoons, and any new ideas are always welcome, and often fun to try to outsmart those little bandits!


Valrico, FL(Zone 9b)

I'm answering this as a wildlife rehabber. Although now I principally work with birds, I have worked with coonies for many, many years. There's a reason we lock their cages with key locks & not combination locks -- they don't know numbers or combinations, but they won't stop fiddling with the thing, simply because they're intrigued by it - fun to play with - and viola - it's open, Mom!

Raccoons are VERY smart, stubborn & have NO edit function. They'll just keep at something that captures their interest. You have to out wait them. Be patient & persistent. They are.

And when you set that electric fence, set it very low to the ground. Raccoons can't jump, but they can squeeze into an opening of just 3". Relocating them is an issue, because they're a rabies vector species. The virus is rare in the general population, but making a law just in case is the most expedient way for the gov't to look like they're doing something about it... .

Just keep at it with them. Take away anything that might feed or amuse them & they'll likely trundle on over to your neighbor's. Good luck!

Tampa Bay

Baldwin City, KS

Thanks, Chris:

This year I will lower the bottom wire of the fence.


Raleigh, NC

Ok Update to this thread, since folks are still commenting (thank you!):

My raccoon family went away eventually. I have no idea why they came, and no idea why they left. I presume the feeding pressure lessened due to the babies dispersing and the fact that we had near normal rain this winter. Not sure.

I do still have a resident oppossum, if anyone would like to comment on that!!! He's been with me over a year...same guy...comes by every 3-4 nights. Young fellow--seems to live very close, and my patio is in the path of his nightly forays. No evidence he lives near/under my house, though. Hasn't messed with the chickens....yet.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I would not be surprised if your raccoons show up again. This is the time of year when the females are raising their young. Nursing females get very hungry and have difficulty finding enough food. I hope yours really are gone for good, but they may have left for winter, a time when raccoon in colder areas semi-hibernate. Their food needs are very low during winter both because of lower activity and because they are not supporting families/babies. In spring and summer when the females are gestating and nursing, they may return.

I have my own young opossum who visits the front yard to eat the cat's food. Good luck trying to stop yours. I think removing all food sources is the only thing that may work.

Parkville, MD

I will comment on the opossum. They are harmless. they look mean and hiss if you are near their babys, But they can't see well and they are slow and they are all but ammune to rabies. They have been around since prehistoric time and seemed to change very little. some people have them as pets. Just let the opossum be. he won't hurt the dog or cat. he is scared to death of them. opossums eat berries and any thing including bread if they are hungry. we have about three of them here for 7 years now. I did have racoons and we caught on is a cage. then animal control told us we had to have a permit. Sio we hired a animal trapper. he removed 4 from our yard . he baited them with cat food and sardines the last two days we caught the opossums , we covered the cage with a tablecloth and let the opossums come back out of the cage into out yard. The animals trapper told us raccoons fecal matter is very toxic and nasty and carried a lot of terrible diseases . so you have to reallty clean up where they were with bleach and wear Gloves.

Parkville, MD

here is an interesting link on opossums

Raleigh, NC

Another update to this thread:
Spouse just went out a week or so ago to work on a small boat he has had stored for a year of so upside down on the ground. When he flipped it up, he found 20 or 30 containers from our recycle bin. Seems "someone" was dragging the containers from the bin to the safety of the boat, and having a feast. The pathway from the bins to the boat goes just under our bedroom window, and all spring I could hear something going by there around 10 or 11 each night. Presume its "our" oppossum. Very smart fellow.

Hobart, IN

I'm late to this thread but am almost pulling my hair out. Next door neighbor insists on feeding raccoons for the past two years. Last year there were about 6, primarily a mama and 5 babies. Last night, we counted 11 raccoons eating in his back yard. He puts out cereal and bread for them. Both DH and I have asked him to stop but he won't. That's not so much an issue for us but the raccoons are tearing up our lawn and garden beds. We don't put out any food for them, I've stopped composting my veggies scraps but they still roam our yard looking for more food. Trapping 11 raccoons seems a bit of a major effort. Do raccoons have a sense of taste? I'm contemplating using some sort of cayenne pepper spray, hoping they get it on their little hands. Short of using a pellet gun, I've run out of ideas.

Saint Paul, MN

Relocating is definitely not a good idea. It is kinder to shoot them or otherwise humanly kill them if you can't live with them. Some people even eat them though I'd have to be pretty hungry to try it. I think I saw Andrew Zimmerman raving about how delicious it was on his program he did in Appalachia.

Maybe you could exclude them some how from the porch area. Many people live with raccoons just fine. I have one that comes onto my porch sometimes and reaches into the parrot cage to get kibble if I forget to remove it when I take the bird in at night. He hasn't caused any damage though.

I doubt you are going to make any headway if your neighboor insists on feeding them. I am sure if you trapped them all more would just move in to replace them as long as you have someone providing food for them. Some cities have regulations about feeding animals. Maybe they are breaking the law by feeding them? They are sort of cute.

This message was edited Jul 23, 2010 2:10 PM

Hobart, IN

I can handle an occasional visit from the critters but they're roaming through my yard and gardens every night. Not fun to find purchased plants dug up 3 days later. It is an unusually high number of them congregating every night so I'm sure the local population is getting way out of control. With rabies season coming up, I'm even more concerned. We've held off calling the authorities, trying to be nice and neighborly. We have asked them a couple of times to stop feeding them but the neighbors just feed them even more now.

Conyers, GA(Zone 8a)

Hi yokedog. As I was researching for a sonic cat replellent, I ran across one for unwanted wildlife and wanted to pass this along if you want to give it a try.

It might work in your case. Sells for $64.95 so it is a little pricey but if it works might be the best solution.

Here's another brand on YouTube video called Yard Sentinel suppose to work on all kinds of wildlike including deer and piegons so that means you will also stop other birds from coming around to so use with caution.

This message was edited Apr 23, 2012 7:52 AM

Hobart, IN

Thanks for that link! Am looking into it. Last year, we counted 11 raccoons and our neighbor has already started with his "feeding" program. Now he's signalling to them via whistling when it's dinner time - usually around dark. They've already destroyed a new perennial recently planted. If nothing else, this unit might disturb his dogs. :)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I've been feeding a very friendly and well behaved group of raccoons in my yard now for some 7yrs. I enjoy their adorable antics; however, I also care about being a good neighbor and realize that most people don't want raccoons around. Several times over the years, I've asked my neighbors on all sides if they have noticed any problems with raccoons in their yards. The answer is always the same, "No". They say they have never even seen a raccoon on their property and wonder why I would ask such a question. My point is that, even with a neighbor nearby who is feeding them, the raccoons probably wouldn't be hanging around in your yard unless something were attracting them there - and that something is almost always food in some form or other.

It makes sense to me really. Why would the raccoons hang out in my neighbors' yards when I'm handing out free food over here. My backyard is completely enclosed by a 6ft privacy fence, however. That may help to define the boundaries of my yard and keep them contained herein.

Here's the thing. Raccoons (all wildlife really) are hungry, esp in spring and summer when they are raising their young. Lactating mothers are practically insatiable, bottomless pits. Think about it. They have to find and consume enough food to be able to feed themselves and keep enough milk flowing to feed a family of up to 6 or so rapidly growing young ones. Normally, raccoons travel through about 1 mile of forest each night in search of food, but in spring & summer they may need to traverse up to 5miles of forest to find enough food to feed their families. The problem is that we humans are consuming forests at an alarming pace lately to build our homes, farms, subdivisions, shopping centers, highways, and ever widening cities. We've carved up much of their territory, such that in many cases there isn't enough forest left to support them all. It's no wonder they find their way into our yards, especially if we live adjacent to the forest.

Bottom line, if you put food of any kind in your yard, be it cat food, dog food, or bird food, I have my doubts that anything, short of a Rottweiler will keep the raccoons away from it - because they are desperately hungry. (But, I would probably try the electronic device mentioned above.) I know exactly how frustrating this can be. I didn't invite the raccoons to my yard either. In fact, I spent years trying everything I could think of to keep them out - all to no avail. Back then they came to eat the sunflower seeds from my bird feeder and drink the hummingbird nectar. I even tried taking the feeders inside at night and putting them out again each morning. The raccoons just started coming to my yard earlier each afternoon and later each morning, even coming out in broad daylight, if necessary, to get to the food. And, yes, despite what you may have heard to the contrary, perfectly healthy raccoons will come out in daylight if they are hungry enough and if that is when the food is available. Now I have 2 'outdoor' cats that have to come inside to eat; otherwise the raccoons and opossums eat the food no matter when I put it out. Incidentally, dry cat and dog food are among raccoons' favorite foods, so if you are putting this out, you are definitely ringing the dinner bell. Raccoons are extremely capable, extremely intelligent, have amazing problem solving skills, and do not give up at all easily.

On the other hand (Cindy), if you are not putting out food and yet the raccoons are coming into your yard and digging up lawn or plants, there is a very good chance that you have grubs. Raccoons don't normally dig up plants for the fun of it. If they are digging up plants you just put in the ground the day or so before, you might try putting bricks down around new plants temporarily. Very young raccoons do sometimes enjoy digging in freshly turned soil in search of bugs/worms. Raccoon mothers will sometimes take advantage of such opportunities (freshly dug soil) to teach their young how to dig for bugs. (That said, it's really not the right time of year for this to be happening. Right now the females are either gestating or nursing their very young kits. In either case, the young are not old enough yet to be visiting your yard this time of year, so I doubt this is what is happening right now.)

On the other hand, if they are digging up lawn and/or digging holes around established plants, they are almost certainly in search of grubs (tasty, high protein, and very destructive lawn pests that lie just under the surface). If this is the case, you should probably go to the home center and purchase something to put on the lawn to kill grubs, or better yet get one of those all purpose products that kills grubs and other lawn pests. I think there are only certain times of year when you can successfully kill grubs this way, but the folks at the home center will know about this. Often they only stock the product to kill grubs during the time when it's appropriate to apply it. If you get rid of the grubs, there is a good chance the raccoons will stop digging in your yard - although you will probably have to reapply the grub product once or twice a year to keep the grubs out of the lawn. (If you have noticed Japanese beetles in your yard/garden, you definitely have grubs.)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Almost forgot to address the foils of raccoon relocation. As mentioned above, I've been through all phases of trying to keep the raccoons out of my yard, before I finally gave up and decided to feed them and enjoy them. I'm not recommending anyone else do the latter, btw. I've now spent some 7yrs feeding them. For several years I even sat out there in the back yard with them while they ate. I observed them and even interacted with them, sort of the raccoon version of the Jane Goodall thing. Over the years I learned a lot about raccoons. I recorded my observations here on DG and became a sort of impromptu 'expert' of sorts, although I really hate to use that word. Now to discuss relocation issues:

For starters spring and summer are the absolute worst time to catch and relocate raccoons, although, ironically, that's when they are most likely to be causing problems and thus when people are most likely to want to relocate them. The raccoons that visit your yards are almost certainly females, the only males being youngsters under 1yr old. At 1yr old the females have their 1st litter and join the ranks of the breeding females. The males are sent packing. The females 'own' the yards and other good feeding grounds. Adult males are generally forbidden access to these areas. The food is needed to sustain the Mom's and the next generation.

So if you catch a raccoon in your yard, it will almost certainly be a female. This time of year most females have a nest/den somewhere with hungry, vulnerable kits in it. (Raccoon kits are born with their eyes closed like kittens and are completely unable to care for themselves.) If you relocate the mom, the babies will starve or be eaten by predators. If you must relocate a raccoon, it's much more humane to do so in fall/winter.

Lastly, relocating the raccoons in your yard will not solve the problem. Raccoons have territories. If you remove the raccoon that currently 'owns' the territory, others will come to take her place. If you remove them, they will be replaced by others and so on. You can really expect to relocate every raccoon in the entire forest. Plus, if the raccoon you have now isn't doing anything REALLY bad (think trying to build a home in your attic or crawl space, attacking your cat or dog, etc), you might be better off keeping her. If you relocate her, the one that takes her place may not have such good manners. Pretty much any raccoon will dig up grubs if you have them. That's how they forage for food. You can stop this behavior by eradicating the grubs and covering the fresh dirt temporarily right after you plant things.

To cover freshly dug earth and keep raccoons/squirrels from digging up plants, you can put a brick on either side of a small plant up close to the stem or lay a section of wire fence on the ground around plants/seedlings (let plants/seedlings come up through the holes in the wire. This will discourage digging in the area. To reiterate, this is to cover and discourage digging in freshly dug soil around new plants. Raccoons are not interested in or attracted to the plants but rather the fresh dirt and any worms, grubs, bugs underneath.

Hobart, IN

We have gone to the expense of putting down milky spore grub control over the past two years, 2 to 3 times per year. At this stage, the milky spore should start doing it's thing on the grubs. We have no plans on paying to relocate raccoons. I can imagine that the moms are hungry but how healthy can white bread and cheap cereal be? All that will do is create a population density that is not humane to the natural foraging that raccoons engage in. I do kinda get upset when a raccoon meanders through my yard full of people (including children) in the middle of a summer afternoon. And we're talking 13 raccoons at last count next door, not the occasional one or two passing through my yard from their nesting place over to the neighbor's "buffet". The fact that the neighbor is trying to "socialize" the raccoons by whistling for them is not great either.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

A word about rabies. Rabies is very serious and very deadly. There is no season for rabies. You can contract it any time of year if you are bitten or scratched by an animal that has it, as it exists in the saliva of infected animals (as well as the brain and nervous system). Although you could possibly come across a rabid raccoon, the vast majority of raccoons do not have rabies.

I have never seen a rabid raccoon, but I am told by those who have that they are very obviously and seriously ill. In the 7yrs that I've been feeding the raccoons here, and I've entertained groups of 20 or more each with 1 to 5 kits, I've never encountered a rabid raccoon. One of the raccoons that visits my house (I named her Heidi) has been coming here all 7yrs and remains quite healthy to this day. (Rabid raccoons do not live more than a few weeks.)

Contrary to what most people believe, just because a raccoon is out in daytime does not mean it is rabid. The raccoons I feed come out an hour or two before dark pretty much daily in summer when the days are very long and it doesn't get dark until 9PM or so. That time of year they are nursing kits and have enormous appetites such that they can't wait until 9PM to eat. If a raccoon comes into your yard during the day, it may just be looking for a 'midnight' snack. If rabid, it should be stumbling around, behaving in a very odd manner, and looking extremely sick. Otherwise, it is probably perfectly healthy and just hungry.

In the very unlikely event that you are scratched or bitten by a raccoon, you will need to get shots just to be on the safe side. The raccoon probably isn't rabid, but if you are infected with rabies you will surely die w/o the shots, so it's best to get the shots just in case. Despite all of the horrible things you have probably heard about these shots, things like getting shots in the stomach and so forth, today getting rabies shots is just like getting a flu shot - except that you have to go back for another one every week or 2 until you have taken some 5 or so total (forgotten the number now). The shots are given in the arm just like a flu shot.

I've had the rabies shots myself just as a precaution, so I'm speaking from experience here. All veterinarians and people who work in animal rehab (if they work with raccoons, foxes, or other such animals) get them routinely as a precaution - as a vaccination to protect them against rabies. The shots did not hurt at all. They felt no different than the annual flu shot. (And I'm a total wimp who cannot tolerate pain. If they hurt, I would tell you the truth.) Although I was told my arm might be sore or red afterward, it wasn't. After my very last shot, I noticed a slightly raised or swollen, red area around the injection site for a few hours, but even then it didn't hurt at all. It was just red and slightly swollen. I'm told that was a visible sign of my body mounting defenses against the [dead] rabies organism. I've spoken to a number of people, mostly in animal control, who have also taken the rabies shots. They all say the same thing - the shots didn't hurt. (I'm told the rabies shots really were very painful if you got them in decades past, but we today are lucky. Medical science has come a long way over the years. Today the rabies shots are no big deal, just like getting a series of flu shots, nothing more.)

From my experience working with the raccoons, I have found that they always move away from me if they are scared or uncomfortable. They never, ever strike out at me, never try to bite me or scratch me. Even if I reach out to touch them - and I have done this many times - they never strike out at me. If frightened, they always move (or run) away. A rabid animal might behave quite differently, but from what I've seen, a normal raccoon will always try to get away from you if possible, and will only stand and fight if it has no other choice (or possibly if it's babies are in danger, but I've never seen this). As long as you are careful not to trap on in a corner where it can't escape, you aren't likely to ever be bitten or scratched, at least not by a healthy, non-rabid raccoon.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)


Although I do feed the raccoons, I am not advising others to do so. I mention it only to explain the source of much of my knowledge and just to be forthright. I feed them dry cat and/or dog food with the occasional treat such as a raw egg, grapes, etc. The ones that frequent my yard don't eat bread, although they do love Apple Jacks cereal for a treat. If the ones near you are eating bread, they are probably quite hungry and are eating it for the calories/energy only. They undoubtedly also spend the night foraging for additional food, nuts, berries, insects, etc which will provide necessary nutrients. This time of year they are probably nursing, and I have found that they have enormous appetites when doing so.

As to their numbers, I started out feeding just one mother raccoon and her young ones the 1st year. The 2nd year I fed her, her grown daughters from the prior year, and all their young. Over the years, as you guessed, the crowd grew exponentially. Soon I had 20 something, a number I was not comfortable hosting and a number for which I could hardly expect to buy cat food. As I mentioned, I learned a great deal during this time, about raccoons as individuals and about their social interactions. In time I learned the secret to crowd control. Now I only have the one female I started out feeding plus one of her daughters from last year. That's it. I'm down from 20+ to 2, and I didn't do anything. I let them do it.

The females claim the territory. There is one leader or matriarch. In my case that is Heidi, the one I 1st began feeding. Heidi decides who can stay here, and she bases that decision on availability of food. The more food I put out, the more of her daughters, grand daughters, nieces, etc she will allow to stay and enjoy the spoils. If I shrink the food supply, she will start chasing them off one by one until the number remaining matches the available food. Her 1st concern is that her babies are fed. If the food supply shrinks enough so that there may not be enough for her (to make milk now) and for them later, she will get rid of everybody, although I find that it's best to let her keep 1 of her adult daughters to help her fend the others off. Thus, I only put out enough food for the 2 of them. This absolutely works.

Conversely, before I learned this lesson, I tried to provide enough food for all that were here. What I learned is, if there is enough food for everyone to eat their fill, they will let one or two more join in. If you add a little more food for those, they will let another one or two join, and so on. So, if like me, your neighbor tries to feed them all no matter how many come to hisher yard, the number will only continue to grow - unfortunately. If he wants a smaller group, all he has to do is provide less food. The leader will take care of the problem. In a very short time, he will have a smaller group. He will not need to look at any one raccoon and refuse it food. The leader will take care of things. The number that show up will match the food he supplies.

I can understand your concern for the children. I don't have children, and as I mentioned my backyard is enclosed by a 6ft privacy fence, so when a raccoon is in my back yard it isn't near or even in view of others. For what it's worth, as I mentioned in my last post, I have found it to be a basic part of raccoon nature that they will always run away if they can rather than fight. As long as a child doesn't try to hem one up in a corner (and that would be almost impossible anyhow), the raccoons are not likely to harm anyone - but I do understand if that isn't good enough.

As for the grubs, I tried milky spore, too, and nematodes. Both take time to work, and since you can't see them, it's hard to know how well they are working. I finally got frustrated and used the chemical stuff. It made a huge difference. I'm betting that you still have grubs despite the milky spore and that's why the raccoons are digging. One idea might be to use the chemicals one year to get rid of the grubs and then use the milky spore to try to keep them under control thereafter.

If you really want your neighbor to stop feeding the raccoons - and as I understand you have already talked with him about this to no avail - you could report him to the authorities. It might be helpful to take photos if you can to back up your claim. Around here I would call DNR, animal control, or the health department. Because raccoons are a vector for rabies, most municipalities are not likely to condone his behavior. I suspect if you did report him, they would put a stop to it.

Although I do feed the raccoons, now limited to just Heidi and her daughter, thankfully, I do care very much about being a good neighbor. As I mentioned, I have actually asked my neighbors several times if they have any problems with raccoons. If I thought my behavior was causing problems for them, I would consider stopping. Luckily, that isn't the case. My neighbors say they haven't seen any raccoons in their yards at all. Heidi is getting pretty old now for a wild raccoon. The lifespan for a wild raccoon is some 6yrs. I've been feeding Heidi for 7yrs now, and she was in my yard a year or so before that. There's a good chance she wouldn't have made it this long w/o the extra nutrition (again, I feed her dry cat food). When she's gone I will probably stop feeding them. I've grown very attached to her over the years. She actually responds to her name and even comes right up to my knee to eat while I'm pouring the food.

Good luck with your problem whatever you decide to do.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)


I should add that if you do report your neighbor, in addition to telling him to cease and desist, it's possible that authorities in your area may also decide to trap and kill the raccoon involved. Sadly, animals often bare the brunt of things when humans make mistakes. It's really hard to say. The authorities may just fine him and tell him to cut it out, or they may also decide to eradicate the raccoons. Still, if you want him to stop and if talking to him hasn't helped, this may be your only remaining choice. Then again, maybe you should try one of those elex devices 1st and report him as a last resort.

Hobart, IN

We decided that reporting to the authorities is the last resort. We do have photos as evidence. I wouldn't care if they confined themselves to his yard but they don't. In addition to the rare possibility of rabies, there's also a disease that can affect dogs (oddly called coon dog fever) as well as a type of worm in their droppings that can infect humans and for which there currently is no cure. As an avid gardener, that's a real concern to me, digging around in the dirt, although I've read that raccoons generally have a latrine that they use. We don't have pets so there's never any pet food outdoors and we've always kept our garbage cans in the garage from day one so that we don't attract the critters. Both the raccoons and the deer have a wooded wetlands and creek behind us so there's plenty of food out there for them. I don't think they're going hungry as if they were confined to a city or suburban setting. I'm all for letting them have the run of the "wild" but attracting them up into our fenced backyards is creating a bad situation.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I don't know the specifics of your situation, but it possible you may be unjustly accusing your neighbor when you say, "...attracting them up into our fenced backyards..." As I've admitted, I feed the raccoons in my backyard, too, and if someone were to see me, they might well think that I was responsible for encouraging the raccoons to come into my backyard and thus the neighborhood, but that would be untrue. The raccoons were in my yard for years before I started feeding them. As I mentioned, I tried everything possible to get rid of them (without hurting them, of course). I'm not absolutely sure now, as it has been a long time, but I believe they were here even before I started feeding the birds. The lawn was badly eaten up with grubs when I moved in, and I think the raccoons were probably here eating grubs from the very beginning.

Just a thought. I don't know whether your neighbor is really guilty of attracting the raccoons or not. Like me, he may just be guilty of feeding them because they are there (and won't leave anyhow). Another thing to consider...the raccoons were here, as I said, long before I started feeding them, and I believe they were here before I started feeding the birds. Back then I didn't have a cat either, so no outside food. No one was feeding them back then, but they were here pretty much every night regardless. Thus, it's actually possible the raccoons would be in your yard even if your neighbor weren't feeding them. I know it's easy and only natural to see him feeding them and believe that's why they are there, but it may actually be the other way around.

I'll have to address the disease issue another time.

Hobart, IN

We've been here for 25 years and have never seen that many raccoons congregate every evening until the neighbor started feeding them. One or two would wander through every great once in a while but never had the digging problems until neighbor started his feeding program. Year before last, they actually wore a path through our lawn coming up from the woods and to the fence that they climb to get to the food.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

My bad. Sounds like you have already given this a lot of thought and have good reason to blame the neighbor at least for the crowd. Wow. A path worn in lawn. You must have a large group next door. Sounds like more than 20 something. I had that many for a year or two and never had a path worn in the lawn.

I don't suppose asking him to cut back a bit would help either? Sounds like he's not willing to work with you on this. Other than putting down the hard chemicals to get rid of most of the grubs and realizing that wild raccoons are most unlikely to attack a human (unless the raccoon is rabid, that is), maybe trying the elex device, and reporting him as a very last resort, I don't see where there is much else you can do. Try the elex thing. If it works and actually keeps the raccoons away from HIS house, I imagine that would give you a great feeling, a feeling of finally being in control again. One thing I noticed though. One device mentioned a working range of 25ft. That's really not very far. I live in the city where properties are very small and houses close together, but if I were to put that right up beside my fence it still would not reach my neighbor's back door or the middle of his yard. (I had already considered a similar situation when thinking about buying a sonic device to stop his dog from barking. Then realized it would not reach from my fence to his dog.)

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