During the summer, adorable masked marauders may busily investigate your backyard and garden for dinner offerings. Raccoons are both social and omnivorous, which means they will forage in family groups and eat most anything, including domestic garbage, ripening fruit and vegetables, pet food, animal feed and compost scraps. They're particularly fond of sweet corn and grapes. Their presence results in a yearly dilemma for many homeowners, many of whom prefer an environmentally friendly solution to getting rid of them.
The Spice Cabinet
Since foraging raccoons discover food by smell and delight in the odor of decaying garbage or ripening produce, irritating their sensitive noses or hindering their sense of smell can be effective. Spread cinnamon, ground hot peppers or ground black pepper around the areas you wish to protect and refresh periodically and after a rain. Sprinkling Tabasco sauce is also an option. If you prefer, make a repellent spray by boiling several hot peppers, an onion and a tablespoon of cayenne for 20 minutes. Strain after cooling. Spray wherever needed and reapply often.
Raccoons have delicate feet. Long ago, the Iroquois Indians discovered the multiple benefits of companion planting. They planted squash vines between the corn hills and thereby controlled the weed problem and discouraged garden raiders such as raccoons. Members of the squash family have prickly foliage and vines and both humans and raccoons dislike direct contact. Planting any sort of prickly ground cover around your crops -- for example, cucumbers -- can help deter the pests.
The Practical Things
Clever and resourceful as they are, raccoons will easily discover entrances to your attic, crawlspaces and patio surrounds. While commercial repellents such as predator urine are effective in the short term, you must seal up any openings or weak areas. A determined raider will easily rip off rotted fence boards or siding and settle in to raise young. Keep your garbage pails clean and sprinkle your garbage with ammonia. The lids should be fixed securely with raccoon-proof latches or bungee cords and weighted down. Raccoons have opposable thumbs and simple catches are an easy open for them. Anchor cans to some immovable object or invest in holders built to keep them in place.
A nest full of raccoon kits in your chimney or attic calls for assertive action. Although cute, they'll cause a lot of chew damage and unpleasant odors. Placing a bowl of ammonia in the base of the chimney should force the mother to relocate the babies in a day or so. If the family has settled in the attic, form strips of rag into balls, soak them in ammonia and place them in as many locations as you can, in the eaves, soffits and corners. The mother will move the kits as soon as she can find a more suitable den. You must then seal all exterior entrances.
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