. . . and the Vegetable Garden, garbage cans and ultimately your house !
In the past we have had the rare occurrence of a black bear in a garden waste compost, squirrels and other rodents tasting our zucchini and ripe tomatoes but this is a first – a very smart raccoon (Procyon lotor) who is able to take the lids from our (three) lockable compost bins. Initially, it happened a few times and was a bit of a mystery. We should not be surprised by this nocturnal visitor as we live one block away from a (salmon habitat) stream in a densely wooded area. The warm weather this spring is about 3 to 4 weeks later than normal so she may be have difficulty finding a regular natural food source.
Personal observations if mother raccoon becomes used to scavenging
- She will teach her young one to do the same
- She will become used to people and children – they look cute but they can be vicious, either with young or when cornered
- Due to close access to “easy” food she might prefer the smorgasbord garden vegetables and fruit in a few months
- In the fall she may permanently try to relocate to the garden shed or a warmer place, like the attic.
- A larger concern is that she may be signing her own death certificate – if she becomes a safety issue (we are near several schools) and she is transported her chances of survival are not good.
- Our garden and yard are kept meticulously clean
- We have two small bird baths. If you have a pond, swimming pool, etc this will also attract racoons who love to wash their food before they eat
- We have no pets but do feed the wild birds – so the feeders are taken down
- The garbage can is temporarily being stored in the enclosed garage and on garbage collection day is put out only a few (daylight) hours before scheduled pick up
- No new kitchen waste compost to be added to the bins for the time being
So back to the compost bins - our next deterrant was to put chicken wire over one, securely locked, compost bin; with a second bin covered with cloth and bricks. Next day it was obvious she had been able to get into one of the composts – absolutely amazing. It is unbelievable how a raccoon can turn the lid on a locked “pest free” compost bin which is covered with wire and bricks but she did. There was one set of large footprints on the black material of the second bin lid and also a set of smaller prints in the mud beside the bins.
As the first attempts did not succeed – Round 2 involved :
- Ammonia soaked rag tied on a tall stick beside the lids of the bins
- Putting lime inside the compost bins
- Secured the chicken wire and brick more tightly with tall bamboo sticks through the mesh (over the locked lid)
I am not a believer in trapping and re-locating wild animals to another environment as they are territorial and competing for food may ultimately contribute to their demise. Spreading disease is another possibility and so also is returning to their original “home”.
Additional ideas still to try
- A possible really successful and simple, non toxic deterrent for raccoons is to fence compost bins, or the entire garden, with chicken wire, and attach black plastic sheeting from about 3 feet to the ground and for some reason raccoons will not climb over the fence and they don't dig.
- Temporarily spread plastic mesh over parts of the garden when planting seeds or sets, etc.
- Set up a battery operated sensor light to hopefully scare away the raccoons
- During the summer months take down bird feeders as there should be lots of natural food available for them
- Another reason to take down or not put up bird feeders, is that they are big attractants to black bears in residential areas and humans usually do not do well in close encounters.
It has been over a month and we have not had any raccoon problems and will continue being cautious by:
- We have put an old BBQ cover on two of the compost bins
- Regular garbage is being kept in the garage until collection morning
- Compost is being limed, lidded and stored in a large bucket in the garage until full and then layed with shredded paper and soil, and watered in the bin
- Caution: Ammonia was used sparingly for a limited amount of time. No children have access to the yard. Household ammonia sprayed on cloth is a last resort as it is caustic - even though it is used in the processing of meat to reduce E. coli and not just in the cleaning industry.
Links & References
- Article “Plastic Perplexes Raccoons” p. 21 The Resourceful Gardener, Rodale Press, 1998
- Relocating wild animals
- SPCA Spreading disease
- Wikipedia information on raccoons
- A large part of the increased interaction between humans and wild animals is the urbanization of habitat. We can all help inpreserving habitat in B.C.
- Two of the three compost bins were well matured and only small amounts of vegetable kitchen waste went into the third. When checking the habitat of the raccoon it states that a large portion of their spring diet is worms – the composts have hundreds of them. We also have several birds nesting in the yard which the raccoons may be interested in.
- Paw print identification