Raccoons come equipped with their own natural bandit mask to help along with their nocturnal prowling and raiding of garbage cans, sweet corn patches and backyard ponds. There are more raccoons in the United States than there were when this country was in its infancy. Raccoons have thrived in suburbia and urban centers alike. Their natural cleverness and sensitive, adept front paws allow them access to just about any container and into any yard. They come in cat doors and crawl into attics spaces and ease themselves under houses. Their wide and varied appetites make sure they are always well fed. They will eat just about anything so you will rarely see a skinny raccoon.
When they come across a garden pond they are especially pleased. Plants, snails, fish and frogs are all on their menu. And they can swim too. Usually they can get so much food that they choose not to swim to find it but they can and do swim.
Raccoons are active most of the year, though they spend a lot of their time in the winter sleeping and raising their next litter of adorable kits to bring to your pond. The mothers raise the babies; the dads only spend a couple romantic weeks with mom and then leaves her with the children to raise. After about two months the babies are in the process of being weaned and mom has them out with her on her nightly patrols to your backyard and pond.
One charming myth is that raccoons must wash their food to eat it. They don’t. What they are doing is feeling for snails, aquatic insects and crayfish underwater. And even though they are smart as all get out, they will still look for these critters in your dog’s water dish… They will pull out pond plants, nosh a bit on them, then toss them aside, they will catch your favorite fish and reduce it to a head and a couple of find, they will crunch up your snails and slurp down your tadpoles. They start out looking cute and end up public enemy number one to a pond keeper.
Electric Shock Fencing
There is an element of revenge in installing electric shock fencing by the pond keeper who has had their fish turned into sushi. This fencing is sold to keep dogs out of flower beds and vegetable patches. You can string it around just about anywhere, to keep raccoons out of your yard or to keep them away from the pond. It can be put on a timer as getting a shock from one of these fences is no fun, for raccoons or humans.
Electric Pond Barrier Fence
This fence lies out over the eater to keep raccoons from dipping their paws into the pond. It is harder to set up than the dog fencing but ‘disappears’ into the background than the dog fence so esthetically it is a more appealing solution for some pond keepers.
Motion Activated Sprinkler
This sprinkler will sense the body heat and motion of a prowling raccoon and send out a three second blast of water to startle and soak the bandit. Now a wet raccoon is a mad raccoon and they have been known to push over the sprinklers thus rendering them useless. Securing the sprinkler to a fence, garden shed or concrete block solves this problem.
Call your local animal control and ask if they have a humane trap to rent or borrow. They will also be able to tell you about the local laws and regulations about where to release the trapped raccoon. The trap is fairly easy to operate for humans. Cover it with an old towel or blanket so it looks like a good hidey hole. Stake down the trap securely on both sides. Baiting the trap is trickier as many times the neighborhood cats ends up in the trap. The best bait seems to be a large marshmallow. Most cats turn up their noses at them but raccoons seem to love them. Attach the marshmallow securely as raccoons have been known to upend the trap and shake them out. When you move the raccoon wear heavy gardening gloves and be careful. Despite their adorable demeanor they are wild animals. If you notice the raccoon is a nursing mother try not to move her too far away, stick to under a mile or two. Hopefully the experience of being trapped in your yard will be enough to keep her away in the future. If you notice any signs of sickness or rabid behavior do not approach and call Animal Control.
These folks will come to your yard, set the traps and remove the trapped animal for a fee. Many pond keepers do not have the time or feel they have the expertise to take on trapping a wild animal and these people are available in larger cities and areas of the country where raccoons have made themselves a real nuisance.
Many of us would like something we can plug into an electrical socket and then walk away from it. There are a number of sonic devices on the market. Reaction in the gardening community is mixed at best. They are expensive and I recommend you try the other suggested methods. I also worry about the effect of sonic sound on all the other critters out there, especially on a chained dog in a neighbor’s yard. Research this method thoroughly and read both the pro and cons of the reports.
Dog or Cat Patrol
The presence of a dog in the yard will keep some raccoons from even investigating your yard; food is so plentiful in the suburbs why bother? Sometimes. Some raccoons can figure out which dogs are coach potatoes at heart and which dogs are likely to give them trouble. Not being nocturnal, like the raccoon, many family dogs are tucked up in bed trying to shove the owners out onto the floor. A rabid raccoon won’t care about any dog and that’s some place nobody wants to go. Some cats tend to be out at night at the same time as raccoons and will attempt to defend their yard, which can result in a tragedy; aggressive raccoons will kill a cat that gets in their way. So all in all, be safe and don’t rely on your beloved canine or feline member of the family to run off raccoons. If raccoons show up consider the dog or cat defense a no go.