November 3rd, 2007
Rascally Raccoons

raccoon footprints
In June, when the pond filled with rainwater, I noticed the raccoons (or possibly possums) were checking it out. I didn’t buy any fish for a long time. When I did I started very small–ten 12-cent goldfish.

If my neighbors were up at 5 this morning they might have wondered what I was doing bellowing sky-clad in my back yard while brandishing a broom. No, I’m not a practitioner of the craft. Nor was I cavorting with demons (hmmm, let me think on that). I had awakened from a strange dream, looked out my window, and saw two raccoons rolling on the lawn. For the last week something has been getting into the pond. I figured it was raccoons and here was conclusive proof. So out of the house I sprang to chase them off.

Unfortunately they ran straight for the pond, jumped in, and hid under the deck. I stood still and they came out, not the least bit afraid of me. I treed one and threw a stick at the other one which ran off.

I’ve long expected them to go after the gold fish but they’ve also shredded all the oxygenating plants and knocked over the plants in pots and dragged them under the deck. Not only have they been ravaging my pond they’ve been grubbing in the paths and lawns. Last night they decided all the freshly dug beds were irresistible.

The raccoons also dug up the bearded irises that I finally got around to replanting this week.
raccoon damage

And tore up the aloe vera in the front bed.
raccoon damage

And dug up all my newly seeded beds, including this bunch of swiss chard that was just starting to take hold.
raccoon damage

Amazingly, I saw four fish still alive in the pond today. So we put some barricades around the perimeter. It looks more like the trenches in a war zone than a garden pond. If camo can be a fashionable fabric, will barbed wire catch on in the garden?

Has anyone been successful deterring raccoons? If so, how? I see that there are all sorts of products out there but what really works?

by M Sinclair Stevens

16 Responses to post “Rascally Raccoons”

  1. From LostRoses:

    Well, you’re braver than I am, brandishing a broom at the raccoons! The ones around here are big and scary and show their teeth. I got so tired of them using my goldfish as hor d’euvres that I finally gave up buying new ones. I’ll be curious to see if you get any suggestions that work!

  2. From Carol:

    A co-worker gets rid of them by shooting out the window at them, but then she lives out in the country where you can shoot guns off. Really, she shoots to kill. I think you’ve got a battle on your hands. You’ve given them all they need, shelter under the deck, fresh water, fresh food. You may have to resort to trapping…

    Good luck, we are all pulling for you.

  3. From KAT:

    Enjoy them?

  4. From M2:

    Of course you know … this means war!

  5. From bill:

    Get a gun.

  6. From Kathy:

    No good advice on the raccoons, but if it’s any consolation, chickens that get out of the chicken yard cause almost as much damage with their scratching.

  7. From m sinclair stevens:

    The fortification held the first night. I changed them around a bit today. I think I can make a less conspicuous barrier with the black bird netting that we used in the vegetable garden. So far I’ve nixed AJM’s plan for an electric fence. That’s the geeky solution but a bit of overkill for some 12-cent goldfish.

    raccoon fence

  8. From Annie in Austin:

    We’ve had three nights this week with screeching and snarling going on up in the tree outside our bedroom window. The racket woke us up over and over, sounding like an altercation between two kinds of animals. I’m not sure what the second animal was, but my flashlight through the screen caught the masked face of a raccoon. Maybe they’re after the last few pecans?

    I’ve read that people use motion detectors to make lights, sound or spray water, but that the raccoons figure out pretty soon that it is no real threat.

    Good luck MSS!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. From Bonnie:

    There’s something called a “Scarecrow”. Motion detector sprinkler, that you could set up. I’ve seen it work to deter deer and perts from going in beds and destroying plants.
    Check it out here

  10. From Pam/Digging:

    Good grief—how destructive! I had no idea they’d do so much digging in the garden, though I knew they’d go after pond fish. Good luck defending your garden from them.

  11. From Ki:

    You must have been a sight, shrieking and waving your broom at 5 am. We thought raccoons were sort of cute until they ate all but one of our Koi. I don’t know how the raccoon managed to lift the koi out of the water because the largest one was approaching 2 feet in length and was very big and fat. I was heartsick because it got our best gold koi with black markings. I also found the plain gold koi dead, floating in the water with pectoral fins discarded on the rock surround. Never did find the silver koi. The raccoon must have fallen in the water too because the water lilies were disturbed and shredded. Too bad the big koi didn’t pull it under and drown it. Unfortunately the raccoon didn’t take any of the comets which multiply like rabbits. I think the fish eater has moved on because I see a raccoon on occasion but the pond is untouched. No destruction in the gardens thank heaven but it did leave a present or two on the lawn.

    Like some children, raccoons are cute–at a distance. I live between two creeks and I’ve had a live-and-let-live relationship with the raccoons for 14 years. I don’t mind that they dig up the wood chip paths looking for grubs. I consider it a favor. And when they dig a hole in the lawn, I fill it with compost; that’s my lazy way of aerating my lawn. Knowing that we had raccoons, I didn’t buy expensive fish that I was going to be upset about losing (I thought). I’ve never had fish and I figured even without the raccoons they were here on a very experimental basis. But I am mad about the shredded plants and the dug up beds (which I’d worked all week on). I can’t even imagine how you felt losing your precious koi. They’re so beautiful and having them any length of time one can’t help but become attached. — mss

  12. From Ki:

    I agree, Koi are unlike other fish, they respond to you like a dog, cat or parrot. They seem to look at you with great interest. They can be so tame that they’ll eat out of your hand. But we purposely kept our distance so they wouldn’t be easy targets for the great blue heron, neighbors kids or marauding raccoon. I guess they were too tame anyway and probably was attracted to the raccoon rippling the water, washing something? It must have been quite a surprise and good fortune for the raccoon when the fish surfaced right where its hands were.

  13. From firefly:

    Good grief. And I’ve been going hyper over the squirrels digging teeny little pits here and there in bulb beds. At least they only work in the daytime.

    The only experience I have with raccoons was when a mother nested in the eaves of the apartment building we were in. She started exploring and popped out of a built-in set of drawers in the third-floor apartment. We heard the woman who lived there scream, which apparently sent the raccoon back into the space between roof and ceiling. Had to have it live trapped and then the kits were rescued when they started to cry for food.

    This site has a lot of information and maybe some good suggestions how to keep the raccoons out of your pond.

  14. From Angelina:

    In my old neighborhood a neighbor of ours had a fish pond in their yard and as we had raccoons around they had one of those motion detectors that squirted water, they said it worked well.

  15. From Angelina:

    I meant to mention that I found out about it because it scared the crap out of me when I got too close and water suddenly shot out.

  16. From Deirdre:

    I had raccoons in the attic and walls of a cheap upstairs apartment I once rented in an old house, it was close to a park with lots of raccoons. They made horrible screeching noises when they would fight…and the smell! It was REALLY bad! I called the city to come trap them but I had to be put on a waiting list for the traps or go buy my own! The landlord was taking his sweet time fixing the problem and wasn’t happy to get someone to repair and seal up the hole where they were getting in. An older gentleman overheard me talking about the problem to a friend and told me to get some moth balls and they would go away. Ok, I was ready to try anything! I bought five big boxes. I got a ladder and opened the door to the attic during the day…I threw them everywhere, all over the attic into the dark; you could hear them plunking off the walls and beams. I was worried that they might make the apartment smell, but nothing could be worse than the raccoons! Turns out I couldn’t smell them at all from my apartment. But guess what…I never heard or saw a peep from another raccoon after that day. I don’t know for absolute sure if that is what made them go away…but it might be worth a try to bundle some up in something you can hang from the trees or drop under the deck.
    You might get lucky!

    Thanks for the suggestion. I read elsewhere that raccoons were very sensitive to strong smells. The suggestion was to put ammonia-soaked rags if you discovered raccoons hanging out under your house. I’ve tried that and it seems to work…as long as the rags smell bad. The moth balls might work better around the pond. — mss