Saturday, October 11, 2014

Back with a Vengeance

I haven't complained about my raccoon adversaries in one of my own posts for quite awhile.  For a time, my furry visitors did relatively little damage.  They didn't cease their visits - the fact that the shells in the top tier of the fountain are redistributed throughout the backyard most nights is a sure sign on their ongoing presence.  But they tempered the fury associated with their endless pursuit of grubs.  Maybe they found another food source for a time.  However, the brief detente is over.  Once I replanted the bed formerly occupied by the eucalyptus tree, apparently their favorite grub-hunting ground, their claws came out.

This was the evidence left behind after a visit sometime during the night of October 8th



I've done a number of things to deter them.  I put out a non-poisonous animal repellent.  I planted the bed with prickly Agaves.  I buried clay pot shards, points up, just below the soil's surface throughout the bed.  I added Euphorbia after Alison at Bonney Lassie said her local raccoons avoided it.  I initiated late night pre-bedtime patrols with a flashlight.  For a short while, I thought my approach was working.  There was evidence of digging but none of the plant-tossing and broad-scale digging shown above.  After cleaning up that incident, I added more tomato cages, replanted my plant shards, and refreshed my animal repellent.  All was calm - for one night.  Then this:

This was the scene on Saturday morning, October 11th - it didn't look too bad at first glance

On closer inspection, it looked worse

2 of the 3 new Euphorbia rigida were left with their roots exposed - too small perhaps to have any impact as a deterrent 

Things looked worse when I viewed the bed from the other direction

I'm glad my new silver Leucadendron was protected by a tomato cage

As was the Grevillea



Everything has been replanted - again.  The holes have been filled and tamped down.  Clay shards have been replaced.  I've given up on the repellent - I think the raccoons have become immune to it, or perhaps now believe that it signals the presence of grubs.  I've added more tomato cages and picked up gopher cages, inverting them and pinning them into the ground.  It remains to be seen whether that'll have an effect.

Upside-down wire basket designed to protect plants from gophers


Every morning, I check my plant bed - and the entire garden - with great trepidation.  What's really galling?  There's a wide expanse of freshly-turned dirt nearby, where my husband and I continue to clear the former lawn area of grass roots, sod netting, and rocks.  The raccoons ignore it.

Freshly turned, dig-able dirt, mere feet away - untouched!



My husband ignores my rants.  So does my cat.

Pipig doesn't care a whit about the raccoons

She just wants to be left alone to nap



Next up: the purchase of a motion-activated sprinkler.  It gets mixed reviews, especially with respect to raccoons, but I'm desperate.  I also bought milky spores to add to the soil to inhibit the development of the next generation of grubs - whether or not that works, it could take a year or more to determine.  If none of these things work, I may cover the entire area with rock boulders.

If you have a solution that's worked for you, please share.


All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

44 comments:

  1. Your cat is so, so pretty! Yikes, raccoons! I wonder if part of the damage is caused by voles or moles? In any case, that's so frustrating. You just get the plants in the ground and then the critters uproot them. That happens to me sometimes, too. I hope your techniques work!

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    1. To my knowledge, Beth, voles and moles aren't common in my area - gophers show up periodically but, although some of these holes appear deep, examination doesn't suggest a subterranean digger. Skunks are prevalent here but they don't dig down as deep - and they don't throw things plants around in my experience.

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  2. Ugh, I'm sorry you're having to deal with this. If I were a raccoon I'd go for that nice open spot you've cleared for me, no plants in the way! Maybe your raccoons are pesky teenagers who just like to cause trouble? If you do get the motion activated sprinkler let us know how it works out. I've considered one to keep the neighborhood cats put out of my garden.

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    1. Supposedly, raccoons can actually smell grubs in the soil. I did find some grubs when I supplemented the soil prior to planting but not a lot - and I've found grubs in the former lawn area too so I can't explain their preference for this particular bed. I think you're right that raccoons like to create a ruckus - how else to explain their theft of seashells and a filter from the fountain, garden gloves, etc?

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  3. Oh this is awful. I can see why you are tempted to chicken wire the whole bed. If you don't have too many weeds to deal with, that may indeed be the answer. As for the upturned gopher cage, we've been down this route too to stop pheasants pecking at flowers. It did work, but I fear my garden is going to end up more metal than greenery at this rate!

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    1. My hope, Jessica, is that once the plants are firmly rooted in place, I'll be able to remove the gopher and tomato cages without losing any more plants. I can put up with cleaning up after the digging - it's the collateral damage that gets me down.

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  4. Pipig, get off your behind and scare those raccoons away! What a pain :( A sprinkler sounds like it might be helpful?

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    1. I can't really blame Pipig as she's not allowed out at night. I'm not sure she could hold her own with a raccoon, most of which are at least double her weight. She did throw herself at a screen door once when a raccoon was sniffing about outside - it didn't scare the raccoon in the least but neither did my yelling or clapping my hands. They're gutsy creatures.

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  5. Armadillos are the culprits here, digging for grubs. We trap them and shoot them. I've never trapped a raccoon, but did trap an opossum once. When I opened the cage at woods' edge, he marched out and never looked back to say thank you.

    I think raccoons are less a problem where there is a dog. Maybe you could borrow or rent one.

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    1. Thank goodness we don't have armadillos - I've heard they're awful. We do have possums but they haven't been a real problem here - I think the raccoons and skunks run this territory. A dog would be a good solution except that my husband is opposed and we have a coyote problem in the area - most people here don't leave their dogs out at night out of fear of coyote attacks, as they run in packs.

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  6. So cute cat!
    How boring to have uninvited visitors in the garden!
    Have you tried the traps!
    Adding chicken wire on the ground and cover with soil between the plants.
    Hope you manage to get rid of them.
    Mariana

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    1. The problem with traps is what to do with a raccoon if you catch one. Our animal control department doesn't permit homeowners to relocate raccoons and I couldn't bring myself to kill it. Chicken wire is a possibility.

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  7. Oh man, that's terrible. Sorry, Kris! We have a few raccoons around here, but they don't seem to forage like that. Maybe they eat garbage? Or fallen fruit/berries? I don't know.

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    1. Ours can't get into the garbage but they do eat fruit in season. However, I guess they don't like lemons, which is about all I have to offer at the moment. When I lived in a denser beach community, they'd show up a couple of times a year but nothing like the regularity of their visits here, which appear to be almost nightly. I'm guessing they have a nest nearby - I haven't found on our property but there's a lot of public land in the vicinity.

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  8. What furry little jerks! Have you thought about putting down those little plastic mats of spikes that you pin to the soil? Supposedly, they were designed to keep cats from pooping in peoples gardens. I've never used them. They're not deadly, just irritating.

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    1. I should look into those spike mats, Tammy. My sharp clay shards and prickly agave were intended to provide similar irritation. I think the clay shards did make a difference for awhile (I was told raccoons have "sensitive" paws) but I suspect their food supply is low as a result of our drought, which is causing them to become more aggressive about their foraging.

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  9. I've got a mama with three cubs that enjoy flinging mulch all over, ripping up the plants in my pot pond, and act aggressively when I go out at night to patrol the area. I've thought about trapping, but it is illegal here to release a trapped animal to somewhere else, and how would I legally kill it when you can't shoot a gun in city limits? Besides they're too smart to trap, when I tried it years before, they got the food out of the trap no matter what I did. I also kept catching the neighborhood cats, which wasn't productive. I'm totally frustrated too. Sue

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    1. I'm sorry you're struggling with the same problem, Sue. I know they really like water and have heard folks here complain about raccoons going after their koi in ponds. Angry as I get with them, I don't think I could shoot one and I suspect another would just take its place anyway. Cars take out a lot of them along our local roads all the time but new ones keep moving in.

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  10. Hmmm...I didn't know raccoons liked grubs. I've been blaming the holes and plants being dug up, on armadillos.
    We fight the raccoons and possums for the bird feeders.
    Having wildlife around can be a blessing and a curse.

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    1. You're right, Linda! Squirrels own my birdfeeders, even though all of mine are supposedly "squirrel-proof." I don't mind some pilferage - it's the raccoons' destruction of new plants that drives me crazy.

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  11. Have you tried beneficial nematodes for the grubs? I'm told it works to control them here in Texas.

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    1. I looked into organic controls and saw both milky spores and beneficial nematodes listed to kill the grubs the raccoons feed on. I ordered milky spores but, if that doesn't work, I'll definitely try the beneficial nematodes!

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  12. Oh Damn! This must be so frustrating! Sorry the Euphorbia didn't work, but maybe they do need to be bigger. The area where mine are planted is planted very densely with ornamental grasses as well, so there isn't really a spot where they can dig soft soil. They like to dig in my lawn for grubs mostly, which doesn't really bother me. I hope the grub deterrents work. I've used wire cages to protect small plants until they're better rooted, that works well.

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    1. I've noticed that they're less likely to dig in densely planted areas too, Alison. The Euphorbia are REALLY small (from 4-inch pots) so I don't think they ready to serve as a deterrents yet. The cages work fairly well - as least so far, no raccoon has torn any of those out (even if they do dig right up to the edge).

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  13. We were having luck protecting the water garden on our deck with the solar powered "predator eyes" + a small compressed air canister called "Ssssscat" that has a motion detector attached to the top.
    This has usually kept the raccoons at bay - except for the last few weeks, when it seems that these drought conditions have turned us all into desperados.

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    1. Thanks for the tip, rosekraft! I hadn't heard of this product. Maybe I'll try it before purchasing the motion-activated sprinkler thingy. I think you're right about the impact of the drought on local wildlife - they're desperate for food. The raccoons have been annoying at intervals in the almost 4 years we've lived here but now they've become nightly visitors.

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  14. What a nuisance! Hopefully the extra deterrents you've put in will work this time.

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    1. I hope so too! Some mornings I don't know whether to laugh or cry!

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  15. What a mess! The only thing that has worked for us was having a dog. We kept her in a dog lot near our veggie garden, and we had no problems with raccoons during those years. She did not roam loose, but she had a fierce bark. Now we have no dog, and the raccoons have returned. We do have a cat, but she is as helpful as your Pipig!

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    1. I think a dog would make a big difference, Deb, but my husband is adamantly opposed to getting one (he isn't even happy about Pipig) but the biggest obstacle to using a dog as a raccoon deterrent here is the active presence of aggressive coyotes. Most people keep their dogs in at night.

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  16. Hopefully the motion detector sprinkler will work. That looks very frustrating to have to deal with. Our sprinkler has zapped a raccoon that was trying to make off with a container of Amdro.

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    1. I wonder what in the heck the raccoon wanted with the ant bait? They are natural thieves, though - here, they've carried off my garden gloves, seashells, marbles and stones left in pots, and even a filter taken from our fountain. They seem to have magpie-like tendencies.

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  17. Hmm. I see a bit of rummaging in the mulch every once in a while, but they have no enthusiasm and head for my neighbor's lush and lavish lawns. Well, their lawns are not so lush after the racoons get through with them...I'm sorry you are dealing with that--what a mess.

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    1. Ha! - maybe they're angry that I've been removing my lawn? When we first moved in, they dug up the front lawn but, now that the lawn itself is gone, they're ignoring the open soil. One of my neighbors commented that they were making a mess of her lawn. Too bad I couldn't get them to take out mine.

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  18. That is so disheartening Kris. Do they do the same thing to established plants? Would they be deterred by an automatic light coming on when they enter the garden? There are porcupines here that cause similar damage, plus they actually eat the roots of certain plants, especially Irises; so far they haven't managed to dig under the fences to get in. I do hope you find a solution soon.

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    1. I think the raccoons have grown used to the humans occupying "their" territory, Christina - they aren't easily intimidated. I've got lights on overnight in the area adjoining the garden they like best and it doesn't deter them in the least - and one came right up to the screen door recently after I turned the light on and despite Pipig throwing herself at the screen. I'll try the Sssscat rosekraft recommended above and maybe the motion-activated sprinkler but I think my best bet is protecting the plants until they're firmly rooted. To answer your 1st question, they might dig around established plants but they don't dig those up.

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  19. No raccoons at my place this year just hordes of killer rabbits. Just planted four new plants that came in the mail and I think one is dead already from exposed roots. I spent much of the weekend caging new trees and shrubs to protect them from critters this winter. Spouses may be tired of our rants but other gardeners are always sympathetic!

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    1. Hordes of Killer Rabbits, Linda! It sounds like the title of a horror flick. We all have our adversaries. I'm grateful I don't have deer, or armadillos, or killer rabbits! There are rabbits in the area but they've never but I've never seen one in my garden - perhaps the raccoons, skunks and coyotes keep them at bay. A juvenile peacock showed up here several months ago and, pretty as he was, I was glad to see him leave as they can also wreak havoc on a garden.

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  20. (I think I hit publish a moment ago without properly identifying myself, so I'm giving it another go! Feel free to delete if you've already seen my original comment!)

    I did not know raccoons are so destructive! Good luck! My nemesis is the woodchucks. My husband and cats share the same feeling as yours I think. What a very cute kitty-cat you have, too!---Kimberley

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    1. The raccoons didn't do near the damage on their infrequent visits to my old garden, Kimberly. I think the drought here may be making them desperate. (And Pipig thanks you for your appreciation.)

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  21. Oh Kris I am sorry to hear about their return...like my voles they seem to never go away. We do live trap animals especially woodchucks and racoons and then release them. We have also had trappers trap and release skunks and racoons.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear about the voles, Donna. Tunneling creatures have got to be very difficult to deal with - I live in fear that gophers, which plagued a neighbor last year - will find my garden one day. It's illegal here to trap and move raccoons here. I think we've got to reach some kind of understanding as to how to share the garden.

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  22. I ignored the raccoons when they disassembled my rock waterfall weekly, and I put up with them (barely) when they pulled up vegetable seedlings – after they knocked over the very study tomato cages that I had set in place around the seedlings, but when they came in the cat door when I was out of town and made a huge mess in the house, I was done. I called the county trapper and he said if he had to come trap them, they’d be euthanized. He wasn’t allowed to play catch and release. He said get a small, kitchen sized fire extinguisher. When they come into the yard, walk toward them and spray the fire extinguisher toward them. It doesn’t hurt them but it scares the bejesus out of them. My husband did and it was months before they came back.

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    1. Wow! Your problems with raccoons make mine seem trivial. Although I occasionally see the raccoons as early as 10pm, they wait until the wee hours of the morning for most of their visits so, unless I set an alarm for nightly patrols, I miss catching them in the act. The fire extinguisher trick might make the sleep interruption worthwhile, though.

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