Friday, November 13, 2015

Raccoon Picnic

The raccoons have put me back on their visitation schedule, stopping by several times a week.  I know they've been here because they leave their usual calling card at the fountain, picking up the seashells from the top tier and dropping them elsewhere in the backyard.  I also find the occasional muddy paw-print.  They've done some digging, upending small plants here and there, but nothing akin to the rampant damage they've caused in the past (see herehere and here).

I thought maybe my Magnolia cone obstacle course might be having a positive effect.

After planting a Dasylirion longissimum (aka Mexican grass tree), I used the prickly cones that fell from the Magnolia tree to create a barrier around it in what I thought might well be a futile effort to keep the raccoons from digging in this area


The Magnolia cone barrier clearly wasn't impenetrable.

Cones were knocked out of place and there was evidence of some digging but it wasn't extensive


Then I noticed that cones had been moved, in large numbers, to the tree stump at the edge of our property.  It didn't seem that the squirrels could be responsible - they ignored the area.

The timing matched other evidence that one or more raccoons had visited overnight


To test my theory that the raccoons were using the stump as a picnic table and my carefully constructed Magnolia cone obstacle course as their buffet, I removed all the cones I found on the stump, set up the area around the Dasylirion with new cones, and waited.  Two mornings later, the raccoons' calling card in place around the fountain, the cones were back on the stump with smashed red seeds strewn about.



So, I guess the Magnolia cones served a purpose, if not the one I intended.  They've distracted my uninvited visitors, giving them a new focus during their nightly foraging exercises.  Still, in my book, eating the Magnolia seeds beats digging for grubs and destroying my planting beds.

Do you think they'll mind if I fill the decayed center of their picnic table with soil and plant it?  I was thinking that a fern might be nice there.


All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

19 comments:

  1. If the magnolia cones help at all-fantastic. Perhaps the lack of lawn will eventually encourage them to maraud elsewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny but although the raccoons dug in the lawn our first years here, they've mostly ignored the lawn the last few years. Their very favorite area for digging has been the bed formerly occupied by the Eucalyptus (removed at the behest of our neighbor). I wonder if there's something about the decay process below ground that's hospitable to grubs, the raccoons favorite snack.

      Delete
  2. Oh no. I'm glad the raccoons have stayed away from our yard so far. Not too much of a pest here.

    What can you do to keep them out?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've tried non-toxic repellents but the best that does it put them off for a few days. Some people swear by motion-activated sprinklers but others claim they're ineffective with raccoons and, under current circumstances, who can waste water? I've been told I should get a dog but, given that we have coyotes in the area, I wouldn't leave a dog outside at night anyway. Physical barriers, like tomato cages, have worked best for me - I often cage my new plants.

      Delete
  3. Something similar happened here, with my Magnolia cones. I'm not sure of it was squirrels or raccoons.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The squirrels do eat the Magnolia seeds too but they seem to prefer birdseed - or pumpkins - if available. And the squirrels don't carry off the seedpods, especially not en masse.

      Delete
  4. Hi Kris, your Magnolia cone obstacle course was a great idea and it worked even though in a different way than intended ;-)! Reading your post I am just glad that I didn't have a visit from a raccoon for quite a while in my garden. The damage that they are able to do can be quite nerve wrecking! I hope you find a way of peaceful co-existence, if you can't get rid off them completely!
    Wishing you a wonderful weekend! Here in San Diego the weather is fantastic this morning!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm trying to accept the raccoons...It isn't always easy.

      Delete
  5. A fern at the picnic bench... lucky raccoons ;-) I wonder if you can continue to distract them with the cones? I've read of people planting elderberry trees (and mulberry - not recommended!) to distract birds from their fruit trees - same principle, I suppose...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As soon as the Magnolia seeds are gone, I suspect the cones will no longer have much value as a raccoon deterrent. I'd hoped they'd be put off by the prickly cones as I've been told that they have delicate paws but the obstacle course set-up appears to have little purpose - although the squirrels don't dig in that bed so maybe it has some value.

      Delete
  6. People often suggest that I feed the squirrels here to keep them away from the birds' nuts. I've never done it but now I'm wondering.. it goes against the grain but do you think we could find what squirrels and raccoons really love to eat and give it to them on a plate? Or a tree stump even..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suspect the food distractions have only a temporary effect, Jessica. And the problem with feeding them is that you end up supporting a larger community of the critters. I'm trying for tolerance short of active support.

      Delete
  7. I think a fern would look beautiful there. I've never seen a raccoon in the neighborhood, though I'm sure they're around -- I suspect the coyotes keep them in check.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have coyotes too, Luisa, but they don't appear to bother the raccoons. My theory is the buggers have divided the neighborhood into territories.

      Delete
  8. I have a similar stump and always assumed it was the squirrels who were using it for a banquet table. But we have had raccoons, so it may be them. I think a fern would look great planted in the center of your stump, but I suspect the raccoons may dig it up. They are curious creatures. I have had them upend small pots and pull the plants out of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's my concern too. They dig up plants here all the time. They even steal things. They've taken garden gloves, marbles (from pots), seashells (from the fountain), and even the filter from inside the fountain. It took me days to find the latter. Eating snails is the only service they provide.

      Delete
  9. You may have found a good solution to the Raccoon problem - find distractions or other food for them, is there somewhere you could set of some kind of feeding station for them away from vulnerable digging spots in the garden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think, at best, we're lucky to get a temporary respite, Christina, but sometimes that may be enough.

      Delete
  10. At least the magnolia seeds have created a sort of distraction. Any help is better than nothing. I'm glad to live out in the country where raccoons have enough natural forage not to create mayhem in the garden.

    ReplyDelete

I enjoy receiving your comments and suggestions. However, with apologies to bona-fide commentators, due to a significant increase in spam, I've eliminated the option to post comments anonymously.