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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Wildlife > Raccoons

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Raccoons eat a varied diet of plants and animals. Plant foods include grains, acorns, wild berries and fruits. Animal and insect foods include frogs, clams, mice, rabbits, white grubs and beetles, to name just a few. Raccoons also feed on the eggs of birds such as ducks and chickens.

In an urban setting, damage caused by raccoons can be annoying. For example, raccoons occasionally damage newly laid lawns by pushing back sod in search of earthworms, white grubs, and other soil dwelling insects. Raccoons are especially fond of sweet corn, often breaking off stalks as they climb up to reach the ears. Most often they partially eat each ear, leaving wasted corn behind. Raccoons also pay nighttime visits to berry patches, and vegetable gardens. The most serious problem occurs when raccoons establish dens in chimneys or forage in garbage cans for food.

There are several methods of control for raccoons. Exclusion with barriers can be effective. Gardens can be protected by an electric fence but the cost and safety factors with children may make this approach impractical. A heavy wire mesh cap effectively excludes raccoons from chimneys. However, do not install the cap while raccoons are occupying the chimney, as there may be young in it. Wait until the nest is abandoned before thoroughly cleaning out nest material and installing the flue cap. Other methods to discourage or frighten raccoons include the use of:

Most work for only a short period of time. Raccoons grow accustomed to their presence, and the odor of the repellent diminishes over time.

In the case of an especially troublesome raccoon, the use of a live or cage trap and subsequent re-location of the animal may be the only solution. Raccoons are a protected species; check with a local Department of Natural Resources conservation officer regarding procedures for trapping and removal of fur-bearing animals.

Reviewed 2009

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