Raccoons are very intelligent, largely nocturnal animals usually found either in the woods or near human populations where they can get food easily. The animals can be identified by distinctive dark-coloured band masks over their faces. Considering how they love sneaking around especially at night, the masks are very apt making them look like bandits.
With an average length between 2 – 3 feet, this omnivorous animal possesses teeth designed to tear and grind food like humans. They are also five-toed which makes them very dexterous compared to other animals.
Most folks with vegetable gardens that have had encounters with raccoons usually don’t have nice things to say about them. Due to their destructive nature, they are firmly categorized as pests.
‘Will raccoons eat my vegetable garden?‘ is a legitimate question to ask if you live in an area where the animals are common and you are planning on starting a vegetable garden. We would provide a comprehensive answer and discuss the various preventive measures available to you.
What Do Raccoons Eat?
Raccoons are intelligent and crafty. These traits are exploited to good effect when hunting for food. They are also famous for their tenacity when on their food-hunting mission. Giving up is not an option especially when the mission involves the sniffing, raiding, and ransacking of the target area for a tasty meal.
So what kinds of food do they look for while searching for a meal? Basically, anything that humans eat and more.
Raccoons eat all kinds of fruits, grains, vegetables, insects, poultry products like eggs, small animals like rats, squirrels, worms, etc. They would also eat birds if they can catch one, fish, snakes, worms, frogs, etc.
In addition to all that, they eat human garbage, carrion, pet food, and anything they can lay their hands on when they are close to where people live.
Clearly, raccoons don’t have a preference for any food. They eat what is available. In essence, the diet is dependent on the environment. This makes the diet of raccoons found in the woods vastly different from those found in areas where people live. It’s no brainer to extrapolate and conclude that the dietary habit of raccoons living near or around a vegetable garden would be linked to those crops.
The ease with which raccoons can adapt to their environment and efficiently gather, eat, and digest a wide variety of diets has ensured that they thrive easily in extreme climatic conditions and environments. Raccoons would survive comfortably where less versatile species would find it very challenging.
If you have a garden, none of the crops and fruits would escape the attention of raccoons. Though they are known to have a preference for sweet corn, they will eat anything else that is available in your garden including fruits on trees.
So expect your strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, melons, etc., to be ravaged by them.
Given that raccoons would definitely eat your vegetable garden, the focus should be on how to prevent this from happening.
How to Know You Have A Raccoon Problem In Your Vegetable Garden
Before taking up the challenge of preventing raccoons from destroying your garden, you have to first make sure raccoons are the pests having a field day with your garden.
Because they are nocturnal and feed at night, it might be hard to identify them by sight. To be sure the damages to your garden are caused by raccoons, these are some of the things to look out for:
Look for paw marks or tracks – One of the obvious signs of a raccoon is the distinctive five-toed paw tracks left on the garden. This is very visible if the ground is soft and muddy.
Holes – If the garden has lots of holes in the soil, this could be as a result of raccoons digging up the ground to look for insects. They especially love digging up mulch piles for the insects found under.
Check bird feeders – Raccoons would empty any bird feeder in your yard if they can get access to them. An empty feeder might indicate the presence one.
Ripped corns – Among garden pests, only raccoons would topple corn stalks, rip the ear opens, and leave the corn partially eaten.
Chicken coops – Raccoons would also raid a chicken coop to steal the eggs. In many instances, they might even kill the birds for food.
Other raccoon indicators include
- Raided trash cans
- Scratches on fences or trees
- Faecal droppings left behind while feeding
It must be emphasized that a single tell-tale sign on its own might not be enough to conclude that raccoons have gained access to your yard. A combination of at least three signs should be enough to be certain. But if you are fortunate to actually see them, that is enough to start thinking of the most suitable anti-raccoon measure or measures to deploy.
How to Stop Raccoons Eating Your Garden
The key to solving your raccoon problem is to prevent them from gaining access to your vegetables. Whatever method is employed, as long as it’s legal and safe, should be explored. Here, a two-prong approach focusing on ridding the garden of raccoons and preventing entry would be outlined.
While it is easy to make the decision to deal with the problem, the reality is quite is maddening and frustrating. With a bit of knowledge though, you can get on top of the situation fast.
Being nocturnal, night-time, when you are asleep, is their active period. This makes it almost impossible to catch them red-handed. This is why preventive measures tend to work best.
By the way, in the battle against raccoons, you’ll have to do away with the misconception that they hibernate during the winter. They are as active during the winter months as long as the weather allows it. Just like humans, when it gets too bad, they find a safe place to ride it out and resume normal activities when it is no longer severe.
Below are some tips on how to rid your garden of the menace of raccoons and how to prevent future invasions.
Tips for Getting Rid of Raccoons From A Vegetable Garden
- For persistent raccoon problems, the use of traps to get rid of them should be explored. There are different types of traps you can use for this purpose. A bit of research online would reveal the options available to you. If you know somebody who has used traps before, their advice would be invaluable.
Depending on the local laws, disposing of a captured raccoon can take any form. Therefore, the groundwork before setting the traps must include getting acquainted with the local laws concerning using traps for garden wildlife.
- The use of natural repellents such as blood meal and wood ash around the plants is also known to be effective.
For this purpose, the ash from any wood would work. If you haven’t cleaned out the fireplace recently, now is the time to clean out the ash and put it to good use. Blood meal, sometimes used as fertilizer, can be found in stores. Re-apply these as often as possible.
- Ground garlic mixed with an equal amount of chiller pepper is also a good raccoon repellent. Like the blood meal and ash repellent, you simply spread the mixture around the plants as often as possible.
- Loud noises especially from human sources scare them away. A battery-powered radio tuned to a rock station and left all night in the middle of the garden is all you need.
Of course, this method won’t be practical if the garden is close to your bedroom window since the noise would deprive you of sleep. Also, the neighbor might have a thing or two to say about the loud music blaring all night long if their house is close by.
- Light up the garden all night with bright lights. Being nocturnal animals, the bright light is enough to keep them away from your garden.
- If you are into corns, growing the taller variety would safeguard it from raccoons because they prefer shorter plants. The taller ears make it hard for them to gain enough leverage to topple the stalks.
Tips On How to Prevent Raccoons From Accessing Your Vegetable Garden
- Building a fence is the most obvious strategy. But you need to ensure the fence can actually keep them out.
Electrifying it is one option that works excellently. Another option is to use a 2-wire fence with one of the wires about 5 inches above the ground while the second one is strung about 11 inches above the ground.
- Make sure your home is very unattractive to any raccoon that might be passing while looking for food. You can take the following measures:
Eliminate all possible food sources like pet food and bird seeds from your yard.
Use only trash cans with locking lids. Take them inside at night if that is possible
Cover all openings raccoons can use to gain access indoors. Pets doors must be locked between dusk and dawn. Remember to cap your chimneys and seal holes or gaps in roofs and attics.
- Planting squash is another effective way of protecting your garden. Raccoons hate walking on the prickly vines and would rather keep away from the garden.
Raccoons, the nocturnal, furry animals with masks across the eyes that make them look like bandits, are very intelligent and crafty. They are omnivores, eating anything including vegetables, carrion, worms, birds, etc. This makes them a danger to any vegetable garden.
The issue for owners of vegetable gardens is not whether raccoons would eat the vegetables. That is going to happen. Their focus should be on how to make it extremely hard for the animals to get access to their gardens.
Fortunately, despite their intelligence and their ability to improvise, raccoons can be stopped from eating vegetable gardens. As well as putting up a suitable fence around the garden, there are numerous homemade and natural repellents that can be used singly or in combination with other strategies to tackle the menace of raccoons.