Q: Raccoons are taking over my balcony, destroying plants and tearing up garbage. Is there an eco-friendly way to deal with them?
A: Have I told you about the night a raccoon snuck into my house and stole a granola bar from my gym bag? By the looks of of it, he wanted out more than he wanted to spend his days locked inside with my hulky cat, so he wedged himself out through a 2-inch gap in my window and never looked back. Well, unless it's the same brazen tween that walked through my patio door this morning, but that's a separate story.
So what do you do with 'coons that just won't go away?
It depends on what kind of headache they're causing. Without a good latch system on your trash bins, you might as well put out a menu and some tablecloths.
Pass on stretchy bungee cords and go for a Raccoon Check strap from Home Hardware. Mine's starting to get flimsy after three years of use, but until now I've had no complaints. If you've got the space and deep pockets, get yourself a fancy cedar garbage shed from binsolutions.ca.
Then there are 'coons that will take over your shed or sneak off with your garden veggies like a thief in the night (ahem). You could try wrapping chicken wire fencing around your garden (the top part has to be loose so they can't climb it). Squirt plants with diluted tabasco sauce or sprinkle cayenne everywhere. For larger, frequently used areas like a patio (or patio chairs), try misting with a solution of boiled jalapeño water every three to five days. That's next on my list.
Releasing beneficial nematodes into grassy spaces will naturally eliminate the tasty grub population that can lure hungry raccoons.
Whatever you do, stay away from deterrent sprays made with "predator urine." Raccoons may not like the scent of coyote pee, but coyotes enjoy being locked into wire pens to have their urine harvested even less.
You could experiment with ambient deterrents like motion-sensing floodlights and sprinklers. Hell, some people even leave a radio out overnight with an all-talk station on low to keep them away. The efficacy of these methods depends on how people-sensitive your creature is - and in a town known as Raccoon City, good luck.
Case in point: if a backyard barbecue full of loud, inebriated guests (including one wielding a hose and shrieking like a rabid hyena) didn't deter last weekend's raccoon from making a beeline for our dinner again and again (and again), then a motion sensor won't cut it.
And if they're trashing your balcony like Amy Winehouse mid-meltdown, then you're dealing with an entirely different beast. The situation gets especially desperate when they treat your patio like a giant latrine. Try laying down plastic painter's sheeting everywhere ('coons don't like the slippery surface) and using all of the above tactics.
You might be tempted to call in a pro who promises humane wildlife removal. But unless you catch the whole fam-damily, this is pretty cruel. And services are only allowed to release the crafty critters a kilometre away, so they could easily make their way back. Any further and their chances of survival are sadly slim.
For those of you hosting guests in your attic like a Motel 6, your best bet is get a responsible wildlife control company like AAA to install a one-way door wherever the creatures are getting in. Once you're sure they're gone, block all entry points with galvanized metal or rust-proof mesh, cap your chimney, fix your shingles, trim overhanging tree branches and pray to the 'coon gods that they don't excavate an entrance somewhere else.
(FYI: if you see one out and about when the sun's still high in the sky, don't listen to that fear-mongering neighbour who told you it's a sign your raccoon is rabid. It's probably, according to wildlife experts, either a mama foraging for her young 'uns, or a tween under a year old that has yet to turn nocturnal.)
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