How to Ruin the Raccoon Festival of Garbage in a Seasonally Appropriate Way

Posted by on December 30, 2013 at 1:07 pm


‘Tis the season for goodwill among men. Let’s throw in women too and then expand the concept to include all species. When the raccoons get into your garbage tomorrow morning and lick clean the plastic wrap that once packaged the stew meat you used to create the meal for your visiting family, leave the gun on the rack. Instead, remember that you are supposedly smarter than the raccoon. Prove it by outwitting, not outweighing, the little bandits.

What’s in the Can

The first most obvious thing to do is to avoid throwing anything delicious into your can. With a simple composting system, you can throw all your food scraps—at least the ones you don’t share with your dog—into the compost bin. Just make sure an open bin is not in a fenced yard with your dog because you might compost some things you don’t want your dog getting a hold of, like corn cobs.

The Cans

The second intelligent strategy is to put your garbage into something the raccoons can’t get into.

Animal StopperOver time, rodents and raccoons will gnaw holes into plastic and rubber cans. But if your cans are only outside on pickup day, you might take the advice of Ace Hardware Manager Randy and invest in the Rubbermaid® 32-gallon Animal Stopper Garbage Can (RM5F8201). It’s hefty in price as well as size, running over $200, but Randy says they sell more than 30 a month. It comes with a “patented locking feature.” Despite the recommendation, on the Ace website consumers complain that animals can eat through the top too easily and that the locking mechanism breaks easily too.

Rubbermaid refuseWe keep our garbage in a Rubbermaid® Refuse Can (289200), also available at Ace and less than half the price of the Animal Stopper. We use a bungee cord connected to the handles (which have bungee cord hook holes) to keep the lid on. The bungee cord has to be tight. If it starts to get too loose, we wind it around the handle twice. If the cord starts to get frayed from chewing, we replace it. No one has ever chewed a hole in the can, and we’ve had it outside for years. But sometimes if I mess up and don’t fasten the lid securely with the bungees, the raccoons do topple it and pull out the garbage. My mistake.

Behrens canA more animal-proof strategy is a metal can, such as the Behrens (1211) 20- or 30-gallon varieties that you can also get at Ace (somewhere in the middle pricewise of the two other options). We have one sitting outside filled with bird seed, and the squirrels can’t chew into it. Because the top is close fitting, we don’t even have to use a bungee cord to keep it on. But if there were a big hunk of rotting meat in it instead of seed, a raccoon might find a way. So, because the metal can has a handle on the lid as well as two on the sides, you can use a bungee cord, a rope, or even a chain with a lock to securely attach all three handles together. If your neighborhood raccoons are especially clever, add a large rock to the top of the can. You can also fix rubber tubing around the inside of the lid to make it fit even more tightly.

The Coulds

Some people suggest leaving a radio on at night by the trash cans, but that seems like it might cause a whole host of other problems, like angry neighbors, which are much harder to deal with than raccoons.

You can also sprinkle a little ammonia inside your can. Raccoons are as irritated by the smell as humans are.

Finally, raccoons would prefer to work in the dark, just like vehicle prowlers. So motion sensor lights can help deter their trash attacks.

The Cannots

Poison and traps are bad ideas. Poisons travel up the food chain, poisoning is a hideous way to die, and why should raccoons be punished for looking for food? The former Director of the West Sound Wildlife Shelter, Mike Pratt, says there is no reason to hurt raccoons: “There are alternate ways to discourage raccoons and get them to relocate.”

And trapping is against the law. Chris Anderson, who is the Wildlife Biologist with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, says, “It is against Washington state law to trap, move, or relocate raccoons. Only trained and hired trappers can trap the mammals.”

The most important thing to remember is that you are, presumably, smarter than the raccoons. So don’t let them get your goat (both figuratively and literally). And, if they do outwit you on occasion, don’t take out your anger on them. You’re supposed to be smarter, so you have no one to blame but yourself.

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Photo by R4vi.

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8 Responses to “How to Ruin the Raccoon Festival of Garbage in a Seasonally Appropriate Way”

  1. informed resident says:

    Check facts before publishing this drivel. Although it is illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits, it is well within the rights of property owners or their tenants to trap and kill raccoon. RCW 77.36.030 permits the trapping and killing of wildlife without a hunting license if/when they cause property damage, are threatening to people or domestic animals, livestock etc. This applies to coyote on the island as well. Know your rights and exercise them accordingly.

    • salandpen says:

      The facts have been checked, my friend. They just include contradiction, even on the WDWF site itself. Also, we're talking about eating garbage, not causing "property damage" or being "threatening to people or domestic animals, livestock etc." I agree with you that knowing your rights and exercising them accordingly is a good thing. But I insist that "knowing what your rights are" should not equal "always use them." Inherent in the privilege of having rights is prudence in their use, an obligation people are often too quick to overlook.

    • Kim says:

      Informed Resident – this appies to "coyote" on the island as well?? Unfortunately if it were left to many of the island residents, apparently including you, this would be how many "coyote" there are – if you don't like the wildlife why do you live here? Go back to the city where you can have all the pavement you want and no wildlife but don't feel like you are doing any of us a favor knowing your rights – just move away and save us from listening to your drivel.

  2. craig says:

    By watching coons go after my garbage with a trailcam. I have discovered that if they can't pull the can over, they can't get at the garbage. When they pull the can over, even with a secure lid, they are sometimes able to compromise the lid and get at the garbage.

    However, even with a loose lid, if they can't pull the can over your garbage should be safe.

    So if you can tether your can to a post, tree, yard waste bin, or other cans. You most likely will not have to suffer the humiliation and defeat of cleaning up another week's worth of garbage.

    Good luck out there, and always remain vigilant. :)

    PS: if your garbage is pulled over by coons, it will attract other critters as well. Dogs, possums, wood rats.

  3. Bob Maryens says:

    My problem is not 4-legged little critters but the humans that pick up the trash. My cans get ripped, dented, squashed, and thrown far aside from the garbage workers. I'm having to buy new cans every other year and although I do appreciate the garbage workers I don't appreciate what's happening.

  4. Chris J says:

    For Informed resident, it is not illegal to discharge a firearm in the City of Bainbridge Island. Hunting regulations identify Bainbridge as a rifle free zone, that includes 22 caliber rifles. That still leaves pistols, black powder, and shotguns as allowed. Gun ranges are exempt from the rifle limit. No city code makes it illegal to discharge a firearm. There are limited places where discharging a firearm would be safe on the island, but doing so in not necessarily illegal.

    • Noah Haon says:

      True – most people are not aware that it is legal to discharge (some) firearms on BI, and that activity is specifically exempt from BI's noise ordinance. Of course it would be difficult to do so on the island responsibly, without endangering people or property. Another fun fact, due to the rifle restrictions, BI is one of the very few places in WA where it's legal to hunt with a crossbow during centerfire season. Yeehaw!

  5. John p Sullivan says:

    Put out a pound of sugar per raccoon.


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