‘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 second intelligent strategy is to put your garbage into something the raccoons can’t get into.
Over 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.
We 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.
A 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.
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.
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.
- Wildlife Watch: Plastic Mesh Toy Embedded into Tissue on Raccoon’s Hand
- Deadly Trap Found on Animal Near Battle Point Park
- Wildlife Watch: 32 Raccoons
- Wildlife Watch: Children’s and Harrison Hospitals Donate Bottles for Baby Raccoons
- Wildlife Watch: Are Raccoons Getting Smarter?
Photo by R4vi.