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Thursday, August 28, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 7/2/2003

Raccoons can wreak havoc in the garden

I can often use a few extra hands to help in the garden, but lately those hands are ones I can do without.

I spent a recent afternoon planting 15 lavender plants in a neat square with a Shasta daisy in the middle. Then I planted a square of variegated sage and purple-leafed basil accented with lemon grass on the corners, with a centerpiece of tomatoes trellised on a cone fashioned from iron. Then I chipped through my clay soil to tuck six cora bell plants in and around my hosta garden.

The next day I wanted to show the new garden additions to my husband. I stood at the back door, swung it open, and said, “Check this out!”

He said, “Oh, honey. If you didn't have time to plant everything yesterday, I would have given you a hand!”

I was shocked. What was he talking about? I was showing off part of my completed garden master plan and was expecting a “Wow!” or “That looks great!”

When I turned to look at my hard work, I saw upturned roots and droopy leaves! I couldn't believe it. Since there were tiny footprints of grease all around our grill, I knew who was to blame. Raccoons had a party in my backyard the night before, and they are lucky that I wasn't on their guest list.

Because I live in a wooded area, I know I am in their neighborhood. According to Ohio State University experts, raccoons will live in hollow trees, ground burrows, brush piles, barns, buildings, dense vegetation, haystacks, rock crevices, or chimneys. The masked bandits also eat a wide variety of foods, such as small mammals, birds, snakes, lizards, insects, acorns, fruit, corn, and grass. They will turn over garbage cans, pilfer plants, and even dig up posies in search of food.

As with moles and weeds, you have to decide how much of a nuisance you are willing to tolerate. Some see beauty in clover and little furry creatures living in their lawn.

OSU has three levels of efforts to control raccoons:

1. Remove food and water supply. If your landscape doesn't offer anything appetizing, the raccoons may ignore it.

2. Modify the habitat and reduce access. Electric fencing will keep raccoons out of your garden. Turn it on when the animals are most active, like before dusk, and turn it off again after sunrise. Use flags to mark the fence, and make sure children avoid the area.

You can try scaring the raccoons with radios, bright lights, dogs, plastic streamers, and aluminum pie pans. But the adaptable creatures may get wise to those tricks, sometimes in one night. OSU experts say there are no repellents, toxicants, or fumigants registered for raccoon control.

3. Trap or use lethal controls. Setting a trap for raccoons may do the trick. Check with your local Department of Natural Resources office or police department. They may have traps that you could use. You can even look up professional trappers to rid your yard of raccoons. Cat food, sardines, fish, or chicken make good bait. Experts recommend checking the traps at least twice a day and take care of a captured animal quickly. You can move them to a new location or check with local authorities about lethal controls.

OSU experts warn that if you decide to trap, be aware that raccoons can transmit rabies, canine distemper, and parvovirus to domestic animals and humans.

Raccoons active during the day or that appear sick, confused, or uncoordinated may have rabies. Call a wildlife professional for help.

Now, I'd better get back to replanting my battered plants. This time, I will include a fence in the design.



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