How to Keep Raccoons Out of Your Yard

raccoon in grass

Raccoons are cute until they throw trash all over your front yard and dig up your lawn. And if you let them get away with it, they’ll never stop. 

So, how can you evict these grubby little roommates without hurting them? Here’s a few humane ways to keep raccoons out of your yard.

9 ways to keep raccoons out of your yard 

When raccoons venture into your yard, they’re looking for three things: food, water, and shelter. If they can’t find any, they’ll have no reason to stick around. So, the best way to prevent raccoons in your yard is to make sure they won’t find what they’re looking for. 

But when you already have raccoons on your property, you can still repel them with certain scents and other methods. Follow these tips to “raccoon-proof” your yard as much as possible. 

1. Secure trash cans 

A raccoon’s number one food source on your property is your trash. These critters are smarter than you think, and they’ll knock over your garbage can or open the lid to get to the tasty morsels inside. 

To prevent this, make sure your trash cans stay tightly sealed:

  • Buy a lock for the lid
  • Tie the lid down with bungee cords
  • Place heavy weights such as cinder blocks on top of the lid
  • Store garbage cans inside a garage or shed, if possible

The less accessible your trash is, the better. Even if raccoons can’t get to your trash, the smell of it may attract them. When throwing out particularly smelly waste, such as raw meat, seal it in a plastic bag first to contain the odor. 

2. Remove possible food sources

domestic organic waste
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Aside from the garbage, raccoons might find food in compost piles, bird feeders, pet food bowls, or just on the ground if you have trees that produce nuts or fruits. Locate all possible food sources on your property and remove them if you want the raccoons to stay away. 

For compost piles: Get a compost bin with a secure lid. Keep it inside a garage or shed if possible. If you don’t want to use a bin, consider installing an electric fence around the pile. Regular fencing won’t be enough to deter raccoons — they’re avid climbers. 

For bird feeders: Raccoons are nocturnal, so if you bring your bird feeders inside at night, raccoons won’t get to them. Alternatively, you can hang the bird feeder from a thin pole that raccoons can’t climb or install a raccoon guard around the bottom of the pole. 

For pet food bowls: Never leave pet food out overnight. The best thing would be to feed your pets inside or in the garage, but if that isn’t an option, make sure you bring their bowls inside before it gets dark.

For nut and fruit trees: Clean up fallen fruit and nuts as soon as possible, preferably every day. You never know which night the raccoons will show up looking for a feast. 

3. Protect your fruits and veggies

If you have a vegetable garden, berry bush, or fruit tree in your yard, it could be another major food source for your local raccoons. You probably don’t want to get rid of your garden just to prevent raccoons, but you can put up a barrier to keep them away. 

The most effective way to protect your prize fruits and vegetables from raccoon attack is to put up an electric fence around your garden. 

In this case, an electric fence isn’t really a “fence” but a strip of electrified wire. The shock from an electric fence should be enough to scare raccoons off but not enough to hurt them severely. 

Set up one strip of electric fence around your garden about 6 inches off the ground and another about 12 inches off the ground so the raccoons can’t jump over it. 

WARNING: An electric fence could be dangerous if you have outdoor pets or small children who play in your yard. 

Instead of an electric fence, you could try growing plants with prickly vines or thorny branches around your fruits and veggies to keep the raccoons from getting into them. Just be careful of the thorns while you’re gardening!

4. Block access to hiding places 

Raccoons like to take shelter in dark, enclosed spaces. That includes spots like the crawl space beneath a deck or porch, under the roots of a large tree, or anywhere with brush thick enough to provide cover. 

For this reason, make sure your lawn stays clean and clutter-free, as debris in your yard creates hiding spaces for raccoons to hang out. Tree branches, leaves, or other items cluttering your lawn are some things that provide shelter for raccoons.

Identify any hidey holes on your property that would make a good home for raccoons, and either get rid of them or put up a barrier so the raccoons can’t get in. 

Block off spaces beneath your home with wire mesh, sheet metal, or another durable material that raccoons can’t easily tear up. Keep bushes neat and trimmed to reduce cover. 

5. Eliminate water sources

garden pond with fountain
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While you inspect your property for potential food sources and hiding spots, check for water features raccoons might use as a watering hole, such as:

  • Bird baths
  • Koi pond
  • Swimming pool
  • Bins or containers that fill up with water when it rains
  • Pet water bowls

If you have a raccoon problem, keep water features (including swimming pools) covered with a durable material, at least at nighttime. This is especially important for fish ponds — raccoons won’t only drink the water, they’ll go fishing, too! 

Raccoons prefer to dip their food in water, so getting rid of possible water sources in your lawn will make your property less hospitable to raccoons and encourage them to go somewhere else.  

6. Treat your lawn for grubs 

Have raccoons been digging holes in your lawn? They’re probably hunting for grubs, tiny beetle larvae that live in the soil and eat grassroots. 

Along with holes in your landscaping caused by raccoons and similar predators, other signs of a grub infestation include:

  • Yellowing or browning grass
  • Grass that pulls up out of the soil with little resistance
  • A spongy feeling when you walk on the grass

If you notice these symptoms, learn how to get rid of grubs in your lawn. That might be the key to getting rid of your raccoons, too. Take care of your grub problem first, and the raccoons might go away on their own when they realize their favorite all-you-can-eat buffet has shut down.

7. Apply scent repellents

vinegar and baking soda on a table
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Raccoons have a strong sense of smell, which they use to sniff out your trash from miles away. But you can use their keen noses to your advantage. There are many pungent smells that will mess up their senses and act as raccoon repellents. 

Here are some smells raccoons hate and how you can use them in your yard:

  • Store-bought deterrents: There are many products you can buy online or at your local garden center designed to repel wildlife such as raccoons. They usually come in the form of liquid sprays. 
  • Predator urine: The scent of urine from predators (wolves, coyotes, or bobcats) fools raccoons into thinking your property is unsafe. Believe it or not, you can easily find predator urine for pest control online and at some garden centers. 
  • Vinegar: You can dilute vinegar with water to make it go farther or use straight vinegar for a stronger smell. Either way, put the liquid in a spray bottle and spray it around your property. 
  • Ammonia: Purchase ammonia (a chemical contained in urine) online or from a home improvement store that sells pest control solutions. Soak rags in the ammonia and place them around your property or leave out uncovered bowls of ammonia. 
  • Garlic: Crush garlic cloves and leave them in containers around your property or mix garlic juice with water to create a repellent spray. 
  • Cayenne pepper: Generously sprinkle dry cayenne pepper around areas where raccoons might frequent or mix one full can of cayenne pepper with a gallon of water to make a spray.
  • Onion: Raccoons don’t like the smell of onions. Onion can be mixed with hot pepper for an extra effective racoon repellent. 
  • Blood meal: Purchase blood meal, a powder made of dried animal blood, online or from a home improvement store. Generously sprinkle the powder around your property. 
  • Cucumber plants: Try growing cucumber plants around the border of your garden to keep raccoons from messing with the other veggies. Raccoons hate the smell of them, and as an added bonus, you get to eat them!
  • Irish Spring soap: Grate bars of Irish Spring soap into flakes or break them into chunks. Spread the flakes or chunks generously around your property. 
  • Peppermint oil: Mix several drops of peppermint essential oil with water to create a repellent spray. You also could spray straight peppermint oil for a stronger scent, but that would get expensive very quickly. 
  • Epsom salt: Generously sprinkle epsom salt around your property. 
  • Dog or cat fur: Scattering dog fur or cat fur around your yard can act as a scent deterrent to raccoons. 
  • Wood ash: Spread wood ash around your yard.

You don’t have to douse your entire yard with these scents to irritate the raccoons’ noses and send them packing. Apply the scents near food sources, enclosed spaces, and other spots you might expect to find raccoons. 

You also can apply the scents around the perimeter of your property to create a kind of barrier. 

Important to note: Raccoon deterrent scents don’t last forever. For lasting results, you’ll have to reapply the scents every few days. For this reason, scent repellents aren’t a reasonable long-term solution. 

However, scent repellents can be good for running the raccoons off your property, giving you a chance to secure your trash cans, clean up your yard, trim bushes, and generally make your property less appealing to the raccoons so they won’t have any reason to come back. 

Warning for pet owners: Just like these scents irritate raccoons, they irritate cats, dogs, and other outdoor pets. Your pets may not want to go outside with these smells in the yard.

8. Install motion-activated lights and sprinklers 

Raccoons are nocturnal mammals who don’t like bright lights, which is why motion-activated LED lights can usually be used to scare them off your property. 

Raccoons won’t like getting wet either, which is why installing motion-activated sprinklers can be an effective way to scare raccoons away from your yard. Being sprayed with water will startle raccoons away and make them want to avoid your yard.

Motion-activated lights and sprinkler jets are usually easy to install, and they can be effective for scaring off raccoons. Place these motion-activated deterrents in strategic locations where the raccoons are sure to set them off, such as next to your trash cans or under your deck.

Motion-activated light products:

Motion-activated sprinkler products:

9. Use sonic deterrent devices

Sonic pest repellers are electronic devices that emit a high-pitched sound which humans can’t hear but drives animals crazy. Raccoons prefer a quiet environment, so they won’t like areas with annoying noises. 

Additionally, you could try playing sounds that will frighten raccoons, such as heavy metal music or talk radio stations.

These devices are designed to keep away many types of wildlife pests, not just raccoons. The sound may temporarily disorient the animals but won’t cause lasting harm. 

Warning for pet owners: Sonic pest repellers will disorient your pets when they go outside, too. However, the sound doesn’t travel through walls, so it shouldn’t bother pets as long as they’re indoors. 

Sonic pest repellent products:

How to keep raccoons out of your home

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When raccoons are regulars in your yard, the worst-case scenario is that they get inside your home and stay there. There are steps you can take to secure your home and keep raccoons out. 

Seal entrances

Seal or cover all possible entry points into your home:

  • Dog or cat doors
  • Vents
  • Chimney opening
  • Holes in the roof or siding

Install a chimney cap to keep critters out of your house. A chimney cap is a metal cap with mesh on the sides that will keep unwelcome critters from getting in while still allowing smoke from the fireplace out. 

Walk around your house and inspect it for any access points large enough for a raccoon to fit through. If a cat could fit through it, a raccoon probably could, too. Always keep windows and garage doors closed at night. 

Raccoons can claw their way into parts of the roof or siding that are weak or worn, so make sure your roof is sturdy and durable. If your roof is old or weakened, consider installing a new roof to make sure it can protect your home from wildlife entry. 

Trim trees

If you have tall trees or poles near your home, raccoons can climb them and use them as a bridge to get onto your roof. From there, they can potentially find their way into your home. 

Keep the branches of tall trees trimmed back so they don’t hang over the roof. There should be no pathway from the ground to your roof. 

Never feed the raccoons

Feeding a raccoon might seem cute, but raccoons can be destructive for your yard if they start digging for grubs and worms. If you feed a raccoon, the raccoon will view your home as a good place to find food and it will keep coming back.

Additionally, it’s never a good idea to feed wildlife, as it can be dangerous and it’s not good for wildlife to become dependent on humans for food. Eating human food also can be unhealthy for them. 

Signs you have a raccoon problem 

Raccoons are nocturnal animals, so they’re only active at night. Unless you’re a night owl yourself, you may never actually see them on your property. But in the light of day, these common signs of raccoons can tip you off that you’re housing some scavengers. 

  • Trash cans knocked over and/or trash thrown over the yard: If you wake up to find trash spread all over the lawn, it is evidence of raccoons digging through your garbage. 
  • Evidence of feeding: Other signs of raccoons feeding include broken or knocked down bird feeder, unexplained holes in the lawn and garden (from digging for grubs), and fish missing from pond.
  • Raccoon tracks: Raccoon tracks are 2-3 inches wide, shaped like a hand with five toes on each paw, and little claws on the tips of each toe may be visible. 
  • Raccoon droppings: Raccoon droppings are usually cylinder-shaped and no more than 3 inches long. They vary in color and consistency. You might find them in your yard or swimming pool. 
  • Loud noises from outside: At night, you may hear them rummaging or running across the roof or in the attic. Growling or purring noises also might be an indication there are raccoons in your yard. 
  • Scratch marks: These masked bandits may leave small scratch marks on trees, wood piles, sheds, and any other structure they can climb.
  • Damaged insulation: Raccoons in your house might shred your attic insulation for nesting material. 

Cost of raccoon removal

baby raccoon in a basket
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When all else fails and you can’t get any prevention remedies to work and the raccoons still persist in visiting your yard anyway, you need to call a professional wildlife removal service to safely relocate the raccoons for you. 

The general price range for a raccoon removal is $335 to $600. However, removing an entire family of raccoons from your attic can be a pricey endeavor that might end up costing up to $1,500.

It’s best to let pros remove raccoons that get inside your house, too. For one thing, you face the same dangers as trapping them outdoors. 

For another, many raccoons that hide in attics, inside walls, or in other enclosed spaces are nesting mothers. You wouldn’t want to remove only the mother, leaving her babies to die. Leave it to a pro to find, remove, and relocate them all safely. 

Although hiring a wildlife removal company to safely get rid of the raccoon on your property might be expensive, in the long-run it’s worth it, since raccoon damage to your property can be expensive. Raccoons might wreck insulation, tear holes in your roof, or chew on electrical wires. 

FAQ about raccoons

What do raccoons eat?

Raccoons are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and plants. In the wild, they eat many types of food:

  • Berries
  • Birdseed
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Insects
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Small mammals

In a residential neighborhood, they’ll eat pretty much anything that’s remotely edible, including your trash and compost. 

How do you keep raccoons out of a chicken coop?

The easiest way to keep raccoons out of your chicken coop is to cover the windows and any other openings in the coop with durable hardware cloth (a type of metal wire mesh).

If you suspect raccoons are entering through the door of the coop (they’re smart enough to do so), install a new lock or latch that’s too complicated for them to figure out. 

Do moth balls repel raccoons?

Moth balls are hit or miss as a raccoon repellent. They’re also dangerous for the raccoons and any other critters that might take a nibble (including your pets) because they contain chemical pesticides. 

Do raccoons carry disease?

Not always, but raccoons may carry infectious diseases such as rabies, distemper, or Baylisascaris procyonis, which is a roundworm infection. They also may carry fleas and ticks. 

If you have pets that go outdoors, keep them up-to-date on their vaccines in case they come in contact with a sick raccoon or other wild animal. 

When to call a pest control professional 

If raccoons are still running rampant in your yard even after trying these DIY methods, the only option left is to trap and remove the raccoons by force (without hurting them, of course). 

Always call a professional pest control company or animal control agency to handle live trapping, as raccoons can become aggressive when provoked. You don’t want to risk getting hurt or contracting a disease, so leave dealing with wildlife in the hands of a trained pro.

Main Photo Credit: edbo23 | Pixabay

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and editor with a passion for sustainable, earth-friendly gardening and lawn care practices. When she isn't sharing her knowledge about lawn care and landscaping, you can find her curled up with a good book and a cat in her lap.