Tips to Discourage Raccoons and Skunks

In Toronto, we have an over-population of raccoons and skunks. What follows is some information/tips on how to discourage the critters from visiting your property.

Lawn Watering / Sprinkler Systems

Raccoons really appreciate us watering our lawn in the evening or sprinkler systems timed to go off in the early morning (still dark) hours.  It provides water if they are thirsty on those hot days; it is a fun shower, especially for the young ones but it also brings all the bugs/worms to the top of the grass, making it easy hunting for dinner.  Adjust the timer for sprinklers to early in the morning, once it is daylight (i.e. 6:30/7:00 a.m.). Watering then will not ‘burn’ the lawn but the animals have gone home to sleep for the day.  

New Sod

Raccoons LOVE new sod!  So easy to roll it up to get to those yummy grubs.  And watering the new sod frequently brings all the bugs/worms to the top, making it easy hunting.  Again, water early in the day, once it is daylight.

Storage of Garbage Bins

If at all possible, store at least green bins in the garage to discourage the raccoons from visiting.  Even better yet, also store the grey bin in the garage – they will climb into the bin to find food remnants that couldn’t be put in the green bin.  If possible, put garbage bins out the morning of garbage pickup, not the prior evening.

Grub Control

Both raccoons and skunks will roll-up or dig-up your lawn to find grubs.

What are the symptoms of grubs?  Dead or brown patches in your turf.  Turf that easily lifts up and peels back, revealing sorry-looking roots (or none at all).   Dig holes caused by skunks or raccoons.

The Lawn Service companies offer a grub control treatment often using nematodes, a bacteria. Nematodes hunt and feed on soil dwelling insects by entering their body, injecting them with lethal bacteria, and feeding from their insides. The toxin usually kills the host insect within a day or two.

An alternative treatment is Scotts Grub B Gon Max (1.4kg bag $34.98), which is a beetle specific biological insecticide.  It is suggested that it be applied in the Spring (April to late May), in the Summer (late June to early August) and in the Fall (late Aug – Sept). The 1.4 kg bag covers 125m2.

Latrine Sites

What is a raccoon latrine? Raccoons establish community latrines as part of their culture—sites where they repeatedly deposit fresh feces (droppings or scat) on top of old feces. Raccoons prefer sites that are flat and raised off the ground, but they also use the base of trees and occasionally, open areas. Common sites for raccoon latrines are roofs, decks, unsealed attics, haylofts, forks of trees, fence lines, woodpiles, fallen logs and large rocks.  

It’s not nice to have a latrine on your property but if it was created by raccoons, it is also a health hazard.  A raccoon latrine is very likely to contain roundworm eggs.  The raccoon roundworm lives in the raccoon’s intestine; a raccoon can pass millions of eggs in its feces every day.  Once deposited in the environment, the eggs develop into the infectious form in 2-4 weeks, and can survive in the soil for several years.  

If the Latrine Site is on a deck or patio, move around some furniture.  Put a planter or a table in the spot the raccoon usually uses.  Raccoons reuse the same spot because it’s a habit – break the habit and they might move on.

Because their paws are so sensitive, raccoons don’t like to walk on a double layer of plastic. Tape two painter’s sheets or garbage bags over the latrine area for a couple of weeks. That should convince the raccoon to find a new spot, and once the habit is broken you can remove the plastic.

If the latrine site is on a lawn or in a garden, overwater the area so that it’s wet and muddy. You can stop overwatering once the raccoons have stopped using the latrine.  A motion activated sprinkler (or a person turning the hose on them when caught in the act!) will also deter a raccoon from a latrine site. No one likes to get wet while doing Number Two!

Cleaning up raccoon latrines reduces the chance that people or other animals will get sick from raccoon roundworms. Is it dangerous to clean up a raccoon latrine? Serious roundworm disease is rare (11 cases reported in the United States to date), but because the disease can be severe, special precautions should be taken when cleaning up raccoon latrines. If you do not ingest developed eggs, you cannot get the disease. Taking special precautions will help reduce the chance that you will accidentally swallow eggs or contaminate other surfaces or objects. Be sure to avoid spreading eggs further when you clean up a latrine, and keep pets and children away from the latrine area until the cleanup is finished.

What protection needs to be taken while cleaning up a raccoon latrine?

Wear disposable gloves—rubber, plastic, or latex.
Wear disposable plastic booties, or rubber boots that can be scrubbed and left outside.
If working in a confined area, wear a N95 particle mask (home renovation or safety supply stores carry them) to prevent accidental ingestion of eggs or inhalation of fungal spores.
Avoid stirring up dust and debris. Lightly mist the latrine area with a little water from a spray bottle to reduce the amount of dust.
Use a shovel or rigid scoop to gently lift feces and any other contaminated material and place it into a heavy-duty plastic bag.
Close the plastic bag tightly and discard it in your garbage can.
Disinfect hard, smooth surfaces (including shovel blades) with boiling water.
If the latrine is on the ground and the soil is heavily contaminated, you may want to remove and discard the top 2-4” of soil and replace it.
Large quantities of removed soil are best discarded in landfill disposal sites.

Search for Dens

A mother raccoon will usually have at least 2 dens, in case one should be discovered.  In the summer, the raccoons may spend a lot of their time up in the tall trees (nice for air conditioning) but they still have their dens.

Special searches need to be done at each home to determine if there are any dens. In cities 

raccoons may use chimneys, garages, sewers, attics, crawl spaces, storm sewers, outbuildings, and under buildings as their den site. It is wise to do careful, periodic reviews to determine if there is any raccoon activity at your home, especially in Nov before winter arrives.