ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Keeps Peeling Back My New Lawn ?

Updated on June 2, 2016
cat on a soapbox profile image

Catherine is a California Certified Nursery Professional. Her interests are birds,insects, integrated pest management, & organic gardening.

Sod is peeled back to expose the white grubs that raccoons find so delicious.
Sod is peeled back to expose the white grubs that raccoons find so delicious. | Source

The mischievous raccoon:

Raccoons forage in groups of 3-4.

When kits are 8 weeks, they will join in night-time foraging with their mother. At 12 weeks, they begin to hunt food without her.

On the way out to get the morning paper you stop dead in your tracks and stare open-mouthed at the disturbing sight of your new lawn. What the heck? Did aliens roll back and rearrange the sod that was perfect when you went to bed? Not quite! Instead, it was the handiwork of nocturnal hunters with ringed tails and bandit's masks: mischievous raccoons. These culprits may seem alien to us, but they are no strangers to the gardens and attics of North America.

The raccoon gets its name from Native American culture. The Proto-Alonquian root ahrah-koon-em means one who rubs, scrubs, & washes with its hands.

Habits of raccoons:The raccoon's peak breeding season is March-April. After a 2 month gestation, the female usually has 2-3 kits which join in the food foraging by 8-12 weeks. In the wild, the average life span is 2-3 years. Raccoons find shelter during the day in wood piles, under houses, in attics and underhangs, sheds, and storm drains. They come out at night in search of food: fruits, insects, nuts, slugs, grubs, fish, and pet food.

These nocturnal hunters are fearless and often move around in loose groups, each foraging independently. This lack of shyness furthers their aggressive behavior. Equipped with strong razor-sharp claws, they can get around most deterrents to enter home attics by tearing off roof shingles and fascia boards as well as prying metal covers off vents like soda can pop-tops! These claws also facilitate digging, shredding prized koi fish, and peeling back sod in search of grubs and worms.

Raccoons are extremely sensitive to touch, smell and sound. This makes them adept hunters. A raccoon can both hear and smell earthworms as well as feel their vibrations underground! They are also very intelligent, able to remember cognitive challenges and problem solving for as long as three years. No wonder they are hard to deter!

Metal flashing will prevent climbing:

In addition to tree trimming, nailing metal flashing to wood siding and wrapping it around trees will prevent the raccoons from climbing to reach rooftops, eaves, attics, and other attractive nesting sites. The clever use of cleaning brushes keeps them from climbing downspouts and walking along rain gutters.

Controls for Raccoons: Bring pet food in at night and keep bird seed picked up after dusk. The best defense is to keep attractants away and to seal nesting spaces and entryways. Place rocks on top of outdoor trash cans or use tightly sealed containers. Metal flashing helps to prevent climbing on siding and trees. It is important to be vigilant and repair damage as soon as possible, so females don't set up nests in unwanted places.Strong gridded wire or hardware cloth can be used to seal overhang entry points and to cover vents. Make sure chimneys have spark arrestors to deter entry also. Fish ponds should have built-in rock shelters for goldfish and koi. Raccoons are not dissuaded by bright lights or loud noises, including dogs. Skip the floodlights and radios. Neighbors will thank you!

Smelly things like cayenne, blood meal, coyote urine, and mothballs may bother them but not enough to call an end to the nightly quest for food. They are, however, afraid of walking on unstable areas. Crumpled paper bothers them, but my favorite deterrent is plastic bird netting.

a roll of plastic bird netting
a roll of plastic bird netting

Bird netting and lawn staples:

My number one defense against these critters when they persist in tearing up sod areas is bird netting secured with lawn staples. Simply determine the point of entry. Is it by land, tree, or close shelter? It is not necessary to cover the entire lawn area, just the entry or perimeter. Raccoons do not like to travel across surfaces that feel odd and entangle their feet.

The garden netting and lawn staples can be purchased at most nurseries and garden center departments. The netting comes prepackaged in 14'x14' or 7'x21' sizes and can be easily cut with scissors. It is also available in bulk rolls for very large problem areas. The netting is best secured every 12"-18" with a garden staple. These come in packs of 10 or in bulk boxes of 100.

Helpful tip:

Foraging raccoons often travel in groups of 3 and are very territorial. To prevent them from claiming your yard, be on the lookout for coarse textured feces which they often deposit in numerous areas. Vigilant removal will persuade them to move on.

How to deliver an effective one-two punch:

The use of netting with a cayenne based product like Critter Ridder or a turf pest insecticide is an effective one-two punch for deterring foraging raccoons. A granular insecticide which targets beetle larvae and other harmful lawn and soil dwellers will eliminate the grub population, so raccoons will move on to to new food sources. These products contain imidicloprid or cyfluthrin and do not harm earthworms. Both ,however, are suspect in reducing honey bee populations through Colony Collapse Disorder. Follow application directions carefully and don't apply more often than suggested. A more sensible approach is the completely organic option of either beneficial nematodes or milky spore which can be easily applied through a hose-end sprayer. These items can be purchased on-line or ordered through retailers and shipped directly to you.

Raccoons are cute but dangerous: Raccoons may look cute and cuddly, but they are not! Their aggressiveness and sharp claws speak for themselves, and they are especially dangerous when cornered. Shouting, stomping one's feet, and waving one's arms is the best way to scare one off. A good blast of water will do the trick too.

There may be exceptions, but all raccoons are known to carry dangerous parasites in their feces which can infect other animals and humans through either inhalation or direct contact. Wear gloves and filtration masks when cleaning nesting sites in attics, etc. Parasites can continue to live in the soil for several months. In spite of their mischief, raccoons still serve as good scavengers for slugs and snails. They are very efficient at garden pest control and should not be a problem with occasional visits. Watch them from your windows, but don't feed them treats. They are not shy about coming close and don't fear cameras. It's wise to keep the kids and pets back.

Raccoons are part of our native fauna, and they do keep other populations of pests in check, so we don't have to. Respect them from a distance, discourage both nesting and feeding in urban settings, and use friendly forms of control when they get out of hand on their noctural forages in your gardens.

Beneficial nematodes are completely safe and can be shipped directly to your home.

Easy to apply organic solution to lawn grubs:

© 2012 Catherine Tally


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Agreed! Raccoons can be dangerous, despite their appealing appearance. However, I love your nature-friendly control suggestions--discourage without harm. All animals have their place in nature, including the ones we don't care for.

      For me, that includes reptiles of all kinds--but just because I don't like them, doesn't mean I don't understand their place in the greater scheme of things. I simply leave them alone and avoid places where I might come across any.

      Voted up, useful, interesting, awesome and shared.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      We have had raccoons but I never knew they tore up the lawn this way. We had raccoons trying to get into the trash last night. Their always around here no way to get rid of them. They are cute but I wouldn't get near one. Voted uP!

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi DzyMsLizzy :) Thank you! I always enjoy your comments and appreciate your dropping by. My garden is teeming w/ lizards right now, and the tiniest ones scurry every which way when I water. Thankfully, I never see snakes in my yard! I always stomp to anounce my presence and give them time to shoo. All the best to you.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi moonlake,

      Raccoons go after newly planted sod for the most part but can still peel it back for several months. As annoying as they can be, I find comfort in visits from them. They keep the snails away and at least they don't stink like skunks-lol. Thank you for dropping by to read and comment. :)

    • thooghun profile image

      James D. Preston 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

      I live in the center of a densely populated city -- on the third floor of an apartment complex. After having read this article I know feel surprisingly safe :D Great hub!

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi thooghun,

      Yeah, I 'd say that raccoons wouldn't want to work that hard ! Glad you dropped by- thank you for your positive comment. :)

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      This is a great and very informative hub on raccoons, and i agree with you raccoons are cute but dangerous . Well done !

      Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hello kashmir :) Thank you so much ! I really appreciate your checking out my newest hubs and giving me such positive feedback. My best to you.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for sharing this. A gang of 4 raccoons have taken over my block on Monday nights. We are trying to encourage people not to take there garbage cans out until Tuesday morning.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 4 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi, as a fellow naturalist I found this hub fascinating and very informative. Obviously we do not have Raccoons in the UK , I suppose the European badger would be the animal that would inflict that type of damage over here. Thank you for sharing.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi D.A.L. Thank you for the interesting comments! Raccoons have become a real nuisance due to urban sprawl and the plentiful pickings of petfood and garbage. Badgers are probably more selective which I would think makes them helpful for rodent control but a nightmare for poultry farms:) I'm glad you stopped by!

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      I occasionally have a similar problem with wombats digging up my garden. Fortunately there's no danger of them ever reaching the attic ... but they have been known to excavate new basements under people's houses. lol.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Wombats are so chubby and cute! (The only marsupials we have are possums.) I 've read that wombats like to dig and burrow while looking for roots, etc. I imagine that could get very frustrating to a gardener! Similar nuisances here would be gophers and moles.

      Thank you for your interesting comments. Glad you stopped by!


    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Good hub that we will be putting to practical use. We have a disabled raccoon (three good legs, one healed back leg and a partial tail) that has been visiting our deck scrounging for food. He looks at me each night through the window.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 4 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hello FlourishAnyway,

      I 've got to admit that I have a soft spot for injured animals! In your situation, I'd discourage the foraging in my ornamentals and lawn but cut a little slack in garden beds and allow your disabled visitor to hunt for slugs and other nuisance pests. I really believe in compromise when living close to wildlife without giving in to feeding treats, etc. Thank you for dropping by to read and comment. I really appreciate it!

    Click to Rate This Article