How to handle a masked bandit who’s not Crime Watch material


Susan on Gatewood Hill is looking for advice:

Does anyone have a good deterrent for raccoons? Obviously, having a water garden with tasty plants and potable water is an attraction, we admit. What we’d like to know is if anyone has had success with the predator pee, or cayenne powder, or other “scentual” deterrents. These photos were taken last night.


42 Replies to "How to handle a masked bandit who's not Crime Watch material"

  • k July 22, 2008 (8:32 pm)

    i used coyote urine when i encountered skunks and raccoons in san diego. it worked on the skunks, but the raccoons didn’t seem bothered by it. they are pretty darn brazen.

  • R July 22, 2008 (8:56 pm)

    A coonhound – she keeps them out of the yard. :)

  • MargL July 22, 2008 (9:15 pm)

    Most folks I know trying to deter raccoons from a water feature use some sort of electric fence. That might not be a option for your barrel-pond.

  • saney July 22, 2008 (9:16 pm)

    i dont know…but those pictures are sooooo cute….just keep him as a pet!

  • willow July 22, 2008 (9:41 pm)

    The best thing that I ever found was good old “mothballs” (Naptholane?), sold in Safeway in the same area as mops and such.

    Smells like poison (not really bad outdoors), and your neighbors will hate you for 5-7 days, but it really gets rid of those guys, and doesn’t kill them. I sure as hell wish it did, though.

  • thriftwaygirl July 22, 2008 (11:09 pm)

    Fact is, if you need water, you need water – dosen’t matter whether you are human or animal.

    Its been a pretty dry summer thus far and if anything is thirsty enough they’ll seek out what they need, even if it takes a little chance of safety.

    Good luck with the deterrents, but, if they don’t cause too much trouble I would let them be.

    Cross referencing forum thread:

  • thriftwaygirl July 22, 2008 (11:27 pm)

    Also, I want to applaud you for wanting to use natural deterrents so as to not harm the little guys!!


  • Diane July 23, 2008 (12:01 am)

    wow, this brings back memories, not so great

    I lived in a house just down hill from junction for 7 yrs, with huge backyard, and the raccoons decided to take up residence in the attached sideyard every night; there was no water so that was not the draw; and I tried all of the above to deter (except coyote urine; is that for real? where do you get such a thing?) the moth balls smelled so strong, couldn’t even open my windows for a week, but didn’t seem to bother the critters at all; they pooped like crazy, tons, all over the side yard; there was a 5 ft fence surrounding yard, so I tried putting thorn rose cuttings tied to top and thorny cuttings & pine needles all over ground; nothing stopped them; I finally gave up and just covered up the poop with pine needles that dropped in buckets from my front yard tree; sometimes I would see them cruising the neighborhood late at night; they were huge

    thank god that’s no longer an issue in my 4th floor apt and no more yard to mow

  • munchkin July 23, 2008 (6:38 am)

    We live below the Alaska St junction and have been plagued with raccoons for years. We tried electric fences but found that birds would walk into it and get electrocuted and one squirrel fell into our pond and swam to the wire only to get hit with a jolt until I pulled him out and got bitten as a thankyou. We trap them with a humane trap and take them to a rather large wooded area across town where they either have to swim or take a bus to get back to WS. This morning I had a possum in the trap so I let him loose, took my shower and when I checked it again I had a snarly raccoon in it, so after work he’ll being finding himself in a new location.
    About 10 years ago we trapped around 56 of these guys in a 4 year period. We typically see a mom with 3 babies so they’re quite prolific. 6′ fences don’t bother them but dogs will. They’ll eat alongsige cats until they feel their food is threatened.Between the squirrels and raccoons we rarely see any harvestable corn out of our garden, as they get to it first. We took one to Camp Long one day just to find him back in our yard the next morning. They’re cute, but destructive. Good luck. Relocation is the best answer

  • Sue July 23, 2008 (6:40 am)

    I can’t wait until my new eyeglasses come in . . . I saw that first photo and thought it was a handpuppet. :) I swear it took me several moments of looking at it to see what on earth it was!

  • m2 July 23, 2008 (7:05 am)

    Obviously relocation is not the answer, or you wouldn’t have to keep doing it. As soon as you remove one animal, you’ve made room for another to move in. From what I read, relocated animals may do poorly in unfamiliar territory, so it may not be very humane after all. I’ve decided to live with them myself.

  • Munchkin July 23, 2008 (7:34 am)

    The area we take them to has shoreline, acres of woods and lots of well to do residences with many food opportunities before them, so I’m confident they are not doing badly. I’m all for reducing their numbers, knowing full well that we’ll never eradicate them. We have ducks, a chicken, doves and 2 ponds full of koi and goldfish, so we’re just taking defensive moves.Years ago they tore their way into our aviary and bit the heads off of a dozen button quail and left the bodies. We figured it was a training mission for her little ones. I understand that it’s just nature doing what it’s supposed to, that’s why I don’t immerse them in my pond until the bubbles stop when I catch them.Animal Control once told us they’re not protected so you can do as you wish with them
    and the wildlife people recommended taking them 40 miles away to ensure they don’t return.If you like raccoons we’ll be happy to deliver some to you if you live far away enough from us.

  • wheelman July 23, 2008 (7:48 am)

    I placed chili powder around the lip of my backyard fountain. That night when they came to play I heard the effects. That kept them away for quite a while.

  • artsea July 23, 2008 (8:40 am)

    Right on Munchkin. I have a neighbor who leaves her side door open so her three cats can come and go at will when she’s not at work. We have lots of raccoons around here (west of the Alaska Junction) and she is finding the raccoons also entering her house quite often lately. She has found them calmly eating from her cat dishes in her kitchen, and just the other day saw one standing on her table calmly looking out the window next to it. She not sure what to do. Her cats are used to the “open door policy” and she hates to consider keep them locked inside …or outside. The more people leave food out for animals…any kind of animals…the more they are encouraging these “wild” critters to make themselves at home around and inside our homes.

  • Rick July 23, 2008 (8:52 am)

    I used to have a 13 1/2 foot Burmese Python that would’ve taken care of a couple of these a month. Problem is they tend to wander off when unsupervised. Don’t do well on a leash either.

  • tracer July 23, 2008 (8:54 am)

    You can also try lighting the area in which they roam or putting a small radio outside. They don’t like the light or noise.

  • na July 23, 2008 (9:24 am)

    I would rethink the mothball idea.. a while back I had some neighbors who decided to put piles of crushed mothballs outside around their house.

    It was summer and I was coming home from work and opening doors and windows.. it took awhile to figure out where the smell was coming from, in the meantime, it was making me sick.

  • Rosa Umemoto July 23, 2008 (9:49 am)

    Seattle Animal Control recommended using an air pistol with wad cutting flat tip ‘ammo’ to protect the goldfish and monster koi in our two ponds. Laser sight provides pinpoint accuracy to spank the coons on their back side.
    The critters are awfully cute – up until they cause hundreds of dollars of damage to a water feature.


  • Rick July 23, 2008 (10:31 am)

    The Python that is, not the raccoons.

  • Munchkin July 23, 2008 (11:23 am)

    Raccoons aren’t fazed by light. Night before last a raccoon that had stolen my dead koi I was using as bait was eating it in the bright floodlight of my neighbor’s yard, that is until he saw me. I then retrieved my bait and fixed the trap. The raccoon that is in our trap right now at last report is breaking the welds and may not be there to relocate when I get home. These animals are strong and not to be trusted nor underestimated.
    Additionally, moth balls are toxic and are not recommended for use anywhere.
    Artsea: sounds like your neighbor needs some counseling. Tad bit dangerous to have a raccoon in your living room.
    Rick:morbid, but too funny

  • KatherineL July 23, 2008 (12:22 pm)

    What we need is to feed them – with birth control pills hidden in the food. If they didn’t reproduce so fast, they’d be a lot less of a problem. Is there any way to sterilize them, short of trapping and surgery?

  • thriftwaygirl July 23, 2008 (12:59 pm)

    Birth control pills, awesome suggestion! (Hope they’re not Catholic!

  • Carly July 23, 2008 (1:13 pm)

    For our backyard pond we have a wire covering that prevents them from doing any serious harm to our fish since the fish are able to get to a hiding spot where they cannot be attacked. We also have an electric fence that is on a timer so it only comes on during the night time hours. Since our pond is slightly elevated by about a foot, the eletric fence does not effect animals (including our dog) who are on the ground, and the fence in itself is positioned about 6 inches above the pond. This has worked out very well for us and we very rarely have issues where our fish are attacked although our plants are harmed every once in awhile.

  • TeresaP July 23, 2008 (3:29 pm)

    Small jars of ammonia work, with holes poked in the lid. Works on the squirrels who eat my tulips!

  • Traci July 23, 2008 (4:16 pm)

    I can’t help but love these little guys when I see them, they are about as adorable as adorable gets. However, before we brought our kitties indoors for good, we realized that raccoons can be VICIOUS. In fact, the other day I saved a neighbor’s cat that was being stalked and cornered by two raccoons twice her size. Good luck on keeping them away, and I’m glad you don’t want to kill them!! Too many people consider that the only option.

  • Jerald July 23, 2008 (4:28 pm)

    It is illegal to trap and move raccoons (and most other wildlife) in this state. If you hire professionals to trap nuisance raccoons they will kill them.

  • Jeff Savoie July 23, 2008 (4:52 pm)


    It is a crime to transport wildlife without a permit. It is also a crime to release wildlife on public land or on private property without consent of the land owner/manager.

    Trapping an animal and moving it, is a huge disservice to the community.
    The problem doesn’t go away, it just moves.
    And those animals trapped once, will be much much harder to trap a second time, making the problem worse than it was.
    Top that off, with the fact the you may have orphaned, and doomed, untold numbers of babies, removing their mothers before they were able to fend for themselves.
    Relocation is extremely stressful, it takes an animal out of it’s element, and leaves it without home/shelter, food stores or sources, and puts it at risk by invading the established territory of animals already inhabiting that space.
    You’re not doing them any more of a favor than you are the community at large, and if tracked scientifically, your success rate would reflect that.

    And while the law does allow some leeway, for a homeowner or land manager to trap problem animals, they must be a legal nuisance (causing damage to property or posing a health risk), and then you may only remove the animal(s) creating the problem.
    It’s not a year round wide open license to trap any animal that happens along!

    And when done by an unlicensed trapper or Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO), must be accompanied by a Special Permit to Trap Problem Animals, issued by the director of the WDFW… which is only valid for thirty days).

    Animal Control told you wrong, raccoons are “protected”, through set trapping and hunting seasons.
    Municipal Codes of Seattle, also prohibit your open trapping program, and any hunting, hazing, or harassment of wildlife.
    I don’t know how many feet per second of velocity your air gun has, but it may be illegal for you to discharge it in City Limits, at all.


    Currently, there is no chemical sterilization for raccoons, or indeed very many animals at all.
    Most forms of chemical contraception are temporary in nature, and require maintained dosages… and wild animals aren’t good at taking medicine.

    Even TNR (trap, neuter, return) is proving ineffective at reducing population levels (in domestic cats, raccoons, and deer), in studies being done by the USDA.

    Those of you willing to live with raccoons, need to do a search on the raccoon roundworm parasite.

    This deadly parasite (among several others carried by raccoons) put all of us at risk, so much so that professional trappers are required by law to euthanize raccoons caught in this area.


    I applaud you, for dealing with your own problem in a legal and logical manner, the author of the question would do well to learn from your example.

  • Johnny Davies July 23, 2008 (4:54 pm)

    Dang! If all you get together sounds like it’ll be a coonicide. Why don’t you just leave them be? Get rid of the birds too then. Squawking Stellars Jays & Flickers. Dang annoying wildlife (jk). I have a spring the surfaces in my backyard & they come drink. Big friggin deal, I would too if I needed it. When they come, we give them space and they leave just as quietly as they came. I don’t leave food around and they don’t threaten my pets.
    As far as the neighbor who leaves the side door open for the cats – please tell them to refrain from posting about their home burglary when it happens.

  • younoboze July 23, 2008 (5:06 pm)

    I picked up a device that hooks to your garden hose and uses motion detection to aim and squirt at the dog/raccoon/thief.

  • beaboveit July 23, 2008 (5:18 pm)

    My parents have a big pond in their back yard in Burien. They have had it for over 15 years and have tried all sorts of things to get rid of the raccoons. The finally came up with trip sensors that have a high pitch sound. They simply watched where the raccoons were getting into the pond and put them in their path. Guess what? No more missing fish and no more raccoons! The sound is not loud, just a high pitch squeal. I will ask them where they got them.

  • Magpie July 23, 2008 (7:01 pm)

    I know they usually come out at night, but I saw one cross California between Genesee and Andover this morning around 7:10. I always think when they come out in broad daylight, they must be really hungry. I know they are a pain, but such a cute pain!

  • nc July 23, 2008 (10:25 pm)

    Try this,
    I used the rodent one when I saw rats in my backyard, never saw them again. It’s safe and organic. True Value sells the one for cats. They said their customers have had great success with it.

  • mike July 23, 2008 (10:48 pm)

    K – Coyote urine sounds like a good idea but they didn’t have any McClendons. How’d you come by yours?

  • Jeff Savoie July 24, 2008 (12:06 am)


    Coyote urine can be found at larger sporting goods/hunting supply stores (Joes, Sportsmens Warehouse, etc.).

    But, in an urban setting, the coyote and the raccoon have a more amicable relationship than that of their country cousins, so coyote urine may not repel “citified” ‘coons.

  • munchkin July 24, 2008 (7:03 am)

    Jeff: I stand corrected. We turned loose the raccoon yesterday afternoon as she had 3 offspring waiting for her. If you’re implying I was the one with the pellet gun, you’re mistaken. I don’t own one.I wouldn’t shoot one unless it was absolutely necessary. I like raccoons, just not the damage and death they can produce. Sounds like I’m effectively out of the trapping business. Gained a lot of knowledge through these discussions and found we were given a lot of bad instruction. I’ll try some of the other alternatives that have been talked about in the posts. Thanks all.

  • artsea July 24, 2008 (10:37 am)

    Jeff: In your ideal world, raccoons would not stalk and kill pet cats, nor would people allow their pet cats to spend half their day outside where they can stalk and kill birds. People also would not put out food for the wild animals, thereby making them capable of producing more and larger “litters”. To me those people are no better than people who choose to trap and relocate or kill some of these “cute” and dangerous nuisances.

  • Norm July 24, 2008 (11:13 am)

    I had this problem last summer. This year, I’ve surrounded my water plant tub with lots of pots of potted plants (in soil) to act as a barrier. Haven’t had any problems with the coons so far. This is an environmentally friendly way to solve your problem.

  • JeffSavoie July 24, 2008 (5:40 pm)


    I don’t look at the world in an idealogical way, I try to look at it realistically.

    The reality is, predators prey on other animals, both, cats and raccoons, are predators.

    You are right, I believe domestic cats need to be just that, domestic.

    You know the difference between a domestic cat and an 80 pound pit bull on a rampage?
    About 70 pounds, hunting strategie (stealth or charge), and the animals each chooses to kill.

    You know the difference between a feral cat and a raccoon, same thing, a few pounds and a different set of victims.

    Domestic cats, whether pets or feral, do not belong to the local ecosystem and more than starlings do.

    In many cases, behavioral modification, exclusion, and removal of resources, can solve wildlife conflict.
    And even supplemental programs, like feeding, can be a solution.
    Some times, it can’t.

    One needs to look at the basic “nature” of the animal in question, when weighing the consequences involved in population management.
    With elk, the benefits outweigh the risks, they are basically peaceful, they don’t often pose health or safety hazards, damage much property, or pose much of a threat to other animals (indigenous or not).

    This is absolutely not the case with predators, like raccoons, coyotes, and cats.

    You know the difference between a feral cat, and a black bear….

    One is never allowed to wander around town, and is instantly and aggressively removed, and relocated, or euthanized (at the taxpayer’s expense, and joy).

    My reality, runs across the board, it doesn’t stop at a certain weight class.

  • JeffSavoie July 24, 2008 (6:05 pm)

    I apologize I mistakenly thought you used a pellet gun as part of your “system”… or I forgot to address the writer of the comment and add his name?
    I dunno I was on a roll. :)
    When given “legal” advice, you should consider the source, and realize, with wildlife law, it is deeply rooted, confusing, and often conflictive.
    And likewise so is policy.
    In the WDFW pamphlets/webpages “Living with Wildlife” and they more than condone trapping and relocation… they know the reality is, not everyone is willing to take the ultimate step.
    The last thing I’d want to do, is put you out of “business”, I just want to make sure you understand it needs to be legitimate, and with purpose, and that the steps taken (and the distance) need to be carefully considered.
    Most people, given enough information, make rational decisions, so I thought I’d offer you some that I felt was important.
    I understand, the reality is, that trapping and relocating animals isn’t a totally good thing, but it isn’t totally bad either.
    The only thing I’d ask, is that you reconsider your release policy.
    Either change locations, to one you are reasonably sure the problem won’t become someone else’s, or have a professional assist you with that.

  • JT July 24, 2008 (6:47 pm)

    KIRO had a story on this today. Summary: It’s against state law to trap and relocate a live raccoon, and any trapped raccoon must be euthanized.



    I hope everyone continues to try all the alternate solutions offered here.

  • Greg July 24, 2008 (8:37 pm)

    Best way to combat this problem….. .22

  • Max July 25, 2008 (11:51 am)

    You need to give them there own food and water dishes. Feed them dog food and keep the water fresh. If you have a Cherry tree plan on sharing the crop with them. They like fresh fruit. I live in a wooded area where most of the nieghbers like the wild life and feed them. They are a lot of fun to have and to watch. And the little ones are very quite.

Sorry, comment time is over.