Raccoons are among the world’s favorite animals. With their endearing masked faces and their cute ringed tails, they win over the hearts of children, Disney movie fans, and nature lovers alike.
The problem with the cute, if not cuddly, wild raccoon is that it can be enormously destructive. Raccoons can decimate flower plantings, vegetable gardens, herb collections, and new shrubs. They carry a variety of diseases that kill both pets and people. And with their urine and feces, they can do enormous damage in enclosed spaces in a very short time.
Even friends of wildlife sometimes get the urge to kill raccoons – but that is usually not a good idea. Just about any poison or trap that can kill a raccoon can also kill a cat or a small dog, and injure a child. Wounded raccoons become vicious, biting, scratching, and clawing their way to freedom. They can cause serious injury to homeowners who take on the task of sending them to the next world.
That’s why we are recommending trap and release as the best method for managing raccoon populations. Of all the traps on the market, our top choice is the Havahart 1085 Easy-Set One-Door Cage Trap. In addition to trapping, however, we recommend two effective deterrents. One is a motion-activated water spray that hits a raccoon (or other small animal, dog, cat, deer, or human intruder). The other is an effective pepper spray we recommend that you use in an especially effective way.
We think you should use all three – but if cost is an issue, begin with the Havahart trap. If you read the testimonials we have chosen for each product, you will have a good understanding of the (mostly) pros and (relatively few) cons for each of them, so now you can choose the right method and begin.
You can go to any part of this review by clicking on the links below.
Table of Contents
What Should You Look for in a Raccoon Trap or Repellent?
Since any method of trapping and killing raccoons can also capture dogs, cats, and harmless wildlife, most homeowners prefer to control raccoon populations by trap and release. We have one trap we recommend above all others, the Havahart 1085 Easy-Set One-Door Cage Trap, but we also recommend two other devices that can be used most effectively with the trap, but that also can be used by themselves.
What other techniques should you use to keep raccoon’s at bay, in addition to humane trap and release methods?
We recommend two methods that will keep away raccoons, dogs and cats, armadillos, other destructive wildlife, and, in some cases, nosy neighbors, in addition to the Havahart trap.
One method that gets good results is spraying raccoons with water when they encroach on an area you want to protect. As you will read in the review for the Motion Activated Sprinkler, this device is best used in pairs, and larger outdoor areas may require three or more. Absolutely no wildlife, pets, or people are harmed by it. They are simply discouraged from entering the protected area.
The other method we recommend is the use of pepper pellets, with a suggestion to make them both more attractive to raccoons and more effective against raccoons. The raccoon will not find its encounter with the animal repellent pleasant, but no lasting harm is done, no pets or people are put in danger, and your property is protected against raccoons.
For best results use all three methods together, forming a protective perimeter around your home and garden. If you need to do your raccoon control on a budget, we suggest you start with trapping.
Why We Recommend Amazon.com
Many traps are available at larger home improvement supply centers, but it is not unusual for a retailer to be out of stock. For best convenience and lowest price, we recommend Amazon.com for all your raccoon traps & repellents. Free two-day shipping is available in the United States for purchases over $25, and it is sometimes possible to save 5% to 8% or even more on every transaction if your state does not collect sales tax.
#1 – Our Top Choice – Havahart 1085 Easy-Set One-Door Cage Trap
A great way to trap raccoons humanely at a great price, but there is a learning curve
This one-door cage trap is the best humane way to trap raccoons of the half a dozen or so we have tried. We wouldn’t think of using a kill or snap trap because we have an outdoor cat.
This trap is offered at a great price (especially compared to the $500 per raccoon the pest control people were asking for) and I even got the shipping free (click here to see the price on Amazon). But I found out there is a learning curve for using it effectively.
The main thing to understand about this trap or any other trap, for that matter, is that easy to bait means hard to trip. It’s hard for an armadillo to avoid stepping on the floor of the trap to take the bait (although armadillos are a little fussier about their bait than raccoons or squirrels). It’s not hard for a raccoon to snatch the bait without setting off this trap, but there is a way around this.
What I do is to hang my bait (I found the best bait to use are marshmallows or Gummi worms, they also love bacon, but I prefer to keep that for me) from the crook of a coat hanger suspended from the top of the trap. There is no reason not to put bait on the trap pan, too, but if you hang an enticing goodie where the raccoon absolutely has to trip the trap to get it, you’ll trap the critter a lot more often.
The other issue with this trap, and I don’t think it is a design flaw, just a trade-off in ease of use, is that the it is not impossible for the raccoon to open the door with its tail. Or if you catch a mama raccoon with its babies, maybe the babies can open the door. Or maybe the raccoon gets its tail caught in the door sometimes.
This is another tradeoff. This is because the hinge pin for the spring-loaded door isn’t as tight as it could be, but it’s probably as tight as it should be. You don’t want to have to struggle with the door when you release an understandably pissed off animal back into the wild. That’s when you want an easy-open door. The price you pay for not getting your fingers nipped or needing to get rabies shots when you release the animal is the possibility of an occasional raccoon getting out after capture. But there’s a way to deal with that, too.
The way to make sure your raccoon does not get out is to place the trap on an incline, making sure the door end is higher than trap end. Since the raccoon has to go into the trap head first, it won’t be able to use its neck and shoulder muscles to fight the door.
What have we had go wrong with this trap?
- Some critters seem to butt into the side of the trap and set it off without ever going inside or getting the bait. Judging from digging patterns, we seem to have had an armadillo that does this.
- We live in Texas, where raccoons can grow pretty big. The biggest raccoons can open this door with their tails, although I don’t know of any other humane trap that captures them, either.
- We have never had a squirrel in this trap. Either they are too light on their feet or they shy away from one-door traps. Either way, a smaller two-door trap (that will be harder to load) is what you need for them.
- And the cat gets really upset when he has to spend the night in the trap. Maybe we should have trained him as an indoor cat, but he goes nuts if he’s cooped up all night, and this is the best way we have of keeping him safe.
OK. Enough on the negatives. This trap is the easiest to set of any we ever tried. It captures cat-sized animals and we have never seen one injured in any way. It’s not an “industrial strength” trap for larger animals, but you really don’t want to get between a great big mama raccoon and her kits, anyway. One last piece of advice, put something hard underneath the trap when you are transporting the animal to your release site. The trap will stand up to scratching and clawing but your upholstery or truck bed will not.
Contech CRO101 Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinkler
A great product that helped us grow 20,000 daffodils
One of our projects after we retired was to naturalize a meadow near our home with 20,000 daffodils. We assumed we would have few problems with wildlife. Daffodils supposedly are not especially tasty, we don’t live near any dense woods or corn fields, and we had never seen any evidence of digging or burrowing animals such as raccoons.
Two years ago, however, we had a terrible drought, and surveying the damage to our daffodil project, it was as if we had 20,000 raccoons (we could tell by their tracks) eating 20,000 bulbs. We didn’t think we could trap however many raccoons we actually had (we’re guessing a dozen or so), and we definitely needed to water the daffodils, so we put out ten Contech CRO101 Scarecrow Motion Activated Sprinklers over a 6,000 square foot planting.
It worked. It’s only late February and we have a spectacular display. The sprinklers aren’t enough for irrigation, of course, but they do a great job of fending off raccoons, unleashed pets, and other wildlife who would have disturbed our plantings. Here is what we learned getting to this point.
- The sensors don’t detect an animal coming right at it. You need more than one sprinkler unit to cover a garden area. We placed them facing different directions about 10 feet apart. If you do that, it’s almost impossible for a raccoon or cat or dog to encroach on the planting area without being detected.
- We found that we needed to anchor each scarecrow sprinkler with rocks and earth. Sometimes the unit gave such a powerful burst of water that it fell back on its side, effectively protecting the flower bed against low-flying birds. You need to prop them up so they stay upright after spraying and they aren’t knocked over by the wind.
- Cats and dogs dig during the day, but wildlife mostly dig (or graze) at night. If you don’t have a problem with unleashed pets coming over from your neighbor’s, then you can put a timer on each unit so they only go off from sundown to sunup. This also reduces the chances of you or a neighbor or your landscapers getting sprayed.
- You need to set the sensor low enough or high enough to see the problem animal. For us, it was raccoons, so we set the sensor low. If you need to stop grazing deer, you need to set the sensor high enough that it isn’t detecting activity (or not detecting activity) between the deer’s legs. Ditto for using the unit to deter door to door salespeople!
- Give the unit a rest about once a week. This keeps hungry animals from becoming emboldened to it. If you are really concerned about hungry animals, you can always leave them food somewhere you don’t care if they visit.
- And change the batteries a little more often than the manufacturer suggests. With the size of our plantings, the units got a real workout, so we changed batteries once a month. If Contech is reading this, please redesign your next unit so it runs on larger batteries.
If you’re putting out $8,000 worth of flower bulbs, this product is a real bargain – even if you buy 10 of them (click here to see how much they cost on Amazon). We are very pleased with the results, and we feel good about not harming a single animal in the process of keeping our plantings safe. Follow this link to read feedback from existing Amazon customers.
Havahart Critter Ridder Animal Repellent, Granular Shaker
Great for Warding off Raccoons – When You Use It the Right Way!
If you want to keep raccoons away from around, on, or even in the house, and if you’re like me, you don’t want to kill them and you don’t want to have to trap them and release them into the wild, Havahart Critter Ridder is the way to go.
I didn’t get the results I wanted the first time I tried it but since then I’ve learned a few things about how to make Critter Ridder work.
You can benefit from my experience by reading my tips below:
- Critter Ridder works on the same principle as rubbing your eyes after you cut up habanero peppers. It burns, and makes you feel just a little crazy.
- Critter Ridder is best applied with a bait to make sure that animals get it. They get a snack for their trouble, but they don’t come back again anytime soon.
- Peanut butter Critter Ridder balls and stinky leftovers au Critter Ridder work just fine for raccoons.
- Leave your Critter Ridder bait balls near a tree or under cover, where it’s more likely the raccoons will find it. Be sure not to rub your eyes after handling, and always handle it with gloves on your hands.
- The larger the container, the longer it stays "peppery." The essential oils in the product are less likely to escape into the air when you buy the 5-pound product. Make sure you keep the lid tightly closed between uses.
- Don’t just broadcast Critter Ridder over a planting bed. If you want to prevent raccoon traffic, make sure they encounter the product where they traffic the most.
- Put your Critter Ridder or your homemade bait balls in greater amounts at the edge of the bed you want to protect closest to (1) shrubs or bushes that serve as cover, (2) the edge of your property, or (3) any structure where raccoons might make a temporary home, such as a shed or outbuilding or garage.
- Don’t put it everywhere. Focus on the plants and plantings you most want to protect. You don’t want a hungry animal to reach the point it ignores the pain of the hot peppers and eats away indiscriminately.
Critter Ridder seems a little expensive (check out how it costs on Amazon by clicking here), but it’s a lot less expensive than making your own with hot peppers or black pepper. And while it certainly works for me, I have doubts about using it in rainy weather. During our rainy season next summer I intend to leave it only in parts of my garden with some kind of overhang to keep it dry. Follow this link to read what other Amazon customers thought about it.