How to keep the raccoons away from the pool party?
March 9, 2010 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Are there any plants that will keep raccoons away from the kiddie pool? Any other advice for keeping them out of my yard?

Last summer we had an inflatable pool in the back yard, and my kids loved it... until the #!*%@ raccoons popped it. Is there anything I could be planting in the yard now (I'm in Western Washington, and it's early spring) that will keep raccoons out of a replacement pool this summer?

These are big, fat, fearless raccoons. They're still in the neighborhood; I saw three of them, or ones just like them, across the street yesterday. Last summer they ate our blueberries and pooped in our yard, but it's the pool that really irritates me -- and probably is what attracts them.

Anything I plant or do needs to be okay for children to be around (so no electric fences, barbed wire, or poison), and not be too smelly to humans. We don't have pets, the raccoons can't get into our garbage, and we don't have a compost pile.
posted by The corpse in the library to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There is, I am sorry to say, not a damn thing you can do to keep raccoons from doing ANYTHING. We've got some fatassed raccoons who -- while adorable, especially when the babies are little -- just refuse to keep their grubby hands out of the water bowl we put outside for the local feral cats in the summer when it's crazy hot and there aren't a lot of places for them to find clean water. They'll stand there and yell at me if I tell them to cut the crap and leave. They'll scare off the tough guy local cats. They WILL NOT BE BUDGED. They just love water and that's all there is to it.

I wonder if putting a little bleach in the water might scare them off -- my mom used to do that to my kiddy pool to keep the water clean. Probably not, but maybe worth a shot?
posted by at 8:43 AM on March 9, 2010

We were putting a little bleach in it last year, and it didn't stop them. Even if they thought it tasted gross, by the time they get that close to it they've already damaged the pool.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:44 AM on March 9, 2010

a live trap and a 20 mile trip to a release site? That's what I did with the groundhog that lived in my yard.... never saw him again...
posted by HuronBob at 8:45 AM on March 9, 2010

We've had good luck with rags soaked in white vinegar. We draped them around the tree in our yard they liked to live in, and they actually moved on. It's smelly to humans, but you could remove them during the day, which would cut down on the worst of the smell. Could you also put a cover on the pool?
posted by fermezporte at 8:48 AM on March 9, 2010

Coyote urine.
posted by paulsc at 9:16 AM on March 9, 2010

Call animal control? Coons hanging out in your yard present a rabies threat - seems like your local government would have a vested interest in removing them from the residential area.
posted by COD at 9:17 AM on March 9, 2010

Pet supply places have big molded plastic pools that are designed for dogs, but are perfectly serviceable as a kiddie wading pool, and often cheaper. This would be at least more resistant to the attentions of the raccoons.

We had some success at discouraging raccoons from hanging out behind our shed by soaking some rags in ammonia and tossing them between the shed and the fence. Not sure if that's an option for you.

I have heard from a couple of people human voices on a radio will keep all but the most intrepid away- finally a productive use for talk radio! You can run a radio out on an extension cord- not sure if this would annoy you or your neighbors, though, depends on the size of the yard. But it meets the "nothing dangerous to pets or kids" requirement.

Good luck! Raccoons are an ornery pain.
posted by ambrosia at 9:45 AM on March 9, 2010

It's illegal to trap them here without a permit (although I'm sure that would be an entertaining 20-mile drive with a live, angry raccoon in the back of my car). My city doesn't do anything about them.

They were interested in the molded plastic kiddie pool when we had one of those.

They're definitely not afraid of human voices -- I've had to yell and stomp to get them to pay the slightest attention to me.

Vinegar is worth a try, and I'll remember that.

How smelly is coyote urine, to humans?
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2010

We had an exterminator tell us mothballs would work when a couple of these jerks were pooping on our back deck. Mixed results, but definitely some improvement.
posted by citywolf at 11:42 AM on March 9, 2010

Radios tuned to talk radio may help.

Those ultrasonic sonic emitters sold as rat and roach repellers might work. That is, if you don't have pets or wear a hearing aid.

So, may motion detection security lights, , the brighter the better, or, better yet, similarly rigged motion sensitive sprinklers that will cover the area where you want to keep them out.

Do not water the lawn or garden in the evening as the raccons will come into the yard later that night to eat the worms driven up to near the surface of the soil.

Some animals hate mint and rosemary but... I doubt raccoons are in that company. I think that repellent plants are not the answer.

The simplest albeit time consuming answer is empty the pool each night and let it dry out--then lean it against a tree or bush or wall so that they will not be tempted to try to crawl under it in search of worms and grubs.
posted by y2karl at 12:14 PM on March 9, 2010

Coyote urine is virtually undetectable to humans. You dab it on cotton balls, and chuck them around the yard. This will probably work for a little while, although you will need to frequently freshen it up (every few days - more frequently if it rains). And eventually the raccoons will figure out it's not real coyotes, and the jig will be up.

You can buy it at sporting good stores, in the hunting section. (Actual sporting good stores, not like REI camping/hiking stores, heh!)

Raccoons are pretty smart and fearless and impossible to discourage, short of buying an actual dog. Which is a pity, because although rabies is actually relatively rare, raccoons carry a parasite load that you don't want to expose your kids to (raccoon roundworm is endemic here in the PNW).
posted by ErikaB at 12:17 PM on March 9, 2010

impossible to discourage, short of buying an actual dog

Even with an actual dog, racoons can be impossible to discourage. Our dog is missing the tip of his ear, thanks to his own poor judgment and a not-to-be-discouraged raccoon. I should add that the dog in question is 120 pounds and looks like this.
posted by ambrosia at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2010

Ugh raccoons. They were all over the place when I was growing up. We had to bungee-cord our garbage cans. Is there some way you can make a cover for the pool? Maybe using a huge tarp and stakes?
posted by radioamy at 6:20 PM on March 9, 2010

We've had good luck with the ammonia too. We partially filled those plastic party cups with gravel to weight them down, then half- filled the cups with ammonia. we placed the cups all around the foundation (they were living in the crawlspace and having babies under my house!). That drove them out and we were able to plug up the hole they used to get in. We left the cups of ammonia near the plugged up hole (we learned to do that after the mama just unplugged the hole and moved her babies back in) and they moved on. Thank goodness- the mama almost killed my neighbor's dachsund.
posted by dogmom at 7:50 PM on March 9, 2010

Follow-up: I'm using a Scarecrow sprinkler. So far the pool has remained unpopped, plus the neighbor's cat has stopped using our yard as a litter box. Unfortunately the raccoons were poking around in the yard last night until I came out and scared them away (perhaps their sensibilities were offended by my sushi-print pajamas), so they might be getting used to the sprinkler. I'm going to try vinegar tonight.

If only I could fill the sprinkler with vinegar...
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:24 PM on August 3, 2010

Further follow-up: the Scarecrow sprinkler worked really well at first, and I think the vinegar-soaked rags helped. We put the cover on every night, and whenever I heard them in the yard in the evening I'd go out and throw rocks in their general vicinity. (Given my throwing skills, they raccoons were in no actual danger.)

Then we went away for a week during a rare heatwave and the stupid raccoons destroyed the pool despite the sprinkler.

I say it's time to bring back the coonskin cap as a "must have" accessory for six-year-old boys.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:47 AM on October 7, 2010

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