RACOONS: Dealing With the Threat© Howard Voren. Click here to use this content.
Aviculture at best is a constant battle. Those that fight that battle well will succeed. One of the consistent problems that we all face are the habits of raccoons that populate our land or neighborhoods. Due to the raccoon’s nature, many aviculturists along with their birds, have suffered deep pain due to their presence. Many have gone to war with them but most have neglected to consider one of the main axiom’s of war. Know Your Enemy.
Raccoons are not very complicated creatures. They are aggressively territorial, very habitual and although many humans are impressed with their cleverness, in certain respects they are very dumb. Once they become accustomed to feeling secure in an area, they seem to completely loose some basic survival instincts that most other birds and animals have as permanently hard wired behavior. The best example I can relate to demonstrate this is one particular personal experience. When my avicultural career started I was faced with the problem of them coming into the aviaries at night and harassing the birds. Not wanting to kill animals that I felt had a right to life, I spot lit the ground below the suspended cages and every night I went out and shot my rifle, hitting a spot right next to them. They would jump in terror and immediately run off into the surrounding woods. Any other animal I had previously known, would have “written off” that area as a safe place to forage. Not raccoons!! Within twenty minutes they would not only return to the same area, but to the exact same spot. Repeated attempts would cause them to give up that spot but they would still return to the same area a few nights later.
I quickly learned that my goal could only be achieved by trapping them. I purchased several large Havahart raccoon traps and found them easy to capture by the use of either canned cat food or canned sardines. Due to the fact that they are very territorial, they were driven a minimum of twenty miles away from my location and released in unpopulated areas.
The next problem that needed to be faced was the claiming of this now open territory (my aviaries) by other raccoons. In studying them for many years I learned some important things. New raccoons do not come into your aviaries to kill or harm your birds. They do not come on to your property to pry open lids of trash cans and they do not come to your home to eat the dog food left on the patio. They come to this newly open territory to engage in their natural foraging behavior. In aviaries they come in because they are attracted by the piles of seed under the cages. These, just like the piles of dead leaves in the forest, will yield all kinds of eatable goodies like grubs, beetles and worms when they dig through them. It was not until they became accustomed to the new area through repeated nightly visits without incurring any negative reactions or being caused any harm, would they even dare to be brazen enough to climb up on the cages or reach into them and cause the commotion involved in obtaining a “bird feast”.
With this knowledge I was able to end my constant paranoid nightly vigils to guard against new entries to my “open territory”. All that was necessary was to develop the habit of looking down at the seed piles when the birds were serviced in the morning. Whenever new raccoons moved in, they made their presence known by leaving obviously disturbed seed piles behind. The moment we see this obvious “calling card” we place several of the Havahart traps in the area of the diggings, with much tastier treats than grubs and beetles.
To my delight, raccoons also appear to be oblivious to the humane trapping of their companions. Seeing their companion or their cubs getting caught in a Havahart trap appears to be no deterrent to them entering a trap sitting six feet away or entering the same trap on the following night. With this technique I no longer worry at night and have not had any raccoon incidents in the past twenty years.