My Apologies to the Skunk Community

For years I’ve blamed the nightly vegetable carnage that takes place in our raised beds on skunks. The other night, our CritterCam (a Wingscapes BirdCam Pro), revealed the culprit: raccoons. And they work in pairs trios!

No wonder it’s been so difficult to secure the beds! Given the strength and agility of Racoons, I’m surprised that bird netting has worked at all (though, I’ll note, only when that netting is firmly secured with many staples). Perhaps it’s time to consider escalating to metal wire.

The “citizen science” lesson this week: raccoon and skunk diets overlap considerably. Both are highly adaptable urban foragers. In the case of our raised beds, both the skunks and raccoons are digging for figeater beetle larvae (Cotinis mutabilis). These huge larvae must be a delectable treat, the equivalent of a raccoon and skunk sushi party. Maybe I should overcome my squeamishness and join in the nightly feast. A plate of Cotinis mutabilis larvae ceviche could just be the next hip LA food trend . . .

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    • Nope–the bed they are digging in is empty right now. But I’ll make sure to turn the camera on when tomato season starts.

  1. I think you will find they work in trio’s! Just watched your video and noted that there were 2 distinct tails under that netting. They look like our possums here in Australia.

    • oh my – methinks narf77 is right! around the 22 second mark, there is one raccoon with snout facing towards the right of the screen, then a telltale tail just above that one where the attached body is clearly just out of the frame, facing the other direction. There have been many a post on our local produce swap list about dealing with these critters. Not easy.

    • OK, I should mention the charger linked to is a continuous voltage type.
      Which can be more dangerous for small animals like cats.
      Most other chargers are pulsed (around 1 per second).
      This allows animals to easily release from the fence.

  2. Racoons are not the smartest of beasts. They used to have fun with the grape vine that we grew up over our deck, because they had no concept of grapes being ripe. One racoon used to sit there, pick a grape and bite into it before deciding that it was not edible and throwing it away. It used to do this for hours, discarding hundreds of grapes without ever finding a single edible one, because NONE of the grapes were edible at that time of year. Every morning, we had to clean up a huge mess of discarded grapes, interspersed with racoon poop.

    Handy Hint: Never stand underneath a nervous racoon. If frightened, it will poop on you!

  3. Raccoons are supposed to be good braised, so you may want to think about a trap for when the zombie apocalypse comes….

    • In the meantime, I remember a recent post in which a local grocery store that was selling them for $10/lb had to cease and desist, at least temporarily. A market niche waiting to be filled! You could be sitting on close to $100 there between the three of them–might even be enough to cover the electric fence!

      Good luck finding a USDA-approved abattoir that deals with raccoons, though.

  4. I’ve actually tried one of those grubs. It wasn’t all that good. I had hoped it would be. Since they burrow in the soil, it had a very gritty mouthfeel, like it was full of, well, soil. Feel free to try it if you must….

  5. Our dog recently passed away and her scent kept all but the most determined away from our garden, namely GOPHERS and night visiting rabbits! We use hardware cloth UNDER our beds OR containers up on hardware cloth covered pallets AND 1/4″ screening around the beds at least 12″ high. Within the in ground beds, seedlings are surrounded with 1/4″ or finer screening, screening is also used over hoops to keep the birds out. that same screening also protects the seedlings from the hopefully heavy rain storm that might come by in the spring by scattering the drops, and from intense sun. Once the plants are established, the screening is removed so the birds can get in to get the insects. We use moving shiny things on wires and posts mounted higher to keep the deer from jumping the fence and getting in. A certain percentage is donated to the wildlife as it all goes along.

    • I would second a dog as as the easiest solution for raccoons. We moved into an old house that had been vacant for a year or so. Wildlife had pretty much decided they had free reign over the yard, especially when the persimmons were ripe. But my hounds treed the raccoons, after which I never saw them again. The possums so cleared out, too.

      It seems there’s nothing to be done for squirrels, but most of the other critters stay clear of my yard.

  6. And our chickens love grubs. I toss them the treat whenever I dig one up from the garden. One less grub for the raccoons.

  7. Ha! Yes, Raccoons! Which president recommended they be our national animal? Skunks, it turns out, dig precise, conical holes, signs of superior noses for the task, whereas raccoons take a more “scorched earth” approach. Electrical hurricane fencing is my recommendation.

  8. A little off topic, but my chickens love those grubs when they come across them in the compost. They are so large though they have to beat them soft and even then I think they might choke…

  9. HA! Yall header never ceases to amuse me. We have raccoons here too, and yes, they do travel it seems in a trio. They even rummaged around in our coffee grounds container. They could have at least spread it across the garden for me, but NOOO, they were too intent on satisfying their own needs. The boogers..

  10. Our neighborhood raccoons dig up our worms after we compost. We’ve adjusted by fencing off the bed for a week after applying new compost. That seems to give the worms a chance to dig in and deters the racoons.

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