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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Raccoon Trouble

Quite suddenly we began hearing noises in the night. Animal noises. Wild, growling, and chattering, sometimes squealing. Whenever we looked outside, nothing. Floodlights on, nothing. Go outside and look around, nothing. Come back in the house, and the noise would start all over again. Thankfully this was all going on outside the house rather than in.

The trouble was that every time a noise was heard, our dog would lose her mind and start running around the house barking. Well, not so much barking, but more of a screaming really. The biggest problem with this, aside from being really annoying, was the behavior usually occurred while we were attempting to sleep. Sometimes we could hear scratching noises up against the foundation walls of our house, and this would also elicit the screaming behavior from our dog. It was clear to us that sleeping through the night just wasn't possible.

What to do? After about 3 nights of this, with no relief, I decided it was time to call in the professionals. My trusty Exterminator was put on notice and he arrived that very day with a trap baited with a can of stinky cat food and set it outside our bedroom doors next to the deck footing where the Raccoon had been living. The Exterminator assured me that this would do the trick.
Little Miss Trouble

And it surely did! Just as darkness fell, we looked out the back windows and caught a glimpse of a masked marauder sniffing out the cat food bait, and SNAP, just like that... we bagged our first Raccoon! I was so excited that I called the Exterminator right then, even though it was near 10:00pm.

I decided I would sleep upstairs with the dog that night. I didn't want to hear her bark scream all night knowing there was a caged wild animal right outside our bedroom doors. We also moved the trap (containing the Raccoon) around to the side of the house in case it made noise in the hopes that we would be able to get some much needed sleep.

Morning came, my husband told me he continued to hear the noises off and on all night, but since the dog wasn't downstairs to bark, it wasn't bad. I went out to check on our prisoner (I was actually afraid it might get loose somehow) and found what we discovered to be a female Raccoon "in heat" (pungent odor!) in the trap. All around the trap was blood. Blood on the outside of the trap, blood on the walls of the house, blood on the ground, blood on the garbage cans. GROSS! Obviously other Raccoon were fighting over her and we had quite a few of them! So much for our theory that there was just a breeding pair!

The Exterminator came to take the furry prisoner away (I really don't want to know about what he did with her) and set the trap again. After another day or so, this really wasn't necessary. Apparently the only reason the other Raccoon were present was to mate with the female, who was now gone. Problem solved.

So, what about next time? What's to stop more animals (possibly skunk? god forbid!) from taking up residence under our deck? The answer was nothing. We have dealt with this very question since moving into our house two years ago. Sometimes we had Raccoon, sometimes Woodchuck living under our deck. The Woodchuck hide underneath waiting for the perfect moment to snatch my vegetables or flowers from the gardens. I've tried digging barriers in, I've tried putting landscape timbers around the bottom of the deck, and even big rocks. No matter what I put there, they just dig under.

Zareba Pet and Garden electric fence kit
The solution I came up with was this: electric fencing. I did some research and it sounded very DIY friendly, and was even affordable. I was already $150 into it with the Exterminator, so what's another hundred bucks at this point? Certainly its cheaper than hiring the Exterminator again.

I ordered a kit designed for either keeping pets in, or keeping critters out. We're talking small critters, not deer. I modified the 30" posts so that I could create a very short fence (about 4-5" high) and have it completely underneath the face board of our deck. The electric wire was just far enough off the ground so if something tried to dig under, it would get a zap. Likewise, if something tried to climb over, it would also get a zap.

Fence post sticking out of the ground- I pushed them back
underneath the deck so I won't shock myself while
gardening and so plant material won't interfere
with the electric current.
Once the kit arrived, I raked all the dead plant material away from the deck perimeter to get a clear picture of the space I wanted to protect. Then cut all the fence posts, which served as both post and insulator, down to roughly the height of the space between the soil and the bottom of the deck fascia boards. The posts got banged into the soil using a hammer (the ground was still kind of frozen), then I strung the wire as tautly as possible, from one end of the deck to the controller box and attached the wire to the terminal screw using a little plastic tightening knob. I ended up running two wires, one each direction, to create continual coverage around the perimeter since my electric outlet is at the corner of my deck. A third wire connects from the ground terminal to a copper rod (3 feet long) which was also banged into the soil using a hammer. From there, all I needed to do was plug in the controller (energizer) panel and test the wire to make sure it was hot.


Controller or "Energizers" come in electric, battery, or solar. This one is
an AC electric model. I mounted it inside a plastic box to keep it safe
from weather. The grey box has a cover once installation was completed.
A simple circuit is created when someone/thing touches the fence wire while standing on the soil. The current flows through the fence wire from the controller and then through the soil via the grounding rod and back to the controller through the grounding wire, thereby giving the toucher a "highly unpleasant, but safe" shock.

I will keep this device operational all year long, in the hopes that no more animals decide that underneath our deck is a great place to live. I also hope this eliminates a lot of beasties eating my flowers and veggies this summer!

The most important step is to check the wire to make sure there is current flowing.
This is safely done using a tester, rather than your hand! OUCH.
I put caution signs up, just in case the critters can read. :0)
This is the actual kit with various pieces before in installed them.

Here's to happy sleeping, and a successful harvest!