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9 Ways to Keep Raccoons Away From Your Campsite.


Many years ago, my son, Evan, and I were camping at Fort Desoto State Park, here in Florida in late October celebrating his birthday, in our manly style. We got there pretty early and had gotten the camp all set up by just after lunch. Then we decided to fish. Our campsite was on the inlet side of the island, so we waded out and cast our rods. Honestly, we were fishing for anything that would bite.


After a while of nothing would bite but small fish about the size of your hand, I went back to the van and got out light-duty shark gear I had not used in years. I took one of the small fish and hooked it just below the back fin so it could swim fairly free. I waded out to my chest and gave it a cast and then let some slack out of the line walked back to Evan and said, “Hold on to this for me.”


Shortly we had a 3-foot trout on. He had a great time wear it down and bring it in (with a little help from dad of course). We dressed our trophy and put into a bucket and left it on our picnic table. We went back for another. Luckily my son who between me and our campsite yelled, "They're getting our fish." I turned around and a small pack of raccoons was doing their best to get that fish out of the 5-gallon bucket. We dropped everything and went yelling towards the unsuspecting thieves. They quickly scurried up the palm trees around our camp.


It was that experience that prompted me to find these 9 ways to keep raccoons out of my campsite.


1. Take a trained hunting dog.

2. Use their sense of smell against them.

3. Soak campsite with Irish Spring Soap.

4. Hang your food and trash from a tree limb.

5. Clean cooking and eating equipment.

6. Store food in airtight lockable containers.

7. Use a motion sensor light.

8. Use motion sensor sound devices.

9. Use an ultrasound animal repellent.


1. Take a trained hunting dog.


I grew up with hounds who have noses as good or better than raccoons. They also can hear just about anything prowling around your campsite day or night. You will not want to take a small house dog. If they come face to face with a big raccoon, they may get badly hurt and run the risk of catching a disease if bitten.

I’m talking about a big hound or bulldog that’s well trained. Raccoons don’t like dogs or any animal bigger than them, especially if they have a loud bark. A trained dog will not attach the raccoon unless commanded to do so. And if they urinate and do their business in the other edges of the campsite just leave until you start to leave and clean up your site.


The dog “deposits” are enough to mark the territory of your site and help deter raccoons. This leads me to the next way to keep raccoons out of your campsite.


2. Use their sense of smell against them.


You can take advantage of raccoons' strong sense of smell to keep them away from your campsite. First off, for some reason, they don't like the smell of fabric softener sheets. So, you can put these in your tent, backpack, sleeping bag, toiletry bag, and trashbag to keep the little nosey rascals out.


Including the dryer sheets, I've counted about nine things they don't like to smell and usually stay away from. Chili pepper, black pepper, and cinnamon irritate their nose pretty bad. As well Epson salts, mothballs or flakes, garlic, peppermint, and onion.


You can apply these different ways. You can buy cayenne pepper in large bags and pour it around your campsite. Or you can buy cayenne pepper spray like law enforcement use. You can use oil forms or dry forms. I like mothballs and Epson salts to sprinkle around the campsite perimeter. Just be sure to do it just before nightfall. It will be fresh and last longer. The strength of all these deterrents weaken over 24 hours so you have to reapply them every evening, but they work pretty well.


Another recommendation on using the raccoon's powerful ability to smell as a way to keep him out of the campsite. I've personally never tried this but some camping compadres swear by it and it does make a lot of sense. You can check with your local wildlife department and find out what are the local natural predators of raccoons and purchase spray bottles of their scent (made from urine). Like coyotes, bears, bobcats, and mountain lions.


I’ll warn you; these odors are very strong, and you may not like them sprayed around your campsite, but I hear they work like a charm. To read more on these click here. On the other end of the spectrum and even though it is almost impossible to do, you can reduce the number of wonderful smells that would attract them which is next on my list.


3. Soak campsite with Irish Spring Soap.


Other than taking my dog and keeping my campsite clean and tidy, this is my favorite way to keep raccoons from my campsite is the soak everything down with Irish Spring Soap. I don't know what it is that raccoons and just about every rodent does not like about this soap but it's really good for this. You can just a small hand pump sprayer or you can use a water hose attachment if your campsite has a hose bib.


You will need to prepare it before you leave home. It’s much easier to do now since they have Irish Spring Men's Body Wash Pump. No more soaking a bar of soap to get enough in the water to create a strong enough spray. This stuff is like magic. And I love the smell of Irish Spring and have used it ever since I stop using Ivory Soap as a college student.


Another advantage of spraying down your site is that bugs don't like this stuff either. Now in really hot weather, the smell evaporates easily. So, use it every evening just before dark. Go and spray a three-foot swath around your campsite. Wet it down heavy. If it rains just reapply after the rain lets up.


So, swing by the grocery store and get a couple of bottles before your next camping trip. And don't forget your hand pump sprayer. You can get them from Walmart or Home Depot for about $10.


4. Hang food and trash from a tree limb.


This last idea I actually learned as a teenager camping with my dad along the Waccamaw River in South Carolina. Dad would use a 30-foot piece of fencing wire to tie to the tree limb of either a tree I could shinny up one we both could pull over to attach the wire. About 7-feet of the ground he would put a loop in the wire to hook a small pack to keep our food in, especially the oil we use to cook fish. Raccoons really like that stuff.


The pack on the wire was far enough off the ground that the raccoons could not reach it and the wire was too small and slick for the raccoons to shinny down and get the bag. All thought they tried; they were never successful. I still use this method along with a small bottle of Irish Spring to wash everything up when I’m having to pack my gear to a site I cannot drive to.


5. Clean cooking and eating equipment.


Before bedtime, do a thorough cleanup of your campsite. Raccoons have a keen sense of smell. They are nocturnal scavengers. Clean your grill, cooking equipment, plates, cups, utensils, and picnic table.


Think of it as if you were trying to prevent ants from coming into your house. Your campsite, not just your tent is your home short term. Any type of food or smells will attract raccoons like ants to non-cooked and cooked food as well as crumbs or scraps.


6. Store food in airtight lockable containers.


So, store your food and your pet’s food in airtight lockable containers or put them in your vehicle at night and during the day when not in use. If you have a camping cooler or refrigerator keep it locked especially at night. Many raccoons know how to open doors, lids, and tackle boxes. Keep your fish bait locked away as well.


Store all your trash the same way. Treat it like food as far as its ability to attract raccoons. When food touches anything it will leave the smell of the food. I recommend you store all your trash in a plastic lockable container and keep it in your vehicle.


Do Not burn your trash in your fire. That’s like sending up a smoke signal to be attacked. The smoke does not mask the scent of food enough to prevent the raccoons from finding you.

For some crazy reason, raccoons seem to find some soap, toothpaste, and lotions interesting as well.


Although not as much as say a hotdog, but they like these as well. Treat them like food and store them the same way. Only use them in the campsite bathhouses or your portable shower tent as far away from your campsite as is safe.


7. Use a motion sensor light.


Raccoons don’t like bright lights shining on them at night. Especially since they are primarily nocturnal scavengers’ bright lights hurt their eyes and they will scurry away. Motion sensor solar powered with battery packs are easy to purchase and mount on trees or poles around your campsite.


Bright lights work better than torches. The light from torches is not strong enough to hurt their eyes. Now burning peppermint, garlic, and other oils in the torch oil may help. I've never done that, but you might give it a try. But I do know from experience that bright lights work very well at scaring them off.


8. Use Motion Sensor Sound Devise.


This one is not for me. However other campers tell me this works for them. They simply let music play at night at their campsite. Now, these folks are usually camping in the bush. I would not do this at a campground, or not all night anyway, as it would disturb other campers. I personally like the peace and quiet of camping. I rarely camp in campgrounds anymore but still would not use it.

I could imagine you attaching a motion sensor sound devise to activate when the raccoons come around at night and maybe using the sound of a dog barking. They do make such devices for Halloween, but I'm not that tech-savvy. I just soon use a real dog, like Sparky. Hey, but who knows you might give it a try. I found one of these devices. If you want to read more then click here and good luck.


9. Use an Ultrasound animal repellent.


My buddy likes these, especially in campgrounds. These products emit a prerecorded sound of an animal in distress as though it has been attacked by a predator. Some of the other sounds are of predators and on frequencies that can be heard by raccoons and other nocturnal animals.


These devices work in tandem so you would want to put a least two around your campsite. Just be warned if you have a dog with you, they won't like it. Some breeds can hear it while others it doesn't bother. I would try it at home first. If it gets your dog to wound-up just send it back. If you want to read more about it click here. You might like it.


If you are new to camping check out this articles: Setting Up Campsites In 90 Minutes or Less


Well, that’s all I got for in this article. I hope it helps and you share it with a friend. Don’t forget to take a kid camping. It will change your life and they can help watch out for the raccoons.


All the best,

Alex Anderson.

 
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