Raccoon Trial and Error Challenge:
Carol and I enjoy feeding birds in our back yard. From the beginning,
has been a challenge because other animals besides birds enjoy a free handout -
and they can be pretty clever at discovering ways to access the seed. We were
successful at preventing freeloading squirrels from plundering the feeders by
moving the feeders away from the trees and installing a simple squirrel dome
that prevented those critters from climbing the pole.
Our first clue that
something was amiss, though, came one morning in the spring of 2015 when we found the
feeder pole bent
and the two large feeders empty on the ground. We suspected that raccoons
were the culprits.
advice found on the web, we began bringing the feeders in at dusk which
temporarily solved the problem.
However, after several weeks we
came out just before sunset to find the feeders intact but empty - this happened again
and we started checking the feeders every few minutes in late afternoon.
We soon discovered that our raccoon had successfully changed
his strategy to arrive several hours before we took in the feeders.
His rewards for solving this round of the T&E challenge was a free seat on the squirrel
dome and access to an all-you-can-eat sunflower seed buffet.
one to forfeit the contest to a critter without a fight, I started looking around for a
solution that would keep the raccoons completely off of the feeder.
There were several metal raccoon shields available for sale on the
I wanted to see if I could win the battle of wits with on-hand materials.
We had several old flimsy plastic flower pots, and I figured that if the
sides were slick
enough to keep raccoon claws from gaining a foothold and tall enough
to keep the raccoon's front paws from grabbing the bottom of the feeder and
hauling himself up I might just have a solution.
you can see in this picture, I almost didn't get it right. He could
grasp the pole with one hand and reach around with the other.
arms were nearly long enough to reach the feeder - in which case he would
have grabbed it, made the same maneuver that worked previously to bypass the
squirrel shield and won the next round of the T&E challenge.
I took the hint and moved
the pot down about 4 inches.
However, this was a determined
raccoon on a mission, and he quickly found his way to a nearby feeder where
he successfully employed the squirrel shield bypass maneuver and started
emptying the new feeders.
Fortunately I had another pot available, and
about 15 minutes of work successfully prevented the raccoon from
returning to the other feeder.
July, 2015 update:
After about a month there are still no raccoon issues with either feeder
we now keep the feeders out all night with the pot shields in place.
deficiency of T&E problem solving, however, is that
because the goal is
usually a solution to a single immediate problem, other consequences of an
apparently successful resolution might not be apparent.
this case, almost immediately after the raccoon visits had
been discouraged the feeders were again quickly emptied
during midday. We initially thought the raccoon was back even
earlier in the day, and
we started watching again.
This time we discovered that the flat top of
the pot provided a perch for magpies (that had never before shown an
interest in the feeders) to stand comfortably and pull seed out of
the feeders at blinding speed.
A quick and easy T&E fix that
seems to be working so far was to place a strip of duct tape over
the feeder holes that face the pot top so the magpies can't reach
the seed until they figure out how to rip off the tape - fortunately
they choose not to sit on the relatively small feeder perches.
Apparently a larger raccoon moved into the
neighborhood during the summer because the feeders started emptying overnight again.
studying the earlier
pictures it appeared that in order to reach the feeder, the raccoon
had to grip the main pole with one hand while reaching up and around
with the other arm.
It's All In The Hands)
I figured that if I
could prevent the raccoon from gripping the pole by increasing the
diameter there would be no way it could maintain a grip while
reaching up and around to the feeders. I slid a 3.5 inch PVC
pipe over the pole that reached from the ground to the inside bottom of the
There has been
no evidence for over a month that
the raccoons have figured out how to get on top of the pot and
access the seed.
There have been dirt streaks on the white PVC pipe,
however, that suggest the raccoons can shimmy up the pipe by hugging it
with both arms. But they slide down when they let go with one arm to reach
around to the feeder. We have not yet been able to witness
their attempts at accessing the food with the PVC pipe in place.
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