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Dawn rouses you with serene yet invigorating energy. The rustling of trees and singing birds harmonize like Edvard Grieg’s Morning Song. You unzip your tent to a light breeze of fresh pine, ready to conquer the day.
But as you poke your head out of the shelter, you realize something’s wrong – you’ve been ransacked. Even worse, you’ve been raccoon-sacked!
These little backcountry bandits sneak through the shadows of the night to steal your food and belongings.
Like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, they swoop in unseen to pull off a handout heist and disappear without a rustle.
You probably don’t have a laser beam security setup at your camp, so you need another way to scare off raccoons.
There are a few ways to ward off these night raiders. Read on to find out how to keep pesky raccoons away from your campsite!
How to Scare Off – PROACTIVE Techniques
Let’s go over a few techniques to prevent and repel raccoons from endangering your outdoor living area.
Make Your Campsite Unappealing
Raccoons have learned that a food-rich campsite involves stinky trash and coolers full of food ripe for the taking. If you want to deter these bandits, the solution is to make your campsite unappealing.
Tidy up everything, don’t leave out any shiny objects, and make it look as clean as possible.
Store And Secure Your Food
The most important preventive measure to remain free of raccoons is to secure your food correctly. If you think that simply putting everything in a cooler will work, then you may wake up to your campsite turned inside out.
These devious scavengers have learned to open bags, trash cans, and even coolers.
If you have a standard cooler, you’ll want to use a bungee cord or a similar device to “lock” it. Yet, many people forget that raccoons can still drag coolers deep into the woods, even if they are locked. So play it safe and tie down your food storage containers to a permanent fixture like your car or a tree.
I use a critter-proof lightweight, flexible food sack and secure it to a tree. Bear-specific sacks work great since the raccoon’s little paws can’t grip the sides.
Whatever method you use to store your food, always remember never to keep it in your tent!
Practice Proper Toilet Hygiene
You may have become accustomed to scented beauty products, but these items are a telltale sign for raccoons that humans are in the area.
Look into purchasing odorless toiletries like unscented deodorant and toothpaste.
Ensure to store them in an airtight plastic bag to lock in the smell or use the purpose-designed, odor-proof bags.
Use Chili Barriers
Raccoons have a heightened sense of smell, which is why they can seek out the aroma of freshly grilled camp food from far in the woods. Although, one potent odor that’s unappealing to these creatures is chili powder.
Spread a small amount of chili powder around your campsite every few days, and those trash pandas may choose to head to the next tent. Some other everyday products that are noxious to nosy creatures are ammonia and cayenne pepper.
Use Industrial Repellents
There are two main types of industrial raccoon repellents on the market: sprays and motion sensors. You may be able to find a critter deterrent spray like Rodent Defense, but it does have mixed reviews on its effectiveness against raccoons.
There are motion sensors, like Garden Secret’s Animal Repellent, that use light and noise to ward off creatures.
Still, these are designed for at-home use where there is probably little wildlife.
In the great outdoors that’s bubbling with life, anything may set off the alarm.
How to Scare Off Raccoons – REACTIVE Techniques
So what if you utilize one or perhaps all of these proactive deterrents and the masked bandits still end up making it into your campsite?
Well, there are a few options you have to ward off these pesky creatures and keep you, your family, and your food – safe!
Bring the Noise
Shout. Clap. Yell. Bang on the side of your car. Just make some noise! While raccoons may be determined to grab a bite to eat, they’ll be startled by any commotion out of the ordinary.
If you need another way to scare them off, a recent Canadian study has shown these creatures are easily scared off by the sounds of their predators. So growl like a mountain lion or howl like a coyote if the initial yelling doesn’t make the raccoons run away in fear.
Shine A Light
Raccoons are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night since their eyesight is very poor. If one gets too close to your tent, whip out a flashlight and shine it on them. Their instincts should kick in, and they’ll scurry back into the safety of the woods.
Break Out the Pepper Spray
As previously mentioned, the spicy smell of chili pepper deters raccoons, so why not use a more concentrated version of it? If the critter doesn’t budge from the noise and light, you should continuing yelling, but keep a bottle of pepper spray handy.
Under no circumstances should you approach the raccoon to purposefully pepper spray it. Only spray the potent substance if the raccoon(s) start to get overly aggressive or approach too close for comfort. Even then, remember that you are the visitor here.
If you left the pepper spray at home (or don’t own any), it’s time to fight back! Use a long stick or something like a trekking pole as your “weapon” and a garbage lid or backpack as your “shield.”
Now gently poke the stubborn raccoon away from your campsite, and use the shield if it decides to attack you in a justifiably angry rage.
If you do get bitten, go to the hospital immediately since that aggressive raccoon could have rabies.
Why Are Raccoons Attracted To Campsites?
Hunting and gathering enough food to survive in the wild is tough. So when you deliberately carry food into the forest, raccoons and other forest-dwelling critters have learned to take notice.
They’ve adapted to the easiest gathering method possible: stealing.
Through learned techniques, these omnivores have discovered that if they smell humans in their territory, then there must be food available for the taking.
It’s not just your food that attracts raccoons, either. They love shiny objects. Why? It’s unclear.
We don’t know why these masked bandits, and other animals, would be attracted to shimmering metal. It could be mating rituals or simple curiosity.
Wrapping It Up…
Don’t let these devious bandits ransack your food supply. Eliminate items from your campsite that may attract raccoons and employ preventative techniques to keep them out.
If they break through your barrier, protect your family first and employ non-confrontational methods to shoo away the night raider.
If all else fails, do your best to fight back. Although, you should always be mindful that you are camping in their home, not the other way around.