We’ve all been there; you’re sitting outside on the porch or standing over the kitchen sink, enjoying your morning coffee, when you notice there is a huge mess at the end of the driveway. Trash bags torn apart, and garbage littered everywhere. The cause? Raccoons.
Raccoons have a very strong sense of smell, which they use to find accessible food sources. Capsaicin, the main component in hot peppers, irritates a raccoon’s nasal cavities, encouraging them to move along. You can use hot pepper to deter raccoons by spreading it in areas they visit frequently.
So we will walk you through why hot pepper can help you repel them and why to use it, and how. Stick around and read below!
First, Where Do Raccoons Live?
Though raccoons are pretty cute with their distinct grey fur, bushy ringed tails, and black masks, they can be quite pesky. And they are adaptive and opportunistic in their environment. Unfortunately, these little trash bandits, a common name for these grey masked critters, live pretty much anywhere with a great food and water source.
Raccoons can be found in most of the United States and Mexico, as well as southern parts of Canada, though they are not really found in higher elevation locations. According to a publication by the University of Nebraska, raccoons prefer wooded areas in the eastern part of the United States rather than flatlands and prairies, but also like to hang out near water areas for livestock in the western part as well.
Raccoons like to make their homes in hardwood areas near a water source, but they have been known to be in cities, as well as very rural areas and farmlands. In fact, humans are noticing more raccoon activity in urban and suburban areas.
The reasons could be a combination of raccoons knowing humans could mean an easier meal and humans expanding more and more into their natural habitat.
If you’re interested, you can read more about the 6 places that raccoons nest here.
Why Do Raccoons Want To Eat Your Food?
Ever smell something so good it makes your mouth water? Smell drives most animals to investigate a potential meal. Same with raccoons.
There have been many times I wanted to pop over at my neighbor’s house and “borrow” a steak off the grill. That’s what human food does to raccoons, and let’s face it, many other animals as well.
Contrary to popular belief, raccoons have extremely well-developed salivary glands, so they do not need to wash their food before they eat. Sometimes though, they do play with their food in the water! But they are most likely feeling around for food since the water enhances their senses on their hands.
Raccoons are omnivores; their diets mainly consist of plants and meat, which includes but is not limited to acorns, berries, corn, fish, crayfish, turtles, rodents, eggs, birds, and much more. They eat similar foods to humans, so it is no wonder why raccoons may find your Friday morning trash so enticing.
If you’re interested, here’s an in-depth list of animals that raccoons eat and why they eat them.
A lot of wildlife, not just raccoons, are being forced to share higher-density human areas in search of shelter and food. In When Raccoons Fall Through Your Ceiling: The Handbook for Coexisting with Wildlife, author A.D. Lopez informs us that most of our homes were once their homes. It’s no wonder there is bound to be some overlap with humans and wildlife!
But this doesn’t mean we want to pick up littered trash every Saturday morning. So, how can we use hot pepper and the raccoon’s sense of smell to deter them from your home? Let’s read on!
Does Hot Pepper Actually Repel Raccoons?
As we mentioned above, raccoons have a very sensitive sense of smell and are very opportunistic creatures, which is a nicer way of saying they are sort of lazy. Trash day is an easy buffet to feed themselves and their families.
Though there are not many scientific studies that prove spicy foods or hot pepper can deter raccoons, a bad experience with a spicy fish taco might signal them to move on and not rummage around in your garden or trash cans.
Just like humans, when you bite into your meal and taste something you are not expecting, in a bad way, you tend to stay away from that food. And if you smell that food, you’ll remember that bad experience and probably not order or make the same mistake again.
One time I had a ghost pepper, thinking it was regular pepper (yes, silly, I know). Boy, was I sadly mistaken, and a lesson was learned. The same goes for raccoons.
The smell of the hot pepper might be intriguing, but once the raccoon tastes the pepper, hopefully, he will move on from your property and hunt elsewhere for an easier, less unpleasant, meal.
Now, some of you might not like spicy fish tacos and won’t have them in your garbage, so we will go into how you can use hot pepper to discourage these trash bandits from roaming around your property and causing havoc!
Quick side note, here’s a full list of the scents that raccoons hate.
How To Use Hot Pepper To Repel Raccoons
I want to reiterate that there is not an abundant slough of scientific data about hot pepper repelling raccoons and other wildlife. However, we do know many animals rely on their sense of smell to tell them where their next meal is. We can use that and the raccoon’s opportunistic hunting strategies to our advantage, especially if you know for a fact a raccoon is a culprit.
How may you ask?
Well, if you have a raccoon eating up your precious garden veggies, you can sprinkle a generous amount of cayenne pepper in and around freshly disturbed and dug-up areas. Reapply every few days, especially after it rains. The smell will make them curious, but the experience will hopefully make them think twice about doing it again.
According to an article published by the University of Florida, raccoons are attracted to freshly dug up dirt, a smell usually associated with turtle eggs or other tasty treats. And once the fresh dirt smell is gone, usually the raccoons will move on as well.
Another great way to use hot pepper is to make a spray using some dish soap, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, and water. Shake it all up together and spray generously around your property. If you have curious pets as I do, keep an eye on them while they are outside, just in case!
Again, be sure to reapply after rainfall or every few days as needed.
What Other Critters Can Hot Pepper Repel?
Hot pepper is a natural, environmentally friendly way to deter other pests other than raccoons. The spray and even the powder form are great ways to keep other wildlife away from your property as well as your plants and livestock, especially chickens and other farm birds.
As we can remember from earlier, the eggs are easy prey for skunks, foxes, squirrels, and wildlife.
You can read our section on repelling skunks with hot pepper here if you fancy!
Keep in mind that nuisance birds may not be affected by the hot pepper. Their sense of taste is different from other animals.
Hopefully, these animals will associate the scent of hot pepper with a bad experience and move on when they smell it again.
What Other Ways Can We Repel Raccoons, Other Than Hot Pepper?
Though hot pepper is a natural way to repel these animals, to be transparent, it might not always work. The fact is there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support that hot pepper is the go-to solution to your raccoon problem.
There are several other ways you can humanely repel these animals from your property.
Below, you’ll learn some alternative methods you can use to discourage these masked critters from returning to your property!
Secure Your Coop If You Have Livestock Or Poultry
For those of you who have chickens or other farm birds on-site, make sure the area is secure!
When I was younger, a family of raccoons found their way into a friend’s chicken coop. Luckily, we kept the chickens in larger roosting boxes at night to protect them (some foxes made an appearance a few weeks prior!). The windows had a chicken wire with small holes, too small for the raccoon hands to fit, but they were persistent and tried very hard, almost unlatching one of the locks!
Spring Barrel Bolts or Slide Bolt Gate Latches might do the trick! It also helps to go a little overboard with the number of latches and where they are placed. The more difficult it is, the less likely the raccoon will stick around.
Keep your chicken pens secure, and hens cooped up at night to avoid tempting raccoons into an easy meal at your expense!
Spotlights Or Flood Lights Startle Raccoons
Light and exposure can possibly deter raccoons as well. They hunt and scavenge at night, so light might scare them into moving to another hunting spot if it suddenly comes on. Or at the very least annoy them into finding a darker, more private place to forage for food.
Hmcity Solar Lights or something similar could help!
They are solar-powered, waterproof, and contain LEDs, so you know they are bright! And who has time to change batteries all the time?!
Animal Repellant Spray
If you don’t want to deal with making your own hot pepper spray, there are alternative natural repellant sprays available too.
Natural Armor Animal & Rodent Repellent Spray is a great example. It is natural and is for indoor and outdoor use! Just shake it up and spray it around your property or the problematic area. It uses a peppermint scent, which is another scent most animals are sensitive to.
Be careful to read the instructions about where to spray it around your garden plants!
It works against mice, skunks, raccoons, deer, rats, and other nuisance wildlife.
Protect Your Trash Can
We know that raccoons are lazy and rely a lot on convenience and that they also have paws that make it easy for them to grab and open things.
Another way for us to help repel raccoons is by simply securing trash or frequently getting rid of any source of food. Once they realize they can’t get to the food source, they will most likely lose interest.
A great product to try is an Encased Trash Can Lock for Animals. It can fit on trash cans ranging from 30 to 50 gallons and is very durable.
Use Your Dog!
Raccoons, when they feel threatened, will use height to hang out until their threat is gone. They are great climbers and often hang out in trees during the day, napping and resting for the night’s hunt.
If they smell another animal around, like your dog, chances are they will not want to risk an encounter with another larger animal and go the opposite direction. Just be careful about smaller animals, such as cats or rabbits, as raccoons can weigh up to 40 or 50 pounds and are quite strong. Earlier, we discussed how rabbits are a part of their diet.
So, if you have a dog, let him or her run around for a while when you know the raccoon isn’t around. Maybe that will be just enough to keep them at bay and not rummage in your garbage at night and risk encountering that strange other-animal scent.
Always Contact A Professional When In Doubt
As with any task or project or troublesome pest, always contact a professional when in doubt.
Be sure to keep in mind how a wild animal is acting as well. If a raccoon is acting aggressive or exhibiting unusual signs of behavior, contact your local wildlife professional immediately and explain the situation. Keep a close eye on your livestock and pets if any animal is acting abnormally.
The professional will be able to advise the best course of action. You can use our nationwide pest control and wildlife finder to locate a professional near you in seconds.
That’s a Wrap!
Hot pepper can be a great, environmentally friendly, and, let’s face it- cost effective, way to repel raccoons and other common wildlife critters from your property. Again, though it is not backed up by too much research, experiences have shown that hot pepper isn’t the most pleasant to them and will most likely move on once they have had a bad experience.
Always have a few methods in play, along with the hot pepper method, to help repel these masked dumpster divers. A combination of strategies is better than just one!
Remember, raccoons are creatures of convenience. If their food source isn’t easy to get to, they will follow their nose and try again somewhere else.
Our goal should be to keep everyone happy and living in harmony!
Boggess, Edward K. (1994). RACCOONS (Procyon lotor). The Handbook: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. University of Nebraska – Lincoln. 40.
Bjugstad, A.l J., Uresk, D. W., Hamre, R.H., technical coordinators. (1989). Ninth Great Plains Wildlife Damage Control Workshop Proceedings. General Technical Report RM – 171. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station; 181 p. [Also listed as Great Plains Agricultural Council Publication 127.]
Lopez, A.D. (2002). When Raccoons Fall Through Your Ceiling: The Handbook for Coexisting with Wildlife. University of North Texas Press.
(n.d.). Raccoons. Raccoon Wildlife Note. Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Knight, Jim. (n.d.) Non chemical control of raccoons. Extension Wildlife Specialist, Montana State University.
(n.d.). Vermont Wildlife Fact Sheet. Vermont Fish and Wildlife.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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