Raccoons are among the biggest, most recognizable pests you can get. They’re easy to spot from their little black masks, bushy ringed tails, and the huge messes they like to leave behind. If you grow your own food, you’ve probably noticed even more raccoons trying to get their next free meal from your crop.
Raccoons are persistent, intelligent, opportunistic, and love to eat grapes. Fortunately, they are easily frightened away. You can keep raccoons away from your grapes by repelling them with automated sprinklers, lights, buzzers, electrical fencing, and even coyote urine.
But before we get into the different raccoon deterrents available, Let’s first take a look at why they’re so interested in your grape harvest in the first place. Then, we can get into the nitty-gritty of how to install the ultimate grape defense system.
Why Are Raccoons Hanging Around My Grapes?
Raccoons are aggressive pests who will happily knock over trash cans, eat fruit right out of fruit trees, and even hunt the chickens in your chicken coop.
Raccoons are opportunistic and will eat any food that’s left out undefended.
Fences are not an obstacle for them. They’ll climb right over or dig their way under a fence unless it is electrocuted.
What’s worse is that most raccoons see humans as a food source. They know about our trash, our pet food, and our crops.
They love to hide out during the day in nearby nests under our houses, a tree, or a storm drain. Then, until the cover of darkness. They strike our unsuspecting grapevines and any other edible stuff that’s lying around.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you raccoon-proof your vineyard or home plants:
Raccoons are Searching for Food
Besides being a risk to any more friendly creatures on your property, raccoons are also notoriously difficult to get rid of.
Raccoons are very stubborn and won’t leave your property if they suspect they’ll find any easy meal close by.
Trash cans, open pet food, even growing crops are an open invitation for raccoons to come to the backyard buffet. And the sweeter the treat, the more persistent they’ll be.
Raccoons Have a Sweet Tooth
Trash pandas are famous for eating, well, trash. But did you know they actually have a sweet tooth?
Raccoons are especially attracted by fruit trees and show a preference for certain fruits, and one of their favorite snacks is grapes.
In university studies, researchers found that not only do raccoons have sweet tooths, they even have preferred grapes!
Out of 15 varieties of grapes, the raccoons selectively harvested Frontenac grapes. Still, they will go after any grape they can find.
These opportunistic feasters will not be satisfied with only eating fruits that have fallen to the ground. Raccoons have a bad habit of climbing into grapevines and damaging the vines and trunks while eating all the viable fruits.
Raccoons Aren’t Cuddly Woodland Creatures
They might look like cute and cuddly forest creatures, but don’t let the furry coat and fluffy tail fool you.
Raccoons are wild animals. Unless you’re a professional, it’s best to leave them alone.
These furry pests are known to eat small livestock such as chickens and even will defend themselves against dogs and people.
Before considering raccoon wrangling, try persuading it to leave by removing any enticing treats that might be lying around your property.
Stopping Raccoons From Eating Your Grapes
So let’s figure out how to stop raccoons from destroying that delicious grape harvest.
We’re going to go over STEP BY STEP into keeping raccoons away from your grapes. First, we need to remove any and all attractants that may bring Raccoons to your property.
Here’s a quick summary of the steps we’re going to cover:
- Keep Your Yard Free of Raccoon Food
- Secure Your Garbage
- Seal Your Compost
- Scare Raccoons With Sound
- Use a Motion-Activated Alarm System
- Use a Motion-Activated Water Sprinkler
- Use a Motion-Activated Floodlight
- Mark Your Territory…With Pee!
Please note that for immediate results, you might have to contact a professional to get your raccoon trespassers removed. For the best results, contact your local wildlife control if you have any questions or concerns!
Keep Your Yard Free of Raccoon Food
Remember that raccoons live off of opportunity. They aren’t going to pass up a free meal, and they can sniff out free food much as a dog can.
Raccoons have a very advanced sense of smell, and they can sniff out things that you might not consider smelly at all.
The best way to keep raccoons away in the first place is to not let your property be their free buffet.
Never leave pet food out at night, keep your garbage cans, compost, and recycling in a secured area, and pick up any fallen fruit. If your neighbors are feeding wild raccoons, kindly remind them about the dangers of feeding wild animals and ask them to stop.
You can read our guide as to why you shouldn’t feed wild raccoons here.
While you might not think your pet food smells delicious, the scent is strong enough and delicious enough for a raccoon. They’ll come running if they think you’ve laid out food on a silver platter just for them.
The same goes for bird feeders. Raccoons love seeds for a crunchy snack. They’ll completely clear out your bird feeders before any songbirds even have a chance.
And as for grapes, be sure to keep your orchards clean. Picking up fallen fruit can be a bit of a chore, but it’s worth it if your goal is to discourage raccoons from hanging around and eating all of your grapes.
Secure Your Garbage
Trash, recycling, and compost can be a little harder to secure against raccoons. Their little hands are dexterous; they can open cans and even unlock simple locks with ease.
If any animal can break into your garage to eat your trash, it’s a raccoon. And when they’re done with your trash, they’ll head straight for your grapes.
A simple bungee cord will go a long way in securing your trash can lid and discouraging raccoons from hanging around your property.
You can go a step further and secure your trash can lid with Strong Strap’s Universal Garbage Can Lid Lock. Not only are they easy to install, but they’re also long-lasting and completely raccoon-proof.
Seal Your Compost
If you’re growing your own grapes, then chances are good you have at least dabbled in making compost. But did you know that all those food scraps in the compost are just begging to be eaten by raccoons?
VIVOSUN’s Tumbling Composter will let you continue composting those uneaten kitchen scraps, but they can’t be broken into by raccoons. Just be sure to store the composter in a garage or other secured area where they are harder for raccoons to sniff out.
Scare Raccoons With Sound
Raccoons come out at night when everyone else is asleep because they don’t like to be disturbed while they steal your grapes.
If you have a battery-powered waterproof radio, you can trick those thieves into believing you’re hiding in the vineyard. Simply leave it on a talk radio station, hide it among the grapevines, and those pesky critters will think you’re out tending to your grapes.
Additionally, here’s our guide on the effective sounds and noises that’ll scare raccoons right away from your property.
Just don’t leave the volume on too high; you want to scare the raccoons without bothering your neighbors.
Another challenge is that raccoons are intelligent. Don’t leave the radio on all the time, or your raccoons will figure out the trick, or simply get used to it.
You can solve that problem by getting a motion-activated alarm system.
Use a Motion-Activated Alarm System
A motion-activated alarm system will catch those grape thieves off guard and spook them right out of the vineyard.
Unlike a battery-powered radio, the raccoons won’t get used to the sound.
Motion-activated sound has the added bonus of being a surprise every time. Many motion-activated alarms also come with light or strobe for added effectiveness.
The only downside of this method is that if your grapes are planted close to your home, then you might be easily waking yourself up at night.
Use a Motion-Activated Water Sprinkler
Raccoons, like most of us, don’t like to be surprised by a stray water jet. That’s why motion-activated sprinklers, such as the Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer are such a good option.
They have the added bonus of giving your vineyard a little extra water. Your grapes will be thanking you.
Basically, the water sprinkler absolutely blasts a raccoon with water once they approach your grapes. It’s an excellent solu
Use a Motion-Activated Floodlight
A motion-activated floodlight is among the most popular security investments among homeowners – and they even work well against raccoons.
Remember that raccoons are nocturnal, and they don’t like to be spotted in the dark.
A motion-activated light will trick them into thinking they’ve been spotted, so they’ll turn tail and run out of the vineyard.
You can read our full guide on using motion sensor lights to deter animals here.
Mark Your Territory…With Pee!
Ok, now hear us out on this one:
We know it sounds strange, but it works!
Coyotes are raccoons’ worst enemy, and raccoons are way more afraid of coyotes than they are of us. They will do whatever they can to avoid these predators, and this includes potentially leaving your property altogether.
All you have to do is spray coyote urine (read our fancy guide on the best coyote urine here) around your vineyard border. Coyote urine is the most common for deterring raccoons, but some manufacturers offer additional options such as red fox, bobcat, wolf, and mountain lion.
Luckily, there are lots of options out there, from sprinkles (think coyote-scented fertilizer) to spray bottles.
Long Term Solution: Build An Electric Fence Around Your Grapes
Let’s say, for the sake of being thorough, that you’ve tried it all.
The trash is secure, and the pet food is sealed and stored. There’s nothing out there to attract new raccoons to your property.
You’ve installed motion-activated systems to be your nighttime guards, and you’ve made your property smell like a coyote resort.
But where are all the grapes???
Bird netting might work as a good intermediate solution, but it will generally only slow down persistent raccoons.
One of the best long-term solutions to keep raccoons from eating your grapes is to install an electric fence.
As cute and cuddly looking as raccoons may be, they are too intelligent to be fooled by any single deterrent forever. So instead of a deterrent, we’re going to build an unclimbable barrier.
How Electrified Garden Fencing Works
So the time has come. You’ve tried everything else, but it seems that the only thing that will keep those grape swipers is to install a structural deterrent.
Luckily, installing an electrified fence is a fairly routine job for gardeners, and there are lots of guides out there to walk you step-by-step on how to safely and properly install your electrified fence.
You’re looking to do a few things when installing an electrified fence. The design should stop raccoons from going through the fence, as well as prevent them from climbing over the fence.
Here’s a bit on how electric fences work:
Basically, you want three live wires: one at 6 inches above ground level, one at 12 inches above ground level, and one at the top of every pole or stake.
Don’t forget to post signs to alert visitors that they’ll be in for a shock if they try to grab a grape. Tie pieces of cloth to the wires as well so that you can easily see where they are.
Best Method for Installing Electric Fences
To be quite honest, unless you have experience, the best method for installing an electric fence is to hire out a contractor to install one properly for you.
Simply, this is because they can install a meter properly and ensure the proper specifications for the fence. There are a lot of moving parts to set up an electric fence properly, and it will save you a good bit of hassle to let a trained professional handle the project for you.
Additionally, make SURE That you’ve checked with your county office that you can, in fact, install electric fencing on your property. The local contractor who you hire out will have knowledge of this as well.
Now, You’re Set!
That should just about cover every method the average, and established gardener can use to defend their grapes from voracious raccoons.
Remember that raccoons are highly intelligent for garden pests, as well as stubborn. It may take several deterrents in combination to get rid of them entirely.
It is definitely frustrating to see your hard-grown grapes vanish at night. It takes time and patience to grow grapes and all that is spoiled if they are pilfered by furry bandits.
You can start your defense efforts by removing anything edible that might attract raccoons, including trash. Remember, if your pets or songbirds eat it, raccoons will devour it.
When you’re ready to invest in additional defenses, go with sights, sounds, and smells that can frighten away raccoons.
When you’re ready to build your grape barrier, do the research on electrical fencing and then design the one defense that gardeners everywhere claim to be the only single defense that can stop those Wiley grape thieves.
Remember to always follow manufacturer and professional advice. And when in doubt, let the professionals take care of your pest needs so that you can continue to garden with peace of mind.
I hope this list helps you keep those thieving critters away while you enjoy grape harvests for seasons to come.
Baker, R. H., Newman, C. C., & Wilke, F. (1945). Food habits of the raccoon in eastern Texas. The journal of wildlife management, 9(1), 45-48.
Deer Damage Management Techniques. Department of Natural Resources. (n.d.). https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/hunt_trap/ddmtexclude.aspx.
Harman, D. M., & Stains, H. J. (1979). The raccoon (Procyon lotor) on St. Catherines Island, Georgia. 5, Winter, spring, and summer food habits. American Museum novitates; no. 2679.
How to Manage Pests. UC IPM Online. (n.d.). http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74116.html.
HS763/HS100: The Muscadine Grape (Vitis rotundifolia Michx). AskIFAS Powered by EDIS. (n.d.). https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/hs100.
Raccoons and Opossums. Raccoons and Opossums | SCOUTING GUIDE FOR PROBLEMS OF GRAPE. (n.d.). https://grapescout.ca.uky.edu/raccoonsandopossums.
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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