DEAR JOAN: I believe I have raccoons that visit my backyard frequently.
I live in a developed area with homes on either side and behind me. I have a blow-up pool for my grandchildren. The raccoons have made muddy messes in the pool several times and have now punctured holes in it. They have toppled my birdbath and punctured the kids’ soccer ball.
I used hot sauce and cayenne pepper in an attempt to keep them away, my garbage is secure and I do not have a food source for them. What else can be done?
Mary Ward, Concord
DEAR MARY: You might not have a food source for them, but it would appear you’ve accidentally created Raccoon Disneyland in your backyard.
Like all living things, raccoons need water to survive. They also, apparently, enjoy playing in water, washing themselves and their food. The wading pool was just too much of a temptation, and when they punctured it, they switched to your birdbath. I have no explanation for the soccer ball.
Hot sauce and peppers don’t work as deterrents against raccoons, only rodents. Perhaps they used it to season the soccer ball. To discourage them from using your yard as a playground, you’ll need to do a few things.
First, empty the pool after each use and the birdbath every evening. Next, do some reconnaissance to see if there’s an obvious place where they are getting into the yard. If you have a shed or deck, check to see if they’ve moved in beneath it or your house.
Raccoons tend to begin their day just as the sun sets, so that would be a good time to plant yourself and observe what’s going on in your yard.
Once you’ve identified the entry points, soak some rags in ammonia and place them wherever you’ve seen raccoon activity — although if you have pets, that’s not a good idea. Instead, I’ve had good luck with a product called Critter Ridder and you can try that. Whatever you use, you have to be persistent, using it every evening.
You might also want to talk to your neighbors to make sure they aren’t providing food and shelter for the raccoons.
DEAR JOAN: I recently I had a pair of cardinals that produced one baby. After teaching the baby where and when to come for food, the parents left. The baby came for awhile; now she is gone.
Do they migrate? How I miss them. I don’t believe predators got them. Could they be building a new nest?
Lois Selph, Jacksonville, Florida
DEAR LOIS: Oh, how I envy you. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we don’t have Northern Cardinals, but they are such beautiful birds and the female makes up for not having those brilliant red feathers by singing a lovely song.
Cardinals do not migrate and they are fiercely territorial, which means chances are very good that you’ll see them again. They do nest twice a year, but it’s getting very near the end of the mating season. You’ll probably have to wait until next year.
To attract them to your yard, try feeding sunflower seeds — those are their favorites. They also like to nest in dense foliage, so don’t get carried away with the pruning.
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Author: Joan Morris