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This harvest I was not able to pick a single corn cob. Some large animal(s), I suspect raccoons, got to them before they were ripe (I would find peeled and gnawed corn littering the lawn and the corn stems bent down when I got home). I had crushed garlic all over the garden. This kept the rabbits away, but was not effective against the large animal.

I am looking for a solution that does not involve putting a fence around my garden patch. Are there plants that raccoons are repelled by? Has someone tried prickly plants to make the patch unattrative to raccoons? I am told these are very intelligent animals, so I think the solution will have to be a mix of good ideas.

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The guilty animal may also be opossums. I know that I have found both 'coons and 'possums when I visit my corn at night with a flashlight. –  rschuler Dec 23 '11 at 22:56
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6 Answers

When the corn is about 1-2 weeks from being ready for human consumption put a battery powered radio tuned to an all night talk radio station in your corn patch. Music does not work. The raccoons will avoid the "humans" for a while. You have to time this carefully to your corn crop because after a couple of weeks the 'coons will figure that those voices they hear are not really people. You have to have your corn harvested before then.

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My solution for large omnivorous varmint problems (opossums and skunks, here) is a Havahart trap. I release them far from anyone's home, a few miles away. I've gotten rid of over a half-dozen opossums and a half-dozen skunks with it.

You need to use bait that's specific to what you're trying to catch. You don't want to catch Fluffy from next door. For racoons, marshmallows are a good choice - except that skunks like them too. I can explain how to deal with skunks if needed.

The nice thing about this solution is that it's semi-permanent - till the next varmint moves in.

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I use the same trap, and I caught a thirty pound raccoon that was eating my corn. Be careful to bait it with something they like better than corn. –  jmusser Dec 25 '11 at 2:26
    
I assume these are the standard metallic live traps? Field biologists often use peanut butter for generic mammals... –  winwaed Dec 25 '11 at 4:11
    
For skunks, I use both - I make sparse trails of mini marshmallows to the trap from likely paths, and bait the trap itself with mini marshmallows stuck in peanut butter. When I catch something, at least one of the paths is always eaten. –  Ed Staub Dec 25 '11 at 5:10
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I don't have direct experience with raccoons, but these are techniques I've heard about:

  • Surround your corn by pumpkins / winter squash. Raccoons do not like the spines from the squash vines on their feet and will not cross the barrier to get to your corn.

  • You said you don't want to put up a fence, but you might consider a couple of strands of electric fence. One strand at 6", one at 12". Connect this to a fence charger like you'd use for cows or horses; solar-powered chargers (and the fencing) can be found at your local feed store / Agway. There are also temporary "push in" posts that you can attach the fence wires to. You could set it up for just a couple of months in the summer while your garden is at risk from marauding raccoons.

  • A motion-activated strobe light / noise maker. As @rschuler mentions, they may get used to this after a couple of weeks so you have to time it carefully. You may also get better effectiveness by moving the strobe a little bit each night so that they do not become accustomed to it as quickly.

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I planted the corn with squash and beans this season (three sisters technique). The squash wines did not deter the raccoons. I was thinking that maybe some sort of really spiny cactus or maybe a small rose bush around the corn might work. Any suggestions for the cactus species? –  Om Patange Dec 23 '11 at 21:24
    
Sorry, I don't know anything about cactus. If it were me, I'd just put up the electric fence... –  bstpierre Dec 24 '11 at 22:24
    
Watching how dogs seem oblivious to my prickly pears, I suspect the same is true for raccoons/opossums/etc which also have longer hair - ie. no real effect, except making it harder for the humans to tend the crops! –  winwaed Dec 26 '11 at 19:49
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Buy habanero sauce and spray the corn with a solution of water and hot sauce. Bait a few corn cobs with full strength sauce, then pull the corn husks back up and lay them where the raccoons enter the garden.

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One of my favorite methods is to lay strips of aluminum foil around the entrance to the garden or around the plant. When stepped on, it scares off the animals. I also plant hot peppers, marigolds, and sprinkle cayenne pepper. I'm not letting then win!

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Trap them with cages, shoot them when you trap them. Throw their carcasses out where your woods are as a warning to all that try and mess with your corn crop. Racoons are not an endangered species and you will save yourself from further problems by their young next year.

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this recommendation has to be be considered in the context of where you live, your local ordinances and bylaws. Research has shown that when you remove an animal from it's territory others just move in. –  kevinsky Jul 13 '13 at 12:39
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