How to Stop Raccoons From Digging up Your Yard

Last Modified on January 16, 2024 by Zachary Smith

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It’s fall, which means the leaves are changing, the temperatures are getting cooler, and, all across the country, raccoons are digging up lawns in search of food.

If you’ve recently noticed frustrating raccoon damage in your yard, you’re probably wondering what’s happening and how to stop it.

Don’t worry – you’re not alone. In this blog, we’ll discuss why raccoons dig up lawns and how to prevent the damage.

Before You Get Started

Before you start getting rid of raccoons in your yard, take the following safety precautions:

  • Read all of your labels. If you use repellents, deterrents, or any other natural or chemical product, read the label and follow all directions! We can’t stress this enough: pesticides – whether natural or chemical – can be safe, but ONLY when they’re used according to label directions.
  • Wear PPE, including goggles, gloves, and long pants, when handling pesticides or other chemical products.
  • Never attempt to handle or trap raccoons on your own, due to the risk of bites and disease transmission.

3 Ways to Stop Raccoons Digging Up Your Lawn

raccoons in a live trap

1. Get rid of white grubs

The biggest reason raccoons dig up lawns is the white grub – a small, rusty-colored larva that raccoons love to eat.

These are often June or Japanese beetles, and they have a full-year life cycle in the soil.

In the fall, around September-November, those grubs are juicy, fat, and delicious for raccoons. Other organisms that feed on these grubs are crows, skunks, and moles, which means they’re the main culprit for any animal digging up your lawn.

So, what do you do?

Start by getting rid of the grubs. Ideally, you should address the grub problem before the raccoons start tearing up the lawn. To do this, deploy grub treatments in the spring, summer, and fall.

Today, there are many products designed to kill white grubs.

Natural options include predatory nematodes, which you can buy through the mail, dilute in water, and spray into the soil. Milky spore – a fungal infection that kills the grubs – is another option.

That said, there are many mixed reviews on the efficacy of these natural products.

Applying them is expensive, and sometimes it doesn’t work.

Also, these types of natural living pathogenic organisms aren’t going to work well in conjunction with pesticidal options because the pesticide may kill the nematodes or spores (for an overview of all grub treatment options check out our blog here).

Whatever you decide to use, be sure to follow the label directions.

Bear in mind that any active ingredient needs to penetrate deep into the soil and not biodegrade before it kills the grubs.

Once you’ve applied your product of choice, it may take several weeks for your raccoon problems to subside.

2. Exclude the raccoons

If you notice lots of raccoon damage and need a quick fix, exclude the raccoons by laying fencing down on your lawn.

Go to your local home improvement store and get a big roll of orange snow fencing or plastic-coated chicken wire. Lay the fencing across your lawn in big rectangles, and then pin it down with 4” landscaping staples.

This will allow sunlight, water, and air to reach your lawn while making it impossible for raccoons to dig in the yard. Eventually, this will drive them to go somewhere else.

While this can work well for small lawns and standard city lots, it’s not an economical approach for houses with acres of lawn and green space.

For more information on how to get rid of raccoons, check out our comprehensive blog.

3. Consult a professional

If you don’t feel comfortable getting rid of grubs alone, contact a professional like Smith’s Pest Management to do it for you.

Here at Smith’s, our comprehensive grub treatment services target and remove grubs without harming the ecosystem of your lawn or putting you and your family at risk.

If grubs aren’t the only problem, a professional team can also target other factors causing raccoons to invade your yard.

Depending on the situation, we may recommend exclusion tactics, trapping, or other removal methods to help you reclaim your outdoor space.

Methods to Avoid

raccoon in garden causing damage

Whatever you do, don’t waste your time or money on these unproven methods:

1. Electrical Fencing

Electrical fencing can be a hazard to you, your family, your pets, and non-target species, so we don’t recommend it.

2. Chili Flakes or Powders

The idea is that chili flakes and powders will irritate the raccoons’ noses and airways and drive them to go somewhere else.

Unfortunately, we’ve tested these in the field, and we can confidently say that they do not work.

3. Soaking the Soil in Pyrethroid

While you might kill all the grubs in your lawn by soaking your soil with a general insecticide, this is NOT a recommended or safe approach.

Insecticides can be safe, but only when used as directed. If you apply more than the label directions, you will expose your family and pets to incredible amounts of liquid insecticides.

You will also create a massive amount of insecticide runoff that could damage your local lakes, rivers, and streams.

Plus, general insecticides kill everything – including beneficial insects and species, which can harm your lawn in the long run.

What About Repellents and Natural Products?

Repellents are biodegradable and natural, which means they break down very fast. Because of that, they’re not usually an effective way to eliminate raccoons in your lawn.

Of course, there’s an exception:

If raccoons are an emergency issue, you can sometimes deter them by putting down heavy amounts of repellent on the lawn. 

If you’re going to do this, though, you need to remember that the repellent will be diluted every time the yard gets irrigated, so you’ll have to apply more constantly.

Again, repellents aren’t a long-term solution, but if you need to use them in a pinch, we recommend 25 B products like EcoVia, Essentria, and Naturecide (you can purchase this through our sister site Pest Dude). These products have a powerful smell, so they’ll repel raccoons and may even kill larvae near the soil surface.

Sick of Dealing With Racoon Damage? We can Help!

raccoon control smiths pest management

When it comes to raccoons digging up your lawn, you’ve got to think annually. Once raccoons start tearing up a lawn, it is often considered too late to address the key problem – the white grub.

Instead, it pays to think ahead.

This problem will occur yearly as soon as those white grubs get big, fat, and tasty enough for the raccoons to eat. Because of that, it’s wise to start thinking now about how you can stop this from happening next year.

By investing in annual grub treatments, you can keep raccoons from digging up your lawn in search of a feast come the fall.

Ready to learn more? Fill out our online form or give us a call: (408) 871-6988

FAQ

What should you never do when dealing with raccoons?

If you see a live raccoon in your yard, do not approach, chase, or try to confront it. Raccoons can become defensive when startled, and may bite, scratch, or bolt. Instead, give the racoon an escape route and, once it’s gone, follow the removal tips listed in this blog.

Will Irish Spring soap keep raccoons away?

There’s no evidence to suggest that Irish Spring or other strong-smelling soaps will keep racoons and other pest mammals out of your yard.

Will racoons go away on their own?

As long as they can find a food source, racoons will continue to appear on and near your property. That’s why eliminating food sources, like white grubs, is critical to controlling racoon populations.

Author Bio: Zach Smith

Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 15+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.