There are few things that are more relaxing than spending a few days in the great outdoors, soaking up the sights and sounds that nature has to offer. However, Raccoons pillaging through your campsite are not one of them! In this article we’ll give you a few tips on how to keep raccoons away from your campsite, so that you can enjoy the camping trip you so deserve.
The best way to keep raccoons out of your campsite is to ensure all your food is stored away in difficult to open containers including latched coolers or your car.
Raccoons are often harmless towards humans but some can have rabies and if provoked, have been know to be aggressive. Raccoons are unwelcome guests at campsites and luckily, there are a few things you can do to keep them away.
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Here are 7 great tips to make your campsite unappealing to keep the raccoons away from your campsite.
How to Keep Raccoons Out of Your Campsite
I remember distinctly shining my flashlight outside my hammock I was sleeping in on one camping trip. I saw those beady little eyes flashing back at me smugly carrying a bag of candy my friend had left on the picnic table.
These little bandits are relentless. Even if the food is packaged and individually wrapped, raccoons will find it and snatch it.
Put Your Food In Your Car
The #1 easiest way to keep raccoons from getting your food is to put all your food in the car.
If you’re fortunate enough to be camping at a site that is in walking distance to your car, then it’s absolutely worth the extra trip to stow all your food in your car before going to bed.
Unless you are camping in grizzly bear country, your car is a safe place to put your food (see more about what to do if you’re camping in grizzly bear country here).
I understand, it’s a hassle, but having to worry about critters snooping around your campsite is a much bigger hassle. Even if you lock up your food outside your car so they can’t access it, the smell will attract critters and they’ll come take a look.
Use a Latched Cooler
If you don’t want to go all the way back to your car, then the next best option is to use a latched cooler (like this Yeti on Amazon).
These latched coolers don’t make it impossible for animals to get to your food, but it’s not likely they will be able to figure out the mechanism, unless you’re camping in an area with very experienced raccoons.
A cooler is thick and insulated, and so smells are not as likely to leak out. Perhaps a raccoon might investigate from a distance, but they aren’t likely to try and get into the cooler if the food is out of sight and smell.
Use a Bear Canister With an Odor-Proof Bag
If you are not in a place where you can bring your car or your cooler, this doesn’t mean you are out of luck!
A bear canister is essentially a portable food locker. It’s just a large (but portable) plastic container that is very sturdy and difficult to open for non-humans. This will make it harder for the raccoons to access your food.
Check out this one on Amazon for an example.
The thing about a bear canister is that it isn’t usually enough to prevent smells from wafting from the canister. Therefore, you will still get critters investigating your food, but they may not be able to get into it.
The solution is to use an odor-proof bag. Check out this one on Amazon to see what I mean.
These odor-proof bags are invaluable for making sure the smell of your food doesn’t escape and so will attract much fewer critters.
Where do you put a bear canister?
It’s not necessary to hang up a bear canister, but you should put the bear canister away from people. So storing your food a little of a ways from your campsite is all that’s necessary.
Dispose of Your Trash The Right Way
Make sure all of your trash is disposed of and don’t leave any food behind. Despite being just small scraps, raccoons can smell it and will show up to eat it. They will then search around your campsite for more food and can become destructive if they think there is food hiding somewhere. Toss every scrap into a heavy duty garbage bag and take it to the campsite garbage bins.
Any scraps left at your campsite is an invitation to these critters. If your campsite does not provide garbage bins, you can double bag it and do the same as you would with food. Either lock it in the trunk of your car or tie it at least 7 feet above ground.
Speaking of trash, if possible, never pitch your tent next to trash cans. These things are critter magnets, not to mention, attracts all kinds of bugs.
Trash Disposal in the wilderness
If you are in the wilderness and don’t have trash cans, you can pack out your trash in those odor proof bags I mentioned earlier.
Lastly, many people burn their leftover food scraps in the fire, but you have to be careful about this. Oftentimes your fire isn’t hot enough to really exhume the food scraps and so putting food in your fire can actually increase the likelihood of critters coming. Leave No Trace recommends not burning leftover food. That being said, if you have a really hot fire and you’re sure it won’t leave anything behind, that is an option many, many people take.
Leave Your Scented Toiletries Behind
There is a notion that many people have that perfume and scented toiletries can attract animals. To be clear, nobody has proved this. It makes sense that many animals have extremely powerful senses of smell, but there are only people’s campfire stories to prove it.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to leave behind anything that has a strong scent (except your bug spray).
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Some Noise
Much like many other wild animals, wild raccoons are not as accustomed to noise as the city raccoons. The sound of you and your friends or family chatting should keep them away. If not, try clapping your hands or yelling if you spot one. This should scare the raccoons away from your campsite.
Never Approach a Raccoon
While they are generally harmless, raccoons have been known to attack if they feel threatened or if they have a medical condition that changes their behavior.
If you notice one that appears sick or it appears more aggressive, please inform the ranger and let them deal with the racoon. Never try to deal with a racoon yourself if you suspect it has rabies and make sure to keep your dog away from them.
Using Scent Deterrents with Raccoons
There are all sorts of ideas floating around the internet about scent deterrents, but the fact of the matter is that raccoons are smart and determined. If there is food available, they will overcome a lot of discomfort to get it.
Here are some studies I found to support that some scent deterrents might actually work:
- Bird Repellant: Bird repellant made of Anthraquinone was shown in this study to actually deter eating corn. Raccoons freaking love corn, so that’s saying something.
- Raccoon Pee: Yes… using the smell of raccoons against other raccoons is a thing. You can read more about it here. Unfortunately this has only been tested against nesting mother raccoons in houses.
- Mothballs: Although mothballs won’t do anything, really, in the outdoors, in enclosed spaces they might actually keep raccoons away, as stated here
- Pepper powder: There are mixed studies on this, but some evidence shows that pepper powder (in this case habanero pepper powder) can deter raccoons.
To be honest, scent deterrents don’t make any sense while camping. The area you’re trying to cover is so large that you’d have to bring a lot to really make a difference, and it’s pretty dubious to try and spray an entire area with mothballs or pepper powder on the off-chance a critter might show up.
The smarter thing to do is prevent smells from your own food from getting out. Use an odor proof bag or at the very least, put your food away from the campsite and never bring it into your tent.
Escaping to the great outdoors, while exciting, does mean you may encounter a few critters hanging out at your campsite hoping for a tasty snack, namely, raccoons. “How to keep raccoons away from your campsite”, is a question that most campers have asked themselves at some point. It’s also a problem that most will have deal with eventually.
By taking certain precautions, you can keep these critters away from your campsite and keep them in their natural environment.
Now that you know all the tricks on how to keep raccoons away from your campsite, they’ll never ruin another camping trip again! You’ll sleep throughout the night knowing you and your campsite are secure.