Racoons and grapes

mrsg47(7)August 1, 2013

I finally have my first large crop of Concord grapes. There must be fifty large clusters that are still green. When we had a house in Maine, raccoons would eat every last one before I could pick them from the pergola. They didn't mind that they were not ripe!

Any ideas on how to protect the grapes? They are growing over an arched trellis. Many thanks.

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It's really hard to make anything raccoon proof. Electric fence and trapping are all that I can think of. I've live trapped 4 so far this summer. We live on a lake so I just put the trap & coon in a wheelbarrow and roll it out onto the dock. The trap and raccoon get submerged. Not fun, but there doesn't seem to be an easy answer. You need to be proactive or they will wreck a lot of stuff before you can react.

Best bait for a live trap are marshmallows or sunflower seeds.

They are a tough pest to deal with. Good Luck.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 10:59PM
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alan haigh

North, I agree that drowning raccoons is very gruesome. Squirrels I don't mind because they die in a few moments when submerged.

If you have an ongoing coon issue and you can't use flashing (roofing coil) or duct pipe to stop them from climbing to fruit, it is a much quicker affair to put a pellet in the brain of a trapped animal and probably worth the investment in a 1,000 FPS pellet gun or 22 for the purpose.

That will probably be a kinder death than what was in the coons future without your intervention.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 6:00AM
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Can't shoot where I live. I'll just have to net as best I can, I guess. No lake either only an ocean. might try a large hav-a-heart. Or, concertina wire. that is my only thought.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 9:11AM
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MrsG, the only thing that stops a raccoon is a well built, hermetic, constant shock electric fence. It has to have an underground naked ground wire, but in my case the best fence I ever had was just a chainlink fence (did not need the ground wire) with one wire at the top, and horizontal underground fencing. It was impassable.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 10:27AM
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I live trapped some coons by accident a few years ago as
something was eating my peaches. I baited the hav-a-hart trap with a peach and caught 2 coons on different nights. They were so big I do not know how they could squeeze into the trap. They had a hard time getting out
when I drove them 6 miles away and let them out.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 10:56AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Harvestman must be a way better shot than me. Haven't tried a pellet gun but a 22 with the subsonic rounds is at least as powerful. I couldn't kill them with one shot. A 22 40grain hollow point is a one shot killer into the center of chest. Five seconds and they're still.

I'd drown them if I could. Shooting involves risk of a bullet bouncing back into your eye or off into a nearby property, etc. Maybe a small risk but not zero. The coon ends up dead rather quickly by bullet or drowning. Don't think he really cares.

They can be killed by leaving them in sun in a trap on a hot day but that's a much slower death than bullet or water.

This post was edited by fruitnut on Fri, Aug 2, 13 at 15:28

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 12:40PM
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This is almost embarrassing.. . my grapes are on a decorative arch that has a gate. The grapes finally after three years have gone wild. Sounds like I just might be the big loser. Mrs. G :(

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 7:34PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

I don't much like Havahart traps, but I have a Havahart coon trap that seems to work OK. I keep it baited (with cat food) most of the year and catch quite a few coons and possums in my backyard. They are heavy feeders on fruit.

I use a powerful pellet gun to destroy them. Unless you have a city ordinance, you should be able to discharge a pellet gun.

Although it's gruesome to discuss, I've had good success killing them with one shot. Possums are easier to kill because they stay still. Coons hiss and move around a lot so they take a lot of patience to place the shot. I agree with Fruitnut, there is not much leeway in where to place the shot, and you have to have the correct angle. They have a small brain.

I wish people in the city would quit dumping the coons and squirrels they catch, out here. If they don't want coons and squirrels in their yards, I don't see what would make them think we want their coons and squirrels out here.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 8:16PM
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alan haigh

It is illegal in NY and many other states for unlicensed people to move raccoons. They are vectors of rabies and other human diseases so there is a reason for these laws.

Fruitnut, my skill as a marksman is abysmal, but apparently I have a more calming affect on coons than Olpea. They don't usually dart around in the trap when I approach slowly with my rifle except an occasional feisty male. Such a nasty one might take 3 shots but 90% of the time a single pellet placed slightly above the spot between the eyes does the trick.

Most states allow you to kill raccoons and pellet guns are generally not restricted. The animals are a health hazard not just because of rabies. Their feces often caries a disease that can cause blindness in humans so you don't want them in areas where children play during the day.

Coons usually won't tear up woven type nets to get fruit, in my experience, unless it collects on the bottom of the net. This observation is all based on a single site where the only fruit protection is with netting and there is coon poop all over the property.

I tried to show the in-house gardener how to improve on his netting technique by completely closing off the netting around the trees. Fruit collected close to the ground trapped by the netting and the coons tore open the nets to get that fruit. They never went through the torn netting to get to the fruit in the trees they way I've seen squirrels do it.

I'm sure the gardener had a good laugh at the error of my advice, although he had to sew up the nets. His method worked well enough even though some birds could fly in.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 7:47AM
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It is worthwhile to put a call into the DEM. Upon further investigation, I found I can shoot them on the Island, but permission is required. If the raccoon hurts, eats, damages crops of any sort (I don't know if this means I must be a farm or commercial operation, that is not stated or defined). I just might have to alert my neighbors! Cannot wait to hear what the DEM has to say. Bang! Mrs. G

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 8:48AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

A good and safer alternative is to use rat shot from a .22 to dispatch. While the stuff is next to useless from 10 feet from 8" at the bars of the trap it is devastating to a raccoon's skull and you do not have to worry about ricochets or damaging your trap. Most .22 air guns don't have the power to dispatch a coon humanely but some do if the shot is placed right.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 2:14PM
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alan haigh

How can a 22 not have enough power to kill a trapped raccoon humanely while my pellet gun sends them into death throws instantly?

I have no knowledge of 22s as the only two rifles I've ever owned are my Diana pellet gun and 20 gauge shotgun. I also don't understand how a 22 shot into the skull of a raccoon could ricochet backwards from hitting that soft skull. Is it powerful enough to send the bullet through the animal, into the ground and bounce back off a rock?

If it hit a wire of the cage I can't picture a ricochet affect. I'm speaking from ignorance here and genuine curiosity. I don't know much about guns.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 6:04AM
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How to dispatch a coon in a haveaheart trap. Materials needed, 5 3' pieses of ready rod about 3/8" is good. now with a hammer and anval draw out 1 to a flat end and sharpen to a spear point. Insert the rods threw the trap to divide the trap first by half then quarter ect till coon is immoble. insert the sharpened rod in the base of the neck upward into the brain.While doing this it is best to put on glasses that will let you view the coon as a very large Japanese beetle and the rod as a seven sprayer. As an up grade of the tool you could fashion a handle for the sharp rod from a broken peach limb the coon broke before it ate the peach you waited 3 years to try.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 8:22AM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


A shotgun is not a rifle......a rifle is called a rifle due to the rifling inside the barrel which causes the bullet to spin....shotguns are smooth bore.

The subsonic .22 shells Steve is talking about have almost no gun powder in them and some have zero gun powder in them. The bullet is expelled just from the hot primer charge in the shell. A good example is CCI 22 quiets which are awesome shells. They make very little noise, less than your air rifle. Generally from a distance the .22 bullet will go into a squirrel but most times not exit the other side. They are called subsonics for obvious reasons and because they don't break the sound barrier they don't crack. They are 75% quieter than a normal .22 LR.

While the subsonics are slower than your pellet gun the bullet itself is much heavier at 40 grains. You didn't say if your pellet rifle is .177 or .22 but to compare a .177 pellet is around 8 grains and a .22 pellet is about 14 grains so as you can see they are MUCH lighter so for the pellet to penetrate they need more speed.

Weight of the projectile and speed determine how hard it hits and how deep it penetrates all other factors being equal. So if it is a bit lighter weight but going faster it is equal to a heavier bullet going slower. Your Diana rifle is a high quality rifle but if people follow your advice and use a normal air rifle or one that has leaky seals or a weakened spring they are just going to basically torture the raccoon not kill it cleanly. You also need the skill and patience to place the pellet correctly.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 9:23AM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Both air rifles and 22 rimfire vary by a factor of at least 3-4 in power and penetration. The most powerful air rifles are more powerful than the low power 22 rimfire.

My trap has many bent wires where the bullet pasted through coon and bounced off the wire. That tells me it could cause damage somewhere unintended. I now have a large building as a backstop. I also line up the shot and then duck my head behind something solid before firing. All while lying on the ground. Maybe that accounts for my marksmanship or lack thereof. It's why I take chest shots not brain.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 10:06AM
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There are two versions of Havaheart traps. One sets simply by pulling a handle back. These don't work well. I'm constantly seeing the bait stolen from them without tripping the trap.

The older kind with the trickier-to-set mechanism is far more sensitive and works much better.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 10:10AM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

We have had fairly reasonable success this year with raccoons and to some extent squirrels. The apricots, peaches, plums, macadamias were spared almost completely. These trees were closer to the back door, so the problem was less severe, but in other years, this did not deter them.

For the last several years, I have asked my granddaughter to give me mylar balloons for special occasions, instead of diamonds, rubies and pearls (ahem). So, each time, she buys a bunch at a time - they come with happy messages on them from the local supermarkets - "happy birthday, mothers day, anniversary, etc." and I collect them all in a corner in my pantry - to be used at fruit ripening time.

By this time, the gas has mostly expired - and not able to fly away to become entangled in telephone wires or trees. I wait until the fruit is nearly ripe, then hang a balloon in the tree at various places, along with a few old computer disks that shoot streaks of flashing light, when the sun shines on them.

I know this sounds simplistic, but it worked quite well for me this year. Most of our fruit is now picked - the apples were spared, as well. The last to protect now - the grapes. I picked some yesterday, and they are finally sweet enough to eat, and no loss to date. I did see a few green beetles flying around, but they also seemed to be startled by the balloons I have hanging on the grape arbor at strategic places.

I live in a well-populated area and would not care to risk a gun solution. We also live on the edge of a canyon, which is a wildlife refuge, so I appreciate the problems with these critters.

The success of this strategy seems to be "timing" - when placing the balloons. If too early, they will become used to them, so waiting until the fruit is almost ripe, will give the desired "startle" effect.

Perhaps this would not be suitable for an orchard of 50 or so trees - but for small gardens, I think it is workable. My orchard consists of about 30 or so fruit trees in all, and 9 cedar box raised beds for vegetables.

The box beds have frames over them covered with wire - made of pvc pipe and chicken wire - easy to move from one bed to another - and protects the crops from most everything. I've used this set-up for almost 10 years now, and it has been successful. The bottoms of the boxes have wire mesh nailed - to prevent burrowing animals as well.

These simple things have made it possible for me to garden - all year round, without too much loss and a lot of nice produce that we have come to enjoy every day.

Sorry - I know this is long-winded, but perhaps you can find something here that is helpful.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 10:29AM
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We have a coonhound who would appreciate the opportunity to chase any raccoons ya'll have out in the orchard...

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 10:37AM
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Thanks all! Ericwi, you bring that dawg up here to RI, will ya'll?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 12:03PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

" Your Diana rifle is a high quality rifle but if people follow your advice and use a normal air rifle or one that has leaky seals or a weakened spring they are just going to basically torture the raccoon not kill it cleanly."

I agree with that. Like Hman, I use a RWS Diana .177 (1100 feet/second) pellet gun to destroy coons/possums. Once I tried to use a cheap pump up pellet gun to do the job, but it didn't work.

"shotguns are smooth bore"

Technically speaking, not all shotguns are smooth bore, some have rifled barrels for deer hunting.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 12:22PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)

Olpea :)

Technically technically speaking lol if you put a rifled barrel on a shotgun it is still a shotgun not a rifle. Would a rifle become a shotgun if you drilled out the rifling? Nope.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 12:43PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


Words are interesting. A bit of reflection tells us, a shotgun was originally called a shot gun based on the "shot" fired from the shell.

Rifled shotguns fire slugs and would more precisely be called "slug guns", which is indeed what some people call them.

Apparently guns are not always named after the type of barrel, but sometimes the type of material fired out of the barrel.

Long guns that have have no rifling are not much use today since rifling adds distance and accuracy. Old non-rifled long guns are called muzzle loaders (interestingly they are named from how they are loaded not the type of barrel, or the type of ammunition)

Not disputing your original point which was simply to distinguish a rifle from a shotgun. My previous post was just to offer a bit more clarity.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 1:26PM
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bamboo_rabbit(9A Inverness FL)


I agree the words are interesting. Think part of it might stem from the fact that the delineation of the terms shotgun and rifle started before such things as a rifled barrel on a shotgun existed.

In this case the weapon (Rifle) is actually named after the process of grooving the barrel. Originally they were called rifled barrel guns and then just shortened to rifle. I don't know where the term rifled came from though?

The shotgun would also work to dispatch the coons in the trap though might be a bit hard on the trap:)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 1:44PM
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alan haigh

OK, now I've been schooled not to call my shotgun a rifle. Also I gather that ricochets can be a problem with the wrong kind of 22. Interesting and thank you BR and FN.

I guess I've shot so many racoons that, without knowing it, I've become skillful at placing the pellet where it needs to go, can't remember when I became proficient at this and I don't remember it being a problem when I first got the pellet gun but there's lots of stuff I can't remember.

I did say from the start that it required at least a 1,000 FPS gun and obviously if a gun wears down and slows down it would lose power and eventually get to the point of being unable to penetrate a coon's skull.

I have damaged a trap by shooting a woodchuck in one with my shotgun.

One subject I have a little knowledge on is traps, if only because I've tried so many different models. I prefer one sold by Gemplers with a rear door for easy disposal of animals after execution.

If you use a trap without a spring closure that the animal can free itself from by turning over you need to stake the trap in place. Spring doors are a bit tricky to hold open while dumping the corpse and difficult to free an animal from if you don't want to kill it.

Also, you can throw a few marshmallows in a plastic sandwich bag and stake it with a rigid wire or thin stick to the back of the trap so coons can't reach for it without springing the trap. I use a couple marshms. to lure them into the trap as well.

I've never had a coon that wouldn't go into a trap and I've disposed of probably a few hundred.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 2:58PM
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