By Darrell Boone
Recently Indiana Prairie Farmer editor Tom Bechman described how raccoons and opossums were driving him nuts, getting into sheep and pet food, and he challenged me to help find a solution. It was in the Front Porch column in the April issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. You can also find it here on the Website by going to the home page, scrolling down and finding 'magazines online' on the left-hand column. Follow that link to the entire April issue.
Actually Tom, I feel your pain. I had the same problem with raccoons getting into our horse feed and totally wrecking the feed room. It's infuriating!
The first tip is to think like a varmint. Right now I'm pretty sure that raccoon is in his den, telling his friends and relatives, "That Tom Bechman is a great guy! He knows we need to eat, and every day he leaves food right where I can get it. Sure beats scrounging around for grubs and worms."
In my case, it dawned on me that the raccoons were just doing what raccoons do. So I bought a steel trash can, then put a small tie-down across the top. End of problem!
Purdue University wildlife specialist Brian MacGowan says that securing stuff to keep pests out of is sound strategy. With trapping, however, he says that even if you're successful, all of his raccoon neighbors that he's told about you will eventually find your goodies.
But beyond securing the feed, when it comes to dealing with common farm pests—raccoons, opossums, groundhogs and deer—a shiny new trash can is about as close to a silver bullet as you'll find. Dealing with wildlife pests really is a challenge.
With large fields, there really is no good way to limit deer damage short of reducing their population. Invite deer-hunting friends over, but ask them to target does.
But on the downside, if you have neighbors who believe that all deer are Bambi's relatives, deer can munch on your crops, then return to their sanctuary.
Groundhogs can damage crops, but the good news is that they're usually fairly easy to trap. Backfill entrances to their burrows, or former homes won't be vacant long.
The best advice? Be vigilant. Address problems sooner than later, and don't give up.
Hope this helps, Tom!
(Boone writes from Wabash)