A Raccoon is Eating My Suet!

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Suet Feeder in the Birdbath
Suet Feeder in the Birdbath

 Just as I was congratulating myself that I had gotten my feeders strategically set up to attract the birds I wanted while keeping squirrels out . . . a new visitor from nature arrived. A raccoon was eating my suet. This is the story of what was happening and how I solved the problem. Raccoons now stay out of my suet!

When the raccoon first arrived, I didn’t immediately realize it. My first clue was finding dirt in my ground birdbaths a few times as if someone was washing in them.

Suet Feeder Under an ERVA Baffle
Suet Feeder Under an ERVA Baffle

Suet & Nut Block Feeders Falling

Then one morning, I came outside to find a suet feeder that hung on a tree branch had fallen down. I thought, “Oh, that’s odd. I didn’t think it was windy last night.” I replaced the missing suet block and re-hung the feeder.

My first thought was that a squirrel had carried off the suet. But a day later, I found the suet on the ground about ten feet away. Because I’ve been using hot pepper suet blocks, I figured a squirrel had found the fallen suet but didn’t like the taste and left it there. (My local squirrels usually eat hot pepper suet only when they are very hungry.)

On the following morning, I found the cage nut block feeder, still attached underneath its baffle on the ground. That is when I realized that something was deliberately going after the feeders.

Cage Type Suet Feeder
Cage Type Suet Feeder

Raccoon Washing the Suet

All of this was happening during the night, so I suspected a raccoon. But I took reassurance that the first suet feeder hadn’t been attacked again. I hoped the raccoon didn’t like hot pepper suet and since she didn’t succeed in carrying off the nut block she would stop. Not so.

Hot Pepper Suet Dissolved in Birdbath
Hot Pepper Suet Dissolved in Birdbath

The raccoon moved on to suet feeders hanging in low bushes in front of the house. This time, the raccoon had a new strategy. Apparently not liking the taste of hot pepper, she tried washing the suet in the nearby ground birdbath.

In the morning, I found the birdbath full of dissolved suet. Because there was so much suet left in the bath, I had hope that her washing experiment didn’t work. But alas, I found suet in the birdbath again the next morning.

Putting Suet Feeders on Poles

At this point, I decided to move my suet feeders to poles protected with raccoon baffles. So I set out to my local bird feeding store, Mother Natures in Columbia Maryland. This was one of those times when I REALLY appreciated having a local store staffed with people with long experience feeding birds. They understand what they sell so they can give you advice. I try to support these people with my business because their help over time has been invaluable.

Michelle talked me through the problem. She first suggested taking the feeders in each night, which is a reasonable strategy. But I’d rather not have to do that as I have so many feeders. So she set me up with two poles, each with two arms and a raccoon baffle. (Raccoon baffles for poles are longer than squirrel baffles for poles.)

I have read that raccoons will usually go for whatever food is easiest to obtain. My suet has been the least protected from furry critters of all my feeders. Now I’m taking care of that with the new poles and baffles.

Bird Feeders with a Shorter Squirrel Baffle on Pole
Bird Feeders with a Shorter Squirrel Baffle on Pole

Protecting Poles With Raccoon Baffles

The raccoon so far hadn’t gotten into other feeders. But my conversation with Michelle was reassuring. She thought that there was a decent chance (but no guarantee) that the squirrel barrel baffles on my other three pole feeders will be enough to deter the raccoon. This is mostly because raccoons would rather not go to that much work. (If not, I’ll be back to the store for raccoon baffles.)

Three Feeders with ERVA Baffles
Suet and Nut Block Feeders With EVRA Baffles

She thought that the same was likely true (but again no guarantee) for the EVRA galvanized disk baffles I use on all my hanging feeders except the nyjer feeders.

Downy Woodpecker Eating Suet (and Spilling Some)
Downy Woodpecker Eating Suet (and Spilling Some)

Deciding Which Suet Feeders to Keep

Up until the arrival of the raccoon, I had six suet feeders and one more with a nut block. Two suet feeders are the simple traditional cage feeders. The remaining four are Birds Choice hanging upside down suet feeders that look like little tan and green houses. The last feeder is a much larger and heavier cage feeder that holds an extra large nut block. I put the two smaller suet cage feeders away.

Locating The Suet Feeders

In my yard, there is usually a pair of Downy Woodpeckers in the front yard and another pair in back. I’ve noticed that if suet runs out on one side, the woodpeckers there come to the other side. This can cause conflicts. So I put one pole in the front yard and one in the back.

New Pole with Longer Raccoon Baffle and Two Suet Feeders
New Pole with Longer Raccoon Baffle and Two Suet Feeders

Front Yard Suet Feeders

Michelle assured me that raccoons are not as acrobatic as squirrels. They can climb and reach out to get to a feeder, but they don’t leap to them like squirrels will. So I needed to position the poles far enough away from anything that a raccoon can reach from to the feeder. Squirrels can jump up to eight feet though. So I put the feeders away from branches or surfaces within squirrel jumping range where possible.

There wasn’t a good place for a pole out front where the suet feeders were previously located. So I put the pole further over, this time fairly close to the front living room window. This one holds two of the Birds Choice feeders.

To cut down on bird window strikes, feeders should be either within three feet of a window or farther than thirty feet out. Mine is just slightly farther than three feet out from the window, but there is a sidewalk that constrains where I can put it.

Note: Check out my post on Squirrels, Poles & Baffles for info on how to properly position a barrel baffle on a pole.

Back Yard Suet Feeders

I put the backyard pole about twenty-five feet out from the back door with one Birds Choice suet feeder and a nut block. The final Birds Choice suet feeder stayed hanging on far end of the branch initially, but later I added an extra third arm to the back yard pole for that one.

Raccoons Now Leave Suet Alone

After putting suet on baffled poles, there were no more attacks on any of the feeders. I still saw dirt in one of the ground birdbaths, but that turned out to be an American Robin who was building a nest nearby and using the water to soak long grasses and maybe to make a bit of mud.

So in my yard, putting them on poles was the solution to keeping both squirrels and raccoons out.

Nancie

Other Posts About Suet Feeders

Solving Suet & Suet Feeder Problems

Acrobatic Grackles At My Suet Feeders

Birds Choice Upside Down Suet Feeder Review

Where to Hang a Suet Feeder

Best Way to Hang a Suet Feeder

Starling Proofing the Suet

Deterring Squirrels with Hot Pepper Suet

Bird Feeder Baffles in the Wind & Suet

Nuisance Birds Use Baffles to Get Suet


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8 thoughts on “A Raccoon is Eating My Suet!

  1. I’m somewhat of a noon to birdfeeding, but so far just this year, I’ve had to deal with squirrels, raccoons, and hawks. And I’ve found the squirrels to be the most “aggressive” when it comes to working to get to the grub ….one thing I noticed, in your very last photo, is that your feeder pole is very close to the house….. I learned my lesson with jumping squirrels that I cannot keep the Shepards hook too close to thr house, because the squirrels climb the hkuse, and then just jump into the feeder …kinda like Circ de’ solei swinging to and fro….lol even with the baffles on the poles, I’m guessing they can still get the goods by climbing the house and hopping on over to the feeder itself. Try moving your pole over a cpl of feet and see if that makes any difference.

    1. Hi Kristeen, I agree. Squirrels can be relentless when it comes to trying to get into feeders. But between putting feeders on baffled poles, using Squirrel Buster Plus feeders when hanging in one them in trees and using the hot pepper type of suet, the squirrels pretty much leave my feeders alone these days. It’s all about the feeders you get, the food you put in it and the placement.

      While the pole feeder near the front window is definitely within jumping distance for a squirrel, the only thing in those feeders is the hot pepper suet which they don’t like so they haven’t bothered it at all. The only time they’ll eat the hot pepper suet is in the winter when they are so hungry that they’ll eat about anything and I put sunflower in a special feeder for them in the backyard that keeps them happy then and off the suet.

      So far putting the suet on poles with raccoon baffles has stopped that problem. Raccoons apparently aren’t jumpers like squirrels so even though the pole is close to the house, they can’t reach it. And being close to the window is safer for the birds, cutting down window collisions.

      Nancie : )

  2. I haven’t had too many problems with squirrels yet but I know it’s just a matter of time. The raccoons were a real problem last summer until I added raccoon baffles to my poles and brought in some feeders at night. I haven’t seen evidence of a raccoon in months but I’m betting they return this spring. It’s such a battle!

    1. When I grumble about our regular squirrels, I remind myself that at least they aren’t raccoons. I think I got off lucky this time.

  3. We use Have a Heart Raccoon traps and relocate them to a woods nearby. Cat food as bait. I enjoy the squirrels, their acrobatics are very entertaining. They compete with blue jays for peanuts. Black oil sunflower seeds for everyone else.

    1. Hi Vicki, I have mixed feelings about squirrels. They are clever persistent creatures. When there are one or two, I think they are kind of fun to watch. But when there are ten or more and they start doing repeated kamakaze runs on the ground feeding birds or get into a feeder and hog all the food, they are less fun. I try to find a balance with them and will usually go out and break up the squirrel party when it starts getting crazy like that. Fortunately, raccoons are less frequent in my yard. Small favors I guess. Nancie

  4. Love your articles that ive just happened upon while searching for birdseed squirrels wont eat. They are brazen enough to chatter and tease our dogs throughout the day, and at night the racoons ravage the feeders, both seed and suet. My suet cage is now extra locked with a bread bag tie, which seemed to be all it took for the racoons to lose interest. They really are pretty lazy! But I do bring in the cages I dont want destroyed, or I’ll empty them at night and refill in the morning. I have a feeling the poles and baffles you write about could end up too costly for my budget. I’ll continue my research on cayenne pepper in the seed and the like first. Thanks so much for all the useful info and ideas!!

    1. Hi Janine,

      Thanks! That’s interesting that locking the suet that way stopped the raccoons. I had one of mine closed with wire and metal clips but the raccoon pulled the whole thing down off the branch one time. It couldn’t get into it though because the baffle fell on top of it and pinned the cage feeder to the ground under it. I love that you came up with a fix that didn’t cost anything too. If they don’t want to be bothered now, that is excellent!

      I buy my poles and baffles at my local bird store. I just bought a new pole recently that has an 80″ straight pole ($25.99). a four-way top to hang four feeders ($34.99) and an auger type bottom piece ($19.99). I already had a squirrel baffle but I think they were something like $25 – $35.) The dual shepherd’s hook type pole I have bought in the past would have been I think about $20 less, but holds fewer feeders.

      This is an independent local store, so prices in your local stores might be different of course. For myself, I’ve found that the $100 I spend on a pole/baffle set-up saves me much more in seed over the long run. BUT, if you don’t want to mess with poles (and I totally understand that), check out my post on baffling branch hung suet. You still need a really good baffle but not the pole so it’s less costly. You have to position it really carefully though to be effective.

      Good luck!
      Nancie

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