Last Updated on October 9, 2020 by Nancie
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 & 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. 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.
Raccoon Washing the Suet
All of this was happening during the night, so I suspected a raccoon was getting into the suet. 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Other Posts About Suet Feeders
Solving Suet & Suet Feeder Problems
Acrobatic Grackles At My Suet Feeders
Birds Choice Upside Down Suet Feeder Review
Best Way to Hang a Suet Feeder
Deterring Squirrels with Hot Pepper Suet
Bird Feeder Baffles in the Wind & Suet
Nuisance Birds Use Baffles to Get Suet
Want to read more posts about birds? When you subscribe below, you’ll get an email whenever a new post goes up (and ONLY then. Promise!)
Please Note: My blog includes some Amazon affiliate links. The small fees they provide help cover my site costs.
13 thoughts on “A Raccoon is Eating My Suet!”
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.
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 : )
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!
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.
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.
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
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!!
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.
July 8, 2020
We’ve been here in the country for 8 years. Because of the squirrels we have made a few changes and especially, after a midwinter possum was caught on the feeder in broad daylight. We have used hot suet seed cylinders and hot suet cakes. This year the raccoon has been more aggressive and does not seem deterred by our hot suet. We have frequently found the feeders opened and even emptied on the ground. My husband used carabiners to secure the feeders and pinched the hooks tight so they are not as easily removed. Now the feeder is still in place but the double suet feeder is opened and emptied. We have mounted motion detection lights to the feeder. None of this has kept the raccoons from emptying the feeders.
We can bring them in but our morning routine does not allow for morning replacement so the birds miss out and so do we.
If the raccoons have carried the suet to water but they seem set on accessing our hot suet, my conclusion is that they are intent on taking hot suet out of the feeders. This has gone on for months now.
On July 4th when closing the blinds in the bedroom which is the second location with a pole feeder and a squirrel baffle, we witnessed a mouse feasting on the hot suet. By morning when I checked, the mouse had eaten along the top edge of 2 suet cakes.
Is anyone else experiencing this? I could concede that the raccoon in the backyard is undeterred by the motion sensor lights and removing the hot suet to rinse in water, but I cannot deny that the mouse ate from the suet cakes.
Hi Mary Lynn,
Wow! It sounds like you have an all out wildlife assault on your feeders! If possible, the best bet is usually to try to keep the critters off the feeders completely. (I know, easier said than done.)
Can you provide additional information on your feeder set up? It sounds like at least some of your feeders are on poles. Wooden poles or metal? (I ask because mice are supposed to be able to climb wood better than metal.) Are all of the feeders you are having problems with on poles or do some hang from something else like a tree branch?
What type of squirrel baffle(s) are you using? Is it a disk type over or under the feeder, or a barrel baffle under the feeder on the pole? I use barrel baffles on my poles. You need to position them carefully to make sure they are effective. (I have a post about that.) There are squirrel barrel baffles and also longer barrel baffles made specifically for deterring raccoons.
It is also important to make sure that the poles themselves are positioned far enough away from other jumping off points in your yard so that the critters can’t jump to the feeder, avoiding the baffle. I’ve set up feeders and baffles in the past and have been SURE that nothing can get on them, only to find that the critter (usually squirrels in my yard) has found a way that I didn’t see. So you really need to watch the feeders and see exactly HOW they are getting onto them and then problem solve to prevent that method.
I have put some feeders in the yard to cater to my birds, but unfortunately it also attracts some guests who should not come to my garden. Some small rodents like mice, rats and squirrels or big ones like raccoons have come to my feeder at night, even though I have built a barricade it doesn’t affect that they took my feeder away.
It is true that when you put food outside, you can’t always completely control what critters show up to eat it. Mice and rats are especially attracted to food on the ground so if they are a problem, you would want to avoid tossing seed out for the birds directly on the ground or putting it in low ground feeders that they can easily get into. Of course, birds do often spill seed from feeders, so you may need to keep areas under your feeders swept or raked to minimize that. (Not always easy to do I know.) Some people have had good luck with hanging trays or screens under feeders to catch fallen seed so that it doesn’t get down to the ground.
Squirrels are a problem that many people deal with at their feeders. By using squirrel-proof feeders and/or good quality squirrel baffles on feeders that are carefully placed, you can keep squirrels out of the feeders, although they will still likely poke around underneath to eat spilled seed. I have many articles on my site here that explore ways to keep squirrels out of feeders.
If you have raccoons, they can be an especial pain. They are not as acrobatic as squirrels, but are still good climbers and are known for carrying feeders away. One method to thwart them is to put your feeders on a tall pole away from trees that is protected with a raccoon barrel baffle on the pole. (These are longer than regular squirrel barrel baffles.) Another approach is to take feeders inside at night when raccoons are active.
Thanks. These are useful methods, and they solved most of my worries about feeders when these animals visit.