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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. 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.
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.
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
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