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(Stock photo | Getty Images | iStockphoto/Stock photo | Getty Images | iStockphoto)

How to raccoon-proof your home Add to ...

Raccoons have been hot news lately, following animal-cruelty charges against a Toronto man who allegedly took pest control into his own hands, attacking baby raccoons with a shovel. Extreme measures to be sure, though anyone fighting a critter invasion can relate to the frustration. Here, we offer some less aggressive (and entirely legal) solutions for getting rid of the garbage-eating invaders in your life.

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Keep a lid on it

As in a serious, heavy-duty, downright impenetrable container. "I swear, raccoons have thumbs, and they are also incredibly persistent," says Dan Frankian, owner of Hawkeye Pest Control in Toronto, adding that anyone who puts out a loose container with food in it might as well just invite the local wildlife over for dinner. He recommends bungee cords as a good way to turn a regular container into a raccoon-proof fortress.

An open door is a good way to welcome unwanted guests

Keeping the doors closed when you're out is obvious, but during the nice weather, people often open the back door to let in some air - not a good idea. "You have no idea how many calls I get saying 'Help! There's a raccoon in my kitchen eating my Cheerios,' " says Mr. Frankian. Windows are also common entry points, so put some screens up. If you do encounter a raccoon on home turf, proceed with caution. Make sure there's an exit and try making loud noise. If that doesn't work, call in the pros. Do not attempt to back the enemy into a closed space. To paraphrase from Dirty Dancing, nobody puts Rocky in a corner.

Ensure your garden isn't the local all-night diner

An open compost heap is a buffet for raccoons. To stay green as well as pest-free, try enclosing the area with metal hardware cloth. The same goes for veggie gardens. "You're going to want to Fort Knox that tomato plant with heavy-duty wire," says Mr. Frankian. A less invasive option recommended by Toronto's pest control department: Try sprinkling diluted hot sauce over fruits and veggies, as most animals aren't so keen on spice. Just be sure to wash before eating, unless you want your cucumbers to taste like jalapeños.

Keep trees trimmed to avoid the highway to hell

To keep raccoons from hanging out on your rooftop, trim any branches that offer a tree-to-roof jumping point. "Those things are like highways in the sky," says Mr. Frankian. He recommends branches be trimmed to at least five feet away from the house. Raccoons may look sloth-like, but their jumping abilities could put rabbits to shame.

Even raccoons get sick of talk radio

The verdict is still out on whether talk radio, played at high volumes, will drive unwanted guests out of the crawl space. The City of Toronto recommends this low-tech solution, the logic being that raccoons are scared of human voices. Mr. Frankian isn't so sure, especially since the pests seem to be getting less timid by the year. "Why not try really loud ZZ Top," he jokes. And hey, if your raccoons happen to be curmudgeonly grandmas, he just might be on to something.

And don't do this: Let your pet fight your battles. You don't want to have to contend with sky-high vet bills.

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