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Raccoons - nut bandits

Raccoon safe measures taken.

Raccoon safe measures taken.

On Sunday, March 13, 2005, the Maryland Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation established their first Clapper backcross orchard. The site was placed at Joe Dickey's farm in Davidsonville, MD, just outside of Annapolis. Using a tried and trusted method employed in the PA Chapter, the seed were planted in the standard 1:1:1 peat,perlite,vermiculite mixture, 2' plastic tubes were set into the ground and supported by a fiberglass stake, we washed up and went on our way, patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.

Well. Next morning, I receive a call that 20 some odd nuts had been dug up my some merciless creature. Turns out several of the tubes had not been well enough secured into the ground to prevent predation by suspected mammalian mercenaries. The dedicated volunteers of MD-TACF re-erected their tubes, pounded them quite securely into the ground, tied the tubes to the stakes using a second set of cable ties, applied Critter Ridder around each position, and walked away, although a bit more cautiously than on Sunday.

But I received a call on Wednesday morning that another 5 nuts had been stolen, and another 20 positions had been ravenously dug around. As Essie Burnworth from the MD Chapter said, that Critter Ridder stuff must be like cilantro to these midnight marauders. That day, Joe, the orchard manager, consulted with a pest expert who believed the problem was raccoons! I have never experienced such large-scale theft -- that said, I've never experienced small-scale theft, either -- planting as we did. The main consideration, I thought, was that the tubes were not set far enough into the ground -- but it looks like that's just child's play to these things.

The aforementioned pest expert has recommended the placing of hardware cloth around each position -- certainly a time consuming and arithritic-inducing exercise. Additionally, Havahart traps were set about the orchard and baited with chestnuts and yielded spectacular results. As of the last update, no further damage had taken place. We currently stand at about 132 surviving positions out of the 158 originally planted.

I extend my many thanks to Joe and the many fervid volunteers of MD-TACF for taking extreme and tireless measures to establish and protect this planting. Your dedication, like that of all our volunteers, is extraordinary and is to be repeatedly commended.

SUMMARY
What happened?
Raccoons stole some seeds from a newly planted orchard.
What did you do about? Tried repellent - didn't work. Tried trapping - sort of worked. Put tubes in ground better and covered ground through which raccoons couldn't dig -- That worked.
What would you do differently? Get the tubes in place more solidly. Use more solid planting mixture. Make planting holes less wide (i.e. so that they fit within the diameter of the tree shelter's protection.

Moral of the story: There are many pests and varmint who want to eat your chestnuts. Be sure to protect your seed well when first planted.

KEYWORDS: Raccoon, Havahart trap, Critter Ridder