Raccoons and Apples


5 year old buck +
Had a disappointing trip to my farm last week. Several Chestnut and Centennial crabs that had 40 or 50 apples on them as of 2 weeks ago were found barren with severe limb damage. I am using the usual protection of 5 foot fence/lumite/window screen. My assumption is that raccons climbed the fence into the tree and had a party. I am an absentee landowner, so consistent trapping is not an option. Interestingly, my neighbor is a very famous coon hunter and trainer of coon dogs, so rumor has it that the locals all release their trapped coons on his property. I also have tremendous raccoon habitat. I have read about maybe using smaller cages (my lowest scaffolds are getting above deer height) with 24" flashing around the cages a foot off the ground. Anyone have any experience with this? All help is appreciated.
I don't think a foot up would do it. I'd put it at the top of the cage so they'd be on the mesh and unable to jump. Coon's can bounce pretty good if they have something firm to work with. If they're hanging on mesh vertically they won't be able to.
Unfortunately, living >1000 miles away, I don't think the fence is a viable option. I have been researching and can get aluminum flashing which is painted white. May also prevent sunscald. My only concern is decreasing airflow/disease on the trunks, and the possibility of expending the time/expense only to have it fail. Here are pics of a Centennial about 3 weeks ago, and one from my arrival last week.

It would be one thing if they only took the fruit, but they also trashed the tree! Had this happen to at least 6 trees. These are 4th leaf Wallace-Woodstock trees on (I believe) M7. First decent load of fruit. Makes me very sympathetic to you guys that have bears.
If they're raccoons, they'll likely find a way around anything you put out to keep them away. They're pretty smart and they like to get into trouble so anything short of an electric fence is likely to fail. If you get up there a few times per year, you can put a decent dent in the local raccoon population in just a few weekends by putting out lots of traps. It probably won't solve your problem, but it will help. Eventually your trees will get large enough where they can take the raccoon destruction and still produce good numbers of apples. My land in WI has a tremendous bear population and they act like giant raccoons on steroids. I use the exact same cage as you and for some reason the bears really like tearing apart the cage and fencepost in a few areas. They will tear up the cage, bend the fencepost into an odd shape then take off the trunk protectors and chew them up. I'm hoping with time I will get enough large apple trees that the production will outpace the damage that bears will do. It's too early to say if it's possible, but I do see some mature apple trees in abandoned homesteads in our area so I know they can get to a size where damage can be tolerated. I have problems with bears climbing the tops of my mature oaks and tearing off all the branches at the top to get to the acorns. They do the same thing with black cherry trees. Your raccoon problem is bad, but it always could be worse.
That's true, if they want them bad enough, they'd dig under the mesh.

I'll second trapping them as heavily as you can while you're there this fall. 3 years ago I took out 26 coons from my woods and we've seen an influx of birds following it. They used to run up and down the beach road door to door in packs at night. It wasn't momma with her kids, it was 4-6 20# coon looking for anything left out after dark.

Pelt prices are up too. You might make some money out of it.
I appreciate all of the input. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view), I have 200+ trees spread throughout my acreage, including along the in-woods food plots. I don't think electric fence, although undoubtedly effective, will be doable. The bases are pretty clear, as all of the trees have 6x6 lumite around them.

As far as the flashing goes, I'm not sure I explained myself correctly. Once my lowest scaffolds got to 5 feet (which is now the majority of my trees), I would remove the t-posts, downsize the cages to fit loosely around the trunks (10" diameter or so), and then attach 3 foot wide flashing 1 foot above the ground. That way, the critters have nothing to climb on between 1 foot and 4 feet off the ground. As an added bonus, this will free up a ton of cages to use on Norways so I can actually get some thermal cover on this place. I am willing to endure the work/expense, I just don't want to if it is a bad idea for any reason.

As an added point of interest, look at the exclusion cage between the deer in the first picture. Those are Eagle Beans they are feasting on. I'm always amazed at how evenly they can browse a plot.
I still think a few weekends with some dogproof traps would yield the same or better outcome at lower trouble/expense to you.
Yes, I agree and appreciate your input. Hearing that pelt prices are good gives me hope that perhaps I can find someone around there interested in harvesting them for a little extra spending money. I can tell you I won't be selling or utilizing them which makes me hesitant to kill them myself.
I'm sure you'll find someone that would be happy to trap your place, but in our area prime trapping season is also prime deer hunting. I have a friend that traps my property in MN, but I make him wait until after the gun seasons are over but unfortunately the raccoon activity usually stops about that same time. If the raccoons are causing damage, I wouldn't lose any sleep over trapping them and killing them out of season. I know landowners in MN can kill them out of season if they're causing damage and critter carcasses make good apple tree fertilizer. I have major raccoon, skunk and opossum issues by my house in Minnesota and when I start to have problems with critters digging up my garden in the summer I just throw out a couple of live traps and I usually catch something within a day or two. I prefer live traps because I have the option of releasing non-target animals. I live near a county park that doesn't allow trapping, so there's constantly a new supply of animals moving in no matter how many I trap off.

If you have a lot of raccoons, you might be surprised at how many you can catch in a single weekend if you get enough traps. You can fit a couple dozen of the dogproof traps in a 5 gallon bucket and set out a nice trapline. You could make quite a difference in your local raccoon population if you set out a couple dozen traps a couple weekends per year.
I'm 300yds off the Mississippi in the metro - we get a lot of coon traffic here despite them having to climb a 6' fence to get into the yard.

I emailed my CO about out of season pest coon kills a couple times and he never bothered to reply. So I started adding those dead ones to my trapping season report they make you fill out with a trapping license and stopped telling him. I figure it doesn't matter when I whack them - they're getting accurate data to what I'm taking out of circulation.

I don't see the raccoon as an animal that shouldn't be killed if it can't be used. Like a coyote - more damage than benefit when their numbers get too large. They're 15 to 25 pounds of bird destruction which happens to go after gardens and fruit trees as well. Whack 'em!