Garbage bins provide a source of food for hungry wild animals and a source of anger for homeowners who have to clean up after them. This article will explore how to identify what animals are snacking on your trash, and how to prevent them from coming back.
Raccoons: Expert Garbage Raiders
Raccoons are expert trash bandits. For most people, raccoons are ubiquitously known for their love of garbage. They love to climb into dumpsters and knock over pails. Raccoons will often dig through the trash to find their favorite items. Additionally, they will often spread garbage and debris out to find the best scraps. They can use walls, poles, and trees to gain access to trash cans and dumpsters from above. They can also knock them over from the ground. A good indicator would be claw marks in plastic pails.
Skunks: Knocking Over Bins
Skunks like to knock over pails and munch on scraps. Skunks are not as adept as raccoons at climbing though. Their long nails are better at digging than gripping. They tend to bump into trash cans to knock them over. They may claw and slash at the lid to get it off. Skunks can tear through softer plastic trash bins, but will prefer to knock them over if possible. Skunk claw marks, or their distinctive musk can help indicate that they are the source of your trash problem.
Opossums: Clean Up Crew
Opossums are not adept at getting into trash cans, but will often forage bins that raccoons and skunks knock over. They will often clean up scraps left behind by other animals. Their omnivorous diet mainly consists of mice, rats, and bugs such as slugs and ticks. Because they don’t really have the ability to access trash themselves, they often focus on their more natural food sources. Even in areas of NYC where garbage bags are left on curbs, opossums are more likely to forage in parks and gardens than scavenge in the trash. However, they will still look to overturned garbage pails or unprotected garbage bags as a food source.
Mice and Rats: Garbage Swarmers
If a few scout rodents find an easy score from trash, they may alert the rest of the colony. This can lead to swarms of repeatedly using your garbage as a consistent food supply. Because of this, it is especially important to defend your trash from mice and rats. They can easily gnaw through trash bags and most garbage cans. However, they will not usually eat through a bin if they can access it from an opening. Generally, it is best to use locking, animal-proof containers to deter these critters.
Squirrels: Surprise Dumpster Divers
Squirrels are not often associated with dumpster diving, but it is not uncommon. Squirrels may scrounge through trash for nesting debris or vegetable scraps. These expert climbers are far too small to knock over a full trash bin, but can easily make use of an open can by climbing up and hopping in. Generally, they will not make a habit of eating from a garbage can, unless other food sources are scarce.
Preventing Garbage Raids
The best way to reduce the likelihood of animals eating your trash is to get animal-proof pails with locking lids. Strong, sturdy pails with attached and locking lids will help stop animals from breaking into them. You can use bungee cords to keep your trash bins attached to your fence. For dumpsters, move them at least 3 feet away from walls, poles, and fences, to limit access from animals. Keep pail and dumpster lids closed and locked.