Raccoons & Vegetables & Soil!

(Question)

Hi there –

I have a vegetable garden on my deck in Toronto. I have a number of big pots planted with vegetables of all kinds, like tomatoes, onion, chard, kale, and various salad greens. We have a male raccoon that has taken up residence near our home and has pooped in one of my big pots that contains onion, some chive, and tomatoes. He has also started pooping on a deck on the ground floor.

We’ve read articles about proper cleanup and have made a point of carefully picking up and throwing away any feces. We’ve also taken steps to discourage return visits and are monitoring successes (and failures). The raccoon feces was cleaned up out of the pot (along with a layer of soil underneath).

Our main question is: How do we proceed after the initial cleanup? Is the onion safe to eat? Is the soil safe to continue to use for vegetables/edibles?

Thank you SO much. We’re befuddled.

(Answer)

It sounds like you have done a very good job of cleaning up from your raccoon visits. It seems they like to pick a place that is flat and elevated for their latrine so your deck has been a suitable spot. The concern in the case of raccoon stool is the eggs of the roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis, which can be passed in huge numbers by a relatively high percentage of raccoons. The good news is that vegetables cannot become “infected” by the parasite – the eggs cannot be absorbed or otherwise get inside a vegetable, they can only contaminate the parts of the plant that are directly in contact with soil. So as long as you wash your vegetable thoroughly before eating they should be safe.

 Here is a link to a blog created by professors from the University of Guelph called “Worms and Germs” that you may find interesting and hopefully set you mind at ease.

 http://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2009/05/articles/diseases/parasites/garden-veggies-and-poopy-parasites/

Good luck and hopefully your raccoon friends will find another location to enjoy.