What is the best way to keep raccoons out of a dumpster?

At work we have a simple, split lid, top load dumpster like this one:

enter image description here

And we have a pretty large population of raccoons that seem to be pretty inventive when it comes to getting inside of it and pulling trash and food out.

The waste management company we use wont allow us to modify the dumpster. They own it and more or less rent it to us.

We've tried a few ways of "tying" the lid shut, but the raccoons will reach a hand between the two lids and pull out what ever they can, they also tend to chew on what ever we use to tie them down with, so strapping the lid shut doesn't work very well and the straps don't last long.

I've heard we could use cougar urine as a deterrent, but it rains fairly often where we are and handling urine on a regular basis is a little unappealing.

This should go without saying, but I'm also not looking to kill or otherwise harm the animals.

So, I'm trying to find a good way to keep the animals out, while still allowing us easy access, without modifying the rented dumpster or harming the wildlife... Any thoughts?

  • 1
    I was going to suggest cougar urine (suggested for squirrels by me) .....but if you'd rather not then I guess I'll just leave this as a comment.
    – Shokhet
    Dec 9 '14 at 20:41
  • Where in the world does one get cougar urine? (Also, there are probably other smells they won't like)
    – Bobo
    Dec 9 '14 at 21:21
  • 3
    @Bobo One can buy all sorts of strange and interesting things on the internet...
    – apaul
    Dec 9 '14 at 21:26
  • 1
    have you tried locking the raccoons in the dumpster instead of trying to keep them out? Then they're just the trashman's problem. Dec 9 '14 at 22:12
  • @JimmyHoffa Actually that was a big part of why we were trying to keep them out... On days when the level of trash in the dumpster was low the raccoons could get in, but not back out. Then when you went to toss a bag in, it may have given them just a enough height to jump out at you... I found 8 of them in there one time, it was like a little family reunion.
    – apaul
    Dec 9 '14 at 22:19

Here's what I ended up building to keep the raccoons out:

enter image description here

Basically I took a 2"x2"x4' length of wood and attached two boards about 8"x4' to the top and bottom, making a sort of "I-beam" and then fixed a 2"x4"x6' to the top board.

To put it on the dumpster you just position the I-beam between the two lids and slide the bottom board of the I-beam under the lids, so that you end up with the 2x2 between the lids and a board above the lids and a board below the lids. Then you just slide it all the way back till the cross beam is over the two lids.

This eliminates the gap between the two lids and still allows the lids to be opened, but as one one large lid rather than two small ones.

With the two lids now moving as one piece the raccoons can't open it because they can't lift the lid while standing on top of it and they can't reach the lid from the ground.

It's working well so far, although the raccoons haven't given up yet...

I'll snap some photo's of the finished piece and add them here when I get a chance.


If you can't modify the dumpster, perhaps you can modify the area around it? With some ingenuity and planning you could build a frame that is easily removable for day use, and pickup, but at night becomes a locking mechanism around the receptacle.

By using a 4x4 post, which is quite heavy, and laying it across the top of the covers, it would eliminate the critters ease of lifting the arm and getting into the dumpster. if you can manage to "lock" it into place with side walls, then you eliminate their ability to move it. If it doesn't move, and isn't easily lifted, they may give up and move on to the neighbors waste area.

  • We tried something similar before I came up with what we're using now. Part of what I was trying to do was build something that could stay on the dumpster without needing to be removed when we took out the trash, so not making the lid too heavy was a design consideration.
    – apaul
    Dec 9 '14 at 21:24

Raccoons do not like the smell of Ammonia. Possibly make a few trays filled with Ammonia & place around dumpster.


We never throw organic material away. We put a little effort into sorting the waste, and we end up with very little actual garbage, nothing that would attract animals as edible food. 85% is usable or recyclable. The organic material is heaped into our compost pile or buried.

If you must put the organic matter into the dumpster, douse it with some fluid that would destroy the scent and/or make it unusable as food.

Another option is to use a Have a Heart trap. Set a few next to the dumpster, or away form the dumpster and put peanut butter as bait. Just take the trap with the live raccoon and release to a suitable ecosystem more than 3 miles away.

Also, the waste management company should be obligated to provide you with a tamper-proof dumpster. Check with your township.


I have glued a stick against the center of the front wall so they can climb out on their own. It doesn't show and really doesn't really hurt the dumpster. Anything they can climb on will work as long as it reaches from the bottom to the top They are good climbers, so many types of things will work. I hope people will pass this idea along because it will save millions of raccoons.

  • 1
    This is not an answer to the question.the question is how to keep them out, not help them get out after they get in. Jul 12 '19 at 12:35

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