Raccoons are known for eating a variety of foods, but they have a particular love for grubs and are willing to destroy a lawn in order to get them.

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DEAR JOAN: Do you have any suggestions on how to get rid of raccoons without killing them?

Last year our new neighbors got rid of their backyard shed and we suddenly had raccoons digging up our backyard looking for grubs. The two things may be totally coincidental.

We thought we got rid of them using a combination of cinnamon, chili flakes, netting and some spray we got at Home Depot, but now they are back.

My son wanted to trap them, but the Humane Society said it was illegal. Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated.

Karen Shibata, San Carlos

DEAR KAREN: Your neighbors getting rid of the shed and the appearance of raccoons in your yard is probably only slightly related.

If the raccoons were living beneath the shed, they would already have been coming into your yard looking for food. They travel a good distance every night in search of grub — and grubs — and then return to their home.

If they were evicted, they could be in your yard looking for housing. Make sure you haven’t become accidental landlords by looking for areas where raccoons might be living — beneath your shed, deck, crawlspace under the house and your attic.

To avoid attracting raccoons to your yard, make sure you aren’t leaving any pet food outside, and that your garbage cans are tightly closed.

The best way to get rid of the raccoons is to get rid of the grubs in your lawn, which could be full of grubs that will soon start making their way deeper underground to spend the winter and emerge as beetles in the spring.

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Try using beneficial nematodes, which should be available at a nursery, some home and garden stores, and online. These near microscopic creatures will disappear into your lawn and kill the grubs. It will take a while before the grubs are gone and for the raccoons to realize the buffet is closed.

It’s not illegal to trap raccoons in your own yard, but there’s the problem of what to do with them after they’ve been captured in a humane trap. State law gives you two options — release them on your property or kill them.

You cannot release them down the street, at a park, or out of town. This could lead to the spread of disease, and you could be dropping the raccoon in the middle of another animal’s territory. Relocated raccoons also won’t be familiar with where to find food and water.

All in all, the better choice is taking away whatever it is that makes them want to visit.

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DEAR JOAN: Recently as I was leaving my local Trader Joe’s, a praying mantis hopped on my car and hitched a ride home with me.

He established home in a new cactus I had planted. He has now been with me for approximately three weeks, but I feel he needs some companionship and would like to get him some friends.

Do you have any suggestions about how that could be done? Can he survive our winters?

Helene Morley, San Jose

DEAR HELENE: You can purchase live juvenile mantids and egg cases at a number of online sites, but now is the not the right time to do it as the mantids all die off in the fall.

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Your hitchhiker is probably a female and with any luck she may have laid her eggs somewhere in your yard. If so, next year you could have lots of mantids.