Raccoons. I loved and hated a few.
Every summer they manifest from the darkness of my backyard. Walking quietly in search of the remains of bird seeds, they rehydrate in my bird bath and wash my muscular hands giving adorable blows to the water. Whenever the stone bath is set aside in the morning, I know I have had a cheerful band of members of the bear family.
My 13-pound dog knows they have fallen on us before me, alerting me with fierce barks as their front paws are placed on the window sill. I light my flashlight through the window screen, look up with their bright eyes, greet and continue with their ablutions. So beautiful with her costume masks, but so destructive. Smart, but intimidating.
Maybe it was my grandfather who instilled in me a love for critters. A raccoon whisperer, he loved and fed the nocturnal animals that lived in the woods near his secluded home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. I vaguely remember sitting on the deck at dusk when I was little, while the domesticated raccoons crawled on my belly and chest and let me caress their soft fur.
But where there are raccoons, there will be drama. Like last summer, when the curious snout of a frightened teenager put her in the bottom of my trash can, where she was trapped most of the night. I dumped the can and set it free, after briefly entertaining her with a waking dream of training her to use a trash can and spend the nights hugging on the couch.
And then there was the night of November 2, when I fooled myself into believing that I had rejected all creatures and that I had let out that puppy to do his little business. He transformed into Raccoon Warrior, a new superhero, and tried to destroy his nemesis.
The friendly vet told me the next day that my little one was no worse off from wear and tear, and that his self terrier and chihuahua did exactly what he had been bred to do: remove the animals. Today I light my big, powerful lantern in the corners of the yard and in the trees before I go out.
I admit I’m partly to blame here. I haven’t always acted responsibly when it comes to wildlife. I am guilty of leaving old cookies, rancid cookies, apple heart and various detritus for the demanding squirrels, who cover their noses and leave them for the raccoons, who do not have such a demanding palate. Please forget me. I loved his sympathy.
But those days are over. I am now older, wiser and angrier with them for hitting my dog and also for intimidating me. Last summer I almost ran into a backyard gangster for a forgotten tallow cake hanging for the birds. We were fine with Corral’d until I realized he wasn’t giving up on his fat-filled snack, and I decided it wasn’t worth it. I could have it. And that’s when I realized that it seemed like it was getting harder and harder to scare them away. They had been considered rulers of my backyard, and I was angry.
Gerrod Walker, owner and founder of When Nature Calls Pest Control in Florissant, does not believe that a raccoon would attack a human unless it is cornered, or placed between a mother and her kits. But he does believe that I have lost the battle for my garden. And all for my love of birds.
“A lot of people took bird seeds,” Walker said. “If there is food and they are looking for housing, there is an opportunity to settle in. People are feeding wild cats, and I guarantee that cats are not the only ones who find this food.”
In fact, I was probably on my way to offering a good co-op for these raccoons in my shed, where the rotten roof had given way to a perfectly sized hole through which they could pass. Not only did they come in and devour the food of the birds, but they worked with the food picking up my things and throwing them everywhere.
I came out easy, though. Many landlords come across nasty and nasty new tenants.
“It’s easy to know when you have raccoons,” Walker said. “Looks like someone is walking on the roof.”
The bastards don’t live in the canals, as I once thought. They only use the underground portals to move and hide. They would rather set up camp in your warm, man-made structure, even under sheds, roofs and attics. They also love a tree cavity.
If you are not looking for a new roommate, take stock of your ceiling situation. Powerful little things were never found with a weak ventilation or soffit on the roof, the material connecting the bottom of your roof with the side of the building, they could not break if they felt a sweet house on the other side. Strengthen these two points: put on a ventilation protector and reinforce the soffit. And check out your attic fan, another popular entry point.
Don’t let them settle down. Sometimes people will allow raccoons to stay if they have settled in and had babies, thinking that they will leave when young people can live alone, but this can prepare you for future problems.
“Customers say I’ve lived here for 30 years and I’ve never had any problems and now I have problems every year,” Walker said. “They’re leaving pheromones behind. The longer you allow squirrels, raccoons or mice to live and mark this territory, the more problems you’ll have along the way.”
It is especially difficult when a raccoon woman has selected your humble residence as a safe place to give birth. Male and female raccoons do not keep in touch after breeding, and parents do not help with the young. In fact, the pregnant mother wants to move away from the baby’s father and the place of breeding, because if this male gets lost again, and there are babies on the way, he will kill them without thinking twice. It happens a lot, Walker said.
Females explore their new dens before giving birth and head for them when they are ready. But if it senses danger from a male, it will move its young from one place to another. It’s all very much “Sleeping With the Enemy: The Raccoon Version”.
There is, however, one way to get a female to move her pups without catching and moving them, or the other option: euthanasia, which makes me too sad to think about it.
“Put the liquid from a male’s gland in a cotton ball or dust it on the surfaces around the point of entry,” Walker said, “and if you have an alternative chance of shelter, it’s likely to move. the baby because it smells like the presence of that male ”.
There are usually about three or four babies in a litter, and young males will separate from their mothers around 2 months of age and hatch on their own. The females will stay with the mother and learn to feed. Female raccoons usually have one litter a year, mostly around May and some in August, but if they lose it soon enough, their bodies can re-enter estrus, a period of sexual receptivity and fertility.
For those worried about anger, Walker doesn’t see much. The vet I saw after my dog’s fight matched. But Walker will sometimes see raccoons with parvovirus and momb, which causes them to crunch their eyes and make them stumble and not be able to walk straight. That is when the animal must be sacrificed. He suggests calling someone like him or the city animal control.
Surely the raccoons have their shadow side, don’t they all? But there is also much to admire. I’ll never think they’re the epitome of adorability, especially when mom goes out with her kits every summer, and I see them play as puppies and represent their sibling rivalry dramas.
Walker can also find love. Not only are they great mothers protecting their young, but they are one of the few animals that solve problems.
“If they can’t fix something by doing it one way, you’ll see they do it another way next time,” Walker said.
“They can adapt and overcome. That’s part of why they’re so widespread. “
Contact the writer: 636-0270