About a week ago, I awoke to hear a series of persistent bumps, thuds and scratching sounds coming from above my bed. The scratches turned into scrapes which in turn became more of a ripping sound. My guess was that a raccoon was trying to get into the crawl space-sized attic in order to find shelter from the windy night. I heard the ruckus intermittently through much of the night and by morning, I had circles under my eyes that could compete with the little bandit who had caused my sleeplessness. Nobody else had heard it and it didn't seem to reappear for the next few days so I put it out of my mind - mostly.
The critter reappeared late Wednesday with some distinguishing scratching, walking and chuttering sounds. I asked my friend Google to help me find a simple, safe and humane way to rid my home of this potentially destructive animal. Several of Google's offerings suggested spreading mothballs or ammonia-soaked rags in the area (but not if I suspected there might be babies as it can damage their mucus membranes), setting a radio to a talk show and playing it loudly, and shining a bright light in the space. The only access to my attic is through a small wooden entrance in the ceiling of my closet. There are no stairs leading to it. To get inside, I'd require a ladder, a flashlight and dexterity - along with a fearlessness of heights, small spaces and confronting a wild animal under those conditions. I had the ladder and the flashlight. The rest not so much. Google also impressed upon me, the understanding that raccoons can do a great deal of damage, and with this being nesting season, I figured it was wise to call in the professionals.
I'd heard about a wildlife removal service that had the reputation of employing a particularly humane approach, and so I phoned them early yesterday morning. The woman was up front about the costs of their service which would include removal of the animal, removal of any young that might be present, relocation of the young so that the mother could find them, and placement of a one-way door at the raccoon's point of access. There were additional costs for each roof vent and exhaust that would require screening to prevent the animal's return. A quick estimation in my head told me that I was looking at upwards of $500. She told me that they could have someone here by the afternoon, and I was grateful that I wouldn't have to spend another sleepless night.
Ken and Kyle, two friendly, young guys arrived even earlier than expected in their bright yellow van. After asking a few questions they set their ladder up at the back of my townhouse and inspected the roof for holes. It was clear to them that the raccoon had entered by a large opening it had created at the juncture between my roof and my neighbour's. They brought their ladder inside to my closet and hopped up into the attic with the agility that I so clearly lacked. Their muffled voices indicated that they had found the culprit. Ken or Kyle (since I don't know one from the other, I'll just call them K) poked his head back out of the attic to ask me if I could find a small box for them. I asked if they had found babies and K told me that she had in fact had her litter in my attic. The plan was to bring the babies out through the house but to leave the mother trapped inside temporarily, put the one-way door in place and hopefully reunite mother with babies once she escaped through her new exit. I emptied a Rubbermaid box that had just been holding some junk in the garage and handed it to K. A moment later he emerged with the box full of insulation and four adorable baby raccoons.
I oooed and awwwed over them for a moment, and resisted the strong urge to touch them, knowing it was not wise. K stroked them with a gloved finger and agreed with me that they were beautiful little creatures. I was happy to see that he genuinely cared about their welfare. He covered them up with more insulation and a loosely-placed garbage bag, and set about finding a safe spot for them in a sheltered corner of the back yard.
After screening off all of the roof vents K spoke with his supervisor who suggested that once the mother emerged through the one-way door, it would be best if she could find her young nearby. The two Ks worked together to secure the box to the roof and even before they descended, they saw the mother raccoon exit the attic and discover her litter. K also asked me not to mention their location to whomever I spoke to in a few days when I'd make the appointment to have the one-way door removed. That was above and beyond what they were supposed to do, and their extra effort might not be appreciated by their boss. I understood, was very appreciative of their caring natures and told them that I would remember not to mention it. That was a promise I ended up breaking (sorry K).
I was instructed to make a phone call to their office in about five days, when I was certain that the raccoon activity had ceased. Someone would come back to remove the one-way door and place some more screening over the hole. It would then be my responsibility to get the roof repaired. I worried about the safety of the young and hoped that the mother would find a new, secure location for them quickly.
This being a long weekend, I was expecting my son Jeffrey to arrive home from university in a few hours. Frank makes the best beef ribs ever, and Jeffrey has the best beef rib appetite ever, so there was no guessing what was on the menu for dinner that night. Frank set about simmering ribs and I poured myself a drink and we soon settled into a game of cribbage. That's when we heard the CRASH!
To be continued here...