Sunday, April 12, 2009

To Catch A Thief

This is the Easter weekend, and my older son is home from Kingston for a few days, so I'm going to take a short break from creating CD and book covers. I'll resume those later in the week, but at this time, I won't be taking any further requests. I apologize to those who are still waiting to see theirs. It won't be too much longer. Thanks for playing along.

I keep a bird feeder hanging off of the plum tree in my back yard. Usually, after it's been freshly filled, it will take anywhere from one day to one week until it's emptied by the variety of birds which come for their feast. Lately though, I've been finding the empty feeder with its lid askew, and a small pile of seed on the surface beneath the supporting branch.

I know that squirrels are notorious for emptying feeders in a hurry, but those I've seen around here had always been content to eat from spilled seed and frequently-offered peanuts, as long as the Blue Jays hadn't already beaten them to it. The only alternative that came to mind was that creature known for its bandit-like qualities - a raccoon.

I had placed a plastic outdoor table directly beneath the feeder in hopes of catching most of the overspill, resulting in less to clean up from the patio after all winter. It would seem that the table might have aided the suspected raccoon in accessing, opening and tipping the feeder.. We decided to try securing the lid of the feeder by using a couple of heavy-duty rubber bands - the kind that you can often find around stalks of store-bought broccoli. This worked for a while, but it also seemed to make the birds ill at ease. Suddenly, a week or two would go by without any reduction in the feeder's contents. When temperatures dropped to particularly cold depths, the elasticity would weaken and I'd find broken bits of the bands lying on the snow.

Eventually, the birds became used to seeing this new decoration, and they returned to feed once again. However, a more determined raccoon began visiting regularly, and the new attempts to secure the roof of the feeder were quickly thwarted by this persistent critter.

Last weekend, Frank decided to buy another style of feeder, in hopes of deterring the raccoon from gaining such easy admittance to the quickly-diminishing seed. This one was taller and narrower, and contained several perches for smaller birds. We also decided to remove the table from beneath the feeder, to eliminate at least one approach.

Not a half hour later, we saw a raccoon climb down the side of our house, walk along the fence and stroll down into the yard. She glanced up at the tree, and immediately began to climb.

Settling into the branches, she sat still momentarily while she considered her plan of attack. Slowly, she eased herself toward the branch which houses the feeder.

Without a care in the world she casually lifted the roof off of the feeder as if she'd seen it a hundred times before and began nourishing her belly.

On my side of the glass, Benny was barking his fool head off at this masked intruder. How dare she not feel intimidated!

Eventually, Frank held Benny back while I chased her away to the back of the yard, under the fence and to safety. As soon as I turned around to come back inside, she was practically at my heels, heading back to her interrupted meal. I tried a total of three chases - all with the same results. Finally I held Benny while Frank made menacing noises, kicked a plastic bucket with which Ben likes to play and ran straight into my lilac bush. Hours later he was still finding twigs in his hair. It seemed so unfair that I had to be holding Benny instead of my camera.

Frank decided that the new feeder was useless for my yard and ended up taking it home with him to add to his growing collection. A different, smaller raccoon has since returned, undoing elastics and tipping the feeder. I've given up.

Raccoons are clever little creatures and when they want something badly enough, they're not easily dissuaded. This Easter weekend tells me that it has been one year since Mama raccoon nested in my attic and subsequently under my deck. I figure if she wants to live near me so badly, the least I can do is feed her.

Happy Passover, Easter and Spring!

If you're relatively new to my blog and haven't read about the chaotic time that a raccoon fell through my bedroom ceiling, please click here for part one. Parts two and three follow. The tale is complete with photographs of baby raccoons and Mama clinging to my son's window.. from the inside. That family still lives under my deck a year later. I hope you enjoy the posts.


TheDaughterOfTyr said...

Raccoons sure are intelligent little things aren't they.

I just read your epic tale of Raccoony-ness from last year. My goodness!

Awesome photos.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Happy Passover, Easter, and Spring to you too, Hilary!

I hadn't yet stumbled (happily so) upon your blog last spring when you posted the raccoon story. Merde! is right!
You have a kind and generous heart.

Mental P Mama said...

Arrrrgh. But she is so cute, it would be hard to stay mad. There has to be some deep meaning in all this raccoonery. I will research it for you;) Have a wonderful Sunday!

the Bag Lady said...

Sure sign of spring - racoons are back on Hilary's blog!! :)

I remember very well the saga from last spring, and how well you handled it.

Great pictures again this year. Those racoons might be terrible little pests, but they are so darned cute!

Carolyn R. Parsons said...

You are the racoon whisperer...yes they seem destructive but you have to admire their tenaciousness and their creativity. Plus they are darned cute! I'm going to read your other racoon adventures now!


Andrea said...

Love this story....and the photos are amazing!!! I have a birdfeeder just like one of yours! :)

Pat - Arkansas said...

Loved the photos of your raccoon(s), Hilary. They are, indeed, tenacious. I haven't seen mask nor tail of the raccoons that were residing in one of my trees, now that the tree is gone. However, I don't recommend anything as drastic as cutting down a tree to discourage their prowling.

Hope you have a wonderful visit with your son.

Michelle H. said...

First time I ever saw a living raccon. Great story and awesome pics. Have a happy Easter!

Daryl said...

I cant believe its been a year! That post about the damage to your roof/ceiling were what drew me to your blog, I was so fascinated and charmed (sorry but your writing even when things are awry is charming) I have been back daily ever since .. WOW a whole year ...

The shots you did get were sensational .. and poor Frank I am sort of glad you didnt get those shots of him ... sort of ..

Leah J. Utas said...

It's a good thing the furry little bandits are so cute.

HanamiGallery said...

you should get a live trap. the ones with doors on both sides that will trap the raccoon inside. use peanut butter and dont leave out any other sources of food. then you can just pick up the trap and relocate the raccoon 5 miles away and she should not come back. we raised chickens growing up and my mom wanted to deal with them without killing them, so this is a great way~

and while they are cute they are not very nice. i would take care of her before she has some babies or your problem could worsen. hope i helped!!

NJ said...

Raccoons are such cute little creatures. At the end of our grade 12 school year, at girl at school was pleading for someone to take some baby raccoons that she had hidden. Her dad a farmer had killed the mom so Jeff-(hubby now) took two home and talked his parents into letting them keep them. They kept them for two years and they were great pets but eventually did feel the call of the wild and we let them off in a provincial park. Apparently, raccoons can adapt back to the wild quite well.

We've had our own trials and tribulations with bird feeders...and we've built up quite a collection of squirrel proof feeders, none of which has been truly effective. The best story I have is from 2 summers ago. We awoke to find the two tall metal posts we hang the feeders over bent over in an arc. Jeff was like...what the.... So the next night just after I went to lay down he runs into the room to tell me we have bears in the backyard eating from the feeders. The big one bit the one long feeder in two!! I'd never heard of bears in our area. The pictures we took were in the dark so all you see is a slight form. We then read that bird feeders will attracts bears in the summer. So unfortunately we had to take them down which was a good solution because they only returned once the next night never to be seen again.

Hilary said...

I just read the whole raccoon, what a trip!!
Sounds like my ongoing battle with woodchucks that insist on living in my barn.
Yours is a great story, and of course, you tell it so well.

Frank Baron said...

Nicely told Hil - but I think you might have emphasized my bravery in charging out after the beast, heedless of any personal, lilac-inflicted danger.

You'll be happy to know I'm cobbling together an anti-raccoon device consisting of a sledgehammer, several cement blocks and a tow truck chain.

Your worries will soon be over. :)

Zuzana said...

Ah, this was incredible! I loved watching the clip, it was almost like a Discovery program!
Although I understand you frustration when it comes to these little animals, they are still incredibly fun.
I had a raccoon living on my porch wen I lived in States. It was unbelievably cute, but it also scared me a bit. I think what I found unnerving was it's total lack of fear for me. I fed it for a few months and then it was gone one day.

Hope your weekend was wonderful, thank you for this incredible post.;))

Angie Ledbetter said...

Great great pics. Could make a book out of them. :)

SK Waller said...

I saw a show on PBS several years ago about a man's plight with dissuading squirrels. He finally decided to make a documentary on the intelligence of the animal, and he invented s squirrel-proof bird feeder to boot!

I just love your Benny videos. Looks like we'll be getting a dog at the end of summer!

Gary's third pottery blog said...

rather cute, really

Woman in a Window said...

And I thought the chipmunks and squirrels were a nuisance!

Cath said...

She is a clever little thing! I love the video and you were just so good to get those photos too! Really stunning shots. And a great tale.

You really still have that family under your deck? Wow.

Have a great weekend (what's left of it!)

Anonymous said...

Happy Passover to you Hilary! I have been reading your blog for awhile and consider you a friend here, yet missed the posts you metioned today...Going back to read.

Love the photos!

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Meagan. I do think they're intelligent, and bold, and adorable. I'm glad you like the photos. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thank you, KC. I'm glad you stumbled over there eventually and avoided stepping into any of that Merde. ;)

• Thanks MPM. I hope you had a wonderful Sunday too. I eagerly await your research results. ;) Thanks for the visit. :)

• They really are cute, Baggie. I can't help but feel a great affection toward them. Thanks always for the kind words. :)

• Thanks, Breeze. The raccoon whisperer.. I like that. ;) I hope you enjoyed the other blog post(s). Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thank you, Andrea. I'm glad you enjoyed it. The feeder was a Canadian Tire special. ;)

• Thanks kindly, Pat. I'm enjoying my son's visit very much. I'm glad you're not bothered by the raccoons any more but I'll bet you miss the tree. Thanks for dropping by. :)

• Thanks kindly, Michelle. Does this mean you usually see dead raccoons? ;) Thanks for the good wishes. :)

• Daryl yours are among the nicest comments ever. They mean so much to me.. a year ago and now. Thank you so much for such kind words. And yup, a full year. Happy anniversary, my friend. ;)

• Very true, Leah. That's what I used to say about my younger son too. ;)

• Thanks for the advice, HanamiGallery, but they're not really bothering me.. this year. They're well locked out from my roof since last year's incident and have been living under my deck ever since. By now, I would imagine there are new litters, so it would be wrong to try to relocate any of them lest I be separating mother from her young. I'll keep a watchful eye and a menacing approach and hope for a harmonious co-existence. Thanks very much for the concern. It truly is appreciated. :)

• NJ, those stories are fascinating enough for a blog post all their own. That was so sweet of the girl and of Jeff to look after those raccoons. They're wonderful creatures and I'm glad he was able to give them a good start. It must have been hard for him to see them go... and probably a relief too. As for those bears.. now that would be scary! What a sight that must have been. I'm sure it gave you a good idea of just how powerful they are. I'm glad the problem was so easily solved. Bears would be much harder to control/remove than raccoons. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. :)

• Thanks so much, Hilary... for reading the full story and for the kind words. :)

• Thanks, Frank. Yes, you're a fine lilac-conquerer, and I expect that this new device will outdo the anti-moth machine consisting of fly swatters, an old outboard motor and rusty bedsprings which you rigged up at your place? ;)

• Thanks so much, Protege. I'm more concerned for their safety which mich be at risk due to their lack of fear for people. They're too used to us and I wish for their sakes that they'd be more frightened. Frank has told me stories of young raccoons clinging to the screen windows at the cottage, peering in, hopeful for food. They're bold, but beautiful. I hope your weekend was wonderful, dear friend. Thanks always for stopping by. :)

• Thanks, Angie. Your kind words are much appreciated. :)

• Thank you, Steph. I'd love to find a true squirrel-proof bird feeder. Have you decided which of the two dog breeds you're going to get? Or will you be adopting one of each, after all? Thanks for the visit. :)

• They are, aren't they, Gary? :)

• Yes they are, WIAW but bigger critters - bigger problems - for the most part. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks kindly, Cath. At least two of them remain under my deck. I see them come and go fairly often and Benny has a good sniff at the entrance every now and then. I hope they never decide to exit when he's around. Benny wouldn't win that encounter. Thanks for the kind words and for dropping by. :)

• Thanks so much, MT. I of course feel the same way about you, dear friend. :) Thank you also for reading the posts.

ds said...

My, you have had some adventures with those pesky critters--read through all of the related posts; they were wonderful. We had a raccoon decide that the chimney was a good place for her litter. Not fun. I am hoping that they are all living happily in the woods far away from here!

I have left you something on my blog--you've earned it.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Love the racoon pics! It's amazing how you were able to get so many great shots.

Cute little troublemakers! Glad they're not at my house though. We just have squirrels, who aren't nearly as clever or mischievious.

Suldog said...

Raccoons are both clever and equipped with opposable thumbs, kind of like some humans :-) Makes them a formidable opponent.

Tricia said...

Raccoons are smart, that's why they obviously love you.

I had a raccoon for a "pet" when I was a child. The mother was killed and I raised her baby. His name was Rocky and he was so much fun, until he matured and started nipping at customers in my parent's store.

scarlethue said...

I got such a kick out of reading all three parts (now four?) of your raccoon adventures! What a couple of days that must have been for y'all.

By the way, I have that new birdfeeder, the green one, hanging on my deck. It's terrible-- the wind blows, and all the seeds fall out. I'm growing some nice grassy weeds underneath the feeder now though. I think my husband and I decided this weekend we're going to glue a piece of plywood to the bottom, something that will catch some of the seeds before they hit the ground. This is the third feeder we've tried, none of them seem to work right! Although I guess the birds don't care, do they. No squirrels or raccoons for us just yet, thank goodness, just big old ugly cowbirds that scare the pretty song birds away and eat all the seed.

Bonnie said...

Hi, My name is Bonnie. Debbie is out of town for 10 days and asked me to guest blog for her while she is gone. Blog world here I come!

That is one brave raccoon - he is not worried one bit. When I was a little girl, my family would go camping. Raccoons would always find a way into our food - smart little boogers! Thanks for letting me visit your blog. You can chat with me through Debbie's blog. Have a great day.

Redbush said...

O.M.G, Hilary! I thought I had it bad with squirrels being constant pests with my feeders. Bonzi gets so tired of chasing them off, that eventually he scratches on our deck door, asking to come in on the mat for a nap. After his nap, he tries the whole process again. We don't have raccoons, thankfully. Will they attack Benny if he tries to chase them?

Redbush said...

Happy Easter, and Passover, and thanks again for the c.d. cover!

Reb said...

They are so cute and you got some great photos of them.

HeatherPride said...

Oh my goodness! Well, I guess that's one way to add to your happy family!!

Nancy said...

I had to read the whole story! I can't imagine! We have only had a squirrel loose in our house. Not much damage. But that poor little raccoon - not to mention the damage. I applaud you for your loving nature. I hope they don't cause any more damage.

We have heard a very mysterious scratching in the space under our condo...

Linda said...

Great photo story!
Our neighbors had a very large animal steal their bird feeder last week. It almost had to be a bear!

lime said...

what a wily thing! you certainly got some amazing pictures of him in action though too.

JC said...

I didn't even know what blogging was when the racoons first appeared. I'm so glad you referenced the earlier post. My goodness what excitement. Have you named them. HA!!

photowannabe said...

I don't know how I missed your racoon story from last year but glad I could catch up on it this time. Amazing creatures and an amazing story.
What a mess but I'm glad all turned out well for everybody.

SandyCarlson said...

These creatures must enjoy the trouble we go to to keep them out of the feeder. A bit like hiding cookies from children.

Maggie May said...

Oh the naughty creature! Over here squirrels are the culprits.
Great photos of the raccoon though.

Seamus said...

The masked and furry blues! I'm sure you'll find some compromise.

Our Rocky and Rockettes have been feasting at our feeders as well - one climbing the tree and tipping the seed out for the other. Since ours are nocturnal, I've begun taking the feeders and suet cakes in at night. As a consolation morning and night I throw a portion of seed mix on the ground beneath where the feeders normally reside. All our critters will feed there - the deer, fox, ringtail cats, raccoons, feral pig, skunk and opossum. Between the birds and the critters, we are going through over 200# of seed mix a month as well as the deer corn. It's well worth the entertainment though.

Hilary said...

* Thanks very kindly, DS. I'll grab that award as soon as I'm back home, then wear it on my sidebar with pride. Much appreciated. :) Raccoons certainly are pests, but I find them awfully amusing at the same time. Thanks for dropping by. :)

* Crabby, getting photos of them really was easy. They're too bold to care about what I do from behind the glass and only start to consider moving when I open the door and take a few steps toward them. Thanks for the visit. :)

* Suldog, it does indeed. They're also cute as hell so it's difficult to get angry at them. Thanks for stopping by. :)

* Thanks, Tricia. That's a very sweet thing to say. :) I'll bet Rocky was a fun pet to have.. up to that point. What happened after he started getting aggressive?

* Scarlethue, I've not had much problem with the wind but the raccoons sure do tip that feeder. I hope to pick up a new one soon and give it a try. I'm thinking that plywood might give squirrels a place to sit while catching overspill... Thanks for the visit. :)

* Hi Bonnie, and thanks for visiting me on Debbie's behalf. Raccoons are indeed smart. They have earned their place in my heart. :)

* Redbush, I don't know about the chase part. We haven't allowed Benny outside to try. I suppose if the raccoon felt cornered, he'd attack, and Benny wouldn't likely come out a winner in that scrap. I don't want to find out. Thanks for dropping by. :)

* Thanks, Reb. I'm glad you liked the critter pics. :)

* Probably not the best way, Heather. Thanks for the visit. :)

* Oh oh, L of L. I hope the scratching doesn't turn out to be anything of concern. Thanks for reading the full story, and for your kind words. :)

* Linda you're the second one to report that kind of thing. That's a lot scarier than raccoons! Thanks for dropping by. :)

* Thanks, Lime. I'm glad you liked them. She is indeed a wily critter. Thanks for the visit. :)

* Nope, JC. I've not named them.. yet. ;) Thanks for reading the past posts. :)

* Thanks very much, Sue. I appreciate you going back to read the older posts. :)

* You're probably right, Sandy. So they pay us back by having a tantrum/dropping through my ceiling. ;) Thanks for stopping by. :)

* Thanks, Maggie. Squirrels are the culprits here too but the raccoons are my bigger culprits. ;) Thanks for the visit. :)

* Wow, Seamus. That's a lot of feed for your critters. Bringing the feeders in at night sounds like a good idea... not one I'm likely to remember though. As for right now, I've taped the lid onto the feeder and so far that's working. I'm also on the lookout for a new one with a different clasp. Thanks so much for dropping by. :)

Russell said...

Yes, raccoons are very pesky indeed.

When they come to my barn to eat cat food or try to get into horse feed, I use a live trap to catch them. Then I take them 20 miles away to a wooded area and let them out.

If I see a raccoon in the daytime, often it is sick (though your little guy looked just fine!). If I see a sick raccoon I shoot it so it does not spread disease -- and usaully it is dying a slow death.

It is amazing how strong raccoons are and how much damage they can do. I enjoyed those pictures you took - wow!

Indrani said...

And you captured it all. So well presented. Lovely post.

Bubblewench said...

What an amazing Raccoon tale! I am glad they are all fine. What great photos with the storey too!

Looks like they adopted you though!

I have a friend that rescues raccoons, she will LOVE this story! Can't wait to tell her.

Maria said...

Oh my. I just came here from CountryGirlKate's blog and what a story! Great pictures. I have a little raccoon that occasionally sleeps on the glider on my deck. Haven't seen him in over a month but i still look for him every day. He's such a little character.

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Russell. There is indeed another litter of kits under the deck this year. I heard their little sounds while sitting outside yesterday. Mom seems very healthy and just trying to feed her young. So trying to catch and move her would be entirely out of the question. I'm happy to co-exist with them as long as they stay OUT of the house. Thanks always for stopping by. :)

• Thanks very kindly, Indrani. Much appreciated. :)

• Thanks very much, Bubblewench. I hope your friend enjoys the post too. And yes, I've certainly been adopted. :)

• Welcome, Maria and thanks for stopping by. It's impossible not to be enchanted with these comical critters. Thanks very much for the kind words. :)

Louise said...

GREAT pics! I'm a little jealous.

Hilary said...

Thanks for the kind words, Louise but with your fine photography skills, you've got to be kidding! :)