Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Raccoon Tale - Part One

Raccoons can be pests. They raid bird feeders, get into garbage cans and sometimes find inconvenient places to nest and have their young. People often figure that they can eliminate these problems if they capture these roaming bandits and either release them, or (gulp!) destroy them. I'd like to urge you to think twice about considering doing harm to any creature, but particularly at this time of year, when so many are caring for their young.

Removing and relocating or (gulp!) killing an adult raccoon can result in a litter of young, orphaned kits experiencing a slow, painful death by starvation. Raccoons are lovely, intelligent, comical creatures who can actually do our personal landscape a lot of good by eating pests which otherwise ruin our lawns - saving us the use of dangerous pesticides. They eat carrion (my wayward son), which also helps to keep our environment safer.

If you're having a problem with raccoons getting into your trash, please consider finding a container with a tight-fitting lid, and keep your trash secured in your closed garage until the morning of trash collection. Raccoons are rarely a problem if we don't provide them with these opportunities. It's such a small inconvenience to clean up spilled garbage occasionally, compared to the heartbreak of a tortured animal.

This spring, just like last year, a neighbourhood raccoon decided to set up her den under my front deck. A few weeks ago, we began hearing the familiar "chirrup" sounds of young raccoons from beneath the boards. I quite enjoyed knowing that she felt safe enough around here to raise her young just beneath all of our comings and goings. It wasn't long before we regularly began seeing who we believed was the mother, boldly feeding her perpetual hunger with seeds from our back yard bird feeder. She needed to nourish her body in order to nurse her demanding babies.


One windy, rainy Sunday night, I became aware of the babies' chatter, heard from two floors above them, through my closed window. This was unusual and I became a bit concerned for their welfare. I continued to hear them through the night and into the next day, but less often, so my worries ebbed some.

On the Tuesday, I discussed it with my next-door neighbour and good friend, Caroline. Shortly before the time that I began hearing their cries, Caroline and her daughter had heard what they thought was a raccoon in a bitter fight, and it sounded like the raccoon was on the losing end of that battle. Thoughts of orphaned raccoons crept into both of our minds.


On Wednesday, Caroline informed me that she saw two raccoon kits venture out from beneath my deck the night before. This too, is an unusual sight because at that age (about 5 or 6 weeks) they should only accompany their mother on excursions. They looked weak and bewildered, and she and her husband collected them, put them in a cage with water, and covered them with a blanket overnight. By morning, she felt certain that she could still hear the sounds of a third kit from beneath my deck, so she was conflicted as to whether to turn these two over to a wildlife service, or return them to their sibling so that they could help keep it warm. She opted for the latter.

We have another neighbour, Nicky who lives about three minutes away, and who we knew to be a reputable and trusted care-giver of wild animals. I phoned her to ask her for advice. She and her equally-experienced adult daughter, Sarah came by within the hour, to try to assess the age of the kits. Of course, the babies were quiet for the first time in three days and they left none the wiser. Nicky suggested putting a dusting of flour down near the entrance to their den, to try to determine if adult paw prints appear, or just those of the young, and to call her anytime we might next see one of the babies.


Later that night, Jeffrey and I resumed hearing the sounds of babies in distress from under the deck and we tried calling to them, to encourage them to come out. After a while, I went back indoors but shortly afterward, I heard my son call to me from outside. "Mom, come see."

I opened the door to see him kneeling on my deck, with a lovely, little raccoon kit nestled in his arms.



To be continued here...

60 comments:

Moi said...

Phew!!! I am yet to be "raccooned" ever!!!Should I consider myself lucky!!!! :)

Hilary I laughed out loud @ the "porpoise" comment of yours on my blog.......thanks for the laughs :)

the Bag Lady said...

Oh no - tell us the rest soon, 'kay?! Poor little babies.....

scarlethue said...

I love to read stories from other animal lovers. Raccoons are such intelligent, beautiful animals! They've been stealing our birdseed lately too, although I've yet to see one in person, I know from the scratch marks on the deck that's what it is. I wish so much I could see one!

Woman in a Window said...

Wow. You (and your family) are a rare breed.

You do have to be careful around Raccoon scat though, you do know that, right? It can carry really nasty things.

Breeze said...

They are cute. Better raccoons then skunks although they can be mischevious little things.

Aren't they cute. Look at those eyes.

Breeze

TSannie said...

I love happy endings - and I'm pretty sure this is going to be!

Indrani said...

I wonder what is next in part two.
The close shot of Racoon's nose, it is terrific. How close were you?

Pouty Lips said...

I know this will have a happy ending. It sounds like you and your neighbors are rallying.

ds said...

I'm amazed that the kit allowed your son to hold it, and that you were able to get such close pictures. Raccoons are beautiful and intelligent, but so nasty when cornered. We had one with four kits down the chimney one year...no animal loving neighbors about, so phoned animal rescue & made them PROMISE they would release all together in the wild (practically made him sign an affadavit). I so hope he did as he said. Now there's a wire thingy atop the chimney so no others get "lost" in there. I hope your story turns out well; can't wait for the next installment!

Georgie K. Buttons said...

Beautiful little things.

Susan said...

I love that you and your neighbors are working together to take care of those babies.

There'll be peace when you are done... (I hope you have that stuck in your head too!)

Frank Baron said...

I know how it ends and I still can't wait to read it!! :)

Meagan said...

You and Raccoons... I think they're drawn to you.

Jay said...

I think it's lovely that you went to so much trouble for these babies.

Maggie May said...

I was riveted reading this. Can't wait for the next episode.
As we get no raccoons in this country except in the zoo, I can't believe that they cause so much chaos.I feel sorry for the kits.

(*My fox* is now taking eggs to other neighbours' gardens and is seen very frequently now running around and crossing the busy streets.)

UmmFarouq said...

A big chuckle at "carrion (my wayward son)."

So cute, these little creatures are. They have a purpose in this ecosystem we humans keep trying to make "ours." It's not. There is a plan.

Can't wait to hear more.

Protege said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely; I was seriously disappointed when it ended with "To be continued soon...".;))
I love the way you write and the pictures of the details of the little animal(s) are just so cute.
I so can not wait to read part 2.;))

Michele said...

Oooo... what a great post, I'm eagerly awaiting for the second chapter which hopefully will be a good ending!
What a cute little fella...

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

I love racoons and cannot WAIT to hear the rest of the story.

Donalyn said...

Oh my - can't wait to hear the rest! My husband & his sibs had several pet raccoons as a kid. Extremely mischevious, but amzingly smart and funny.

Mental P Mama said...

So sweety and innocent. I cannot wait for the rest. By the way--carrion my wayward son? Sheer genius.

kcinnova said...

Carrion (my wayward son) *tee hee*

You, my friend, are an A+ animal lover. That mama must have known you would help her care for her kits.

Leah J. Utas said...

Very cute, and good for you for helping the helpless. Looking forward to the rest of the story.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Awwhhh! Can hardly wait for the next installment.

Bubblewench said...

I'm so glad you are animal lovers! Hope the racoons are ok. Can't wait to read the next part.

Daryl said...

Oh this is so much better than SoBe ...

Cheffie-Mom said...

Precious pictures. I love the one of the little raccoon hand - oh, I mean paw. (:

Reb said...

Great photos Hilary! They are very cute and I can't wait for the rest of the story.

Redbush said...

OOOh! What a cutie! You'll have to let us know of the results on this one. You definitely have a raccoon attraction at your house! It sounds like they know where their food lies!

imbeingheldhostage said...

oh no! I know you're probably suffering typer's cramp right now, but I'm hooked-- I need to know about those little babies...

poor little guys.

SandyCarlson said...

I love these critters, and I enjoyed this story of your interaction with them. I remember dealing with them when I was a kid. They just outsmarted us over and over again. Hunger will do that to a being.

jinksy said...

How sweet is that little face?!

JC said...

I'm so glad y'all figured out what was going on with the babies before it was too late.

Chessa! said...

I don't have any good experiences with raccoons unfortunately. In fact, even though they look so sweet and endearing in your photos I have a phobia of raccoons...and don't even get me started on city squirrels.. yikes. I know it's completely irrational but I can't help it...

lakeviewer said...

Babies left unattended, oh my. Racoons are quite aggressive and bold. Can you call the animal control?

Lover of Life said...

This story is sooo sweet. You are a good and kind person, and I am so glad to have found your blog!

Looking forward to next installment...

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

That's a little cutie pie, poor little babies...I've seen enough of them in my life, and dealt with orphans of various ages (the moms usually get hit by cars), and as tempting as it is for me to want to mother all the wild critters I pick up along the way, (I'm good with baby bunnies) thankfully, there's a good wildlife rehabilitator not too far away to take the wee babies off our hands! Thanks for sharing!

nikina said...

I just stumbled across your blog and couldn't stop reading :) those pics are adorable :) Can't wait to read the rest...if I may come back :)

Angie Ledbetter said...

Oh, that wee hand! So glad you were there with your camera aimed.

PS A bungy cord across the top of the garbage can, hooked on the handles works great.

Angie said...

They are beautiful wildlings---your photos are awesome--I'm a bleeding heart for all of the wild creatures; I'm so glad you are there for those.

Sandra said...

I'm looking forward to the rest of this story!

Raccoon's are cute, but I do remember, when my sister lived in a dense woods popular with raccoons, they can be very aggressive about wanting to come into the house to visit!

Suldog said...

"They eat carrion (my wayward son)..."

Oh, God. You've been hanging around my place far too much.

(Wish I'd come up with that one. I will later :-) )

photowannabe said...

Fantastic closeups and I love reading about your tender heart and the racoon escapades. I'm sure this one will turn out with less damage to your bedroom. Can't wait for "the rest of the story".

Dianne said...

you're such good souls! thanks for taking care of the kiddies. I hope things look up for them and get more restful for you

and your neighbors and friends all sound so wonderful too

Thumbelina said...

Awwww! I remember the post(s) last year and I am so glad she came back to you... but where is she now? What about her babies?

Please don't make us wait too long for part 2.

Hilary said...

I was sure I had answered most of these comments in one shot - can even remember what I wrote, but for some reason it has never appeared.. so here I go again.

• Moi, I guess you're lucky not to have any of the raccoon woes. Glad I could make you laugh. :)

• Okay, Baggie. Real soon now. :)

• Scarlethue, they are indeed intelligent and beautiful. I hope you get to see one soon too. :)

• WIAW, yes, I'm aware of the scat issues but that's mostly a concern of ingestion. We washed well after handling them. Thanks for the visit and for your very kind concern. :)

• Breeze skunks are adorable too, but if I was to handle a frightened animal, I'd prefer the raccoon too. ;)

• Tsannie - it's kind of half and half but stay tuned. :)

• Indrani, we were pretty much nose to nose. Thanks for the kind words. :)

• Pouty, some of my neighbours were great. Stay tuned. Part two is coming up soon. :)

• DS a mother raccoon when protecting her young can be VERY nasty. These babies were only about 5 or 6 weeks old, scared and hungry. They were pretty compliant for wild critters. Stay tuned. You'll read and see more. :)

• Aren't they, Georgie? :)

• Susan, it sure is a lot quieter around here now.. and the peace of mind is decent too. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Frank, oh you can too so! ;)

• And I to them, Meagan. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Thanks for the kind words, Jay. They were very demanding. :)

• Maggie, they sure can cause a lot of problems, but they give a lot of enjoyment too. Much like your puzzling fox. That's so cool. :)

• I totally agree, UmmFarouq. And I'm glad you got my carrion pun. ;)

• Thanks so kindly, Protege. I won't keep you waiting much longer now. :)

• Thanks, Michele. It's coming up real soon now. They are cute, eh? :)

• Gary, I love them too. Soon soon! :)

• Welcome, Donalyn. I'm not so sure I'd like a pet raccoon but agree that they are quite the characters. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks, MPM. I'm glad you caught that. ;) Yes they are so sweet.. stay tuned for lots more of that.

• KC, I just hope somehow she knows that some of her wee ones will be OK. Thanks for the kind words. :)

• Thanks kindly, Leah. I hope you'll enjoy part two. :)

• Soon, Pat. :)

• Thanks for stopping by, Bubblewench. I won't keep you waiting much longer.

• Daryl, better raccoons under the deck than bugs in your bed? I won't hesitate to agree on that. ;)

• Cheffie, they are very hand-like, aren't they? :)

• Thanks very much, Reb. That post will be up very soon now. :)

• Redbush, they sure do know the neighbourhood and where to find what they need. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• IBHH, I won't keep you in suspense for too much longer. I'll have part two up within the hour. :)

• Sandy, their instinct for survival, tenacity and intelligence are quite the match for us lowly humans. They're great critters. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Jinsky, more sweetness coming up real soon. :)

• Not entirely true, JC.. but mostly. Thanks for the visit. :)

• Chessa, sorry to hear that raccoons and squirrels make you uneasy. I hope reading the post didn't trigger any bad feelings. Thanks for stopping by. You might want to skip the next one. ;)

• Lakeviewer, at 6 weeks of age, they're not difficult to handle. Stay tuned and you'll see what I mean. :)

• Thanks for the very kind words, L of L. I'm glad you found my blog too.. and I yours. I won't keep you waiting long now. :)

• Welcome, Laura and thanks very kindly for your comment. You're very lucky to have those resources nearby, and your local critters are very lucky that you stop and help. Thanks for dropping by. :)

• Welcome, Nikina and thanks so much for your kind comments. I hope you'll return soon and often. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Great tip, Angie L. but I'd have to wonder what would happen to the bungee cord once the trash has been dumped.

• Welcome, Angie #2 ;) and thanks very much for the kind words. I hope you'll be back soon and often. :)

• Sandra, they can indeed be persistent and bold, particularly when hungry. In this case, I knew the mother was no longer around. Stay tuned to read the rest of the story. And thanks always for stopping by. :)

• Suldog, I'm glad you appreciated that one. I was born into a family of punsters, and sometimes I just can't resist. You may of course borrow it any time. ;)

• Far less damage, Sue. Thanks very much for your kind words. Part two is coming up real soon. :)

• They're good people, Dianne. And things are much better, thanks. Stay tuned and I'll have that next post up very soon. Thanks so much for stopping by. :)

• Thumbelina, I'm not entirely sure if this is the same mother as last year. I thought she was but others think she might be one of the young from last year. In any event, she's gone. I'll be posting part two within the hour, so you don't have too much longer to wait. :)

Lulda Casadaga said...

I shouldn't stay away so long...:)

Great pics of the critter. At least I know they are in good hands with you and your caring neighbors. Now, whatever critters are under my house play Russian roulette with my 2 dogs! :D I can't say they will all survive, but I hope they do!

Tink said...

I just got chill bumps!

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Lulda. Benny and neighbourhood dogs have been sniffing around my deck for the past year now. It probably would have been a matter of time until one of them met up with a raccoon. I'm just as glad that risk is gone. Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Aww, Tink. :)

Jillian & Marley said...

THIS IS ADORABLE!! love your story. you're amazing

ps. check out our blog! :)

Hilary said...

Thanks very much, J&M. I did! :)

CrazyCris said...

what a lovely tale! I popped in via Life in the Second Half and I now look forward to coming back to read the rest of the tale!

I've never seen a racoon in the wild, just heard them and dealt with the aftermath... We woke up one morning on a camping trip in the Rockies years ago to find that my parents hadn't put away the previous night's leftovers securely enough... no big problem, more a fun anecdote to share with friends here in Europe who've never had to deal with racoons ;o)

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Can't wait to hear more about them. We had a family that lived below our deck in Minnesota. We had a hot tub on the deck and when we would get in they would climb the oak tree next to the deck and look down at us. I always wondered what they thought about as they watched the two humans sitting in bubbling water below them....

Reya Mellicker said...

Meme free and tag free? What a great idea!

Awww the raccoons are so cute.

But ... in real life they scare me. They're SO big!!

nurturingwisdom said...

I found your site through "Life in the Second Half". I love your writing. I can't wait to find out what happened next.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Love this! Love racoons!!! I know they're pests, but just such beautiful animals...Great post! Fabulous pictures...On the run, my in-laws are visiting! But glad I swung by~Janine XO

Lydia said...

Wonderful! We have raccoons in our back lot and now have had ten years of babies. Last summer on one particularly hot night I was sitting at the computer with the window open (it faces the back area). I heard some scratching noises and looked out to see five young raccoons peering over the roof at me.
Now, we do have a major problem and I wonder if anyone can help. I've already asked for the advice of an arborist and he suggested capturing and removing the raccoons, which we consider a last resort.....Our three giant Sequoias, 87-year-old giants, are being ravaged by the raccoons. The thick bark is being peeled off in chunks as they climb the trees each night. We think they nest up there, as the arborist found raccoon poop up on a large limb. The trunks of our trees are becoming scored by the clawing. We tacked wooden fencing material on one part to see if they'd use it to climb on but it doesn't appear to have worked; they moved to a different area to make a new "highway."
Any advice would be greatly welcome! I'll check back.

Sydney said...

i completely support your encouraging people to NOT destroy raccoons and just do a few things, like securing their trash can lids better or picking up the spills.

I do a lot of wildlife rehab and people call about raccoons and opossums all the time.

I invite you to visit my blog (i have three, but the one that is all about animals and nature is:

http://naturegirrrl.blogspot.com/

I post there just about every day.

Hilary said...

• Thanks, Cris. Raccoons waste no time in helping themselves to what we forget to secure. They're quite comical when they're not so annoying. ;) Thanks for stopping by. :)

• Thanks, Kathy. Our habits must appear so strange to wild critters. They were probably thinking you had one heck of a basin for washing their food. Thanks so much for the visit. :)

• Thanks, Reya. They can be intimidating when full-grown because city raccoons are so used to people around them, and they know them as a source of food. They will generally run off (temporarily) if you chase them down, and won't likely become aggressive unless cornered or kept from their young. They're wonderful creatures. Thanks so much for the visit. :)

• Thanks so much for the kind words, Nurturing Wisdom. Much appreciated. And thank you too, Lover of Life for sending so many fine people my way. :)

• Thanks kindly, Janine. I'm glad you dropped by and enjoyed the post. I hope you'll be back soon. Enjoy the visit with your in-laws! :)

• Hi, Lydia. I left this response on your blog too, just in case the wait was too long for my reply here.

I have no experience trying to keep a raccoon from climbing my trees except for a brief period of trying to deter them from helping themselves to the bird feeder.

I did Google when I read your predicament though, and found this page which might be helpful if you scroll down to figures 7 and the accompanying text. If you try this, make sure you trim low-hanging branches so that they can't gain access around the barrier that way. Also, first be sure that there isn't one nesting in any possible hollows. Best to wait until autumn when the young are old enough to come and go on their own.

They can be very destructive and I sure hope your tree can be saved. Good luck. :)

Hilary said...

• Oops sorry, Sydney. I missed your comment when I was replying to the other. Thanks so much for your very kind words. It's so nice to know that you're doing wildlife rehab for these displaced critters. Thank you for that. I'll check your blog out very soon. Thanks for the link. :)