Heidi Chronicles: Spring Fling 11

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

This is the ongoing story of Heidi and friends, raccoons and the occasional opossum who frequent my backyard wildlife buffet. It is now mid spring 2011. The new moms are all either gestating or nursing now. They will all be famished now, a hunger which will only increase in the weeks to come as each mom's growing kits demand ever more of her body's resources. This is the time of year when it's a real challenge for them to locate and consume enough food to keep their kits and themselves healthy.

Prior Thread: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1149742/
Original Thread in Series: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/603944/


The photo below is of one of the kits, probably Petey (based on recent revelations) looking in the bottom of the patio door. And no, Debbie, please don't help me clean that one up. ;-)
I went with a small footprint just in case. (grin)

Post edited to fill in the Heidi threads' 'cover' template complete with links to prior & original threads

This message was edited Mar 22, 2012 7:34 AM

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Lyndonville, NY

ROFLMBO, I was JUST about to ask!!!

Dang! But that sure is a cute pic

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

;-)

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Great photo; looks almost like a pet waiting to be let back into the house. Horrible thought, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind at all...

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

iI was wondering if anyone knows if Coons will eat corn? you know the stuff they bag for squirrels, and put the squirrel photo on the bag.. it has BOS and peanuts... well, the squirrels wont eat the corn *sigh* and i dont have any kibble for the coons. I've been leaving out my chx carcases -- but last night i didnt - thinking with the COLD and fresh blanket of heavy snow -- that they would stay in their nests... nope, i saw tracks where i usually leave the bones....

So -- i have to rummage to find food for the buggers.... and that is all i have in abundance. I do ahve a few eggs i can put out. i do believe it's a single raccoon.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Terese,

From my experience, raccoons will plunder through it and pick out the BOS & nuts. They can eat the corn, but it's not their favorite thing (fairly low on the list unless fresh corn). They will eat it, and pretty much anything, if they are sufficiently hungry, so putting some out would at least reassure you that she/they are not starving (either way).

I had the EXACT same situation. The squirrels were eating my bird food, so I bought them their own 'special' food. The label makes it seem as though corn is their favorite (squirrels) - NOT! Mine would never touch it either, esp as long as there were other foods nearby, from BOS to acorns (provided by nature). What the corn WILL attract is deer if any are in the area, along with any feral hogs (guess you probably don't have those up there. Want me to send you a few piglets?), rats, mice, and probably a number of other small [and potentially annoying] creatures endemic to your area (but not here). Thus you might want to be careful about leaving corn out. The corn I put out caused wild deer to jump the fence into the back yard. The good news is they finished off the corn before leaving.

Of course, the raccoons will love the eggs, even old eggs are appreciated. Did you read my list above of things for the 'pot luck'? Raccoons are hungry right now due to rearing young and possibly even nursing. Mine ate everything I put out from bread (buns) to suet blocks, flavored oatmeal, you name it. I've found they often like canned/refrigerated biscuits (baked, of course), various meat scraps, tuna, and will eat bread and rolls of pretty much any kind, apples/bananas if hungry (not favs but never left behind at my house esp this time of year). They like cereal, esp apple jacks types, cookies, hummer nectar, koolaid, syrup, and even sugar flavored water. Heidi who only eats a few things loves nectar, syrup, and sugar water. Oh, and any kind of jelly/preserves (alone or on bread), honey, anything along those lines. Peanut butter on bread, frosting on bread or crackers. Hope some of these ideas help.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

I scanned that post - did see the suet cakes though.... since it's just me up here, food has been limited to homemade soup, rotisserie chickens and salads. oh, bacon and eggs for breakfast. i also have cottage cheese. and the cupboards were bare when i got here, so not even old crackers.

with the snow we got last night, and the HUGE hill out of my drive... i'm staying put until enough melts that i can get up the hill to go shopping.
I guess with what i have ... i'll share with her for about a day or two til i can get out.

i have kefir tooo.... bet she'd like to drink some??

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

read the post... what a fabulous feast.

and i do have mice, as long as they stay out side, that is fine, they do eat the corn... last year i even picked up with the squirrels tossed a side and piled it in the opening 'hole' they created. do dont think much goes to waste around here in the forest. and thankfully -- I do get deer in my yard, as i'm more in the interior of the park.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Terese,

It's SO hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that you are snowed in (so to speak). Where are you anyhow? Siberia (rhetorical question). It's 90F here today. I figured snow was over for everyone except maybe Antarctica. Heck, it was 70F here at midnight last night. Yep, we are rapidly heading for heat stroke territory - and there you are with a blanket of snow. Wow. Such diversity.

As for the raccoons, remember, they are omnivores. Like us, they have their likes and dislikes, but if they are hungry enough they will eat just about anything. I would put out the squirrel mix for her. If you want to do more, consider putting a small bit of whatever else you can spare - until you find out if she eats it. If she doesn't eat all of the food you put out, no matter what it is, that will tell you that she is not starving. Either way, it's a win-win so long as you don't put out (and possibly waste) a lot of something you would have eaten.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

this was last night.... it was almost blizzard like conditions yesterday.... sleet, snow, thunder, & lightening...

i'm in Lake Delton... about 45 miles nw of Madison, WI.

it's melting fast.. .should hopefully all be gone tomorrow when it's 49 and sunny. they are saying 60 by sunday.

I'll put out some nice dishes for her/him tonight. one night last week, i get her a halfa chx carcass - she ate half, and the other half was gone the next day.

Thumbnail by tcs1366
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

lol, Terese,

That snow looks good from here. It's already getting a bit too hot here in the middle of the day. Mornings and evenings are still nice, but that won't last long either. It's still hard for me to image that there is snow so close.

Chicken is pretty popular here, not on the absolute top list with my group but quite popular, none the less. I gave them a few leg bones just last night, and while Heidi wouldn't have any part of it, the yearlings argued and bickered and had a shoving match over them.

Dover AFB, DE(Zone 7a)

It is getting into the low 60's most days here. It has been warming up like this for 3 weeks, which is not usual: it usually changes from winter to summer with no pause for spring. The locals are warning that it is going to be a brutal summer and to enjoy this rare spring.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Frankly, ladies, a blizzard and 90 degrees sound equally atrocious at the end of April! My condolences to both of you; afraid I'm very much a temperate climate sort.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

the dish i left out last night is empty... saw some egg shell on the ground... i left 2 brown eggs. saw cute little feet prints on the back deck. i know she always comes up there -- and thankfully i've had no destruction from any coons.... many in the Park talk about how destructive they are. guess i've been lucky.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

The worst mine usually do, and you know I've had a bunch of them in my yard for hours at a time for years, is dig holes in the yard and 'throw' their toys all over the place. The digging can get a bit annoying at its worst. I see it almost exclusively this time of year when I have a huge gang of new, yearling moms hanging around often for hours waiting to be fed. My guess is they have too much energy and get board just sitting around like that, so they start looking for something to do to entertain themselves - just like humans sitting around a Dr's office. I guess maybe I need to put a stack of old magazines out there, stuff like Golf Digest, Architectural Digest, and other, largely unreadable things I see around my Drs office.

Otherwise, they don't tend to mess with anything. I have a theory - and it's strictly a musing at this time - that they are less inclined to damage your place if you feed them. They are smart critters. I'm thinking they know this is my den and are smart enough to know the likely consequences of messing with my den. Like Kitty, they know it's not nice to upset the one who feeds you.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

FYI, Heidi was a no-show at dinner last night. This makes me think she may have been off somewhere delivering babies...

...and the 2011 season begins...

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Oh no, now you won't see Heidi for a couple of months.

I have a question. Something's been digging in my front yard - this hasn't happened before. I laid a layer of leaves, last fall & something's turning them over & digging a bit. This dirt is almost impossible to dig, because there are pine roots running through the bed. I added some earthworm eggs to this bed, last spring, and found some wonderful big juicy earthworms, when I was transplanting last weekend. The earthworms that grow in my compost don't seem to stay in the beds, when I add the compost, but I digress... Anyway, do you think that raccoons are digging for the earthworms? They've never done much digging in my other beds, except for occasionally pulling newly transplanted plants out. If that's the explanation, I guess the earthworm eggs contain gourmet earthworms...

Lyndonville, NY


I am thinking armadillo or anteater type....do they have them out there? Wondering if opossums eat the worms/grubs also.

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

We don't have armadillos or anteaters, but we do have opossums, very occasionally. We definitely have a skunk family & raccoons that visit regularly.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

June,

You weather right now sounds pretty good. Glad you are able to enjoy some nice weather even if only for a short time.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Liz,

I never had any problem with the raccoons digging until recently when I started having large numbers of 'teen' moms who are all having to hang around, sometimes for hours, crammed into a small area while waiting for dinner. They appear to be 'playing' more so than actually looking for food. I think they are just bored and looking for something to do while waiting.

Unless they are tired and resting/sleeping, raccoons otherwise seem a bit fidgety, especially the yearlings who are in that region between kids and adults and have too much energy still. They remind me of that person, I figure most people have known at least one, who comes to your office or home and has to fidget with everything while they talk with you. You know, the people you find yourself constantly taking things from as though they were toddlers.

Such people are constantly and mindlessly picking things up from your desk or end tables and then turning and twisting them every which way while talking, so you have to constantly take thing from them to guard valuable items from breakage. I usually look around for something they can play with safely, something they can't break or something I don't mind if they break and put that in their hands instead of the favorite nick-knack they are currently twisting this way and that. Taking things away from them doesn't work as they will just pick up something else. They can't help themselves.

Raccoons are exactly like those people. They are constantly messing with something, the young ones at least. Heidi, being older and more mature, is able to sit patiently and 'behave' herself, but the yearlings are not. They will play with any toys I put out, twisting things this way and that exactly like the people described above (who undoubtedly don't realize they are behaving like yearling raccoons).

When I left my kitchen compost pail out there by the composter years ago, the then yearling Dennis would spend an hour or more sticking her hands/arms through the air holes at the top and then feeling around in the dark to try to pull the yucky, partially decomposed vegetable scraps out of the pail. She didn't want to EAT the decomposing collard scraps. She just wanted to PLAY with them by enjoying the process of feeling around for them.

Remember those discussions we had years ago, led at the time by Ruth, discussions about how raccoons have this incredibly acute tactile sense and delight in amusing it? This is SO true. It doesn't matter whether they are feeling around on the bottom of the wading pool for grapes and kibble or manipulating various toys or feeling around in the dark for wet collards or digging in the dirt, it's all about the joy of the tactile feel of things - along with their total inability to sit still and do nothing.

All that said, my real point (because no one digresses better than I do), is that while they have been doing a bit of digging lately, they only seem to do it when they are held captive for hours, if not literally then figuratively (because they have to wait in that area for dinner - and they, or the young ones at least, are not good at sitting quietly for that long) I doubt they would be inclined to hang around in someone's yard digging that way otherwise though, not 'play-digging' as these are.

The other type of 'digging' that I see in my yard is one that I have seen pretty much since I moved here. I'm not sure if this is the work of raccoons or opossums, since I have both and the evidence fits both. Whichever animal is responsible for this doesn't actually dig a hole so much as they make cone shaped depressions in the ground with their snout. I think the cone shape fits opossums better but am not entirely certain. In this case, the offender is looking for food, most likely grubs. While walking about my backyard garden some days in mid to late summer I will find numerous such cone shaped depressions in the ground all over the garden, the grass pushed aside by whatever animal pierces the earth in this way. In this case they don't really harm anything, not even the grass.

I don't know what animal might be digging in your yard. If there are lots of earth worms close to the surface, it seems possible that either raccoons or opossums could be digging for them. I don't know about skunks as we don't seem to have them in this area.

Can you tell anything from the evidence left behind? Do they dig up a large, shallow area? Or dig smaller, deeper holes? When the raccoons here dig holes in the buffet area (and now around the patio), the holes are relatively small, roundish holes ranging from 4 to 9in in diameter and anywhere from 2 to 5 or so in deep. Most are closer to the low end of the ranges, so like 4inD x 2in deep. They (the ones here) always dig distinct, roundish holes. They never dig a trough or a larger rectangular or irregular area, nothing but round holes which are deepest in the center, holes that are shaped like the bottom 1/2 of a sphere.

Also, they don't dig really deep holes. The areas where they dig usually end up flat again after a few rains, so other than temporary damage to the grass, they don't otherwise cause much of a problem out there.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Ruth,

What's the temp like there? Maybe we all need to move to the NC mountains. ;-)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Liz,

You don't have feral pigs over there (yet), do you? They dig up irregular swathes of ground leaving it looking as though it had been plowed under. Other options would include dogs and cats. The latter dig up areas in search of a 'litter box'. Another thing that I've found in my yard is that the raccoons don't dig in difficult areas, not hear that is. They only seem to dig in soft dirt that is easily churned up. They don't ever dig around tree trunks or in areas with firmly rooted plants or grass.

Leesburg, FL(Zone 9b)

at the store today, i bought some kitty kibble. small bag... 3.5 pounds... that will last a lil while, since i think there is only one visitor. I saved an egg too. Ug...and i still have chx carcass. hope she's not tired of bones yet.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Terese,

That sounds like a wonderful menu. With the cold weather there (and snow if you still have it), I'm sure she will be thrilled to get the chicken carcass, esp since that's usually not just bones but also lots of flavorful goodies like cartilage, bits of meat, and even possibly some organ meat if the back is included in section of the carcass that remains. The back bones usually conceal some kidney and even liver. I think that part/bone usually ends up attached to the breast in a cut up chicken. (Kitty loves the organ meat hidden in that area. While we humans value the muscle meat most highly, most wild animals consider the organs to be the most prized part of the animal.)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Liz,

Although Heidi was gone for nearly 6wks last year, all other years she was only gone somewhere between 2 days and 2wks max. I finally decided it was likely the feeding time that caused her to stay away so long last year - or that's my theory anyhow. Once she has the kits, she likes to eat at sundown or even slightly before. Not sure why. Last year after 6wks I found her one evening when I went out right after dark to see if she was coming earlier, and there she was. She had probably been here all along, just earlier - or, at least, that's the theory for now.

Heidi wasn't out there tonight either. Tomorrow, I'm off work. I'll try to remember to go out there before dark to see if she shows up.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I think once Heidi starts nursing the kits, she is hungry early. She goes out to look for something to eat early. Not wanting to leave the kits alone so long, she goes back to them instead of waiting around here for hours (until I finally show up). I figure she probably finds something quick to nibble on, not enough to fill her up, but maybe enough to get by for a short while, and then goes back as soon as possible to protect the kits. That's my current theory.

She probably won't be back tomorrow, since that's only 3 days, but I'll try to get out there just in case.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Cheryl, we've had a couple days of temps near 80, but the nights are much cooler - usually low 60's or high 50's. Today was rainy and didn't get past the 60's even in daytime. One of the things I love about the climate here is the cooler nights, esp. in summer; one of the things I hate is the frequent, seemingly endless high winds. Oh, and the spring monsoons... too much rain may be good for the garden, but not for the mood.

Lizzipa, possums, skunks and raccoons will all dig for worms or grubs, especially in this season when there's lots of activity just below the soil surface.

Sounds like Heidi may well be off delivering her kits. Here's hoping she returns safely and soon, and no doubt very very hungry! Cheryl, I suspect that another reason she's reluctant to leave newborns alone after dark for long is the predators unique to the night hours. Think owls primarily.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Ruth,

It sounds very nice there. I would happily trade the heat here for a bit of wind. As for rain, not sure how yours compares with ours. We get some 52in/yr here and often have long, dreary, rainy periods in winter.

You know, that was my original theory as to why Heidi was determined to get back to the newborns so early. Don't know if you recall when I posited the theory about fear of predators. I wasn't sure which predator though. At one time I even considered maybe gators. Eventually, I talked myself out of the predator theory altogether, being largely unable to think of an answer to 'which predator'. Owls seem like a very good answer to that question. I like it. We do have owls back there, too. Many times I've heard them back there hooting in the early evening hours when I'm out with the raccoons.

Another possibility in addition to owls might be foxes. While I've not seen one at my house, I know that we have them, and I have seen several here and there about the area, both day and night. I ran upon one in the forest once while riding my horse, my human scent no doubt masked by that of the horse allowing me to get so close to the fox before it bolted.

On another occasional I saw one out shopping an empty parking lot outside a nightclub (after it closed) around 2AM, looking for food in the bits of trash humans had left behind. A US gov site lists the fox among the top predators of raccoons. I would think kits would probably be the only raccoons a fox could overtake. So that might be another for the list of predators she's afraid of when leaving the kits alone, although unlike owls, I guess foxes would be a problem even in daylight hours. That takes us full circle back to owls. 'Owls' it is. I think you've got it.

The one thing I know for sure is that she is most determined to eat early those 1st few weeks in order to get back to the infants as quickly as possible and before dark. In the past it has always been during this period that I have had the otherwise impossible opportunity to get videos of her and the others, videos which I can only take in daylight. In the days and weeks immediately after giving birth, Heidi will come to eat well before sundown, an hour or more before, giving me ample opportunity to video her in good light. The others follow her lead in order to be there when the food is made available.

Once the babies are old enough to begin following her from the den, she will switch back to arriving later in the night, apparently not wanting the kits out in daylight, thus the reason I almost never get the opportunity to video them. If you recall, I did manage to get that opportunity just once, and then only with the kits in a nearby tree in the forest edge not actually at the buffet. Even then it was so near sundown, literally 2min before sundown, that I was only able to catch the one quick 2min video of the kits in the 'Heidi tree' before it became too dark for them to show up well (as seen in the 2nd, almost black, video taken immediately after).

Every year it's the same, when the kits are born, the raccoons immediately switch to coming to eat in daylight, and, if I'm savvy enough, during this time I get to take rare video footage of them. Some 2 months later when Heidi decides the kits are old enough to venture near the buffet, she and the others will cease to arrive before dark, that brief video window into their lives closed completely for another year.

In fact, it was because of Heidi's determination to eat early and get back to the kits before dark that she and I had the encounter which opened the door to everything written here. That fateful afternoon when she shocked me so by coming down the fence at my feet in daylight as I was walking about my garden, she had 5 young kits waiting for her back at the den, and she was on a mission to find food for herself so that she could get back to them. That one aspect of her behavior is what made everything else possible.

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Thanks for all the feedback about the digging in my yard. I really don't mind the digging, since the dirt is so awful & it means the compost I put down, at the end of the month, may have a chance to integrate better. I just don't want to lose all those big juicy earthworms!

Cheryl, do you get home from work early enough that you might have some Heidi encounters, while her kits are young?

Lyndonville, NY

Skunks are big diggers also...I believe they dig grubs/worms also.

Lyndonville, NY

I think we have our answer....

Read the last sentance

Skunks are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material and changing their diet as the seasons change. They eat insects and larvae, earthworms, small rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles, and eggs. They also commonly eat berries, roots, leaves, grasses, fungi, and nuts.

In settled areas, skunks also seek human garbage. Less often, skunks may be found acting as scavengers, eating bird and rodent carcasses left by cats or other animals. Pet owners, particularly those of cats, may experience a skunk finding its way into a garage or basement where pet food is kept. Skunks commonly dig holes in lawns in search of grubs and worms.

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Debbie,

You may be right. We always have skunks this time of year, when the mama brings her babies. They used to eat the cat food on the porch, but we've recently stopped putting food out there, because our semi-feral cat isn't well enough to spend much time outside anymore. Also, In addition to worms, we've recently found salmanders in this bed. Thanks for your research!

Liz

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Liz, most well-tended garden beds have a sufficient earthworm population that the predators don't make a dent. The predators far prefer grubs; earthworms are at best a second or third choice. And heaven help those poor salamanders; all the mentioned predators will happily munch on them as well if they can catch them.

Cheryl, I too have heard that foxes are a big predator for raccoons. Actually I suspect it's unlikely they'd get newborns; while foxes excel at burrowing, I don't think climbing is their best skill and most raccoon nests are well above ground. Their more likely victims are the kits when first emerging from the nest, esp. if their mother is inattentive or less than gifted (a very possible reason why Rupert had no littermates, for example). I can't remember which poor lady was mother to the seemingly brain-damaged kit named Screech; I suspect that mother was tempted to ring the dinner bell for the local foxes. That story was a real testament to the instinctive demand to care for the young; Screech was really likely to get both his mother and himself killed. I could be way off-target, but owls seem to be the right size and have the best skill set to target raccoon nests up in the forest canopy. And owls are a lot more prevalent and widely-distributed than most people think; they are just so good at stealth hunting that they are rarely seen. We have a couple here, for example, that I hearing calling when I'm outdoors during the night. I don't know enough about them to identify species by call, and in six years here I've never caught a glimpse. I love listening to them, though, and since our most common nocturnal wildlife are small rodents, I'm very happy to have the owls in residence. I don't think they're one of the really big species because our neighbor's outdoor cat is always around here at night, looking for her midnight snack and breakfast when the birds arrive at our many feeders. The owls haven't taken her out yet, so they mustn't be the giants.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Sorry 'guys'. I lost my internet connection on Friday afternoon and have only now gotten back online. I went upstairs a few times to reboot the modem/hub but with minimal results. A time or two it came back but only for a few minutes before going out again. As I have no reason to suspect problems with my equipment (at least not at the moment), I suspect my carrier was having some problems.

I had other things to do and didn't want to waste a perfectly good weekend troubleshooting what would likely turn out to be carrier problems, so I just left it alone and accepted that the computer would be 'down' for a while.

It's good to be back online again. Hoping it's for good this time.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Every year when Heidi goes on maternity leave, the remaining group of yearlings becomes quite unruly and down right annoying making it all the more clear who is responsible for maintaining order out there. Last year they were so annoying that I even stopped feeding them except every now and then. I just didn't enjoy spending time with them w/o Heidi around to keep them straight.

They bicker and fight and carry on like a crowd of very bad teenagers looking for trouble. This year is no different, except that now the unruly mob is on my patio. Friday night I expressed my displeasure by not feeding them. I went to the door, turned on the light to check for Heidi. Not seeing her, I yelled at the kits to get them away from the door, and then turned the light off and left - w/o feeding them.

I hadn't really expected that to work, but Saturday evening they were actually out there waiting so quietly (and off the door) that I had to turn the light on even to see that they were there at all. Since they were behaving better, I fed them.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Speak of the angel - to paraphrase - guess who just showed up? Heidi. She's out there now. It rained heavily all weekend esp just before sundown, so I never got out there to look for her, plus, frankly I didn't expect her back this soon. Then just now when I turned on the light and looked out, there she was.

She looks fine, much better than she did in the past when returning after giving birth. Maybe she really does have a smaller litter this year. The one thing I can't quite make sense of though is that she has a few small spots on her back as though she might have been fighting - although the back seems an odd attack spot. They are in the area of the front shoulder and slightly back from that. There is one bare spot that is about the width of a quarter but more elongated, about 2in long. I don't see any sign of blood or open wound (with the naked eye and dim light), just looks like a spot where the fur has been pulled out. The other bare spots are much smaller, barely noticeable, some even pea sized, about 5 in all. Other than that she looks quite good although she seems to be moving slowly, not particularly energetic.

I gave her an extra bit of food vs the others. Then I went back inside and brought out an egg for her along with a small container of canned milk. I don't know if I've stressed this, but Heidi has reached the point now where I can walk up to her, bend down, and put the food on or beside her plate w/o her even backing away. She stopped eating momentarily as I reached in to put the egg beside her food but did not back away or get upset/fearful. I usually don't mention this because it has become so natural. I don't even think about it.

Heidi usually waits until the end of her meal to eat her egg. I know I've mentioned that a time or two. Tonight, however, she ate the egg as soon as I let go of it, while I was still standing there. I left after that so I don't know if she drank any of the milk.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

One possible character comes to mind if Heidi's scrapes are due to fighting - although the back still seems an odd place for them. I've been meaning to tell you that I recently learned the Petey has been out there with them all this time.

All along there had been this one youngster out there that was especially bold and also charismatic. He/she was just so cute in the positions he adopted while Shoving and Stealing for food. This particular youngster would also frequently try to challenge Heidi for her food - even when he had food of his own. He would get in there and eat beside her and try, unsuccessfully, to shove her away. She seemed to mostly ignore him. I wondered at the time why she allowed the one youngster to behave that way.

At the time, I didn't think of Petey. I figured he had already been sent away since the breeding and gestating had begun. So many days I wanted to mention the cute youngster out there, but l've just not had much time lately since I started work. I've been too challenged just getting accustomed to a 40hr work week - and stairs. Also, it was difficult even to articulate what was so adorable about him. Of course, at the time I thought he was one of the girls.

Then one night w/in the last 2wks, he started climbing (argh!) on the door when I would turn the light on and begin preparing the food. I could not get him down even when I flailed at the glass (and him) with an empty cat food bag (another sign of who it was). His identity became clear once he climbed high enough to get his lower belly above the bottom kick plate on the door. Standing at the door (inside) with the light on, I could see quite CLEARLY who it was and that I had been right about his gender. If that boy brings a couple kits to my feet in a month or so (allusion to Dennis), I shall have made one heck of a new and earth shattering revelation regarding raccoon gender and mothering. At any rate, seeing the goods right there before my eyes (literally), it all suddenly fit, the Dennis-like behavior, showing no fear, challenging Heidi, climbing on the door, and all of the adorable posturing. Petey is most definitely a male and was here at the time.

That occurred shortly before Heidi disappeared. I was surprised that he was still around but figured once she had her kits, he would be sent away for sure. It was the same with Trouble and some of the other young males - although some, like Trouble, returned again the following year when they reached full sexual maturity.

Petey is still quite small, smaller than the young females, and it's obvious he has not undergone the full adult male transformation. I've read that males often don't reach sexual maturity until age 2. Anyhow, even if the ladies decide to keep him around, so to speak, I figure the will run him off now that the babies are showing up on scene and then let him come back next year when he's grown.

I didn't notice him out there tonight but am not certain yet that he's gone. If Heidi did try to run him off after giving birth, I suspect it would have taken a fight.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I had a very nice treat tonight in addition to seeing Heidi return. While I was standing out there with them I suddenly realized that the raccoon 2 down from Heidi looked like Bast. I gave her a closer look, and sure enough there on her back hip was the semi-bare scar area from one of her old wounds. The hair had grown back in to mostly cover it, but there was a noticeable pattern there where scar tissue had left areas of thin hair where one could still see the underlying skin.

It was definitely Bast. As I watched her, I could recognize her behavior as well. I called out her name, and she raised her head from her meal and looked up at me. Yep, definitely Bast.

I was thrilled to see her again. In fact, just the other night I was thinking about her and wondering how she was doing. She doesn't look large/pregnant, so I gather she has already given birth. Fairly recently I had noticed that the numbers out there had increased dramatically and that many of the new raccoons appeared to be more mature, not yearlings. I recognized 2 others recently but don't recall their names at the moment as these were not ones with which I had had any close up interactions, not ones I had been close to. Well, at least not the one. I'm still trying to 'place' the other. So to recap, 'old' Bast is still with us and still doing well. She was even holding her own out there with the others jockeying for positions at the table.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

Great news! So glad Heidi is safely back and looking better than usual; that's time for a huge sigh of relief every year. And Bast; that's awesome! And the fact that she can hold her own with the juvenile delinquents and a crowd scene is excellent news. Putting her foot down with Petey could well be the cause of Heidi's missing fur.

Still chuckling at the image of kits being presented to you by a well-hung Petey. Can't say I've ever heard of a hermaphrodite raccoon, but guess anything is theoretically possible....

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