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This is the ongoing story of Heidi and friends, raccoons and the occasional opossum who frequent my backyard wildlife buffet. Everyone welcome, old, new, & previously unmet friends alike.
Normally, this would be the time when the magic of the new year begins, the time when the moms are all giving birth to their new families for the 2012 season, the time when appetites shift into overdrive to meet the needs of all those hungry kits. But this year in Heidi Land, things are amiss. The raccoons who would normally be assembling daily at the buffet for dinner are now missing. Favorite treats left out for them now lie uneaten even at this time when we know they should be hungrier than ever. Even the cats who know to stay clear of the raccoons, now lie about patio in the evenings napping casually. We last glimpsed Heidi in January when she was apparently cavorting with 2012 suitors. Having not seen her since, we are forced to wonder if something may have happened to her, especially at her advanced age. Above all we wonder, "where ARE the raccoons?" This mystery continues.
I haven't written since that night some months back when Heidi & her beau were out there making noise. Just haven't seen her or any of the raccoons since then. I've been super busy at work, as many of you may know.
A few weeks ago my landscaper came out over a course of several days during which he cleared the growth in the backyard, slaying virtually everything right down to the ground, everything except large trees, that is. Over the past few years, I haven't had the time or energy or freedom from pain necessary to do much work out there. As a result, it had become an overgrown mess, and I had become to afraid of the copperhead to even venture out there much at all. Thus I had him cut it all down. He did a great job, and I was thrilled with the results, but I did realize such a drastic change coupled with the loss of cover previously provided by all the shrubs and weeds alike would undoubtedly spook the raccoons for a day or two.
A day or so after he finished back there, I suddenly looked up and noticed that, OMG, he had cut every single branch along the forest edge, every branch that was hanging over the fence. He hadn't just cut them back to the fence as I usually do. He had cut each branch off flush with the tree that bore it, despite the fact that those trees were on the other side of the fence. It looked great. I was amazed at what he had managed to do back there, but my 2nd thought was, "how will the raccoon get over the fence now?"
The raccoons can't climb the horizontal fence boards. Despite those amazing claws the raccoons boast, for some reason they cannot get a decent hold on those particular boards. The boards appear to be to hard or something. It's as though their claws don't penetrate the wood, and thus they are unable to secure a decent grip. The wood is pressure treated. That may have something to do with it. I don't know. It's just something I observed over the years. The raccoon don't even try to climb the horizontal boards unless it's an emergency, like when fleeing from the dog or something. When they are forced to try to scale the fence, it never goes well. I've seen Heidi and several others get part way up the fence and then fall back to the ground. I don't recall ever seeing one succeed.
They can and do climb the vertical posts. Those they can climb with relative ease. Unfortunately, the vertical posts are only available on the inside of the fence. On the outside the posts are covered by the vertical boards which are nailed over them. As a result, while the raccoons can easily climb the posts to get out of the yard, they cannot do so to get into the yard. In the past they have always used the tree limbs to climb down to the top of the fence (from the outside) from which they would then climb down the post to get into the yard. They took the same route in reverse when leaving: climb the post on the inside and then grab a tree limb to climb up into the trees. With ALL of the tree limbs gone, I was a bit concerned about how they would manage to get over the fence. The only thing that gave me comfort was the knowledge that they are raccoons, and raccoons are not easily prevented from doing much of anything, as we all know. I figured, it just could not be that easy to keep them out of a yard - but I must admit that I was worried, especially since I hadn't seen any of them around in weeks.
Kitty had even taken up residence on the patio in recent weeks. She would sit out there for hours at night. It almost seemed as though she were laying claim to the patio and standing guard over it. Whereas she used to come and go via the front door only. Now she had begun to use the patio door even at night. The one thing I knew for sure was, as long as Kitty was hanging around out there on the patio so freely at night, it was a sure sign the raccoons were not coming around anymore, at least not lately. I raccoons had been coming to the patio nightly like they used to, Kitty would know that. She would smell their scent out there and would not be lying around on the patio chairs so calmly. That was for sure.
But where were the raccoons, and why were they not coming around to check for food? Had something happened to Heidi? Were the others perhaps afraid to come here w/o her? Were they still hanging back in fear of all the changes in the backyard, plus the smell of the men who had worked back there? Or were they really unable to get over the fence now that all of the branches were gone from the fence area? If something had happened to Heidi, might this mean that my time with the raccoons was over, that in her absence the others would never come back and hang out with me as the group had done in prior years? Could it actually be over?
About 4 days ago I put out a section of watermelon. The next day it was untouched. I could not believe it. Even more incredibly, it remained untouched the next day and the next. Now it was for certain. The raccoons were not coming into the yard at all - nor were the opossums. One of their coveted treats had sat untouched for 4 days. Now it was definite, but what did it mean? And where were the raccoons if not here?
I had begun to accept that, for whatever reason, the raccoons were just gone - and maybe not coming back. Kitty was using the back door for all her comings and goings. I had even worked out a communication with Kitty using Widget's door 'bells'.
You've likely seen the doggy door bells by now. It's a fairly simple contraption, something one could easily make in 30min or less using about $5 in materials or purchase at the 'ouchie' price of $20-30 and up, a contraption composed of a strap or straps with 'jingle' bells attached at the ends and sometimes also along the length of the strap(s). The strap(s) hang from a doorknob where they are designed to ring every time you open the door to let the dog out. In theory, the dog is supposed to associate the sound with going out and learn to ring the bells himself when he needs to go. After some 7yrs, Widget STILL hasn't made that association, but I don't think he's the sharpest tool in the shed. Then last week, one night before bed I stood at the back door shaking the bells by hand to see if Kitty, having surely heard those bells many times while coming and going through that door, would 'get' my message now. I was checking to see if she wanted out and was trying this new method of communicating that to her. With Kitty it worked better than I had dared imagine. Almost instantly, she came running from somewhere far away in another part of the house.
For those who may not know, Kitty is a semi-feral, female cat I adopted 2yrs ago. Ours is a rather unusual relationship. When it's her idea, she will come to me, take treats from my hand, and even permit me to pet her - a little. Otherwise, except for breakfast time, she will generally not come when called. It's as though she things it's a trick. This makes it more than a little challenging dealing with her. Lately, she comes inside, eats, and then hides out 'who knows where' in the house. This new 'bell' thing makes it easy for me to communicate to her, no matter where she is in the house, that I'm about to open the back door if she wants to go out.
After that the ringing of the bells became a nightly event. Each night before bed I would ring the bells to see if Kitty wanted out, and virtually every time she would come running. Ours was something of a perversion of the original design, but it worked. With the raccoons all absent from the area as evidenced by that still untouched watermelon rind, the 1st time or two I enacted this new method of calling Kitty to go outside, I even opened the patio door w/o even bothering to turn on a light inside or out to be sure just what might be out there. I just opened the door some 8in and watched as Kitty's dark shadow disappeared through the gap before closing it again.
I must admit though that holding the door open even a few minutes w/o turning on the patio light to be sure who or what was lurking there left me a bit uncomfortable. After all, in recent years on multiple occasions Heidi and some of the friendlier kits had stepped right up onto the kitchen floor looking for all the world like they would be happy to come on inside had I not quickly pushed the door closed again blocking their path. Just in case a friendly raccoon might be standing on the other side of the door, I decided it best to always turn on the light to check before throwing the door open to wait for Kitty to make her way across the kitchen and out, a time frame more than sufficient to allow a raccoon to wander inside.
This was just a precaution, of course, as I had seen no indication of raccoons in the area in months. It had been so long that I now wondered if they would be coming back at all, and if Heidi was even still alive. If she was alive and did return, would she even still remember me? It had been close to a year since I even interacted with her. Would she still trust me after all this time?
Over the weeks and months these thoughts had traversed my mind more than a few times. I wasn't sure where to even begin now to try to get them back, much less tame enough to walk around me as they had in years back. I didn't really want to sit out there at the forest edge alone, perhaps for days, just holding a bowl of kibble and waiting. I have a lot of work to do and was hoping it would not come down to that, but I just didn't know. It was quite strange that nothing had touched that watermelon rind for 4 days. Yes, it was getting 'ichy', but I knew raccoons and opossums would gladly eat it anyhow. Perhaps they were still upset by the sent of the men in the backyard and what to them must have seemed like the total destruction of the backyard habitat.
Last night, as had become my new bed-time ritual, I walked to the patio door through the near darkness of a kitchen lit only by the remaining rays of a small, single bulb lamp in a room down the hall. Standing there in the darkness, no patio light, no kitchen light, just barely enough light in the room to make silhouettes of large objects visible, I grasped the strap of the 'dog bell' and shook it vigorously for several minutes its numerous 1in bells ringing noisily. I was just about to conclude she wasn't interested tonight, when Kitty's shadowy figure rounded the corner headed my way.
As on the nights before, I was tempted to just open the door 6-8in until she went through, but giving way to inner visions of a raccoon walking through to the inside instead, I reached up and switched on the dim patio light while simultaneously opening a small gap in the door for Kitty to exit. Kitty was upon me now and just about to head through the gap a short distance ahead of her. My brain gripped by the confusion of wrestling with not one but two brown tabby coats, one on either side of the door, I removed the gap in the door just in time to avoid major turmoil.
The brown tabby coat outside the door covered not another cat but a raccoon. Excited to finally see a raccoon, I stooped down in front of the door for a closer look and found myself eye to eye and almost nose to nose with none other than Heidi herself. I could almost swear that the gleeful, ear to ear smile I felt tugging at my own face was mirrored back at me by a similar smile emanating from Heidi's eyes. I was so happy to see her again, and I could see and feel an equivalent happiness beaming back at me from her. Like old friends seeing each other again after 'years' apart, our conjoined happiness was for the moment almost tangible.
The cat suddenly all but forgotten, my focus now was entirely on Heidi. I was just so thrilled to see her again - and she looked so good still. I wanted to communicate with her. I wanted to invite her to stay. I wanted to tell her I would be right back to get her some food. I was just so happy. But would she be afraid of me? Would she run back across the lawn when I stepped outside?
I had just finished telling her, verbally this time, that I would be right back when suddenly Widget spied her through the glass and began barking loudly and clawing at the door violently. Heidi stepped back a few feet from the door and stood looking back at him as though a little unsure as to how to proceed. I bent down, scooped Widget up, and reassured Heidi i would be right back. It was the most truly magical moment as everything about Heidi told me that she understood every word I had said to her, not that she understood English, of course, but that she, nonetheless, fully comprehended everything I was saying to her just as I understood the words she spoke to me with her body, her face, her eyes. We had been through this "I'll be right back to feed you" drill before, and Heidi understood that I was going to get her something and that she was to wait. She understood it just as well now as she had the night I had to go all the way out to the car to drag a large bag of feed inside 1st. She had waited then and she would wait now.
After tucking the dog safely away in a room, I returned to find Heidi standing nose to door, patiently watching and waiting.
I filled a shallow dish with kibble left from last year and opened the door and headed out onto the patio. No sooner had my foot moved through the doorway, piercing the patio space outside than I new fully that nothing had changed between Heidi & me. Nothing at all. She stood right there maybe 2ft in front of me even as I stepped through the door way and moved toward her. I walked right up to her, leaned down, and set the bowl of kibble at her feet. I took a step back to give her some space. Before going back inside, I lingered there a moment while she ate. I told her how happy I was to see her again and invited her to come back tomorrow. Then I tuned and came back inside.
Nothing had changed at all between us. She still remembered me well. It was as though she had never left.
Apart from the obvious fact that Heidi was back, a few other things about last night really touched me. When I turned the patio light on last night, Heidi wasn't just standing on the patio. She was standing with her nose in the gap in the door (remember I had opened in enough for the cat to pass through. What's so incredible about that is only moments before I had been vigorously shaking a bunch of noisy bells over her head, the kind of thing that should have made any wild raccoon run for cover, but she had stayed. Over the years she and I have established a lot of trust, enough that she stood her ground even as I shook those bells for all they were worth only inches from her.
When I turned on the light Heidi was standing there, nose in the door gap, trying desperately to get my attention, and absolutely knowing I would feed her if I saw her. When I spoke to her through the then closed door, called her name, and promised to come back with food, she had totally understood. I could see it as 'loudly' as if she had screamed, "ok", out loud. I wish I could have shown you that awesome moment. We communicated as well as if I had been dealing with my dog Widget - as apposed to a wild raccoon.
It's about 2 months since I saw her out there cavorting, so I'm guessing she probably had the kits already. As happens once the nursing begins, she was hungry, very hungry, and she knew where to come for help.
I just wanted to reach down, scoop her up, and give her a huge hug! I'm just so happy she is still alive and healthy even now and at her advancing age.
OHHHH Cheryl, seeing this post today just made my day! I have been afraid to ask, but this is wonderful news. I have sat on the edge of my chair, reading each post, and waiting. And yes, I can just see that smile...of YOU and of Heidi...and now of me.
Thank you for making the new thread, and I can't wait to hear more Heidi encounters. Maybe the "herd" thinning out is a good thing, and you can enjoy Heidi and the new kits more.
I wonder how she got in and if her kits will be able to join her at your diner. I thought about using a thick piece of rope, sort of like a bridge from the Heidi tree to your fence.
I am so very glad that she can get to you and has not been scared off by all of change in the back yard.
You've made my day too! I'll bet those bells will call Heidi, now, as well as Kitty - how convenient for both of you! Like Birdie Blue, I have all sort of visions of helping the raccoons to climb the fence - ladders on both sides?
Great to see you. I was hoping Heidi still had a few fans out there. I would love it if Heidi and her kits were the only ones at the buffet this year. It would be like that very 1st year when it was just Heidi and her family (Trouble, Fraidy, etc). I doubt that will happen though. Word - or smell - is likely to travel, and others follow.
I was incredibly happy to see her, too. Your idea would work. I've seen kits in the past climb very narrow limbs by hanging under them (from all 4's) the way men often do (on TV) with ropes strung horizontally between structures. I figure kits could hang under the rope much the same way.
Unfortunately, I cannot reach the Heidi tree nor any of the others on that side of the fence. Those trees, while close to the fence, are more than arms length away, more than my short arm's length, at least. Also, the fence is 6ft high, while I am only 5'2". To make matters worse still, I can't even stand up close to the fence - not more than a minute or so and not w/o holding on to the fence for stability, that is. The fence is at the top of a steep berm. That is, the ground on this side of the fence is like a small hill. From about 6ft back all the way to the fence the ground is at about a 45 degree slope/grade. I can walk up the hill, but I have to hold on to the fence for stability to stand there for even a minute or so. And due to the slope, the fence is effectively higher than 6ft relative to me even when I'm standing right up close to it.
For all of these reasons, I was quite surprised to see that the landscaper managed to cut those limbs off at the tree. I don't know how he did that, whether he had a saw on a long pole or he climbed the fence or what. I'll have to ask him when I see him again, because I'm quite curious. But, he is quite young and healthy and male (i.e., stronger). He doesn't have bad knees or a back injury. Also, he had another guy out there to help him. It would be very dangerous to put a ladder, for instance, on that slope and climb it, but not as bad with a strong guy to hold the ladder steady. Either way, I can't get a rope attached to the tree.
A ladder might be more doable. They would only need a ladder on the back side of the fence. That is the only surface they can't climb. On the inside of the fence, they can easily climb down the vertical posts. The posts are made of a different type of wood which they can cling to quite nicely. The problem is they can't climb up/down the outside of the fence because on that side the fence posts are covered by the horizontal boards. They have always used the trees/limbs to navigate that side - but now the limbs are gone.
If I could get a ladder up against the top of the fence, I could probably manage to slide it over with the fence bearing its weight. Unfortunately, I only have an 8ft step ladder, an expensive one (highest rating) that I would not want to loose. I like this idea, if I had an old ladder around here. I'll keep it in mind. We have a good 2 months now before getting the kits over the fence becomes an issue.
I need to go out there and double check. There used to be one more tree/limb at the far corner of the fence that a few of them used to access the yard. Since that tree is over towards the neighbor's property, maybe he didn't totally 'slay' that one. I need to check. If that one is still in tact, that may be how Heidi is getting in. It would also work for kits. I'll let you guys know what I find.
Tonight I got busy and almost forgot to feed Heidi. Can you believe it? When I thought about it, I jumped up and rushed to the patio door. It was wet out. No sign of Heidi hanging around near the patio. Bummer. I felt especially bad remembering that I had told her to come back tonight. Sure, I know she didn't really know what I was saying, but still...
I decided to put a small amount of food out in case she might come back by later. When I opened the door to go out, Kitty sneaked along up close against the house to come inside. The difference in Kitty's behavior now that raccoons were coming around was clear. Where before she had lain about the patio for hours in a leisurely manner, now she was reduced to sneaking along up against the building to get to the door from her hiding place in the foundation shrubs (away from the patio) - a sure sign the raccoons were 'back'.
I had barely let Kitty in, put the dish of food out, and walked back to the work area of the kitchen when I heard something outside, something that sounded like animals arguing. Opossums maybe? I turned on the light to find Heidi eating from the dish I had just put down and another, smaller raccoon, probably a yearling, perhaps even one of her own, sitting a respectable 5ft away and watching Heidi eat.
It seemed the word had already gotten out. It also seemed Heidi had actually been nearby the whole time (when I went out earlier). She had probably been sitting in one of the trees just over the fence, the Heidi tree maybe, where she could safely monitor things to see when I came out to feed her. She used to wait on the fence top back when there were limbs and foliage up there for cover, but I highly doubt she would sit up there now on the naked fence.
Before leaving, I grabbed a big handful of kibble and took it out for the other raccoon. Even before I opened the door, I could predict what would happen. I knew Heidi would continue to eat as I walked past her. I also knew the other raccoon would leave/hide as soon as I stepped outside, and that's exactly what happened. The 2nd raccoon went some 10-15ft away and hid behind shrubs. Heidi stood at her dish eating as I walked w/in 1ft of her. I put the kibble down in the spot where the other raccoon had been sitting. By the time I got back inside, the other raccoon had returned to the spot to eat the food. Very predictable.
Honestly, I had begun to fear that Heidi wouldn't be with us again this year. I guess it's just so incredible that she has remained strong and healthy all these many years now. Just the years I've been writing this thread series exceed the avg lifespan of a wild raccoon - and she was a seasoned adult before I started writing. It's amazing, and we are quite lucky to have her with us for yet another season. I am especially lucky having her right here in front of me where I can see her behavior and responses all of which remind me very much of Lassie (from the old TV series). She is just so bright and perceptive.
I've been feeding Heidi for 8yrs now (this will be the 8th yr.) - so I know she knows the way here as this is practically her 2nd home. I've been feeding Heidi plus pretty much all of her living daughters and grands and a couple of opossums on occasion. Some years the group was huge with 25 or so adults, each of them sporting 1 to 5 kits. In years past, I used to sit on my garden scoot out back facing the forest at night, a bucket of dog/cat food in my hand along with a plethora of treats: grapes, eggs, cookies, marshmallows, etc. As the raccoons arrived, I would fill a dish with kibble for that one. I would place the dishes in a circle in front of me, with my seat as part of the circle. Some nights back there I was totally surrounded by raccoons, like being in a herd of cattle, but they were all amazingly well behaved. Occasionally one would try to sneak up beside me to steal the food. They are the ultimate ninjas. lol.
As for being crazy, I guess sitting in the backyard at night surrounded by wild raccoons would qualify. My only comment is that I sure have truly enjoyed being crazy. :-)
Watching the tiny babies play, having them stand at my knee and take treats in their tiny hands; watching Heidi learn to communicate with me and seeing her go from a completely wild animal to one that will take a cupcake from my hand; learning to recognize them; learning their unique personalities; and finding out they really don't all look alike after all - it was all pure magic. I would not have missed one minute of it for anything.
How about throwing a good sized rope over the fence, attaching it somehow to your side to eliminate shifting. With the leading end weighted with something you may even be able to get it over a limb, then by tying the weighted end onto the main rope it could be secured (lasso up a limb as the 'entrance' to your diner) on the limb end and just need an attachment on the fence or ground on your side. A boat hitch where the rope gets wrapped around the top and bottom in a figure eight pattern is really secure. Cost should be minor too!
So glad that she came, and even with Widget and those bells; waited for you! I am thinking that the rope ladder may be the safest way to go as a doggie door might let a small 'gator into the yard as easily as it would Heidi or Snowball & their families. Maybe just nailing the rope to the fence post as high as you feel like and throwing it over for them to climb?
Edited because I must have had this page open for a day before I got around to posting and missed some posts☺
The kind of rope ladders that are sold as accessories to kids play structures would be great! Again, attaching it to the top rail of the fence or to the fence post should be easy enough with screws or nails.
I know what you mean about most people thinking raccoons are very mean and aggressive. To be honest, before I actually got to know them (raccoons), I thought that, too. My parents believing it was for my benefit, had raised me to believe they were mean and dangerous. They probably believed it, too. I think that's how the idea got started to begin with, and now it seems to have a life of its own.
It's nearly impossible, I find, to divest people of the notion that raccoons are mean. Even when I tell people (in person) about my experience with wild raccoons and how they are neither mean nor aggressive, people refuse to believe me. People who themselves have never even met a raccoon will, nonetheless, argue vehemently with me about how vicious they are. I still try to tell people the truth any time the subject comes up, but I've learned to accept that many people will refuse to believe what I'm telling them.
Make no mistake, raccoons are capable of mounting an impressive defense if they believe their lives are in danger. You really can't hold that against them. From my experience with them for some 8yrs now, they are anything but aggressive. I have found that raccoons will choose to avoid a fight if they can possibly do so. When afraid, they always move away from me, always. They never strike out in fear as a dog or cat might do. As long as I leave them an escape route - which I always do, they will move away if they feel threatened.
It was this observation, that they will always chose to move away when afraid, which allowed me to experiment with reaching out to touch them or offer them food (when the time seemed right) with very little fear of being scratched or bitten. There is no doubt in my mind that raccoons have long been unjustly maligned in our culture.
Thanks for the good words. As for the raccoons, I think you are right that they are much more trustworthy than many people. For starters like with all animals, their rules are simple, and they don't play games. They either trust you or they don't. They don't pretend to trust you one day and then attack you another - as some people will unfortunately do. I've been able to sit among them, even as they are arguing with each other, without danger because I know the rules - always leave them an avenue of escape.
Good to see you back with us. Thanks for the ideas, Everyone (includes Sheri & Debbie). You guys have some very good and creative ideas. I will definitely mark them and keep them in mind. I'm not going to take any action on this right now. I've decided Heidi probably is still carrying her kits, so there is plenty of time still.
Bottom line, as creative as you guys are, raccoons are also incredibly creative in their own right. I think I'm going to wait to see if they can solve the problem on their own 1st before I do anything. I have a lot of confidence in their ability to work this out.
Great to see you with us, too. I know just how you feel. I was afraid Heidi wouldn't be back this time. I'm thrilled that she is still with us. I often think (and speak) of Heidi as though she is very old. I guess that isn't really the case. I've read that while the avg lifespan of a wild raccoon is 6yrs, pet raccoons often live well beyond 10yrs. This seems to suggest that wild raccoons die relatively young.
I guess Heidi is (age-wise) like a wild/pet hybrid, having some of the benefits and liabilities of each. She gets better and more consistent nutrition than wild raccoons and generally has to travel less in search of food, thus being exposed to fewer risks (crossing highways, encounters with raccoons outside her group, fights, encounters with humans and domestic dogs, etc).
Whatever the reason she is still here, I, too, am thrilled.
Last night was pretty 'ordinary'. I gave Heidi her food and then put food in the usual spot for the other, younger raccoon who I suspect is her daughter. On my way back inside, I stopped by Heidi, who was eating. I reached down and placed my hand, outstretched, palm down, such that my longest finder tip was maybe 3in from her face (which was down in the dish at the time). She raised her head from the dish and in a leisurely manner not unlike a pet reached her nose up to gently touch my finger tip. She sniffed my hand for a minute or so before dropping her head back into her dish to continue eating, having apparently determined that the hand held no edible treats. She showed no sign of concern about the presence of my hand so close to her personal space as she ate. I withdrew my hand, said a few words, and exited.
Tonight I fell asleep early and almost forgot all about Heidi. By the time I awoke and remembered it was 1.5hrs past the established feeding time. I hurried to the patio door and threw on the light to see a desolate scene, not a creature in sight. I opened the patio door, and just for kicks called out into the night air, "Heidi, Heidi" in a low voice. A few seconds passed, and then just as I was about to accept that I was truly too late, I pudgy Heidi waddled into view some distance across the yard and race-walked straight for the patio and all the way up to the door.
I laughed with delight as I saw her rushing toward me from where she had been waiting amidst the shrubs/trees across the yard. It was all the more adorable how she rushed right up to the door so fast and with such determination that I found myself pushing the door gently closed at the last minute fearing she might just come right on inside with me. Through a gap in the door I greeted her and told her I would be right back. It was quite clear that she had wanted me to see her (so I would not leave w/o feeding her), so I spoke to her to let her know that I understood she was there.
I had been standing there in my bare feet not really expecting her to show up, so I had to go for my shoes before I could return to feed her. I still chuckle to myself at the vision of her making a bee-line for the door in response to my call. I hadn't expected that at all. :-D
Hmm. I did mention, did I not, that Heidi appears to be still, shall we say, very much 'with kit'? She seems quite, em, let's call it pudgy, and she waddles when she walks - the faster she goes, the greater the waddle.
The extremely pregnant are known to be quite hungry and sometimes a bit cranky, as well. I recall one particular spring evening several years ago when a near term Heidi, looking roughly equivalent to a beach ball with a head, could be heart grunting, grumbling, & fuming up a storm from some distance before she finally waddled down a limb and plopped onto the ground this side of the fence.
If last night was any indication, she may be getting near term again as she bore a gynormous appetite and was noticeably cranky - and impatient. I went out an hour early not really even expecting her to be there, but she and her guest were standing upright at the door when I turned on the light. They almost looked as though they had been trying to flag me down in the darkness.
I stepped out, bag in hand. I could already tell that Heidi was not her usual calm, still self. She seemed jumpy. Not scared. Impatient. Talking to her all the time, I reached down for her dish, to empty it of any collected rain water. Instead of waiting quietly as she normally does, this time she stepped right up to w/in inches of me and placed her cold, wet nose against my arm as I worked.
I had no sooner celebrated this gesture of apparent familiarity when a grunting & grumbling Heidi reached out suddenly and grabbed the dish I was filling snatching it to her and out from under the bag from which I poured, leaving kibble to spill out upon the concrete even as she began eating. Undaunted by this uncharacteristic grumpy and indignant behavior and of of the Queen's unwillingness or inability to wait until I finished filling the dish before eating, I simply moved the bag over a few inches and continued pouring into the dish at its new location. Not at all happy to share her dish with the bag 'spout', once again she snatched her dish out from under it all the while still grumbling raccoon obscenities. Make no mistake, her behavior was not at all aggressive or threatening in any way - just very, very cranky, perhaps the expression of 4 swollen ankles, an aching back, and a gaggle of young'ens resting on her bladder while all screaming out for more food.
I could see that on this night the Queen was not in her usual calm, respectful, and appreciative mood. "Ok", I said, understanding that ladies in her condition will sometimes get a bit out of sorts, "I hear you". With that I poured the rest of her meal onto the patio floor as she sat inches away at her dish stuffing her face with both hands as though she had not eaten in days. Madam was, shall we say, in a bit of a mood. I bid her well, poured food for her companion, and went back inside, still shaking my head at Ms Heidi's most unexpected tantrum.
I haven't noticed any coughing yet, but I haven't been staying out there with them while they eat as I used to do. I've just been going out to speak to them a few minutes while I put down the food and then coming back inside. My guess is that she probably is coughing. The pollen levels here are maxed out now. I myself am taking 24hr allergy meds right now and still experiencing sinus issues, sore throat, sniffles, etc. I'm thinking the seasonal pollen probably plays a part in her coughing spells. That it coincides with her pregnancy may just be coincidental. In the beginning, I used to fear that the coughing had something to do with the strain of carrying all those kits at her age (and that was probably 5yrs or more ago) or that she was had some serious illness. Then I noticed that she often continued to cough long after the kits had arrived at the buffet. I'm thinking it's probably just coincidence that the pollen gets maxed out when she is pregnant. On the other hand, you certainly do have a good memory.
Yeah, just imagine carrying triplets and having to go out climbing a mile or so of trees every day, in your last month even, before breakfast. That has to be rough. I guess it's amazing she manages to be in such a civil mood 99% of the time.
Thankfully, tonight the Queen was in a much less temperamental mood.
As I approached the patio door in the dimly lit room, I could just barely make out the soft lines of her face up against the glass and surrounded by the palette of total darkness outside. Tonight was fairly normal. No grumbling. No snatching. No tantrums.
Having replayed the highlight reels from last night a time or two now, I've come to the conclusion that (on that night) she was hungry, impatient, and feeling especially awful. She wanted to start eating ASAP, and she did NOT want that bag 'spout' in the bowl pouring food while she was eating. As I was apparently taking too long, I think she was trying to say, "Oh, get out of the way already. I'm starved!"
Whew! Glad Madam does not stay in that mood often.
Heidi didn't show up last night. It could mean nothing, but circumstances suggest that she may now be off having the kits. For sure, if she is a no-show again tonight, that will be the most likely reason.
On all other nights she has been out there regardless of whether I arrived early, late, or on time. Last night I was right on time, but she was not there. Several yearlings were out there in her place. This plus such recent events as her intense hunger and noticeable crankiness all seem to fit the picture of impending birth. She usually eats a lot when preparing for the arrival, perhaps knowing that she will be unable to eat for a number of days once the helpless newborns do arrive. This, the need to stock up on quality nutrition in the week before the birth may even be why she showed up on the patio when she did.
It seems the time has come when I should introduce myself to you. My name is Alain Dubois. I am a sociologist. The Heidi Chronicles has been part of my doctoral work at Ecole Polytechnique in France where I have been conducting a study of online human behavior & relationships.
Regrettably, I must now inform you that the characters of Cheryl and Heidi as well as the many other members of the Heidi and friends family are all fictitious composites created by myself and colleagues at the university for the purpose of our work. I have been the primary individual making posts in the guise of Cheryl, although a few colleagues have filled in during those times when I was too busy or otherwise unable.
Each of you has contributed, albeit unknowingly, to my doctoral work through your posts on the Heidi threads. I greatly appreciate your help and apologize for having misled you in this matter. Hopefully, you will understand that it was necessary to our research.
This week I successfully defended my doctoral thesis, so I will be wrapping things up over the coming month or so. Thus I felt it was time to introduce myself, explain what has been going on here, and thank each of you for your help.
Over the years, some of you have interacted with 'Cheryl' through an address and phone number we established in the US for this purpose. The phone, when 'manned', was answered by various departmental research assistants posing as Cheryl. A few of you even very generously sent treats to the 'Cheryl' address for 'Heidi' and the other raccoons. Your generosity in doing so was most touching. In the coming days I will be posting an address where you may write to obtain a refund for the cost of anything you may have sent to Cheryl or Heidi.
I have very much enjoyed working with each of you, and, again, I greatly appreciate all of your help with my research and with my doctoral work.
What did your DH think about it all? I mean, before you told him it was an April Fool's joke?
I had been 'saving' this one for months. Sadly, today I'm not much in the mood - killer allergies today - but I could not afford to let this day slip by w/o springing my AF joke. Didn't want to have to wait another whole year.
You know, we are all so easy to fall in love with animals and wildlife stores...we could very easily get sucked into a story/scam like that. And with internet (and photo chopping) who is to say what is true and what isn't. We just have to trust each other...thats a bit step itself.
I honestly had to read it twice...then I kind of said "Wait, this is Cheryl" and I remembered another "scam" in the past about Heidi coming in the house! lol
I could not believe it, we've talked on the phone, I've prayed for you & with you. You didn't fool me, although I did do a double take.
Someone even d-mailed me that they were "deeply ofended" after reading it.
You got us good Cheryl, but you remain one of my favorite people.
Sheri, Sara, Marlie, Dogwood deKatt & Chester ( who all told me not to believe everything I read)
I'm really, really sorry if my little prank upset anyone. I hadn't really considered that folks might get that upset. Big sorry.
I am real. Flesh and blood real - and I just finished feeding the 'imaginary' Heidi and her now 2 companions (the number always grows this way). Seriously, I don't think anyone could have fabricated my mixed up, crazy life replete with back & knee problems, hormonal issues, job issues, yaddah, yaddah, much less all of the things that have happened with Heidi and her group along the way.
As I mentioned, I originally thought this up quite a few months ago and have been like a gossiper trying to keep a huge secret ever since. A friend in whom I confided the idea did respond with, 'no one will ever believe anything you say again'. I do hope that isn't true. The Heidi story is true, and I have always, except maybe each Apr 1st, been careful to tell you the facts exactly as I have observed them.
I added the part about maintaining a fake address and phone # here, because I knew some of you had called me and or sent me things over the years and otherwise immediately know it was a hoax. Seriously though, I don't think that would even be possible, not with a real SC address (not P.O box) and SC phone number (not an international number). It would surely not be feasible on a university budget or research grant. The last time I checked, Europe, France included, was in a worse budget crunch and economic mess than we are (the US). It would cost a small fortune to rent a house here and fly back and forth to pick up mail.
There are other holes in the story. The length of time the Heidi story has been running exceeds that of any doctoral research project. Those who have attended college on any level will know that there are always limits on how long one can attend before one must graduate. The same is true at the PhD level.
Oh, and, OMG, think about how LONG some of my posts use to be - and then during the very active times like back when Dennis was with us and such, I used to write SO much that I had to split it into multiple, still very long, posts. I'm pretty sure anyone who was out to scam you with a made up story would never have taken the time to write such huge posts day after day after day for all these years.
I could pick up a news paper tomorrow and then photograph Heidi eating on it. Would that help allay your concerns that we are real?
We have always been told to be careful about anything we read on the internet, and rightly so, but I think with something like the Heidi threads it's more than just trust. We all have an inner voice that alerts us when things just aren't quite right with a story. Even when we are 'taken' by something or someone, we can usually think back and realize that, at such times, we heard the little voice warning us but continued anyhow. With the Heidi story, I think you trusted it because it rang true. I think we innately recognize the truth, even though we may sometimes ignore our inner knowledge.
On a more tangible level, there are laws against researchers doing certain things to deceive people in this manner, at least in the US. I don't know about other countries but would think such rules would exist in most major countries. In the US, these laws were enacted following one very particularly, notorious psychology research project in which subjects were tricked into believing they were administering electrical shock to real people. The fall out from tricking people in this manner led to very strict rules about what one can and cannot do for the sake of research. Playing with people's heads is now considered seriously unethical.
And honestly, you saved MY day because it reminded me of April 1st. SO when my son called me from college, telling me he and his room mates were at the Sheriffs office and people were pressing charges because they got in an egg fight...well, I went along with it. Told him "What are you thinking...you are old enough to know better, as are your friends, and calling me to bail you out...you can just sit there and rot! I know what you were thinking, your 19...and APRIL FOOLS DAY!" His friends all busted up laughing in the back ground...thankfully
Glad Heidi came for dinner tonight. She looking any thinner?
As to photoshop and such for creating all those photos and videos. No way that would really be possible. There is a lot involved in trying to cut & paste pieces of photos together and make them look real. One huge problem is lighting. If the lighting (direction and type of light) is not the same in the various items used to try to compose a picture, it will not read true and will not be believable. I'm talking here about trying to 'cut' an object from one photo and 'paste' it into another. Your brain knows when it's being messed with, when shadows are in the wrong places, etc.
They 'cut' things together in TV and movie studios, but (1) they spend millions of $$ for equipment and highly trained people to do this and (2) by staging things with very strong studio lighting, they are able to control the lighting problem mentioned above (by intentionally taking all shots with the same lighting so things can be pasted together).
If you are unsure about an image - whether it is real or has been altered - use a photo handling program (like photoshop) to zoom in all the way to the 'bit' or pixel level. At that level you will be able to see the 'seems' where/if things have been stitched together. Various means of 'brushing' and 'fading' can make things appear to fit together when viewed at the 'normal' level, but if you drill down to the pixel level, there will always be telltale signs where things don't actually fit together properly.
Oh that is hilarious about your son. SO glad you were able to see through that one; otherwise, that might really have raised your BP through the roof. (I know nothing about your BP, just know how any concerned parent would react.)
As to Heidi, sorry I didn't get back sooner, but I was wrong about the reason for her being missing that one night. Guess we just missed each other that night. She was back the following night and has been every night since. Now that you ask though, she doesn't seem quite as huge lately. Not sure. When she has her kits, she is usually gone for more than one night as she needs to stay with them for a while. In the past she has been gone anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks (that one scared me, you might recall). When she does give birth, it's hard to tell from her girth, because she continues to look 'fat' for some time after the birth. Every year when she returns from giving birth, I always end up commenting that she still looks pretty large, to which someone reminds me that it takes a while to loose the weight after giving birth.
For the past week or so she has been accompanied by not one but two yearlings both of which appear to be hers. I say this because she will permit them to steal some of her food and even eat with her for a minute or so before she starts protesting, and even then it is clearly a Mom's protest and not what one would expect if any other raccoon were to try to eat her food.
A few nights ago I got up the courage to 'pet' Heidi. Last year I had touched her with the food bag several times, touching it to her back and head as she ate. I don't think I ever mentioned it. I did that to gauge her reaction. Mostly she ignored me back then.
This time I stood over her while she was eating - something which would normally be perceived as threatening by a wild animal - and quickly touched the back of my hand to her head. The 1st night I just barely touched the hairs on her head (raccoon hair sort of stands up such that it is not flat against the body). She ignored me, so the next night I brushed her ear with my hand. She just flicked her ear and went on eating.
I was surprised at her non-reaction. I had expected her to probably step away from me at the least, but she did not. Finally, I reached down and brushed her head lightly and quickly. This time she looked up at me in much the same way as you might look at someone who suddenly started touching your hair - and then she put her head back down and went on eating. That time I was all the more surprised that she had not stepped away when touched.
Heidi has always been the one whose space I most respected. I think of her as 'really' wild. The others were all raised around me, thus accepting me from a young age. Heidi was raised wild, w/o such contact with humans. Being able to now touch her, however briefly, is to my mind HUGE. It's like the final frontier in this story.
As I mentioned (and, yes, this is the very real Cheryl speaking now), this idea was born some months ago. Thankfully, I had the forethought to plan things ahead of time. Today (Sunday) I had a killer sinus headache and probably wouldn't have followed through had I not done the work ahead of time.
I have long been a proponent of the powers of the internet. I use the internet constantly, every day at work - and at home. It's a wealth of information. The ease with which I was able to find the information necessary to create the Alain character is a wonderful example. A quick search for "Top international universities" yielded a list of the top 100 for each of the past several years. Harvard was #1 last year, Cambridge this year, btw. I decided the story would sound more believable if the university were not one of these very obvious names. Ecole Polytechnique is a real university in France and is currently #33 or so on the list - a more 'comfortable' position from the believability perspective, I thought.
Having chosen a university complete with location and even address, I then needed a name for my fictitious researcher. I like the idea of a non-US individual, and decided to go with a French person to coincide with the location of the university. I went with a male because that just 'felt' right to me. I googled "male name French" and quickly landed on a sight with 100's of such names alphabetized. I picked a handful I 'liked'. Next I googled "French surnames". This led to yet another alphabetized list.
My 1st thought was to have my researcher work in the area of psychology, but that seemed too obvious, somehow. A quick look at a well organized list of courses on the Ecole Polytechnique page yielded the perfect solution, sociology, less obvious and even more concerned with group behavior.
Thanks to the power of the internet, it took me less than 10min total to create an apparently somewhat believable character using information previously unknown to me. The same search just a few decades ago would have required a trip to the library and some leg work. It would not have been done in 10min. After completing this exercise, I was all the more impressed with the internet as an incredible repository for information - and a tiny bit scared by the implications of the same.
Finally, this exercise led me to think I might, at some point in the future, like to consider creating some more fictitious characters and weave an even larger web of intrigue with the help of the internet - a novel perhaps.
Edited to correct one obvious word omission which leapt off the page at me even as I hit 'Send'. That's not to say there aren't others. BTW, when I was going over the 'facts' of my fictitious character, I noted many holes (which I hoped people would not notice immediately). One such hole was the condition (grammar, spelling, wordiness,etc) of much of my writing here. It seemed implausible to me that a doctoral candidate would be so careless. LoL
I want to thank you for your recent comment about how your heart is warmed by my posts. I'm very happy to hear that you feel that way. It is comments like this that help to keep me motivated when times are rough.
I don't know if you've ever read the early/beginning threads, but I was originally motivated to start feeding Heidi when she started coming over the fence toward me in daytime and the rehabber from whom I sought help explained that she (Heidi) was almost certainly a nursing mother desperate to find food and get back to her vulnerable babies. The rehabber explained that "it's rough out there these days" for wildlife trying to find food (since we humans are constantly building on more and more of what used to be forest). She said Heidi needed to find 'fast' food as close as possible to her den/nest, so that she could (1) get enough food for herself to keep the milk flowing and (2) get back to her vulnerable newborns before they were found and eaten by a predator.
Hearing this, my heart went out for Heidi. Before that I had been annoyed that she was eating my bird seed, but I truly felt for her out there nursing 5 kits, hungry, and having to leave her kits to go out to seek food. The thought of her worrying that the kits might be eaten before she could get back really tugged at my heart. It made me realize how much easier we humans have things in comparison. That's when I decided to share some of my food with her.
The rehabber asked me to consider, if I could, putting a little dry cat/dog food out for her, to put it back by the fence, as far from my house as possible. That's what I did, and that's how started feeding Heidi. A few weeks later when I walked out of the house to find Heidi out there teaching her tiny babies how to rob the bird feeder, I just melted at the sight of those adorable babies. Suddenly, I was willing to give her/them the whole feeder, seeds and all. That's when I really got hooked.
Despite all the bad things I've heard about raccoons, it has been some 7yrs or so now, and they have always been incredibly well behaved guests. That is what has allowed me to continue for all this time.
I think you are right. As to the scent issue, there is no doubt in my mind that Heidi knows who I am (i.e. recognizes me, undoubtedly by scent) even before I exit my house. When she is sitting at the door watching me, she already knows it is me. Sometimes lately I see her sniffing under the bottom of the door. I think when she does that she is double checking for any other/unknown people or animals that might be a threat.
She just started doing this (sniffing under the door to check for unknown people inside before I open the door) lately since the landscaper started working in the backyard. For a while he was out there several days a week working all the way up to the forest edge. I was afraid at the time that she might be afraid to come to the house (due to the presence of his scent in the yard). I think she is checking to make sure he (or anyone else) isn't around when she sniffs under the door that way. From now own he will only be back there 1x on a biweekly basis.
I know she recognizes me. When I get to the door most nights, by the time I turn on the outside light to check for her, she is already up close to the door and standing upright as if trying to get my attention. I suspect this is because many times in the past I have walked right past her in the dark not realizing she was even there.
I was just never sure just how much she really did trust me. She was always different from the ones who grew up knowing me. I guess you have a point about trusting me around her babies. I don't believe I have ever seen a mother, human's included, who was any more careful about her babies than Heidi is. The way she tends to her kits has made an impression on me that is probably much greater than comes across in print. Lets just say I am very impressed.
You seemed to understand that Heidi already trusted me quite a while back (that it was not something I needed to work on but rather something that already was). It just took me a little longer to catch up.
Cheryl - I burst out laughing at the thought of you trying to get a photo of today's paper with Heidi in it - Debbie can help you out there, no? :D
I didn't read much into your hoax post, because the comments that followed it were swift and immediately dispelled the initial. heh.
The "other" story I read here on DG was one of those articles you see on the sidebar when you go to the home page. An acquaintance asked people on a thread to read her story and vote for it (?!) for some reason. When I commented on it, she'd replied that the story was fabricated, and I didn't know how to respond! But I got over it. I had nothing invested. ;)
Your threads go on way too long, crazy hours of the night, etc. I have read back - I think I did go way back because when I tripped into your thread I didn't know the background. I think the reason I went back originally was because you kept talking about the picture that was doctored and I wanted to figure out the joke without interrupting the thread. :)
I remember last season when Heidi (?) stood up in front of you I think and remember you said that startled you. I regret to say I don't think I'll ever even trust my own domesticated animals, much less a wild animal. They can react in crazy ways in different situations. I think the nice thing about your backyard is that it's a static situation and the risks to all parties are known. I think that's why you are able to have such a close relationship with Heidi and her babies. As she is a leader among them the others trust you too by her example.
I was raised in a crazy animal loving family so it's not surprising for me to read about you sharing your food with them. When my mom had aluminum siding put on the house I was very young, but I remember her telling the contractor to go back and cut holes in the roof overhang where the starlings had nested. We have gone long and anthropomorphized an animal in every way. Instincts are strong, but certainly they are sentient beings. There is debate among "learned" men and women in animal welfare and animal rights circles about how much an animal knows and feels. You have seen firsthand behaviors that are not "instinctual." Therefore, actions that follow are learned behaviors and you COULD write a paper, a doctoral dissertation on your observations. Hell, this is how Jane Goodall made herself known.
After I quit my law practice for XXX reasons I did a lot of volunteer work in animal rescue/welfare causes here around the state on behalf of local and national organizations. I burned out very quickly. It's hard to feel so strongly about something and keep it from impairing your "independent professional judgment." Then I went and taught animal law at Tufts. Came back to NC to get myself a degree in natural resources so I could . . ...? Hurt my hand last spring at work so I've lost myself in DG and it's been very therapeutic.
I am still involved in rescue, both with domestic animals and with wildlife. Last season I had a crow in my living room and actually brought home a dead rabbit to put in his cage (in my living room!!! GAH)
After the crow I had a possum for a couple of months. What a treat! We would have kept her as a pet, but the thought of keeping her from a life of her natural joys won out - we took her to a remote state park for release, far from cars and domestic cats.
The only instance I felt was unnatural and harmful was last summer when my ground feeding the birds resulted in swarms of brown rats under my birdfeeders. :/
When I use the word "teeming" I don't use it lightly. The yard was teeming with brown rats. I had to stop feeding everything completely. It caused a neighborhood "problem" because the rats fanned out to other neighbor's yards who fed birds. Soon they were "my rats" and a nice (not) man from the city Health department showed up in my driveway.
He said, among other things, "the neighborhood has a rat problem." I said, "yeah, I've noticed." He said, "something's going to have to be done." I said, "the hawks in the area seem to be taking care of the problem." He looked at me like I was crazy. Then he said, "people are going to have to put out poison." I said, "You're not going to put poison in my yard." He looked at me again and said, "What?!" I said, "YOU'RE NOT GOING TO PUT POISON IN MY YARD." He said, "well something's going to have to be done." I said, "Well good luck with that." And walked off. I think one of the neighbors hired Ortho. Very sad. Unfortunate. But I learned my lesson. GOD this has turned into a long post. Sorry. Just to say that
I thought I could "control" the hawk population and keep them from "feeding" in my yard. They prey on birds in winter you know. Crows and hawks compete for territory so I decided to make friends with the crows to keep the hawks away. Started feeding the crows on the ground, and the rats came. Stopped feeding the crows on the ground and the crows came less frequently. The hawks came back. Slowly the rat population dwindled. Ecology. Everything is connected.
People who gripe about animals at their feeders are ignorant. The animals were there before they built their house at the edge of the woods. People annoy me on so many levels. I think you all have already made that observation. We are in good company here, so it DOES warm my heart to find like minded intelligent people. And they say WE are the crazy ones. Sheesh!!!
Had enough? I think I'm thru. I am not offended by your posts Cheryl, or anyone else's here. I do also appreciate that you take the time even given your hectic schedule and physical exhaustion. Some of my critter chores are such that I cannot rest until they are done. For me, the racoons in the yard would be as much a daily part of my routine as brushing my teeth or letting the dog out. Just one more chore to do before bedtime.
Cheryl, how exciting that you're able to touch/pet Heidi! It will be interesting to see if she starts to enjoy your touch, as time goes by. You mentioned that you're sure that Heidi recognizes you. I can understand that animals identify your smell or even the sound of your car, but I'm amazed that one of the feral cats I feed (at work) recognizes me walking toward her from a distance of over 20 feet, (she runs if it's someone else)!
Amanda, very interesting to hear a bit about your animal "adventures" & your comments about them being sentient.
Just returned from feeding the raccoons. While out there it occurred to me that, oops, I forgot to pick up that newspaper today. I'll try again tomorrow.
Today, I offered her the back of my hand again. She had just begun eating I hadn't moved back from my position yet up close to her, the position I had taken to pour the food. These days she comes up to eat even as I am pouring the food from a very small cat food bag (used to handle/transport food taken from a much larger container). She's that comfortable around me now. By comparison, the other 2 used to run around behind nearby shrubs to hide while I poured food, but now they are starting to stay closer although still well out of reach.
Anyhow, when I reached the back of my hand up close to her face while she was eating, Heidi lifted her head and touched her nose to the back of my hand, touching the hand some 3 times in fairly quick succession before lowering her head to continue eating. Her nose, btw, was cold & wet, feeling just like that of a dog. I didn't make any attempt to pet her today.
When I got back inside, I saw the couple of McD's syrup containers on the baker's rack by the door where I keep raccoon supplies. I had saved the syrup from a breakfast meal almost a year ago & put it there for the raccoons. They love sweet things, something I learned back when they used to climb up in the tree to drink 'nectar' from the hummingbird feeder - by actually tilting the thing up in the air and drinking the nectar as it flowed over one edge.
Back when I used to sit out with the raccoons some years back, I always saved those little containers of syrup for them. For those that were super comfortable interacting with me, I would hold the container while they lapped the syrup from it. For others, I would remove the top and hold the container at arms length or set it on the ground for them to take in their own hands & eat some distance away. A DGer who used to be very active here once sent me a large box of those restaurant jellies\jams she had saved (tiny plastic 'bowl' type, not newer squeeze type fast food pkg). I would peel off the tops and pass the little jellies around for dessert. Very popular.
Tonight I peeled the top off and then walked up to set the syrup container down beside Heidi. To do this, I walked up so close (inches from her feet) and in such position that, as I leaned down toward her, my body blocked the patio light casting an ominous, dark shadow over her entire body. I say 'ominous' because this sort of thing, one creature casting a shadow over another, evokes a very visceral reaction from any animal, humans included. It's something that no doubt goes back to the earliest evolution of creatures crawling out of the primordial ooze. That shadow means you are about to be food. Every creature instinctively knows it.
Heidi stood her ground for a few seconds, my shadow still enveloping her. Then, giving in to her discomfort, she took a few steps backward, just enough to get out from under the shadow. I remained in place, still leaning down over her food. I called her, "Heidi, Heidi". Obligingly, she took the 2 steps forward walking back up under my shadow and returning to her food.
I stayed in that position for a few minutes as she began lapping up the syrup. Then I backed away several steps to continue watching. As she lapped at the sticky syrup, the little package slid away slightly on the patio floor. I was concerned that she might end up spilling it (as my dog wood surely do). Clearly it has been too long now since I sat out there watching them eat. I should have KNOWN better. Raccoons are too smart and their hands too articulate to ever spill 1 drop of food.
Watching them eat is always even now much more fascinating that it must sound. She lapped the syrup gently not sending splatters across the patio as a dog might. Then when the container was about 1/2 empty and started to tilt, she used her two 'hands' to hold it exactly as a tiny person might, one hand on either side holding the container upright side as drank the remaining, sweet liquid. Before leaving, I took her a dish of water, realizing she might be especially thirsty after consuming the syrup.
That Heidi immediately stopper eating the dog food to drink the syrup is HUGE. Clearly, the syrup was a big hit. You may recall that, unlike most of the others, Heidi eats in a very methodical manner almost always finishing her cat/dog food before eating any other treat. Be it peanut, egg, or frosting, dinner (the kibble) always comes 1st. Always. The only exceptions to this rule have typically been watermelon and occasionally an egg.
As with the watermelon and egg, I suspect she probably broke her rule about finishing the kibble 1st to avoid conflict with one of her yearlings over the coveted prize. If she leaves such an item sitting beside her 'plate' while she finishes her kibble, one of the others will try to steal it. She could stop them, but it would require a nasty argument. Better to go ahead and eat it herself to keep the piece, a decision reserved for only the most desired treats.
I enjoyed reading your post and learning more about you. I hadn't noticed the 'Esq' appended to your name until I read your post. So many people have misc characters added to their names, often the computer to differentiate duplicate names in the system, that I guess I just don't even look at that part of the screen name anymore. Sounds like you had a fabulous and enjoyable career.
I had to chuckle at your comment about my posts being too long and too many all times of the night. ROTF. Yes, I know. What can I say? I'm long winded by nature (making online blogging perfect for me), for a while there I was really on a roll with the raccoons. I used to sit out back with the raccoons, observing them while they ate. I find them so fascinating, and I have always been extremely interested in animal behavior especially in noting how closely much of it relates to our own behavior.
In the 1st thread, realizing my propensity for long posts, I took time to edit my posts carefully rewording them and ruthlessly chopping out extraneous info to be more concise. Unfortunately, I found that was taking way too much time. So much was happening with the raccoons in those days. There was so much to write and so little time for the editing that eventually I stopped doing it altogether. As much as I hated the subsequent, long, run-on posts, it was necessary if I was to get it all down on 'paper', and still get other things done. I've been having difficulty sleeping at night for years now, hence the reason for the all night posts.
I was actually serious, BION, about getting a pic of Heidi on the daily paper, although I ended up forgetting the paper. The latter would be the hardest part, that and making sure the date shows out there in the semi-darkness. If I lay the paper out, front page up, and put her kibble on it, I feel sure Heidi will gladly oblige by stepping up to and even on the paper to eat. I may need Debbie's help though in lightening it enough to make the date visible.
As to the problem you described with the rats. Been there, done that. For some 5yrs or so I enjoyed feeding the birds. I had planted flowers, vines, shrubs, flowering trees, etc in my backyard cottage garden, The addition of birds and a gently, gurgling water feature made it a wonderfully relaxing place and heavenly place - until the rats came. Like you, by the time I notice the problem the population was enormous.
At 1st I ignored the rats. I didn't like the idea of having them around, esp when I saw one actually sitting up on the bird feeder in the middle of the day eating, but as I am adverse to killing anything, I looked the other way. That is, until one day I saw a NatGeo program on rats, a program which explained their exponential growth rate and how 2 rats can become 5k in just one year. Shortly after that the A/C died in my car. I took it to the dealer and was aghast to learn that they found a rat's nest under the hood. Argh!
The rat had chewed up the entire wire harness for the controls between the computer and the hardware, leaving me with no A/C, no wipers, probably other things that went unnoticed, and a car that was sputtering and shaking and running like crap (due to mixed up signals in that wiring harness). They had to redo the entire wiring harness and replace the car's main computer all at a cost of close $600 or so only because I opted for non-factory parts and my mechanic took pity on me. Sorry to say that after that I immediately took care of evicting the entire rat population, having been warned that the same or worse would likely happen to my house in time otherwise.
Much to my chagrin, I no longer feed the birds, not wanting a replay of the rat incident. I've learned that this is much more common than you might think. Many people here at DG recount similar problems car and all before finally giving up on bird feeding. My dealership mechanic said they get cars with similar and worse rat damage all the time, often vary expensive cars coming from the resort islands around Charleston.
My backyard is optimum for wildlife. The plethora of flowers, shrubs, & small trees condensed in such a relatively small space provides them with ample cover; the birdbaths provide water; and there is even a great deal of natural food including grapes, blackberries, apples, crabapples, figs, blueberries, rose hips, and so on. The 6ft privacy fence, lined on the sides with clematis, jasmine, and climbing, rambling roses makes it very difficult for neighbors to see in. I'm sure all of this helps the raccoons feel more comfortable here; however, they are all careful to scurry for the safety of the forest any time they hear even a peep out of the neighbors.
While I do at times jokingly anthropomorphize the raccoons for effect, I do also believe rather strongly that animals are much more like us than most people are willing to believe, and my years of observing the raccoons has only added to that belief. I think it is rather arrogant as us as a species to merely assume because we cannot communicate with them that animals do not have feelings and that all their actions, however similar to our own, are nonetheless guided only by instinct and brain chemicals. I've seen ample evidence to the contrary - and I do plan to commit this all to writing someday, in a more concise form, of course.
Isn't it wonderful to be recognized that way by your feline friend? It's a sort of silent communication between you, a validation of your friendship.
When he was still very young and quite terrified of cars, I noticed that Cocoa, the formerly feral kitten I rescued, was able to distinguish my car from all the others coming down the street, although I had no idea how he did so. Whereas he ran for cover when any other car came by, he would sit in the street and even lye in the driveway when I came driving up.
As to how your feline friend manages this, I've come to realize that the extent of animal's senses is largely beyond our comprehension, since our own are often so negligible in comparison. I had that 'AHA' moment one day when watching a very good NatGeo program on dogs. I had long known that a dog's sense of smell is much greater than our own, but until that moment I never realized the extent to which I failed to comprehend just how much more acute a dog's olfactory sense is and what that really means. (A cat's sense of smell, while not considered as great as a dogs is still far beyond our own.) The program got this message across to me finally by showing a visible sort of odor cloud trailing all around the yard or park and a dog walking along 'reading' that cloud as clearly as we read the morning newspaper or our email.
Although I'm not ruling out other cues, I don't find it at all difficult to imagine that the cat can recognize your scent from a distance of 20ft. Predators in particular have a very keen sense of smell for sniffing out prey and often posses keen visual abilities as well. Many animals are known to be capable of detecting the scent of prey and potential mates for a mile or more. Animals not only identify us by our scent, they can even discern a great deal of information about us from that scent, things like relative age, gender, health, disease, even our rank w/in the 'tribe'.
Their sense of smell and its implications lie largely beyond our comprehension because we by comparison are pretty much anosmic. We are like a person legally blind from birth trying to understand what others see and the amount of information therein. At a certain age when my own vision started to weaken, I actually still believed I was seeing everything. It wasn't until I got glasses that I suddenly realized that, "Wow, do I ever need to shave my legs!" Lol. Before that I had just concluded that I didn't need to shave as often because [I thought] my leg hair had stopped growing so fast now that I was older. (Wrong!) That's how we tend to be with respect to smell. We know that animals smell more, we just don't begin to understand how MUCH more there actually is to smell out there - because we are blind to it.
Your feline friend knows much more about you than you probably realize just as Heidi does me, and she probably knows you are coming from much farther away than 20ft. (Isn't that wonderful?)
As to my 'ability' (LOL) to spew out endless tomes of verbage, even as a young child in grade school I found it amusing that while others winced at the word/page requirement for writing assignments, I had no such concerns. I always knew I could easily write as many words as the teacher wanted - and then some. I only had a problem when the word count for an assignment was expressed as a limit. Then I had to chop and whittle to squeeze my thoughts into the specified range.
Naturally, this 'ability' does have its down sides. ;-)
Aha - Cheryl - good thing I read quickly and absorb everything. :D
Love the image of Heidi with her chalice of sugar water. :)
Creeped out at the thought of the rats invading my car, but there is also a rather large underground stream paved over with those giant concrete tunnels right next door . . . so they have a waterway/superhighway to come and go from. I do think they travel thru the foundation of this house which is in need of . . .something, but we are renting the house. MAYBE that's why the electric doesn't work in the front room. Ha ha- no no no - anyway.
I have one or two adult rats who have evaded the hawks and Ortho guy. I now feed ONLY from one feeder with a high infallible baffle. I watch the critter go up and down the iron shepherd's crook under the baffle and go back down, disappointed. Even the ground feeding birds know where it is - if they want it badly enough they will go - there are 2 round hanging feeders that do not spill food. I'm satisfied with it. I also provide water - there's something very gratifying knowing that my heated birdbath (a cake pan on the ground with a flat heating element for a 5 gallon fishbowl) is the only drink in town on a frozen morning in January.
Thanks for the update - I looked at your "wants" lists and don't seem to have much to share, but I imagine your garden is thick and lush and a haven for wildlife, obviously. I don't care what the neighbors think of me, particularly when I go out and start calling to my crow rescue released in the yard who comes to feed everyday. "HEY BIRD!!!" Ha ha - he follows me around the block with the dog, also when I go around the block to feed a neighbor's goat in the evening
(?!)(have I mentioned this one yet?!) and across the street to a friend's house. He comes when I call - and sometimes brings his friends. They are also very very intelligent creatures and we have found great enjoyment there.
I'll start saving jelly and syrup containers. Just have to get them in the wind before the weather heats up much more. ;)
I can see the confusion. I never actually said the garden was (currently) lush and beautiful. After my accident and subsequent knee surgeries, I found it very difficult to get much of anything done in the garden. I had planted it at a time when I was able to do all that maintenance. I tried hiring people but quickly found that whereas most people can mow and edge, it almost impossible to find someone who can differentiate between weeds and coveted plants. My current guy, and he's a doll otherwise, cut my pricey, tall, weeping fairy rose 'tree' to the ground, apparently thinking he was pruning it hard like a regular rose. He also ripped my favorite clematis out of the ground thinking it a weed. On the other hand, he has been heaping much care on a stand of weed grass which he clearly believes to be an ornamental - I need to disabuse him of this notion but just haven't gotten around to it yet.
Bottom line, the garden which at one time was unbelievably lush and idyllic, ended up growing into a veritable jungle over the last few years. This past 'winter' I had my yard guy cut the whole thing down to the ground except for trees and a handful of shrubs. My hope is to work with him to cull out some things, identify favorites, and move things around in pursuit of a simpler design and one which he will be able to (mostly) maintain. As I've neither time nor ability to do much gardening right now, I don't participate in the plant exchange. If I have 'wants' listed they are remnants of a time when I misconstrued the want list as a personal list of things to buy. Very nice of you to check though.
I'm glad you haven't had such bad luck with the rats. Hope your luck continues to hold out. In addition to taking steps to eliminate the rat population, I now have 2 semi-feral, outdoor cats who love to hunt. (The cats showed up here. I had them spayed/neutered and feed them. I didn't seek them out or bring them here.) Last year they slaughtered dozens of moles from the lawn along with a few rats, a few birds, and even a squirrel, all of which they left at my front door. I'm not thrilled about them eating the occasional bird, but on the up side I no longer worry about my car as I'm sure any rat foolish enough to cross the driveway and try to set up housekeeping under the hood of the car would quickly find itself dead at my front door. Oh, forgot to mention the other problem I encountered with the birds/rats - Mr Copperhead. Yikes. Turns out rats and birds also attract snakes.
I do miss the birds though. I like to think of myself as taking an indefinite break from feeding birds, not quitting altogether. Of course, as long as the cats are here patrolling the place, I figure it's best to avoid putting out any bird feeders. I don't want to lure the birds into such a dangerous situation, although some still come here for the fruits, berries, worms, etc.
I realize that birds in general and crows in particular are quite intelligent. Crows rate high on the list of top 10 animals based on IQ. I've never seen any crows in my yard though. I did see large birds of prey, an eagle included, soaring overhead, clearly looking for a chance to grab a songbird. I also frequently hear an owl in the forest behind me. When I was feeding the birds, visitors included the usual songbirds plus a bluebird family, a male and female indigo bunting, and a summer tanager. For several years a large, red belied woodpecker was eating BOSS from my feeder. Oh, and for a while a great blue heron could be seen late each evening perched on a dead tree in the forest edge where he appeared to be watching for something in my backyard. Probably the most exotic visitor at my feeders was the peacock (and later his girlfriend). For years they were frequent escapees from a local formal garden. A few years ago the male died. There have been no peacock sitings since.
I would love a bird that would come when called and eat from my hand. I did have a titmouse for a while that would land on my head when I was out gardening. Called him Mr T - but that's a whole story unto itself. Your set up there sounds very nice. Goats, birds, raccoons, you name it. I love pretty much all animal life. Took me a while to warm up to Snowball and the other opossums that show up sometimes, but I finally got on board.
Oh, and, I'm not worried about what the neighbors think. I'm pretty sure they all know by now that I'm nuts. I am who I am, and I hide it from no one - except maybe the HOA. I live in city limits where I am governed by city & HOA rules. (City rules preclude more than 2 pets per house and specify that only cats & dogs are allowed. I currently have 3 of my allotted 2 pets, not including raccoons.) Since you mentioned a goat, I'm guessing you live a bit farther outside of the city. I sometimes long to move back to a more rural setting myself but figure I'm better off here for now.
By choosing a spot adjacent to the forest and having a tall back fence, I've managed to make a little bit of country here in the city and keep it hidden from those who would not approve - and by 'not approve' I mean drag out the rule book, levy fines, and require me to cease & desist. I can't begin to tell you how many local agencies would totally freak if they knew about Heidi, especially back when I used to sit out back with 20 or more raccoons. At a minimum, I'm thinking city, HOA, health dept, animal control, & DNR would all show up here, and the raccoons would probably get the worst of it. That's why I like that the fence and plants obscure the neighbors' view of what goes on here. Shhh. Mums the word.
Cheryl, Have you figured how Heidi et all are getting to your yard diner?? Can't wait to hear about this years babies. I so enjoyed your recent longer than of late entries. And I for 1 enjoy anything you write about. Bet you could make the phonebook exciting to read!! LOL
Thank you SO MUCH!!! What a wonderful and much appreciated compliment!
(I often think I run on way too long, so that is very nice to hear.)
As to how the raccoons are getting into the yard, no, I've been so busy with other things that I've not bothered with that. Other than checking that one corner to see if the gardener left that limb coming over from the neighbor's section of forest, the only way I really would be able to know for sure how they get over the fence would be to sit out there and wait for them.
One evening I happened to walk past the patio door at dusk and notice that Heidi was already out there sitting at the door waiting. It was at that 1/2 way point outside, that point where it is neither light nor dark but 1/2 way between the two. (I went ahead and fed her that day. The other two were not with her at that time.) Anyhow, if she is coming that early, I might see if I can find the time this week to sit out there for a little while at dusk to see if I can catch her arrival and see how she manages the fence.
I don't believe it is time yet for the kits to arrive at the buffet. As you may recall, the kits are born 'blind' (eyes shut like kittens), and it usually takes about 2 months for them to reach the age where Heidi is comfortable bringing them out with her. I'm still not even sure if she has given birth yet. She still looks a bit heavy. She isn't a beach ball as she was when carrying the 5 kits some years back, but she could be carrying 2 right now, maybe even 3. Either way, I think it's still too early to expect the kits, and that's why I haven't been too concerned yet about how they will get over the fence.
Serious bummer about the coffee/keyboard thing. Been there, too, except for me it was a can of Coke. It was my 2nd day home from major surgery. Apparently I was high on pain killers, although I didn't think so at the time. The good news is keyboards are pretty cheap these days - unless it's a Mac or laptop or both. If you 'killed' a laptop keyboard, you can probably still substitute a fairly cheap external keyboard. Good luck. Hope you are able to get it fixed/replaced quickly as I'm sure that is frustrating.
Yes, to the rain. Just started this AM. Dark and gloomy day. But, of course, we need the rain, too, just as much as the sunshine. That horrible drought we had some years back when the ground was pure dust and even large trees were showing signs of stress, that for me drove home the importance of days like this.
Glad to hear that you got that USB keyboard. Simple and inexpensive fix for an otherwise pricey problem (for laptops) which would otherwise require sending the laptop to the shop for a while. As for being able to do w/o the computer for a while w/o freaking out, for that you should commend yourself. Most of us (this writer included) have become far too dependent on our gadgetry for our own good. When the power goes out in a storm, I'm more concerned about losing my internet connection than about either the lights or the storm.
Things are going well. Heidi and the other 2 raccoons are still doing well, both still coming here daily. No sign of kits yet. Heidi shows up well before dark these days. Yesterday when I saw her at the door (in daylight), I went out and gave her some food, just the one 'dish', as she was alone. I was in the kitchen afterward cleaning up. When I went back by the patio door some 30min or so later, Heidi was sitting their at the door - again - just like she always does when looking for food, except that I had already fed her.
"Well, ok", I said, figuring if she was still hungry, I would give her some more. This 2nd time, when I got outside, her yearling daughter was out there with her. My guess is that the daughter showed up after I left the 1st time, and as I had only left dinner for 1, Heidi shared her food with the daughter. It surprised me though that, being hungry still, Heidi had returned to the door to see if she could flag me down for more food. That was something new, a behavior she had never before exhibited. In the past, she would always eat what I gave her and then leave. She had never come back to the door to request a refill. This new behavior would seem to imply a little more of a 'relationship' of sorts, as though on some level she understands that I'm actually giving her the food - as apposed to just tossing leftovers out the back door which she then eats.
When I went out the 2nd time, I gave them each a small pile of kibble. They ate that and left.
Heidi has become very comfortable around me lately. It's hard to explain and quantify this. It's just that she comes right up to my bent knee to eat even as I'm crouching to pour food from the small bag, and when doing so she looks very content, never fearful. I walk out onto the patio each night talking to them, calling their names, and feeding, all in a manner that to any onlooker would appear as though I were feeding pets. Otherwise, things are fairly static.
She isn't really eating more or a lot. It only seemed that way because (1) her yearling daughter showed up after I gave her the food and (2) she let the daughter eat with her. Since the daughter ate 1/2 of the food, Heidi was still hungry and needed more. I'm still not sure what the deal is with the kits, whether she has had them already or not. I need to look back and see when she had them in previous years.
My guess is that Heidi is probably only letting her 2 female kits from last year hang around in her turf this year. In recent years, due to all of the bad things going on with the economy, I've been cutting down on the food I make available to them. It's just a necessary evil. No one knows where the economy is going from here. Most of the experts are less than optimistic. Thus it seems only prudent that I should save every dime possible - for any bad times that might be ahead. Each adult raccoon needs about 2cups of food daily. I can afford to feed 1 or 2 but not 20+. I miss Fraidy, Dennis, Bast, and the others, too, but I just can't afford to feed them all (plus their babies) right now.
In the past I've seen that Heidi determines how many others she will allow to stay based on the availability of food. I think that is why she is only allowing her 2 yearlings to stay this year. Even though we all miss some of our old favorites, it's for the best.
The opossums, Snowball and Puddle, showed up a good bit the past 2 winters to eat anything the raccoons left behind. They pretty much keep their distance in summer. My guess is they know the raccoons don't like outsiders around when the babies are young. So the opossums stay away all summer and then come back in winter. In winter the raccoons only eat a tiny bit, so there is more likely to be food left for the opossums then.
Maybe when the kits arrive there will be more to tell. After all, that's how we got Fraidy and the others to begin with.
Another thing to consider...even if Heidi were to let even a dozen more raccoons stay here (in her area) and come to the buffet for dinner, none of our old favorites (Fraidy, Bast, Dennis, etc) would be among them. Heidi always chooses those who get to stay based on their needs (rather than our preference). The prior year's kits (now yearlings), females only, are always 1st on the list, starting with her own and followed by those of other mothers. After that, if there is sufficient food for additional raccoons, she will allow the 2yr olds to stay and so on.
It makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. The yearling females will be giving birth for the 1st time. They have no idea what to expect, and despite their all to brief 'childhood' training, they are not really ready to handle everything on their own. Among other things, they have never had the experience of trying to find enough food to sustain themselves through nursing. If they can stay here, they will have the benefit of food from the buffet during their 1st year of motherhood, and they will have Heidi around (like a grandma) to help/teach them during this difficult time. Staying here that 1st year greatly improves both their and their kits chances of survival.
Veterans like Fraidy, Dennis, Bast, etc, have been through enough births by now to be able to handle things themselves. As much as I would love to see them, the chance of any of them being allowed to come back now is slim - unless one were to get injured as happened with Bast a few years back. Once Bast became injured, she was allowed to come back here to eat that year and the following year, until Heidi was convinced that she (Bast) could make it on her own again, and then she was sent packing once again.
In the past, some of the others (who were not allowed here) have been known to sneak back in after Heidi has her kits. Heidi is reluctant to fight around her kits when they are very young, and the other raccoons seem to know this. They seem to realize that they may be able to slip back to the buffet while Heidi is tending her infants and unwilling to risk leaving them alone long enough to fight and chase the others away. If we are going to see them, it will be then.
I'm smiling to myself at the sociological hierarchy you just described. An autocracy!
It sounds as though you and Heidi have settled back into some kind of routine. I would think that the physical contact you have had with her has probably helped her to drop her guard as you describe. She does sound quite tame now. I try to imagine her standing at your back down waving "Hey you! You with the food!!!"
More rain here - cool weather to go with it - on Sunday everybody eats! That was what I told Court today as I put cups of sunflower seed out on every platform, stump, feeder, even on the ground (gasp!). I have said that before on Sundays. Why not. The crow comes everyday and gets kibble as you call it, cat or dog food, hot dogs, bread, saltines, whatever is on hand. :)
There are a few others that are "allowed" but like the racoons, crows are very territorial. I have several baby bunnies flitting thru the yard. I had a cardinal nest in the clematis on the entry fence on the stationary part of the gate. I'm afraid we may have scared them away by coming and going thru the gate despite our best efforts to be non-threatening. :/
I did see Carolina Wrens on one of my bird houses so that's good news. I have stopped letting my dogs and the neighbors' dogs who visit roam thru the yard because we tend to have the rabbits and an occasional possum. It's been quite a long time since I saw a raccoon.
The rats are multiplying, I see some babies, but I try to keep the ground feeding to a minimum - crows only - and that is hand tossed into the next yard where the woman who owns the house is in a nursing home. No one around to object to this critter keeping except a elderly daughter who visits every other week or so, but she has always been good to our dogs and lets us use the giant open yard to run our new giant puppy. I used to feel self-conscious throwing things into the yard, but not so much anymore. :D
Last year when you talked about the cost of feeding I thought about sending you a donation. Broke as I am, I hate to think of anyone going hungry. Then I remember that they know how to live off the land if they have to! Oy.
I hate to call another false alarm, but I think there is a very good chance that Heidi is now having her kits for real. She has been AWOL for 3 consecutive nights. She had been looking pretty heavy for a while, not huge like when she was carrying a litter of 5 but way too heavy to be carrying none. I'm guessing 2 or 3 kits. That one night she wasn't here a while back, I figure we just passed in the night, showing up at different times. This time I've made 2-3 trips to the door each night to check for her, early and late. All I find out there is her daughter, that one yearling that has been accompanying her all along, AND one other raccoon, one that is not supposed to be here - remember how I said that others sometimes slip in when she is with her newborns. They do this almost every year. They know when she is busy giving birth and unable to show up to toss them out.
Because of the extra one out there, they (the daughter and the outsider) are out there every night growling and arguing and barking at the back door and outside the MBR where they keep Widget all upset. Even when I give them each a separate spot of food, still they argue and fight. Reminds me of that one year when Heidi was gone for a week or two, and the rest of the crowd at the buffet was acting up so bad I decided not to feed them at all until she returned. That year they reminded me of a pack of middle school kids with a substitute teacher. They were very rowdy and very annoying. That year I could really see the extent to which Heidi's mere presence keeps them in order. As soon as she was gone, they all started acting crazy, like a bunch of college kids on spring break in Miami or something.
Anyhow, I'm pretty sure she is with her new kits now. If that's where she is, then I would expect them to arrive here in mid to late June. Some of the others will bring their kits out sooner, but Heidi usually waits until hers are about 2mo old before bringing them to the buffet.
let's see...what does Heidi like?? Eggs, Vanilla wafer coshe will need poteiokies, Jellies, suryp, etc from fast food joints ...hmmm...chicken. chicken soup, cottage cheese? I wonder it she would smell and unwrap her gifts ?!? ;-D
Heidi will only eat a subset of what the others enjoy. Her list is fairly small, besides kibble she likes: eggs (raw), watermelon (from rind bowl only), grapes (preferably red/dark), peanuts (unsalted in shell), syrup, jam (also jelly, preserves, etc), hummingbird nectar, sugar water, and canned frosting.
She doesn't eat cookies of any kind, but she loves cookies as a delivery system for a giant blob of frosting. Likewise, she loves frosting on cupcakes, cake, even a slice of bread (those frosting party sandwiches I used to serve at the buffet). She doesn't actually eat the cookie, cake, bread, etc, but she loves to lick frosting off of them. She also enjoys licking the bowl (or can).
That's about it for Heidi, although I'm sure there must be something I've forgotten.
I gave her some of my grapes one day, and I've been giving her one egg every day or so recently. There is a short story about how she let me know she wanted eggs. I'll tell it soon when I get a chance.
Well hey, Cheryl. This is welcome news. Funny about the others acting out when she's not there. I guess most animals that travel in packs have some sort of hierarchy. I wonder if there are studies about raccoons.
On a sort of similar note, I found something odd growing in one of my beds today when I was weeding. A large seed atop the seedling which I had never seen before. Court speculated that it was a persimmon from last year's possum visitors, and after perusing photos of possum scat online he confirmed that it was a persimmon seed. :D
How nice is that?! A thank you gift from the opossums. I've never heard of that happening before, but no reason it couldn't. Raccoon scat is often made up almost entirely of seeds (cherry, choke cherry, blackberry, grape, and so on depending on what's bearing at the moment), but in most cases they use established latrines. Birds are well known for their contributions to the seeding of yards and gardens, but they are more inclined to plant things you don't want where you don't want them (trees in flower beds, wildflowers in the lawn, etc. At my house they are famous for planting blackberries and grape vines in flower beds!). Congrats on that persimmon seed. Hope it grows into a very nice persimmon tree.
I think what we know about raccoons is very limited and sometimes incorrect. We discussed this some in prior threads back when Ruth (spartacusaby) was with us and we benefited from her experience in animal control and raccoon rehab. The nocturnal lifestyle of raccoons makes it inconvenient to study them. (I used to sit at the forest edge in the darkness at 10PM and later awaiting their arrival, for instance.) To further complicate the problem, their status as a known vector for the deadly and incurable disease of rabies causes governments and municipalities to strongly discourage all contact with them. These and other such problems, no doubt, contribute to the general lack of knowledge of the species.
I didn't start out planning to do any of this, but I've observed some things over the years that seem to defy accepted knowledge along with other things that appear to add to it; however, mine is an artificial environment, and it's unclear to what extent that may have altered behaviors. (I think the effects of the artificial environment here are fairly limited. I think the underlying behaviors and societal structure had to exist beforehand.)
In my yard, I see very definite indications of a societal structure among the raccoons. They may well sleep on separate tree limbs much as we humans live in more or less separate homes, but from what I've seen they appear to interact much like a community - like a community of mostly related individuals as often occurred with humans in rural settings back when travel was extremely limited. I don't think they live together like pack or herd animals, but I do think they maintain relationships and a hierarchy. This hierarchy appears to be a matriarchy led by a single, prominent female.
According to accepted knowledge, raccoons are NOT group animals and do not travel in groups. Current literature on the subject and 'experts' alike tell us that raccoons are extreme loners; that male and female interact only long enough to get the job done; and mothers interact with kits just long enough to raise them and send them out on their own. Accepted knowledge tells us that males play no part in the rearing of young and that their interactions with females is strictly limited to a quick, spring courtship.
My observations fly in the face of all of this. I do believe that raccoons are somewhat more independent relative to herd animals like horses and the like, but, as indicated above, I do also believe they maintain a community of sorts made up mostly of related individuals. My observations also indicate that some males may actually play some part in protecting their offspring. We saw very clear indications of this with HRH, the large, old, and very sweet male that hung out with the group the 1st few years. We suspect that he may have been deposed by a younger, stronger male at some point. Since then the ladies appear to be living more like 'experts' indicate, cavorting with males during spring courtship rituals ONLY. These young adult males do not appear to be trusted around the young. They are strictly forbidden to hang out with the females and/or come to my yard. Back when I was providing a veritable smorgasbord nightly, I observed females ganging up on and ousting any young male who tried to eat from the 'buffet'. Apparently, only the rare, very mature and extremely trusted male such as HRH is allowed to hang out with the females, share their food, and interact with the kits.
I've also seen very distinct evidence of cooperative behavior as the females gang up to fight and drive out a single male and also to enforce rules about who is and isn't allowed at the buffet. Heidi, as the leader, seems to determine which individuals may stay and which must go. When the group is large (as in prior years), a handful of chosen henchmen help to enforce these rules. I could watch as Heidi signaled them to go after an intruder and her 4 or 5 'right hand men' headed to different points along the fence to forbid an intruder access.
These are but a handful of things I observed that fly in the face of accepted knowledge. It took a year or two of sitting out there with them almost every night, but the raccoons eventually accepted me into their world such that I was able to witness behaviors that most people probably don't see, things like mothers playing with their young children in the moonlight after dinner or mothers gathering their youngsters and leading them to a particular corner of the yard for a lesson in things like digging for insects and locating turtle eggs.
Yeah, you've got some good stuff there. I would tend to think that the artificial environment and single point source of food has something to do with your observations about the group behavior. Doubtless, it does not exist in good and plenty out there in your urban woods.
When I get back to doing my research and motivated for school and thesis and masters' degree I will see what current literature exists on the raccoons in the academic literature.
Got distracted by seedlings and full sun. Hope all is well and Heidi comes out okay.
Heidi came back last night. What was that, 4 days AWOL? Glad she came back in a reasonable time this year - unlike the year she was away for 2wks, and we all started to imagine her demise. She was noticeably thinner, so much so that I had difficulty recognizing her at 1st, something which often occurs when she 1st comes back from giving birth. My brain was totally confused by seeing Heidi's face on what looked for all the world like the body of her yearling daughter. I kept vacillating between the 2 ID's: Heidi, no, yearling. No, Heidi. Yearling...
As soon as I stepped out onto the patio mat, all confusion ended as she rushed up to within inches of my body and began alternately standing upright then down, then up, then down. This is something she has only begun doing in the past year or so. None of the others do this. None of the ones here now are even comfortable so close to me. I've never been totally sure what this up/down thing means. My guess is it's something along the lines of, "Yippee!!! Dinner! Yay. I'm so excited. Can't wait. Give me a bite. Oh, yayyyyyy!" Something like that.
She get super close to me when doing this, so much so that when she 1st began doing it, I felt considerably vulnerable having such a capable gladiator as Heidi suddenly bouncing up and down only inches from my body/hands. She does this amazing balancing act, alternately going up and down in front of me and so close and does it all while simultaneously walking backward so that she always remains the same distance from me even as I am walking forward - and she never ever touches me or the food bag. The whole thing is really quite impressive.
When she 1st began doing this - and remember, Heidi has always been the adult, sedate one - I thought she was trying to grab the food bag away from me as Dennis sometimes tried to do. (Remember Dennis & me playing tug-a-war with the bag of grapes until the bottom broke loose and the grapes all rained down on the ground? Remember Dennis getting worse and worse, like an out of control child, until I finally popped her on the head with the flat of my hand one day? Remember how that firm but light smack on the head actually became the thing that worked to get Dennis to behave? I miss those days, don't you?) But, Heidi never touches the bag. It's clear she is not trying to harm me or steal the food or anything like that. She really just seems to be expressing her delight at seeing the food arrive.
On some level this feels good to me, because for all these years Heidi has always been such a 'rock', always calm, always quiet, always on her best behavior, always in complete control, almost stern. It feels good to see her let loose and finally express herself a bit. Among other things it seems to indicate how very comfortable she is now, comfortable enough to be herself.
When I put the end of the bag to the patio and begin trying to pour the food, Heidi settles down immediately, crouching on all floors in front of the spot that will be her 'dish' as soon as the food begins to pour. Sometimes I have difficulty determining just how high to tip the bag to get the food to flow without dumping 1/2 the bag out all at once. When this happens and the kibble is caught up in the bag with nothing coming out, Heidi calmly sits back on her haunches like a squirrel and reaches into the bag with her two hands to gently coax the food out. She doesn't grab the bag and try to take it from me or anything like that. She just tries to help me out. She knows how we do this, knows the food is supposed to flow out onto the patio. When it doesn't, she can see the food sitting there in the bag in front of her, so she sticks her hands in the bag to help move it along. It's really quite an adorable thing to see.
I gave her an egg on each of two consecutive nights before she went AWOL and again when she returned. She cracked the eggs, and gobbled them up even before finishing her kibble. With Heidi that is always a good sign that she likes/wants an item, since she normally finishes her kibble before eating anything else.
The yearling daughter has not been with her since she returned. This is quite normal. Before the kits arrive she will be friendly with one or more of her yearlings, but once the new kits arrive, they are her whole world, and she has nothing to do with any of the others for a while. I did feed the yearling a time or two while Heidi was away, but I haven't seen her around since Heidi returned.
Thanks for the update Cheryl. I'm trying to envision Heidi doing a moonwalk in front of you while clapping her hands. It sounds like a car commercial I've seen before.
I am smelling jasmine blooming outside the window and there is a nice breeze. I am getting too tired for this, but I can't tear myself away.
Had to chase Edgar or one of his crow cronies away from a baby robin in the park yesterday. The bird was a fledge so thankfully it flew away after about 10 minutes, but the neighborhood was in an uproar! If I don't get out when they are calling for me very early, I am afraid there will be more baby birds taken than if they all had a full belly of kibble. :/
It's either the crows or the hawks, I'm afraid. I'd rather have raccoons. :D
I forgot to mention it earlier, but I think you are right. Definitely time for the baby shower. Let's see, I think we need blue & pink crepe paper, party hats, party favors...oh, the heck with that stuff. What we really need is a cake. I've got the perfect idea for the cake. I'll make a single cupcake and then cover it all the way around and on top with enough strawberry (their favorite) canned frosting to make it the size of a normal cake. That will be the perfect cake for Heidi - and anyone she invites. I need to pick up some things from the store 1 day this week. I'll get the frosting then.
On second thought, I wouldn't want Heidi to eat so much frosting that she feels sick. Maybe I'll just give her a single cupcake with a large dollop of frosting on top. I'll put the remaining frosting in the freezer, can and all. After the kits are old enough to come to the house, I'll make them all cupcakes and let Heidi lick the can, something she always enjoyed. While I'm at the store, I'll see about getting a watermelon for us to share. I'll eat the middle/heart and give Heidi the outer, bowl-shaped rind with a few inches of melon remaining, scooped and mounded into the rind along with lots of melon juice just the way she likes it. That will be a party/celebration for us both, because I love watermelon, too.
You know, I have some heavy, whipping cream in the fridge. If it's still good I might try making some whipped cream frosting, sweet but not too sweet, and give Heidi some to see if she likes it. She deserves a special treat. Thanks for the idea.
So glad that Heidi's back & looking spry! Do you think the yearling might be watching her babies while Heidi comes to get food? We did see some evidence of "nanny" behavior at one time? Pink watermelon, pink frosting - I see girl babies in the future. :-)
It used to be that I fed Heidi (and the others) if they were at the back door and otherwise walked away. Now, roughly 1/2 the time (or more) when I go to the patio door, there are no raccoons to be seen anywhere. I open the door, look around, and then call out (not too loudly) "Heidi, Heidi". There is still no sign of her or any of the others, so I close the door and go about my business. I make sure to return in 2 or 3 minutes, 5 at most, by which time Heidi is virtually always sitting on the outside mat with her face pressed up close against the glass panel of the patio door.
I'm guessing she gets tired of sitting on the patio and goes back to the forest edge where she probably sits on a low tree branch. I'm sure she feels much safer waiting back there in the forest where she doesn't feel vulnerable to neighborhood dogs, cars, and neighbors slamming doors or calling out to each other. (The barking dogs can't get into the backyard due to the 6ft privacy fence, but Heidi doesn't know that.)
Unlike that one time when she waited elsewhere in the backyard, Heidi can't just come running across the yard when she's waiting in a forest tree. It takes her a couple minutes to climb down the tree trunk and navigate the fence. But somehow she & I have now reached the point at which we can coordinate things in this manner. She has somehow managed to communicate to me (and I'm not sure exactly how it 1st happened) that she will be waiting back there and will come if I call her name. Because it takes her a couple minutes to get from the tree to the patio, I would normally have given up and left by then, but somewhere along the way she managed to teach me to come back in a few minutes after calling. I've done it many times, and it works almost every time. I call her, then go to the kitchen to check something, and when I return a minute or two later, she will be there waiting. It's always too cool to see her face there against the glass every time.
I really never expected that Heidi would get this comfortable with me. Don't get me wrong. She's not climbing in my lap yet like Dennis used to do - but then again, I'm not sitting down outside like I used to either. Still, when I'm stooping down to pour her food, she comes right up to my knee like a pet. I can touch her a little bit. Usually, when I reach out to her, she touches her nose to my hand or fingers for what seems a longer interval than expected. By that I mean, she holds her nose against my skin for a full minute or two instead of bumping her nose to me and then moving it away again quickly.
I think that calling and waiting 2 or 3 minutes started one night when I called to see if she was somewhere in the yard. When she didn't come scampering across the yard right away, I gave up and went back into the kitchen to finish my work. A minute or so later I just happened to pass the door and was surprised to see her face pressed up against the bottom panel. I wasn't sure if that was a coincidence, so I tried it again the next time I looked for her outside and she wasn't there. Each time, I would call her and then come back in a minute or two (just because waiting bores me), and probably 9.5 times out of 10, there she would be standing face against the door). On the very rare occasion when she doesn't show up a couple minutes after I call, I gather she really isn't close by.
...but, yes, we have come a long way she & I, a very long way from those 1st days when I would walk up close to the fence to toss a [cornstarch] bag of food over the fence for her, all the while terrified that she might jump from some limb onto my back and scratch the life out of me. Seriously. In the beginning, I think I was clearly more afraid of her than she was of me. So, maybe it isn't so much that Heidi has become comfortable around me as it is that I have become comfortable around her. :-D
Good to see you back again. There were a number of them that loved those Peeps. I think that was back when we had Dennis and Sissy and maybe even Fraidy. I would have to find it in the threads to be certain exactly who it was, but for the most part, I think they all loved Peeps, except Heidi. Heidi has always kept to a very strict diet. She eats mostly healthy foods like kibble, eggs, fruit, nuts - and, well, frosting. Everybody is entitled to one vice. Right?
Generally, she finishes her kibble (dinner) before eating anything else, unless it's something she needs to eat sooner to keep the others at bay (like watermelon and sometimes eggs). Also, she will usually limit herself to only 2 foods per meal, 3 at the very most; thus I have learned there is no use in taking out all of her favorites at once as she will not eat them all like a giant smorgasbord. I gather with age she has learned that mixing too many foods per meal makes for a nasty tummy ache. The younger ones, yearlings and 2yrs olds, will eat their fill of everything offered them, so clearly they haven't had the giant tummy ache yet.
Anyhow, when I mentioned Heidi's very short list of 'likes' above, understand that she keeps to a very strict diet. The others love many things which she won't touch, things like s/w cookies, animal cookies, vanilla wafers, Apple Jacks cereal, marshmallows, cake, you name it - and, yes, Peeps. Peeps were a big hit.
Late this afternoon I went to the back door to let Widget out & was shocked to see Heidi sitting there. It was very light out, very early for her to be there. I guess she was just too hungry to wait any longer. She was sitting flat on her butt, the way a person might sit on the floor, one leg propped up in the air with knee bent, foot on the patio, the other leg bent and lying over sideways with the outside of the leg on the floor and heal up close to the body. That seems to be the lactating mom pose. Not sure why, but they always seem to sit that way around this time, and for many of them this is the only time they are seen sitting that way. I guess for one thing it lets them do some checking and grooming while they are waiting for me to show up - and while they are away from the kits.
As I mentioned, I was on my way to walk Widget when I saw Heidi sitting there. Before I could grab him, Widget also saw Heidi. He ran up to the door, stood up to see out the bottom panes, and started barking at her. Heidi got up and headed behind the shrubs to hide. Without really thinking about what I was doing, I called to her, "Heidi, Heidi." I guess I just wanted her to know that everything was ok. To my amazement, she stopped, turned around (on her way to hide), and came back to the door - even though Widget was still there barking at her through the glass.
I picked Widget up, put him away, and took her some food. As soon as I got out on the patio, I saw that Kitty was nearby wanting to get into the house, except that now that I had stepped outside, Heidi was doing her dance (moonwalk. I like that) in front of me and we were very close to the door. As you may recall, Heidi & Kitty are sworn enemies. Each seems to see the other as a threat to her territory and probably the food I provide. Heidi was doing her 'moonwalk' in front of me only about 2ft from the door, too close for Kitty to feel at all comfortable trying to get past her to get inside.
I wish you could have seen this as I know I will never be able to describe it properly mostly because it was almost all invisible cues and body language, but I managed to tell Heidi (gently) to back up - and she somehow understood and walked over behind the camellias - and then call Kitty while holding the door ajar and at the same time continuing to signal to Heidi to stay back there where she was behind the shrubs. Both of them actually understood me and worked with me. The 3 of us communicated like a well honed circus act. Kitty went around to the other side of the patio and then behind me to go through the door into the house. Then I called Heidi to come back, and she dutifully came right back in front of me where she resumed her moonwalk as if nothing had happened. It all went off so beautifully, it was as if for that brief moment we all spoke the same language.
I said, "Ok, you go over there, so she won't be afraid, and you go here and then you come back..." and they did it all perfectly, as if we had practiced. Since Heidi had been such a good sport, agreeing to give Kitty some space - even though she doesn't like Kitty - I went back inside and got her an egg. Right now, lactating and having just given birth, Heidi seems to really need that extra shot of protein and calcium. She gobbles those eggs up as soon as I give them to her. I probably didn't mentioned this, but I walk right up to her, squat down by her food, and set the egg down (on her side of the pile of food even) and then walk back inside. She stays in her spot eating now while I do that. It was only a few years ago that I had to roll the eggs across the lawn to her. Remember that? Between rolling eggs with enough force to reach their destination w/o breaking and tossing cookies to shy yearlings back by the fence, my aim got really good in those days (I should have taken up golf, bowling, and/or baseball back then.)
They have been friends for so long that I think we all believe it instantly...outsiders; maybe not...I remember that guy you used to work with that wasn't at all pleasant about Heidi - he might have thought that you were delusional (when all along it was He that was/is. LOL)
No, that guy didn't doubt the story. He was a close colleague, someone I worked with daily back then, and he knew me to be very responsible, not one to make up tall tales. Also, I came with photos. Back then the big deal was that I was feeding them cookies and cupcakes and such, a few by hand even. I had plenty of photos (& videos even) of that stuff. The things that are going on now are a little more difficult to document that way.
That guy didn't have a problem believing the story. He just believed, as do way too many people, that raccoons are mean and aggressive. He didn't like raccoons - or any other animals as far as I could tell - and he thought the whole idea of feeding raccoons was stupid. Oh, and he was very vocal about his opinions. He was always telling me, "Just you wait. One day they will turn on you and scratch your eyes out, and I'll be saying, 'I told you so'."
He volunteered back then at the city aquarium and at Charlestowne Landing. Before you start thinking, "Oh, what a nice guy, blah, blah, blah...," I should mention that his reasons were less than altruistic. He did it to meet girls. Every time the topic came up, he would tell stories of using armadillos like bowling balls. He said no matter how they snarl and look menacing when you approach them, as soon as you pick them up they roll up into a tight ball. He said he liked to 'bowl' with them, said they remain tightly rolled until they think you have gone, then they relax slightly, take a peak and either walk away or roll back up quickly depending on what they see. What a sweet guy.
What can I say. I don't get to pick my coworkers. That's the customer's job - or now the boss' job. I just have to try to work with them. Unless people are entirely awful, I try to find some common ground and get along. Actually, he had his good side. He was always incredibly mannerly and the perfect gentleman - around me, at least, and I could always count on him to do gentlemanly things: give up his seat for me, run errands for me, and otherwise behave in a very kind manner.
We were working at a military installation back then. I often wore heavily insulated headphones (no music) just to block out all sound and insure a quiet environment in which to think. One day someone came rushing through our lab area saying, "Bomb threat, get out immediately!" Because of the headphones, I didn't hear her. Everyone else ran for the exit. I continued working. That guy actually remembered that I wore headphones and turned around to come back and get me. I looked up, saw people scrambling but really didn't think much of it. I saw him turn around and come back to tell me. He could be a jerk where animals were concerned, but it's difficult not to appreciate someone who would come back for you when the building could blow up any moment. (The moment I heard the 'b' word, I dropped everything and headed out. I didn't even take the extra 2 seconds to get my purse to take with me. I spent the rest of the day standing on the grass across the parking lot from the building thinking how if the building did blow I would not even have keys with which to drive home - or get in my house. Luckily, the building didn't blow. Still, I remain indebted to him for turning around on his way to safety to come back for me.
I know you guys are kidding - er, I think - but which part of the story seems incredible? That I can call Heidi? That I was able to choreograph things with Heidi and Kitty to get Heidi to move back a bit and Kitty to come inside? Something else? Just curious.
It's all true. I've always kept to the facts. My opinions and musings are always couched as such. My observations are always recorded just as I saw them. I'm something of an 'over the top' person, hyperbole personified. If I were going to make up something, it would be something big, something fantastic, something like, oh, like being a French man pursing a PhD in a Paris university, something like that.;-D
No no - Cheryl I think you misunderstood my comment - I hope you know that at least between you and me - (and your recent crackpot story) I am not doubting that you have an intimate relationship with these critters.
I was just thinking that if it were me and no one was around to witness it, someone might have a hard time believing that I could command raccoons and cats both to do what I wanted withing close quarters. I sometimes preface or follow up MY stories with the phrase, "I DON'T MAKE THIS S*** UP!!!"
Anyway. I think it's incredible and someone unfamiliar with you or your critters might have a hard time believing you...
(these are the thoughts that would be going thru MY head).
Again, what Amanda said. I have no doubt that your experience is real... I was just imagining you telling an acquaintance & having that thought. We're believers; we're not "normal/average" people that you speak to... :-)
Yeah, What AmandaEsq and lizzipa said!
To outsiders - the incredible and impossible to believe part has to be that you are touching and talking to and generally interacting with animals that they have been told all of their lives are vicious and rabid. I know better as my DDad and my FIL had them as 'neighborhood pets' at different times of my life - something that some well-meaning friends told me was impossible. Now the French man would have been almost believable if I hadn't anticipated your posting on April Fools Day...
I'm in trouble here. You know there are rodents in the yard, and that they pass thru the property by going around the foundation of the house. I put my head down on the floor at one of the a/c vents this morning and held my breath to listen. :/
The giant puppy didn't know what I was doing and his heavy breathing and big nose and long lips weren't helping, but I heard it, yes I did. :(
Time to adopt a feral cat colony.
I found something online called Shake-Away that looks promising. I can't kill anything you know, and the thought of how to cope with this has sort of plunged me into the depths.
I wish I could tell you otherwise, but if you suspect the rats have gotten into your crawl space or otherwise infiltrated the house, it is most definitely time for action. If you are not thoroughly convinced yet, NatGeo or Science has a 1hr segment they run now and then. The name is something like "The Genius of Rats" or "Rat Intelligence". If you have the ability to set up a DVR request based on search terms, I would recommend doing so. It's a 1hr show that will really knock your socks off and let you know what you are up against and why you should declare all out war.
Keynotes are...if undeterred (no predators, traps, etc), in one year 2 rats will become some 3000. Now if you figure how many possible sets of 2 there are in 3000, you can see where this exponential growth is going the next year and the next. They are extremely intelligent and worthy adversaries. Researchers have determined that they can even open the fridge, help themselves to its contents, and escape leaving little if any clues behind (most fridge doors close automatically, you know). They can easily hold their breaths long enough to travel through plumbing to arrive in your toilet bowl.
They chew for the pleasure of it. Their teeth grow at such a rapid pace that they need to chew almost constantly to keep them filed down - so the lower canines don't grow through their jaw/skull. Chewing feels good to them. They can chew through almost anything, even metal if given the time - and if given enough time, they will chew their way into your house, where you absolutely don't want them. They are not afraid to live in your house. As a species they have done well living with and around humans. If you have a system of gutters and drain spouts, note that they use these like a sort of interstate highway for getting around the exterior of the home w/o being picked off by hawks and such.
They particularly enjoy chewing on electrical wires like in cars and houses. Even if you don't own the house, there is a bigger danger to worry about - fire due to chewed/exposed wires is a very real danger. Finding and fixing chewed wires is very costly, time consuming, and disruptive. Much, much better to avoid them to begin with. Oh, and, as you no doubt know, rats carry numerous illnesses to which humans are susceptible. Plague and one of the hemorrhagic fevers are just the start. No matter how much you hate to kill things, this is war. The consequences of keeping them around are just to big.
I hate to kill things, too. I started with that Shake-Away product. I didn't have any success, unfortunately. Rats are a much more determined and skilled opponent than that. Your house is a perfect abode for them. It provides protection from predators, a great place to raise a family or 10, 000, a good food supply, warmth in winter, lots of great stuff to chew on, and so on.
Today's rat poisons are extremely dangerous - plus I could not get the rats here to even taste it. It attacks the brain and nervous system, and their is NO antidote in case of accidental poisoning of children or pets. Unlike the stuff of yesteryear, it doesn't cause those that eat it to leave in search of water. Thus they die in the walls somewhere.
Due to their exponential population growth, you need to take them out fast. If you get sufficiently motivated, there are two products that come highly recommended. One is a battery powered, rectangular housing, open on one end, with a metal plate they have to cross to reach the food inside. When they do so, they are electrocuted. Many people on DG sing the praises of this one, but it didn't work that great for me. My rats were outside still, not a great place to leave an electric device. Also, the raccoons quickly learned to turn it on end to dump the food out for their enjoyment, rendering it useless. If you have them in an attic or crawl space, it may work well for you - except that you will need to rig up a mechanism to let you know when you have caught one, as you need to reset it.
Amanda, I've got a feral cat at work, who I've been feeding for a couple of years - when my brother (who lives in Greensboro) comes out next month, he could bring her back to you. :-) Of course, I'm joking (not about the brother in Greensboro) - if I thought she'd adapt, I'd bring her home, but she's too happy here... Not to imply that rats are a joking matter. Good Luck - hope Cheryl's (unfortunate) experience comes in handy. I couldn't kill anything either, except snails or ant sized critters. I think an exterminator may be in order (if that's within your budget).
Thank you ladies. Court has inspected the basement and it is unfinished so it's easy to see straight thru to the foundation walls. No sign of them in the basement. If they are passing thru the space I heard them in, it is a concrete addition/foundation that has absolutely no entryway! They must have built themselves into a corner and crawled out of the crawl space and built the floor over it!
There are 2 metal grates that have trap doors on them which I have pulled shut from the outside. Court says there are a couple sealed shut from the inside.
I lived in a house with a friend up in MA several winters ago when I was teaching in Boston. We tried for months to capture rats. They were in the house. She and her daughter (daughter lived upstairs with her 2 adult children) were opposed to killing them. They had had pet rats and were freaks like me to the Nth degree. I caught many baby rats and released them away from the house at parks/in the woods to fend for themselves. Only managed to catch 1 adult, and even then, it got away when we tried (HA!) to transfer it to a bigger cage/container. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
Thanks for the advice. I am leaving this problem to Court. We are aware of the "what ifs". Not keen on it. Hope they will get. They are not in the house and won't be - we have cats and dogs both inside.
Thanks also Lizzi - HA - for the offer of a feral cat - I'm sure I could round up several right in my neighborhood. ;)
Those kits must really be growing fast (and eating a lot) right now. Tonight I gave Heidi and her yearling daughter each about 2cups of food as I usually do. A little while later I was heading to the kitchen and decided to check on them. I figured they would be through eating by that time but, recalling a time when Heidi had waited at the door for seconds after finishing her food, I thought I would check on her.
Heidi was gone - or so it seemed. She wasn't at her spot, and her food was all gone. Then I saw the yearling sitting off to one side as though waiting for something. Thinking the yearling must still be hungry, I went to get the left over polenta I had been meaning to put out. I returned with the polenta and opened the door to find the real reason the yearling was waiting - Heidi, having finished her own food, was over there eating the yearling's food while the yearling sat well off to one side watching.
That's Heidi's daughter, but I'm guessing when Heidi finished her own food and was still hungry, she figured the 'kid' was young and had plenty of energy to run around the forest looking for food. 'Grandma', on the other hand, was getting a bit old for all that...
Heidi still had a cup of the yearling's food left (and was still eating). From the slightly ODC manner in which the food had been neatly eaten around all edges leaving a very tidy pile (from which she was still eating) it was clear Heidi had been eating from this particular pile of food for awhile now, long enough to get it into this very tidy shape so characteristic of her eating habits. The yearling sampled the polenta I put out, but decided to wait in case Heidi happened to leave any of the kibble. (She would eat the polenta later.)
I was amazed at Heidi's enormous appetite. While I was out there she had issued a few of those grumbling, snorting sounds to remind the yearling, "Hands Off!" She had eaten her own 2 cups of food and about 1/2 of the yearling's food by this time. I went back inside and got her (Heidi) an egg and a small bunch of grapes (the last of my grapes). By the time I returned with the extra food, she had almost finished the roughly 1 cup of the yearling's food she had a minute or so earlier - and was still eating. I walked over and gave her the egg and the grapes. She sniffed each and continued eating the last of the kibble.
I doubted Heidi would actually eat the grapes (in addition to 3cups kibble and an egg) but offered them anyhow, figuring the youngster would be happy to finish off anything Heidi didn't consume. A few minutes later when I looked out there again, Heidi had finished the kibble and the egg and was polishing off the last few grapes, sitting upright and holding the tiny bunch in one hand to pick off the grapes with her other hand much as a human might do. Wow. That 'lady' had one ginormous appetite tonight. It was hard to imagine where she had even put all that food.
The yearling was still sitting patiently and waiting well off to one side. I tossed a couple of hard rolls out there and left. The youngster might prefer the kibble, but she would eat the polenta and rolls. With whatever kibble she managed to eat before Heidi ran her off, the corn (polenta) and bread would provide sustenance (energy) enough to keep her lactating through another day. Some days we eat steak. Some days left overs.
Back at the house, I remembered the watermelon I had picked up earlier in the day. Heidi and I (and maybe the yearling) would both enjoy that soon, tomorrow perhaps. Tomorrow I would try increasing Heidi's food a bit, at least while she was lactating.
You should have seen Heidi climbing the fence back when she was carrying 5 kits, looking like a beach ball with a head, and about to give birth any day. Some nights I didn't think she was going to make it. She would get a little past 1/2 way up the post when the load would shift and sway, and it would look like she was going DOWN any minute. And she would slow down noticeably as she neared the top, like when you struggle to take the last few steps on a long course of stairs (several floors). She always made it over the top, but it was close.
And watching her descend the post when she was the human equivalent of 8 and 3/4 mo along and carrying 5 was worse. That was really scary. The climb down head 1st which is fine when they are normal weight, but when they have 5 extra raccoons on board, OMG. Terrifying. A few steps down the post the load shifts and she starts to swagger. You just know any minute you are going to see her and 5 little ones lying at the bottom of the fence looking like Humpty Dumpty. She always made it though - at least while I was watching. Sometimes she jumped down from about 1/2 way though.
A time or two (while not 'with kit') I gave her a complete watermelon 1/2, full size, usually one that I didn't like the texture or flavor of. She loves watermelon. She would try her best to eat the whole thing. I would marvel at how much she could put away. Suddenly, she would waddle back over the fence in a hurry and return about 2 min later to eat some more. Looked like she had to make a pit stop to get rid of all that liquid...but she always made it back over the fence. LOL.
I've watched Heidi put away some 'whopper' meals over the years, always when she is nursing young kits. By comparison, she hardly eats a handful or two in winter when her nutritional needs are much lower. When I try to imagine the energy required to 'grow' and then feed a 1/2 dozen babies at once, I just figure she's entitled to as much food as she wants.
That must have been humorous to see your slim DIL pack away so much food. My only such experience with humans involved my X (fiance) who was so tall and thin that one of our friends used to tease him by calling him The Ethiopian. He didn't even have the pregnancy excuse like your DIL and Heidi, but that man could eat and eat - and never gain an ounce. He routinely ate whoppers and other large sandwiches in sets of 2 - I could never finish one, which was ironic, I thought. At one point he actually decided to brown bag it at work. He literally packed his lunch in one of those large, brown paper, grocery bags - 2/3 full. I'm not kidding. That he never gained an ounce was beyond amazing. I just looked at him and said, "You had better hope there is never a famine."
I was describing what used to happen back in the days when the tree limbs were still there! The tree limbs only helped the raccoons traverse the back side of the fence (by taking a detour by way of a tree). They still had to climb up/down the post on the inside regardless. For example, to leave the yard they would climb up the post on the inside, then transfer to a tree limb at the top of the fence, walk the limb to the tree trunk and take the trunk down to the forest ground. To get into the yard, they did the same thing in reverse. This allowed them to bypass the outside of the fence, as they cannot get a decent hold on that side for climbing.
Over the years, watching Heidi and the others, I've gained incredible confidence in their abilities. While it looked like an amazing feat, her climbing up/down that post with 1/2 dozen kits in tow, after the 1st few times, I learned not to worry. Her skills were nothing short of amazing.
BTW, it looks like the raccoons have been using their weight to bend the higher limbs down toward the fence. Pretty smart. I'm now thinking this is probably how they got the other limbs in place for easy access to the fence to begin with.
Some years back I noticed that the tree limbs along the fence line were all growing in an odd, downward, weeping sort of manner, while those on other sides of the same trees grew outward in a normal manner. Even then I wondered if this was some strange coincidence of if the raccoons had actually caused it. Now that those prior limbs have been removed, the raccoons appear to be working on bending higher limbs down to the fence to replace them. Several smaller limbs are now almost touching the fence. I figure that is their plan for getting themselves and the kits over the fence. (Now I need to tell the garden guy to leave the limbs alone. He's one heck of an energetic, 'get it done' worker who might otherwise whack those limbs off, too, if he notices them.)
I knew if I left this problem to the raccoons, they would figure it out. Raccoons are pretty amazing. Ironically, it is this same amazing ability to solve problems that makes them so annoying to those who don't want them around.
After that one night when I saw Heidi eating the yearling's food after finishing her own - and, mind you, there is no telling how long that had been going on before I noticed - I gave her a fairly huge mountain of food the next day. She managed to make it disappear, too, btw.
Yesterday I finally cut that watermelon I had mentioned earlier. OMG! That was the single best watermelon I had tasted in 2, maybe 3, decades. Not kidding. Wow. It had the perfect color and texture, and was as sweet as pure sugar, a fabulous melon. I have to admit it was hard to leave any for Heidi, that melon being so sweet all the way out to the edge of the red part. I usually leave her 2 to 4 inches around the outer part of the melon. Depending on the quality of the melon, sometimes I just eat the heart and leave her the rest. I love watermelon but only GOOD watermelon. Most melons aren't that good, so it's easy for me to leave much of the outer part for Heidi, but this one was almost too perfect to share.
I like to cut the melon in a manner that leaves a bowl like shell from which Heidi can eat/drink, as that is how she likes her melon. Usually, as with this one, I cut cross sections, as that lets me eat the melon a bit at a time and keep the remaining part good as long as possible. The 1st and last cuts create a bowl shaped section from the 'end cap' of the melon, so that's what we had yesterday. I was only able to convince myself to stop in time to leave her about an inch, maybe less most of the way around the 'bowl' section we had yesterday. I did manage to leave a bit more on one side, but it wasn't easy.
When I fed them at the back of the yard I used to take all the food out at one time, which wasn't always easy to do back in the days of cookies, grapes, peanuts, and so forth. Back then it was necessary to do it in one trip because once I sat down and they started eating, I had to stay seated. Otherwise, if I got up for any reason, they would all run away - and not return for hours. Things really have changed a lot over the years. Now I can walk around while they are eating and come and go as I please.
Last night I took the kibble out 1st like any normal feeding. I kept the watermelon in the fridge for a special surprise. While they were eating, I used a fork to scoop as much of the red part up as possible, leaving the scooped parts in the bowl for easy eating. When I took it out to Heidi, I could tell she was excited to get fresh watermelon again, this being our 1st melon of the season.
Heidi likes the juice almost more than the flesh of the melon, but she eats both. Sometimes, I'll see her remove some of the scooped out pieces (to eat later) just so that she can get better access to drink that coveted nectar. Her love of the juice is one reason I cut the melon this way, as the bowl-like rind keeps all that juice for her to drink.
Last night she started eating the melon as soon as I served it, vacillating between melon and kibble for the remainder of the meal. (I always put the melon bowl right beside her 'plate' so she can reach both easily.) When I got back inside, I could hear her grumbling and snorting off and on for a while. I looked out several times, but there was no indication that either of the other 2 were anywhere near her. They were always at their 'plates' eating calmly. It was as though Heidi were just out there issuing periodic warnings just in case anyone even thought about trying to take her melon. I knew how sweet that melon had been and how much she must be enjoying it, and it was clear she had no intentions of sharing.
This morning when I went out there, only the leaf-thin, dark green, outer shell remained. Between the raccoons and any other creatures that might have come by in the over night hours, they had even eaten every morsel of the white part, eaten everything but that ultra thin, dark green shell, so thin and flexible that it had collapsed. Just FYI, in the past I have noticed that watermelon is not only a favorite of raccoons and opossums but is even eaten by the box turtles (I've seen them crawling inside the bowl to eat.).
That melon was so yummy that I had a slice for breakfast this AM. As this was an inner slice (no bowl), I saved the juice in a container in the fridge for Heidi. It's not as good as a melon bowl, but she will still enjoy every drop of the sweet juice.
It was all I could do to keep from having a slice of that sweet melon for a late night snack last night, but I did not want to spend the night getting up every hour or so to, well, you know what happens with WATERmelon.
Oops. Sorry. I didn't even consider that aspect of describing food. Truth be told, Heidi and I would also really love another slice of that awesome melon. We finished ours off yesterday. It went pretty fast. I know. Hey, it was that good. Probably never find another one that perfect in every way again.
I might be tempted to pick up another today. Fingers crossed. Hoping for another good one.
Believe it or not, I actually think I can see the excitement on her face. It's difficult to qualify that, so I haven't mentioned it, but after we had that 1st melon day, Heidi started showing up super early, like late afternoon when the sun is still shining bright. That next day I just happened to go by the patio door and notice the tip of a medium sized grey ear sticking up at the bottom of the lowest pane. Sure enough, there she was camped out against the patio door waiting. Apparently, she couldn't wait another minute for a dinner. Dreaming of watermelon, maybe? And she's been coming early ever since.
2 afternoons ago when I checked and found her snoozing against the door as usual, I took out her food and a small container of juice I had saved from a section of watermelon eaten days earlier. This was truly the last remaining juice from that same super sweet melon which was now gone. I put the dish beside her food. I came back a little later to see how things were going. She was gone. Her kibble had hardly been touched, but she had licked the container of watermelon juice so dry it looked as though it had been washed and dried.
Since it was so early in the afternoon, I figured she had probably become uneasy and gone back to the forest, probably after she ate enough (or drank enough sweet juice) to knock the edge off her hunger. I had seen this before. She would hang out in a tree at the forest edge until darkness fell at which time she would return to finish her meal.
(In case anyone is wondering, I have a stack of plastic containers with matching tops that I saved over the years from Chinese delivery. I use those whenever I need a dish for the raccoons. Heidi eats calmly, leaving her dish right where I put it. If it were just her out there, the one dish would last forever, but the youngsters tend to spar over leftovers, and one always ends up carrying the entire dish away food and all. Luckily, I have a number of those 'throwaway' dishes.)
Several years ago when I was spending 30min to an hour out there with them almost nightly and had the opportunity to pet and hand feed the small kits as well as watch them playing with toys in the pool, there was a time when it was almost all that I could do not to hug one - although I knew that would be a serious error in many ways. Raccoons really are quite fascinating and adorable. Back when I was spending a good deal of time with them and some of my old favorites like Fraidy, HRH, Rupert, Dennis, Cissy, Bast, etc were around I wanted to hold them so much that I even considered whether I might want a pet raccoon. Of course, once I did some research and learned how destructive they are even when raised in captivity, I decided that just wasn't going to be an option, but I sure longed for the opportunity to have an even closer interaction with a raccoon back then. [Other issues also went into my decision/realization regarding raccoons as pets, including the fact that raccoons in captivity develop severe behavioral problems once they reach sexual maturity (if not neutered/spayed), yet neutering/spaying has been found to severely shorten their lifespan.]
I do enjoy seeing Heidi each evening. Just the sight of her face against the glass pane in the patio door brings a smile to my face. I should clarify though, just to be sure I haven't misled anyone, that while Heidi now allows me to touch her head and ears and sometimes the top of her shoulders briefly, there is no evidence that she perceives this as an especially pleasant thing as with 'petting' a cat or dog. She seems mostly uncertain as to why I am touching her, uncertain but not afraid. Still, that she is comfortable being touched at all, is huge.
On the other hand, now that I've been touching her from time to time, she has begun touching me - and that she seems to enjoy or at least want to do. It's as if by touching her, I've given her permission now to touch me in return. Pretty much daily now she makes a point to touch her nose to my toes as I'm walking out (in open toed shoes). Then if time allows, she will also touch her nose to my mid shin. Lastly, if I offer the back of my hand to her when I stoop down to put food in her dish, she is quick to take advantage of the opportunity to touch her nose to my hand and leave it there for what seems a long time at the moment, a minute or so, I guess. I figure she is curious about me as I am about her and all this is a fact finding behavior on her part, not unlike the rear sniffing thing common to dogs.
p.s. Crazy rescued crow won't leave me alone, and baby crows have been sighted in the neighborhood. The mockingbirds and blue jays look at me crosseyed when they see me throwing a piece of food for the bird(s) to retrieve.
I have started setting the hav-a-hart trap for the rats. Just today. I know how you all feel, but I'm not ready for that. Court's brainchild is for me to use my rescue connections to bring snakes into the yard, which I don't mind. We'll see if any of my rescue friends hook me up so when someone says "that woodpile is looking 'snake-y' it will be." Blah.
Thanks Lizzi - it's actually not so bad this year as it was last. Last year mid summer I stopped feeding the birds entirely. I think today when I saw a group of youngsters poking around in the grass I did the math and realized that this is how it starts. :P
Ok. Good news! My landscaper is here today. I went out to discuss yard issues with him. I mentioned that while I was wowed and blown away with how cleanly he had removed all those forest limbs, I now need him to leave that area (fence/forest) alone. I explained about how the raccoons had been using those limbs to get over the fence, about my concerns that the babies (expected to arrive in mid to late June) may have difficulty getting over the fence w/o the limbs, that I think the adults are trying to pull some higher limbs down to the fence, and that he should not cut any limbs away from the fence between now and late fall.
Now, I know I've probably told you this before, but he is really an awesome landscaper - even though he does occasionally cut down a treasured plant and coddle a weed or two (like that patch of weed grass in the front yard that he lovingly shapes, fertilizes, and otherwise treats like an ornamental). He's fabulous not so much for his ability to recognize ornamentals vs weeds, but for his energy and consistent willingness to go beyond what he's paid to do. So, you'll never guess his response to what is surely a most unusual request - I mean, I doubt many people discuss with him their concern for making sure the raccoons can get in the yard. lol.
A good landscaper would have said, "No problem. I'll make sure to leave the fence/limbs alone pending further notice." But he's not merely good. He's exceptional. After listening to my explanation of how the raccoons can't climb the back side of the fence, he said, "If you would like, on my next visit I'll go around to the back of the fence where I put all those large limbs and stand one or two up against the fence so the kits can climb them." Did I tell you he's awesome?! Problem solved. On his return in 2wks, he'll use the severed limbs to create a makeshift ladder for the kits. Yay! This is the guy, btw, who goes around the back yard in winter and collects all the raccoons' toys (dirty, rain drenched toys) which he then leaves in a bucket on the patio.
As I think I mentioned, I had wondered how he had managed to severe those limbs flush with the trees as he did. The fence is atop such a steep berm that I can't even stand up there without holding onto the fence, and the trees are out of reach of the usual yard equipment. Mystery solved. He told me he actually went around to the back of the fence, in the forest, to cut those limbs which he then left stacked up back there in the forest edge. Wow. Now that is going the extra length to do the job right. I say that because on the other side of the fence, the land is wet and swampy and the brush is dense. A friend tried to go back there once and came back almost immediately - soaked and muddy to his lower thigh where he had sunk in a wet spot. I'm told there is a pond of sorts a short distance beyond the fence, too. It's rough back there. These are wetlands. Not your normal forest, but probably a haven for raccoons who love water. How amazing that he went back there in the much to cut those limbs - and is now willing to go back to fashion a ladder of sorts for the kits. To me such an attitude is well worth the occasional plant tragedy.
Didn't even blink an eye, did he? You are very fortunate to have found a handy man. ;)
Yes in this world of willy-nilly "landscapers" it is a rare treasure indeed to find someone willing and able to do things the right way, despite an occasional boo-boo now and then. If I had a landscaper s/he'd pull up ALL my plants because natives are just weeds mostly to everyone else.
I was a pleasantly surprised to see Heidi at the door at dusk when I checked. I wasn't sure if she would show up at all tonight. Tropical storm Beryl is sitting just off the Charleston coast and is strengthening, although not expected to make it to hurricane status before it makes landfall tonight or tomorrow. At this time it is expected to move downward (southwest) as it approaches landfall in GA. This storm differs from the usual tropical storm (it's actually sub-tropical) in that it has significant Tstorm activity farther away from the center. Essentially, a tropical storm is one very large storm which owns, if you will, any number of Tstorms and even tornadoes, a large system made up of numerous storms and/or tornadoes. Thus when one of these things is coming your way, you never know exactly what is in there (in the overall package, that is). Depending on where this storm lands, there is a good chance we will be effected by the outer Tstorms.
For hurricanes and tropical storms hitting the Atlantic coast, the strongest and most destructive winds along with the highest storm surge (leading wave as storm comes on shore) are felt on the upper, northern, or right side of the storm (depending on one's perspective). What I mean by this is that the worst place to be is in the area north of the storm's eye. (When Hugo, a much, much stronger storm, hit Charleston, the eye came directly over us. We took a sound beating for sure, but the area between Charleston and Myrtle Beach was hit by that right/northern side of the storm, the worst side, and was decimated. Thankfully, that area was less populated, but commercial fishing vessels in that area were tossed about like so many plastic toys and ultimately piled up a mile or more onshore. The Francis Marion Nat Forest, just north of Charleston, was practically converted to a very large pasture as the storm mowed down hundreds of acres of pine trees like a summer lawn.)
Bottom line, Charleston (and I live in the city of Charleston) is on the north side of the area where this tropical storm is expected to make landfall. The extent to which we are effected by this storm depends on just where it comes on shore. If it follows the current projected path, we will be just outside the worst area, but these storms rarely do as they are told. If it hits just a little north of where they expect, we could be in line to receive the worst of it. Of course, this is a tropical storm not a major hurricane as Hugo was. At it's worst, this storm will probably just down trees and toss limbs and debris everywhere - and cause some flooding.
We could be looking at significant wind and Tstorm activity as well as a lot of (much needed) rain with possible flooding, downed trees/limbs, etc. Power loss is likely, so I've already gathered my candles, matches, and flashlight on the nightstand to be ready in case power goes off in the overnight. I'm a little worried about a very tall and possibly weak tree behind the house, one which could strike the MBR if it were to fall. In all probability I'll be fine. An all day or even 2 day power outage is probably the worst I'll get from this - but half the fun of these storms is the fact you just never know what they are really going to do until it's done.
Heidi won't come out to eat in a Tstorm or even if one is off in the distance. That's why I thought she might be a no show tonight. There is a distinct rumble of thunder in the distance now, although not when she was here, so the 1st of those Tstorms is on the way already. Oddly, tonight Heidi was accompanied by not 1 or 2 but FOUR raccoons. I had to wonder if the others came hoping to get a bite before the storms started coming through (limiting their foraging time) - or they might be part of the group that always seems to sneak back into the area when Heidi is preoccupied raising young kits.
I used to worry about the raccoons at times like this, especially if they had little ones stashed away somewhere, but over the years I've learned that they are pretty darned smart and resourceful. In one particularly bad storm some years back a large tree fell in the forest back there, and I worried that the raccoons might have been harmed. That was back when I still envisioned them living somewhere fairly close behind my house. Another time I worried about both the raccoons and my 'mother cardinal' nesting near the house, when a nasty summer storm pelted us with golf ball sized hail, hail that damaged roofs and cars throughout the area but somehow managed to leave both bird and coon untouched. Wherever it is that they actually live, I now know that Heidi is smart enough to know to build her nest and stash her kits somewhere that is safe, somewhere sturdy, somewhere out of wind and rain.
One year the DNR decided to burn the forest back there behind my house. They said it was necessary to burn off the dense underbrush, minimize the risk of unplanned fires, and allow seedlings room to develop. I learned about the burn in the form of a smoke advisory. I was distraught worrying about the raccoons, imagining their terror as the fire approached, wondering where they would go as they tried to flee the fire and, worst of all, whether any would be harmed. I hoped they would know that they could always find safety in my fenced backyard, but I doubted they would think to come here under such duress and in daylight.
We had smoke and lots of it all day that day, smoke so hazy at time that I decided it best to stay inside to avoid breathing it, but when the burn was over every one of the then large group of raccoons showed up for dinner. No one was missing or even singed. Unlike humans, they have excellent instincts for dealing with such things, so I've learned not to worry about their safety. Cars, dogs, and humans pose a much greater risk to them than any storm or wildfire.
As for me, things are fine right now, albeit cloudy and windy. The latest meteorological guesses have the storm landing somewhere in upper Florida. If it does come in that low, we should be spared the worst of it. It's now predicted to come through this area some time later this week after it makes landfall and is weakened by traveling over land. The expected effect here is much the same as before, just pushed back to Tuesday or so: wind, heavy rain, downed trees/limbs, power outages. Probably nothing too bad. More inconvenient (power outage, flooding) than anything.
The thing that concerns me most about this is that it's so early in the season, and we are already up to 'B'. The 'A' storm even preceded the official start of hurricane season. That's quite unusual. Even more unusual, whereas our tropical storms and hurricanes normally spawn in the warm waters somewhere off the coast of Africa, we actually managed to cook up both of these storms right here in the coastal waters between Florida and SC. Great. Now we are making our own tropical storms. All of this seems ominous as we head into the 2012 hurricane season. It's been very calm here in the Atlantic for a decade or so, but I know that has to end eventually.
I grew up "up north" but my father's family lives on the coast way "down east" and we always worried about them this time of year. The live east of Morehead City, across from Ocracoke Island. Anyway - flooding and some wind damage occasionally, but they were usually spared.
I agree it's early and was surprised last week to hear from Court about the first storm.
About burning - it's good forestry management practice and part of a natural cycle - as this is part of my studies in the dept of forestry and NR at NCSU - that zones have been mapped out and now identify which parts of the country had fire occur naturally and how often. Some more regularly occurred in the coastal plain (1-3 years) in the interior of the country less frequently (up to 100 years apart) but surely animals have developed survival mechanisms lockstep with the natural cycles that have developed over time.
Certainly our interference(s) with all things nature have altered behavior but also changed and improved coping mechanisms allow certain species to thrive among humans. I went to a forestry conference early spring and the theme was "adapt, migrate or die!!!" Leave it to foresters to paint such a rosy picture. ;)
Just thinking about it - humans are so out of touch with "reality" and our sense of control is so tenuous that when something catastrophic occurs we are without the ability to cope. Oh, for the old days . . ... ha ha ha.
Well if nothing else on the east coast we can be thankful for the moisture that the storms may bring. In the meantime stock your shelves and reinforce your hiding places!!!
He really is a keeper - incredibly conscientious, hard working, dependable, and willing to go the extra mile. He doesn't charge extra for those little things either. I pay him a very reasonable, flat fee to mow, edge, and prune, no charge for picking up a bucketful of small raccoon toys, bagging trash, cleaning up the patio, etc. Actually, I only pay him $5 more than I was paying the kid next door (who didn't prune, and rarely did any cursory edging). He (the landscaper, not the kid) does such an awesome job, I've even tried to pay him extra a time or two like at the end of the year for a Christmas bonus - and he just credits onto the next year.
If a clone of my landscaper for every job I need done, I would be in good shape.
Heidi was a no-show yesterday. The yearlings were all here around dusk - there are some 4 or 5 of them now - but no sign of Heidi anywhere. I probably made 10 trips to the back door to check on her, but she never was out there. She's probably fine, but I must admit that I did find her uncharacteristic absence troubling. I just couldn't imagine a reason why she would fail to show up. I only hope that I will have the opportunity to look back on this and laugh at myself for being so silly as to worry.
The night before she was here early, before dark, as usual, and she stayed about an hour during which time she ate a good sized pile of kibble and the remains of a watermelon, taking small bites and chewing as slowly and methodically as a high-brow diner in a posh restaurant. (I took a handful of pics and a video or 2, btw. Will post soon.)
Last night I waited a while for Heidi to show up, but finally gave up and fed the yearlings who were out there waiting. In total, the yearling were out there for quite a while, since some arrived much later than others. keeping the meal going as long as possible. I fed them around 8-9 or so and checked many times during their meal to see if Heidi might have joined them. Then when I went back out there around 10 to check on Heidi one last time, yet another raccoon was out there lurking about - but STILL no Heidi. If, for some reason, Heidi showed up late last night after the yearlings had all finished eating, she would probably have left w/o eating.
Normally, Heidi is 1st to arrive. She knows I haven't been out there yet, so she sits at the door waiting for me. If I put any food out before Heidi shows up, whether to feed other raccoons or just to toss left overs on the compost pile, Heidi will check out anything that remains (if any) and then leave, apparently thinking she missed the meal. Unlike those nights when she arrives before any food has been put out/eaten, she won't wait around to give me a chance to see her out there. I've learned that I can't even go out there before dark to put left overs on the compost pile, because, if I do so, Heidi (and the others) will assume they missed me and will leave before I have a chance to feed them. It's possible that something of this sort happened last night, that Heidi just arrived late for some reason and then left realizing she had missed the meal (and not knowing I was still waiting to feed her).
Maybe she decided to take the kits out for a short lesson close to home before coming to dinner last night. At any rate, I found her absence troubling. I look forward to seeing her tonight and having the delightful opportunity to gently scold myself for being silly.
The attached photo of Heidi, taken a few nights earlier, shows her place setting - and belies my green patio and the need for a power wash. Ah, the many 'benefits' of high humidity. On this particular night her majesty dined on a bed of multicolored kibble, 'glass' of watermelon water with autumn leaf garnish, and side of H20 in terra cotta saucer (empty). [ *23% gratuity added to all tables of 1 or more]
She didn't show up until a little while ago, so quite a bit later than usual. Definitely if she came this late last night she would have missed the meal, realized that was the case, and left w/out being seen. She was super hungry, so I guess she didn't get much to eat in the forest last night. I fed her the usual amount, and when I stopped by to check on her a little later, it was all gone and she was still hanging around apparently hoping for 2nds - which I did provide, for her and the yearling that had showed up by then - plus the yearling that came along by the next time I checked, and the next, and next...We're up to 4 or 5 now. Did I mention this happens, extra guests showing up, every year after she has the kits? It's like they know she's too busy tending to kits to bother with them.
Forgot to mention this last night, which played into my concerns for Heidi. One of the yearlings has a ghastly wound, nothing like what happened to Bast a few years ago, but nasty just the same. She has an area on her shoulders about an inch or so wide and 4 or so inches long where the hair has been completely removed and a wound has healed over. A year or so ago several of them were all wearing similar (albeit smaller) sort of gashes on their upper backs just between the shoulders. They all seem to be getting this same injury. Weird.
Ruth thought the scars were due to an animal, maybe a large dog, grabbing them. She said that was the area where a predator would grab them. At the time I was thinking maybe they had gotten into a fight with a dog or dogs in the neighborhood - perhaps sneaking into the dog's yard trying to eat its food. But so many of them? Over and over again? Continuing even now to sneak back into the yard even after so many have been wounded?
Or could there maybe be some predator in the forest trying to grab raccoons for a snack? That's the point last night where I started to worry about Heidi. We don't have wolves or coyotes or bears here. We do have alligators, lots of them, but presumably if it were an alligator thing we would never have seen the wounds. We used to have cougars, but there are no known cougars here now - however, cougars are known to be extremely shy and good at hiding out from humans. We do have bobcats. They are only slightly larger than raccoons. Not sure if they could take on an adult raccoon. We also have birds of prey, eagles, hawks, owls. Doubt any of them would take on an adult raccoon, but you never know. They might get into a tussle with the mother while trying to grab a baby, maybe. Seems unlikely that would happen so many times though.
We also have wild hogs. I know there is a gang of wild hogs that inhabits that forest back there. I know this because one night some years ago they came out of the forest and tore my [immediate] neighbor's back yard up so badly that I thought he had tilled it under for some strange reason. After that he strung wire fencing across the edge of the forest behind his house, so that it's not visible but should keep the hogs from coming into his yard again. I don't know if hogs would attack raccoons, but according to both locals and literature, wild hogs are very aggressive, very dangerous, and will not hesitate to attack humans and even dogs. I think hogs are omnivores, but not sure.
In case you are wondering, hogs are not native to the US. They are here because the early settlers brought them over from Europe and set some loose to provide a source of food/hunting. They brought many such food items, plants and animals with them, like apple trees, for instance, because in this foreign land they longed for things that were comforting and familiar - and back then no one realized the problems caused by introducing foreign species into an isolated ecosystem...The hogs flourished here in the southeastern US and have now covered forests across the area all the way to, I think, Texas. They pose lots of problems for local ecosystems - and humans, but there is no stopping them now. Local governments and citizens have killed many of them but to no avail. Now there are indications that these hogs are growing much larger and even more aggressive.
I have personally never seen one of these wild hogs in my entire life, but I've heard about them, heard they are about the worst thing you could walk up on in forests around here, especially since they are more inclined to attack than run. I used to think these were tall tales, until I read about the problem in responsible, national science magazines and saw programs on NatGeo and other educational channels. From all indications, if one were to encounter a wild hog in the forest, one would be in serious trouble unless one happened to have a couple of large and very aggressive dogs and/or a weapon with them.
Attached is about the best pic I have of the wounded raccoon and a close up of the wound. As you can see she seems otherwise healthy, despite what must have been a rather nasty injury. (No thanks, Debbie. ;-) )
I guess the 'zoom' pic didn't really help that much. I really couldn't tell how large either would be until posted. Oh,well. I tried. Anyhow, if you recall that several of the raccoons bore similar wounds in the recent past, it's a bit disconcerting to say the least.
Great to see you. I knew if you were there, that would bring you out of hiding. lol. I just can never resist ribbing you about that. Plus, as you can see, there is a lot of junk in the picture. All that junk and debris made me think about how I really didn't need that pic enhanced. ;-)
Actually, my landscaper did a good job of cleaning up the patio (not his job) back in April. He even blew or swept all the debris away at the time, and said he would power wash it in fall/winter. His hard work is still quite evident in the area directly in front of the door, including the area where Heidi was photographed.
The raccoons, not Heidi but the yearlings, actually made the mess seen across much of the rest of the patio. I think they just get antsy when forced to wait around, so they mess with everything on the patio. They have pretty much dragged everything off of the bakers rack out there. They dropped many items to the concrete below, breaking things like terra cotta pots, a cup I had out there for scooping things, and so on. Despite the landscaper's great work, they have trashed the joint all over again. Several times they even unscrewed the light fixture - thank goodness it is plastic, otherwise it would be part of the debris on the patio floor by now. Raccoons are like those kids that are constantly into everything. They have to pull and twist and probe and basically test the integrity of everything they find out there.
When all was said and done, that storm really didn't effect us all that much. It was a very drawn out affair, since all the models insisted it would double back through here later in the week even after making landfall. We were inundated daily with all manner of warnings about possible flooding, downed trees, you name it. In the end, it passed through here in the middle of the night with little more than some moderate wind and a few heavy downpours that weren't even sufficient to overcome the effects of the drought. The whole thing took so long to play out that I forgot I had said I would come back afterward to post if power was still on. Sorry about that, and thank you much for thinking of us.
Interesting that you saw the same wounds on the squirrels. I guess that's because as Ruth indicated predators often grab them in that area for max control. I know predators grab really large prey by the throat so as to immobilize them quickly, but I guess these smaller animals have such short necks that are too close to the ground for easy access. Grabbing the back of the neck or shoulder region must be the next best thing. Ruth (animal control) seemed to think those marks on the raccoons were from large dogs (which would be taller than the raccoons). Birds of prey make sense with squirrels, but I don't think they would be so quick to tackle adult raccoons for fear of injury. I'm not even sure if they could lift an adult raccoon.
Whatever it is that is making those wounds, something definitely seems to be after the raccoons as this has gone on now for years. Of course, if the raccoons are sneaking around past sleeping dogs to sneak a snack - and raccoons are total ninjas, btw - that would explain the problem. The raccoons probably get by with such behavior often enough to make it worthwhile, but then occasionally get caught when the dog wakes up and the raccoon can't make it over the fence in time. Ruth figured a large dog would grab the raccoon and then end up letting it go once the raccoon doubled around and sunk its teeth and/or claws in the dog's face. If she's right, somewhere in the neighborhood we probably have a dog or dogs with facial wounds to match those on the raccoons - and a very unhappy dog owner.
About that storm, I'm still a bit on edge about the coming season. Both the A&B storms preceded the official start of the season, and that seems ominous considering Atlantic storms usually don't get going good a month or so after the season starts. Also, while not entirely unheard of, we don't usually develop are own storms right off the coast as with both of those. We usually wait for Africa to pitch them at us. Just hope this is not a sign of things to come.
If you're a real weather buff I understand that something called the "Greenland Block" is sending the cooler air down from Canada. I don't know how that affects water offshore in the Atlantic . . ... Well it may well be pushing our warm air farther south . . ... Hmmm.
Heard about it briefly on the weather channel last week.
Actually, the weather seems unseasonably 'cool' here, too, right now, so I think we must be benefiting from that cool air as well. By 'cool' I mean low 80's, and while it's quite stuffy out when you factor in the near 100% humidity, it's still cool here compared to what we would expect by this time of year. We should be going into the mid to high 90's by now - but, of course, I'm not complaining. ;-)
I don't know that I'm particularly interested in weather. I've only in recent years even begun to pay any attention to weather at all. I'm an electrical engineer & software engineer (bachelors and masters respectively), so no matter how you look at it, I'm definitely a big 'ole geek. I'm pretty much interested in most things. I actually even read non-fiction for fun, something I don't mention often as I realize how strange that is. I've been like this since I used to walk the non-fiction stacks of the local library as a kid, pulling books off shelves at random for my reading pleasure. What can I say? It takes all kinds. I try where possible to keep a lid on the geeky stuff when talking to 'normal' people, but some of it invariably leaks out despite my best efforts.
Since I survived Hugo (and I was not at all sure I would at the time), I've had a special interest in hurricanes, esp as I know another could be in our future. I also mention weather stats a lot out of an interest in weather differences across the US and even the world. If find that, but for what I've learned from each of you, I am largely ignorant of what the weather is like in most other areas (but for a very few places I've traveled), and I find that particular information considerably more interesting and 'real' when it comes from real people (as apposed to books).
Likewise, I find that most people are equally lacking in knowledge of what Charleston weather is like (except for those I've reached here at DG). As our weather is vastly different from the rest of SC, being more like that of Florida and east TX up to Houstan (per Suntime Zone System), I find that most people are surprised to learn how very HOT & humid it is here summer and how nice it is here the rest of the year (like some 8-9mo of spring).
Often when I'm discussing the weather here, it is in an effort to change or update perceptions of Charleston weather. Other times I do it to lend atmospheric imagery to the Heidi story. BTW, I also enjoy hearing about what's happening in your areas weather-wise, especially when it is information that would help me to better understand what it's like to live with ice or snow, permafrost, mountains, very large hail, severe tornadoes, flooding, and other things not common to my area. For instance, until I heard it on here somewhere, I was completely unaware that in some very cold areas (not yours specifically, of course) people actually have to either leave their cars running overnight or keep some kind of special heater running as they would otherwise be unable to start their cars. To me, that's like, 'WOW!!!' (picture a wide, eyed child with mouth agape). I just can't even imagine it being too cold to start a car.
Here it usually only 'plunges' to 28F a few nights per year and otherwise stays in the 40's to 80's in winter with most winter days in the upper 60's to the mid 80's. Here even if we do have one of those thoroughly frigid nights when the overnight low touches 28F briefly, it will almost certainly rise to the 70's or above the following day once the sun comes back up. It is during such times that I whine and complain loudly about the bitter cold and how I'm positively freezing. On the other hand, summer temps here have actually been known to melt/warp plastic plant saucers in the backyard and warp plastic pencils (reshaping one into a 'C' shape) left in the car. It's a point of frustration for me that I have to remove everything from the car at the start of summer, even such things as spare pencils/pens in the console and sunglasses in the overhead compartment designed to store them, this to avoid melting/warping as pretty much nothing is safe in a parked car here in summer - and I will never even consider buying another car with black interior as long as I remain here, because the temps reached inside such a car in a parking lot here in summer are obscene.
Ok, well, clearly now I have wandered WAY of topic once again. Sorry. Which reminds me of the need to get going as I have much to do today. I do have another 'you won't believe this' story to tell you guys, but it will have to wait until later. When it happened, I stood there shaking my own head in disbelief. Later.
Sometimes, at the height of our summers, sometimes referred to as 'dog days', I start fantasizing about moving North. In fact, since I've reached the age at which we ladies go through periodic boiling spells regardless of the weather, I've started daydreaming about life in the permafrost. I used to get a serious chill when the weather dipped down in the 60's, but at the height of my internal heat wave, I began to find the 40's absolutely perfect. I'm not kidding. I would be running around in a T-top thinking, "ahhh. This is just perfect" while all the normal people were hiding out under sweaters and coats and asking me, "Aren't you freezing?" "No," I thought, "Isn't this odd. This feels really good to me."
For a while there, I was getting pretty serious about the idea of moving WAY north. Somewhere where I wouldn't be sweating all the time. For a while there it seemed I could not get too much cold. Thankfully, I've managed to solve my internal heat wave issues. Also, I've begun to notice that many people from colder areas express the same sentiment as you do. Many of them have relocated here, and I've been shocked to find that they are largely undaunted by our summer heat. Most say they would not want to go back and endure the frigid cold of their former home. They indicate the hardships of summer here are nothing in comparison to those of winter in the area from which they came. Thus I've begun to rethink the idea of moving to the tundra.
Ah, yes, California, the land where there are large swaths of land where the temp remains a fairly constant 70ish (or 80ish, since their dry 80 feels like our humid 70). Unfortunately, everyone else also likes the idea of year round perfect weather, thus the high cost of living over there.
Alas, it seems there is no truly green pasture anywhere.
Having difficulty sleeping tonight. Overall I've been sleeping quite well lately, so whereas this was once a nightly occurrence it's now more of an anomaly, thankfully. Thought I would take a moment to answer a question from a while back.
That time when you guys were ribbing me about how some might have trouble believing whatever was happening at that moment, I want to 1st clarify that I was not at all upset nor did I take the comments badly. I really did think you were being facetious. Just out of curiosity I asked (at the time) for clarification as to which event seemed incredible.
Amanda, you asked if I sometimes wonder if people will doubt this or that - forgive me if I paraphrased badly, btw. I think I probably did to some extent in the early years of the thread. So much of what was happening in those days stretched even my own capacity to believe, but that seems so long ago now. Most of all I remember that in those days I was often most concerned as to how I would manage to articulate all of the incredible things I was observing. Realizing that I had a front row seat on events that few have the opportunity to observe, I wanted quite desperately to bring each and every one of you into that very circle where I sat watching the raccoons as they ate and interacted. I wanted, if at all possible, to give you the experience of actually being there, of hearing what I heard and seeing what I saw. Even as events were playing out before me, in my mind I was trying to imagine how I might go about describing this or that. At the time, that was my biggest concern.
I'm pretty sure I would have had concerns that this or that might seem too impossible to believe except that I had my camera out there with me and took copious pictures, especially of anything new or unusual if I could possibly get the shot. Were it not for the credibility afforded by the photos and later videos, I might have thought the whole thing too outrageous to be believable.
There was one time in all of this that stands out above all else as that moment when I thought to myself, "OMG! No one will EVER believe this. No one." That was the night when Bast, who had been gravely injured and for a time had only been able to drag herself around, suddenly and for the 1st time hoisted herself up into the air, found her balance, and began walking around on her front legs as though it were the most natural thing in the world. I will never forget that moment. I was positively dumbstruck, and, unable to believe what my own eyes were seeing, I could not imagine that anyone would ever believe me when I told that story.
I even tried desperately to get a photograph, but circumstances conspired against me. The camera malfunctioned. I took several pictures when the camera was not in the right mode. Everything went wrong. I actually did get 2 pictures, but they were not from the best angle. I needed to get the profile shot where her vertical alignment would be obvious, but all I managed were 2 photos (different nights) taken from the back as she was walking away. From that view, the photos were difficult to read. It was hard to tell if her hind legs are in the air or on the ground.
Luckily, when I told the story someone found a youtube video of a raccoon walking on its front legs just exactly as I described. (and I had been so certain that surely Bast must have been the only raccoon ever to do that.)
Anyhow, I just wanted to finally clear all of that disbelief stuff up and also answer your question - although the question was probably more rhetorical in nature. Sorry I just didn't have time to address it at the time.
Cheryl - it was rhetorical - certainly people who are comfortable with creatures and bugs and birds wouldn't find it strange for you to be feeding racoons in the yard. I guess such things are commonplace in a way to me now and most people that know me wouldn't be surprised to hear some crazy story like that from me.
I understand the feeling of awe and wonder you must have as you sit there with them. I don't need photographs - probably no one following your thread does, but when you do post - pictures are the gravy. :)
No, it's keen and intense pain and some envy in there what I feel when I read your posts about patting Heidi on the head or having her stand up and touch your leg. It's just getting a bit closer to the unknown and untame. I had a moment like that last week when Billy ( my neighbor's goat) let me scratch his forehead for the very first time in over a year. Apparently goats don't like their heads to be touched because their eyes are such that they can see almost 360 degrees around (why they look so funny!) - serious prey animal adaptation, no?
Anyway - he has let me know over time that he DOES LOVE to have his head scratched right between his horns. Not the front of his horns on his face/forehead, but right there on top of the head just between and around the base of the horns. I guess that's a spot he really can't reach by himself. All I've ever read or heard is about how stubborn goats are, but he does come to me when I ask him to because he knows I mean no harm and usually he expects a good head or fanny scratching. :D
So the forehead scratching was a one time deal apparently - it hasn't happened again. He has let me put my arms around his giant belly and run/walks more slowly than he used to when he was just trying to get away. It's an odd love story, but it's mine. We each find our little joys with nature's creatures when and where we can.
Thanks for sharing - don't let our goofy comments here keep you up at night. ;)
Oh, no, I was never upset by anything you guys said. Promise. I was fairly sure you were joking and would not have been upset if you weren't. I'm pretty difficult to upset or offend, so please don't refrain from joking around and/or speaking your mind.
The goat sounds adorable. I love pretty much all animals, as, apparently, do you. I've never actually seen a goat except in photos nor have I had the opportunity to pet one, but from your post I almost feel as though I can reach out and scratch this one's head and feel the coarse and slightly shaggy fur between my fingers as I do so. As to the forehead scratching being a one time thing - so far - lately Heidi isn't letting me touch the top of her head either. She doesn't run away, she just raises her nose up to my hand such that I can never quite reach her head. It may just be that it was dark when I did it before and now in daylight it seems strange to her. It's quite amazing that she ever let me do it at all considering that even domestic dogs often find it threatening to see a hand reaching past their eyes and toward their head or neck area. Perhaps in time, they may grant us permission once more.
Horses also have that same basic structure with wide set eyes on the side of their heads granting them near 360 vision as do many large prey animals. There are some glitches in that system. Horses can see everywhere except directly behind their bodies and directly in front of their faces. In both of these 2 spots they are completely blind. I wonder if this may play a part in the goat's issues regarding having his face touched. If his vision is like that of a horse, your hand would be visible on approach and would at some point disappear from view as it drew close to his face. This might be unnerving.
This peculiarity of sight coupled with their equally odd ability to sleep standing upright is what makes it dangerous to walk up behind a horse in a stall, especially a narrow, standing stall, without 1st taking care to introduce yourself and insure the horse is awake and knows you are there. Otherwise, you may suddenly wake him from a deep sleep and, knowing something is there but unable even to see you there in his blind spot so close behind him, he may well kick you defensively before he even realizes it's just you harmlessly coming into the stall to give him his breakfast or take him out for a ride. More than a few equine enthusiasts have made this mistake.
Yet another oddity of near 360 vision is the fact that when jumping a fence or other obstacle, the horse jumps blind, unable to see the jump at all by the time he actually reaches it. Worse, on approach, he sees not one but TWO jumps, one coming toward him from either side (as seen from each, individual eye). As he gets closer, the two jumps merge towards each other and then, just as he reaches the jump, disappear altogether at the very moment when he needs to raise his front legs and thrust his body into the air to clear the obstacle. Can you even imagine having to jump under such conditions? We humans with our 3-D, stereoscopic sight but limited field of vision often fail to understand or appreciate what things are like for animals with entirely different structures.
When you stand beside a horse and put your arm over his back or neck it's like a big hug. It's how horses comfort each other when stressed or just show friendship. You can see them often standing around in the field, one with its head and neck draped over the shoulders of the other as if to say, "I'm here with you." My guess is that move, putting your arm over his back, may have similar meaning for goats. (I miss horses just talking about them. Been thinking a lot lately about getting one or maybe resuming dressage lessons.)
I can appreciate your enjoyment of time spent with the goat and with the crows and other birds. Don't know if I mentioned it, but there was a guy here, trois was his name, who actually had a wild blue jay that would land on his hand to eat peanuts. I was SO jealous. I asked him once how he managed that. He said it took a LOT of time, much like the way I got to this point with Heidi, that he started out just sitting outside motionless for long periods of time with peanuts on the ground nearby.
When the jay became very comfortable landing nearby to eat the peanuts, he began moving them closer, each time moving them again only after the jay was very comfortable at that distance. Once the jay was willing to eat beside him, he started putting the peanuts on a hat on his head, then on a gloved hand, and then finally the bird was comfortable landing and eating from his bare hand. Once the bird was that comfortable with him, he would just go outside and hold his hand out with a peanut in his palm and wait for the bird to come to him minutes later. The bird would sit around in the trees waiting for him to come out. He said he tried various nuts and found that the jay had a preference for peanuts.
I've seen this done with chickadees, too, and I think I mentioned that a particular tufted titmouse named Mr T used to land on my head whenever I would go out to work in the garden. My hair has very distinctly red highlights when seen in bright sunlight and at that time I had played up the natural red tone of my hair with a strawberry blonde semi-permanent coloring. The titmouse was apparently attracted to my red hair which he coveted for his/her nest. I'm told that males often seek out bright colored items as nest decorating gifts for their desired mate. Some species need to procure a particular color such as blue. Mr T like red. Or perhaps that was Mrs T's proclivity.
I was wondering if this might be something you could try with the crows. I know how much you enjoy them and can only imagine how, like me with Heidi and the kits, you might be like a kid on Christmas morning to have a wild bird trust you enough to sit on your hand and eat. I, too, would love to do this someday when I have the time to invest. Trois did this after he was retired. Another DG friend had a wild squirrel that would hop up on her lap to eat nuts. It's quite amazing the odd but wonderful bonds folks here have established with wild creatures over the years.
BTW, I saw where researchers recently determined that a particular parrot was using a distinctly different vocalization for each of her 3 baby birds when calling them to eat. For all intents and purposes, she seemed to be calling each baby bird using a distinct sound - much like a name - and each baby bird appeared to recognize its particular sound (or name). Is that awesome, or what? Sorry, I don't recall where I saw that, but it was a dependable source. (i.e., not the enquirer.lol)
Over the years observing the raccoons, I came to believe that they might actually have a language of sorts, as well. I realize people may find some of my observations a bit 'out there', but, as with the parrot, it's quite possible that there is still much we have to learn about the other creatures with which we share the planet. Another researcher noticed traits previously defined as distinctly human in a group of wild chimps. I saw that on a recent show on Nat Geo. As I keep saying, I'm convinced we have more in common with animals than we realize - and now science seems to be learning this is true.
Oops, I'm afraid you've inspired yet another lengthy dissertation. :-)
Late yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to see the most comical thing. I do so wish I could have gotten that in a photo or recording. It inspired me to very literally laugh out loud.
The sun was still bright in the sky, and it was early for raccoons to be out and about. I had been doing something in the kitchen. I stepped around to the patio door to see if Kitty might be out there waiting to come inside as is often the case. What I saw totally took me aback.
A young raccoon, a yearling that is apparently familiar with my ways, was standing upright, NOT at the patio door as is so often the case but on the far side of the patio where she was on tippy toes in front of and some distance away from a window. My windows all come down to 18in from the floor, and as there is no crawl space, that's only 2 or 3 more inches from the ground or patio floor. In addition to the door where Heidi and the others often wait for me, about a foot down from there is a series of 4 windows, side by side like 1 giant window. As this is on the back of the house and facing the forest I keep the curtains open most of the time for maximum sunlight.
On the inside is of those patio windows is a decent sized breakfast room and then the kitchen, separated by a bar height counter. I had been in the kitchen previously, where my 5ft2 frame would have been largely concealed by the counter (from view of anyone at the window, that is).
The young raccoon, apparently interested in seeing what I was doing, perhaps to determine if I might be about to deliver dinner and what might be on the menu, was some 4ft back from the window, stretching up on tippy toes in an effort to discern what I was doing on the other side of the room and counter. She was completely unaware that I had exited the other side of the kitchen and made my way to the door where I had that positively hilarious opportunity for a moment to watch her trying to watch me.
Her pose at that moment was priceless. As though drawn directly from some Pixar animation, she reminded me very much of the sloth from Ice Age as she stood there long and lean, her arms slightly outstretched and drooping at about 45 degrees from her shoulders as though to help her attain maximum possible height, her lean body as distinctly vertical as any human, her gaze so incredibly serious as she strained to catch some glimpse of me over the kitchen counter. In that moment she could have been drawn from any comic strip cartoon.
It was only then as I burst out laughing that she realized I was not in the kitchen at all but rather at the door watching her. Instantly the moment was gone as she dropped to all fours and scurried away to the cover of nearby shrubs. I do so wish I had been able to record that moment in some manner. It was an absolutely once in a lifetime sight. Everything about her had been so incredibly comical and so surreal, this wild animal standing upright like a miniature human to peer through a window like Gladys Kravitz, this forest dweller so clearly focused on determining what she could glean over the bar about what I was doing in there and whether she would be dining any time soon.
Actually, it's about the right time for them to begin showing up, and I think I might have seen some evidence of them recently. This was next up on my growing list of things I need to tell you guys.
While out back photographing flowers, I noticed 1st one and then another and yet 3rd toy, all in the area under that weeping willow where the adults often let the kits play. The toys included one of those practice golf balls and a furry, toy rat. I don't recall seeing any of those small toys there previously. I need to check them again to see if they have been moved. While it's not impossible that the yearlings played with the toys, it's seems highly unlikely that any of them would be feeling very playful right now, as they are all pretty exhausted from this their very 1st round of nursing and baby care and are thus unlikely to be interested in anything other than food and rest. In fact, they often lie around looking totally done-in while waiting for dinner. This might sound familiar to some of the ladies, but at this time of year they all tend to lie around, looking tired to the bone and stopping frequently to lick what appear to be very sore mammaries. I really doubt they are in any mood to play right now.
Also, it's quite the coincidence that the toys have appeared recently under that tree. That's the only large tree in the backyard. It offers kits a place to escape quickly from danger. It's directly beside the old diner area. There used to be a small, neglected, weeded area between the buffet and the tree where the kits would hide out and play while their moms ate. The gardener converted the weeds to lush lawn, but there are still a number of hydrangeas and other shrubs around the base of the tree to provide some cover for play.
I'm thinking the moms, possibly one or more of the yearlings may already be bringing kits to the yard. I rather doubt they would bring them in daylight when they come to eat (the 1st time), but they may be returning later after dark, possibly even just to rest wile the kits play with the toys. They used to make such 2nd, 3rd, and nth visits to entertain the kits a lot back when the pool was open. I'm thinking, once the mom's get fed, like any other mom of multiple toddlers the focus for the rest of the day is on how to keep the babies entertained, busy, and out of mom's hair. The pool, toys, and such seem to provide much entertainment for the little tykes.
Then, just a few days ago, I noticed yet another sign of kits. Whereas under normal circumstances the raccoon eat all they can hold on their 1st (and possibly only) visit, when they 1st start taking the kits out - Heidi is particularly big on this - they come early, eat enough to knock their hunger back, and then leave the rest to eat later when they return with the kits after dark. Early on they feel safer bringing the kits after dark, but with such long days they are too hungry to wait that long. Plus they know I will be looking for them in the early evening before dark - and might not be there to feed them later. Thus they come early to eat some and return later with the kits to finish. This also lets them share some of the food with the kits who, while still nursing, will be eating some solid food by now. However, just like any other kids, at this age the kits all tend to eat a bite or two and then run off to play. With the tree, the toys, and the pool (before), my place is like a raccoon McDonalds (with that indoor, protected play area) or Chuckie Cheese. (Is that cute or what?)
Anyhow, somewhere around Wednesday of this past week, all 3 of the raccoons left prematurely, leaving half or more of their food behind. In fact, Heidi even left her beloved watermelon barely touched. I knew that I had given them the usual amount - and they often want more. It was unlikely that all 3 of them would be full on so little food, esp while nursing. (Isn't it very odd that all 3 raccoons would suddenly, and at the same time even, decide they were full and leave their dinner behind? That is even curious behavior WITH the kits in the picture. It seems to show cooperation and teamwork that all 3 did the same thing at the same time. I remain, as always, convinced that there is more to animals than we humans believe.) Immediately I thought of the kits, knowing they often do this early on when the kits 1st come to the yard. (The kits have always shown signs of being familiar with the yard by the time I 1st see them and when the moms 1st bring them during normal buffet hours.)
Just after dark that night when I checked, an opossum was out there eating, yet another reason why the raccoons don't leave their food behind that way, except when they plan to bring the kits to introduce them to the buffet late at night under very safe and controlled conditions. When the opossum left, there was still considerable food out there, including the melon. When I awoke around 3AM, I checked again, curious to see what was going on. This time every morsel of food was gone. But for the wafer then remains of the watermelon shell, there was no evidence there had ever been any food on the patio. I was pretty sure Heidi and the others had returned with the kits to finish their meal.
This behavior continued the next few nights, leading me to believe the kits are starting to come to the yard, probably in the early AM hours. If this is the case, very soon, like a week or less, they should probably start coming earlier. The yearlings may bring theirs to the patio but I have never seen Heidi do so. I will probably need to go back to the buffet area to see her kits.
I've been mauling this over, and I think I've got a plan. When the raccoons return, I'll grab one of the yearlings and hold it for ransom until the others BRING THE BABIES! What do you think? I think it might work.
I'm thinking I could make signs with a picture of the missing yearling and letters cut from magazines to spell out: "if you want to see your friend again, bring kits to buffet for dinner". I could post the signs on trees in the forest.
Oh, yeah, watermelon. I could use 2 of those myself. While out I could get some of those vanilla s/w cookies, too. Those are always a hit at raccoon kit parties.
Cheryl, the only problem with your plan is once you let one of the raccoons into your house & it brags about the soft furniture, toys & treats; the other's are bound to dig a tunnel to get inside in & have a party!
That brings to mind a picture not unlike that of a popular advertisement some years back in which raccoons were having a party in a house (and making a mess) while the human's were on vacation. Can't you just see them now, going through the fridge - hmm, eggs, fruit, jelly, syrup - and the pantry - yum, sugar, cookies, cake mixes, canned frosting? Can't you just see the mess? 3 or 4 raccoons sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor amidst a pile of sugar and broken eggs with jelly dripping down one side, one wearing the pet food container like a lamp-shade hat, another, head back, pouring syrup in her open mouth straight from the bottle, yet a 3rd face down in a can of Pillsbury frosting? They would make a frat party look like a girl scout meeting.
Actually, every evening when I open the door to take the food out, Heidi stands with her front legs braced up against the door facing and strains her neck forward to reach her head and nose as far inside as physically possible. Then she takes a few big sniffs, clearly curious about what's inside, and I actually think she would come inside with only minor encouragement - or if I would just move out of the way and leave the door open.
It probably doesn't hurt that the patio door opens into the kitchen, replete with the welcoming scents of pet food, a pantry stocked well for emergencies, and the lingering aromas of recent meals. Also, over the years Heidi has seen Widget, Sassy (prior dog), and now Kitty and Cocoa enter and exit through that door many, many times, and not one of them has ever emerged with any signs of damage. In fact, lately she sees Kitty actually waiting some distance from the patio each afternoon/evening for a chance to slip past the raccoons and through that very door when I go out to feed the raccoons. Now Heidi is starting to wonder what's inside and whether she should venture in there, too.
Yes it seems that way...it kind of freaks my family out. I have only been scared once with anything, and it was more of someone else trying to "help" and making matters worse and that was an injured deer that got hit.
Hmmm Debbie yes - I try not to help if I can help it. :/
As for Cheryl - you are having waaay too much fun. I have to confess that I think of you almost every time I open my refrigerator as I have several small jelly containers from breakfast out just waiting to serve some purpose. :)
The weather in our neck of the woods is about to get and stay very warm! I just came in from watering. I don't do it this late very often, but Court and I agree and say "but it rains at night!!!" I am desperate for a load of mulch!
yawn. No sign of critters lately - the crows have just started to come back to MY yard after weeks away. Funny, that. But yes, I saw the gangly giant "baby" crow sitting on a low branch of an oak tree and screaming to be fed. My goodness! And his voice - very funny. Last year we had 3 babies, and I always chuckled when one of them tried to "caw" like an adult, but it was more like a pasty faced teenager whose voice cracked at the last. Sorry to all those pasty faced teens out there. :)
My cupboards are barren lately but even still with the cats and dogs there is always kibble. Also - when we got the new puppy someone from Court's workplace sent home all kinds of treats neither of our dogs can eat, so those went out yesterday and today. Pizza crusts from take out. Tomorrow we have giant french fries from a greek (!) restaurant from dinner this evening. Too hot to cook, too hot to go shopping for groceries. The best I can do is make sure everybody/everything stays hydrated.
I have been having fun lately watching the neighborhood squirrels figure out how to use the squirrel feeder. You're familiar with them? Plexiglass panel on one side/front with a lid on a hinge at the top. I can hear it before I can see it. The clap, clap, clap of the wood lid lets me know there is a novice squirrel on deck. Everyday when I put their share of black oil sunflowers and crushed peanut bits I clap clap clap the lid a few times so they know I've been there. I'm not very constant with the time of day and my feeding, but they're never far.
I like to watch the birds bathe in the water dishes I have around the yard --lately a catbird has been most frequent - and a thrasher likes to take a dirt bath in the pile of rubble where a crushed stepping stone used to be. Last year - or this spring I think (!) he was taking those dirt baths in Court's homemade sun dial where a bag full of play sand must make a mighty nice splash.
I also enjoy watching flying insects come to several of the bug baths I have around the yard - shallow dishes with pebbles or seashells for footing. Everybody needs a drink! Even if I can't feed 'em all - I can try to keep them hydrated.
Guess that's all for now - Cheryl - yes I've read that the goat's vision issues are what keep them from allowing their head/face to be touched.
Billy did not used to let me do a lot of things that I do now. I DO put my arms around him. He didn't used to tolerate this at all and would turn abruptly with his head down as if to charge me. Now I do it for fun and he runs from me - well trots slowly - with me running beside him with my arms around his big belly. ha ha ha. I have a curry comb and an undercoat brush that I use on his coarse hair. He's actually got a beautiful coat I think, but when he is shedding in the spring you can see the downy soft undercoat - last year when I started brushing him he had giant tufts of hair sticking out everywhere. Man, that goat is spoiled. :D
I bought him a new cable tie this week - this one will hold up to 250 lbs. It cost almost $20. It is 25 feet long. I thought it was the same as the others, but oops - he now has 5 more feet radius to stomp around. His momma inquired about it when she saw me the other day while she was walking her dogs past my house. She didn't complain about it. I explained how the other cord was so narrow he was getting his foot caught in it. The cable cord is actually twisted in a place like a corkscrew where his foot was getting tangled in it. The new cable is pretty big - bigger than a pencil - no way for him to get it caught in his toes. Remember he was on a chain before. It hurt me to watch him step on it - knowing it must hurt his little feets.
I am kind of p.o.'ed at the lady's dogs. She has finally put a gate across the yard and now leaves her dogs out - dogs which had been living in her basement (frownie face here). I spent several hours last week on what was then the hottest day of the year crafting a shade cloth for Billy to escape from the sun. I am almost enraged to find her dogs laying in the shade where Billy is supposed to be, but I have no control over this so I have to let it go. When I put up the shade cloth there last year she said, "he won't use it." But he did. Well enough griping about the goat. I have a photo of him, but it's from last year. Can't say he looks much different, except his belly is bigger now. And maybe his face looks a little happier/smarter to me than it does in this picture.
He's "ornery" as my old Uncle Bob used to say. But he does know me and is always pleased to see me. Yes still the highlight of my day, often.
Have a good night and stay cool this weekend!
Edited to say - thank you to Cheryl for the education about horses. I did not know really anything about their vision, but I'm trying to imagine the difficulty in trying to jump! Horses do not have the same oddly shaped eyes as goats. I don't know enough about the physiology behind this, but surely you have seen the pupils which are elliptical and not round. The eyes are something else that set goats apart in terms of their strangeness, er . . . uniqueness. :D
Aww... Remindsd me of my old Jane had a huge mamary tumor. Her owner called me about 30 min after she gave birth to twins. I brought the 3 of them home in my Escort waagon. Jane stood the entire 30 min trip with her head (tripod of horns + top of head smack up against the rear window...horns were at least a foot long. What a site we were taking the slower scenic thru town. That was a very special experience , hand raising those 2 babies...'MAAA-AA-AAA' when-ever they saw me.
It's sizzling here too, now. The mercury went north almost immediately after I posted that it was cool here. We've been under heat warnings for a few days now. 105F expected today, 115 tomorrow, both heat-indexed temps. We don't usually see these temps until late July, early August. Not a good sign getting so hot this soon. Weather experts are projecting a summer of record-breaking temps across the nation. When it gets like this, I just stay inside where it's always the same.
I've been getting up very early lately. It's still pretty decent in the early morning - 75F now. Later in July it will be in the mid to upper 80's at sunrise. That's when I really stay inside, venturing out only to walk to and from my car - until Sept when temps finally start to drop again, still hot then, just not this hot.
I must confess, I am largely ignorant of goats. I've never even seen one. Never had any kind of interaction with them or even known anyone who did. We don't seem to have goats around here. Not sure why. I live in the city right now, where goats are definitely not allowed; however, even during times when I've lived some 20mi outside the city, in rural and even farming areas, there were no goats. There were horses, cows, chickens, and even a few hogs, but no goats. (no sheep either, btw.) Wondering if it might be a regional thing.
Thanks for posting a pic. That is not at all what I was picturing for a goat. See how little I know about goats? For starters, I did not expect horns, nubs maybe, but not horns. If I had been asked to name the animal in that picture, I would probably have guessed 'ram' due to the horns. The picture in my mind for 'goat' is the typical billy goat with the little tuft of hair on its chin.
What is the purpose of a goat? I don't mean that the way it may sound. Having no experience with them, I just don't know what they do or for what purpose people keep them. Do they have a farm purpose like milk or meat? Are they pets? Just curious.
When I was telling you that about horses, it was because I'm pretty sure the same things would likely be true of goats. There eyes may be different in shape and such, and that may make for other characteristics unique to them, but like horses and other large prey animals their eyes are set on the sides of their face, a design that gives them almost 360 degree vision needed to spot predators trying to sneak up on them. Unlike our eyes which work together to produce a single 3D picture, their eyes would each see something entirely different, each seeing what is on its side of the animal. Thus their eyes would send not one but two entirely different pictures. The downside of this is the relatively small blind spot directly in front of and behind the animal.
I mentioned all of that because I suspect that in goats as with horses, that center front blind spot likely plays a part in his reluctance to let you stroke his face. When you reach up to or near the area between his eyes, you are reaching into the blind spot. Your hand disappears. It's just very weird for them. When going out into a field to catch a horse, a novice will often approach the animal directly from the front, as you would approach a person. This approach is more likely to cause the animal to walk or run away. It's much better to approach them from a angle of maybe 30deg from the front. That way you stay out of that weird, blind area. But again, I only mentioned these things thinking they probably apply to goats, too, and thus might help you in your attempt to work with and understand the goat.
I understand the feeling when you feel the neighbor is mistreating an animal and you feel like there is little you can do about it. A few years ago my neighbor kept a shih tzu (small, long haired dog) tied up in the back yard all day, every day - where there is absolutely no shade. The had another, larger dog which they kept in the dark garage day and night, even in summer, with only about a two inch gap at the bottom of the door for air. I drove by one very hot, summer day and the dog was lying against the garage door (inside), with his nose sticking out through the gap as though for fresh air.
I was outside a lot back then, working in my yard/garden, and I never saw anyone spend any time with either dog. It made me wonder why they didn't just give the dogs to someone who would enjoy and appreciate them - and take better care of them. This went on for a while that summer. Finally, someone in the neighborhood started calling authorities to report what was going on. The police (animal control) came out a couple of times and ticketed them. On the 3rd visit they were required to surrender the dogs. This might be something you could do, if you really feel that strongly about the treatment the goat receives.
Oh no, I'm there every day Cheryl - have been for over a year now. If I could do so without destroying my weeds in the yard I would bring him here in a heart beat. In fact, one of these days I just might do it.
For now, he's got the best deal of all of them, as far as I can see. He has relative freedom, shelter (granted it gets a little warm in the shed but both doors are open and with a large exhaust fan). Clean water and food everyday, combing, affection, grounds/stall swept.
She and I have a "good" relationship now. Once in a while I slip into the bird house to give them fresh water. She does walk the dogs 2 or 3 times a day sometimes, the stray cats are all fed canned AND dry food at night and some of them even enter her house.
I help her to the spay/neuter clinic once a month when she takes up to 6 cats at a time - some feral from other places, some her own - and the clinic is $10/animal.
I can't hold everyone to my standards. But in the life of the goat, I know I have made a difference. The fact that she lets me and has accepted me and my presence everyday in her backyard is something I can't take for granted. I make sideways suggestions when I see something and it gets in her head - often results in action. She is not highly educated but she is very wise. I have told her and I am sincere when I say it that of all our neighborhood friends I love her the most. I do believe she thinks she is "saving" animals from a life otherwise worse. I don't know how exactly she came to obtain the goat in the first place, but she had him years ago. I understand that she sold the goat and found out later the man was going to slaughter him. She bought him back for twice as much as she sold him for, just so he could be alive in her back yard, such as it is/was.
Goats are raised for meat, for milk (excellent dairy products!), primarily. Are they sheared for their hair/fur? Have no idea. They are also incredibly useful for clearing brush as they eat almost any thing even vines/shrubs with thorns!!! Their lips are prehensile (!) and can discern things as I understand from my reading. They are herd animals and he would do well with company, but such as it is . . . I am part of his herd. He has accepted at least one of the dogs as friend.
Billy and I have been doing this dance long enough and he is much more accommodating of me now than he was. I know he is receiving proper nutrition as when I started visiting he often did not have water and the visible food products were cheap cereal (generic apple jacks!) and slices of white bread on the ground. -sigh- I knew grazing animals needed forage so I started there - with green things - forage and pellets and hay. She says now that he is my boyfriend and that's fine by me. Back when things were bumpy she on occasion got mad at me for this or that. She even went so far as to tell me not to feed him. I am sure that by bringing all this stuff over for him I was making her feel deficient. She sent me an apology that time by email saying that she'd been selfish and how when I visited once or twice she saw how "lost" Billy was after I left.
Billy is a large goat, a breed called Boer. They originate from South Africa so they are accustomed to or built for heat. There are much smaller breeds, but he may be one of the larger. Funny you would say "ram" because that's what I said to Court when I first came home telling him about the ram I'd seen in the next block over. ha ha
The horns probably have defensive purpose, but I learned that they also help to regulate their body heat. It's unusual to see within city limits, but apparently someone reported her and she's already been to a hearing with the city. Apparently the ordinances do not prohibit the goat and here he stays. More and more neighbors in our little enclave have chickens. I even know of at least one bee hive. I don't wonder what anybody thinks of me, carrying 20'+ stalks of bamboo in/on the car for him to munch, but it pleases me and that's what matters. Some nights I wish I didn't have to go around the block, but I know Billy is waiting for me.
Funny - the more I think about it the more I want him over here. He will love my rudbeckias and I won't have to work so hard to keep everything alive in this heat. Of course, Tracie was upset because he stripped the bark off one of her trees in her yard and it died, so I would have to protect anything I didn't want him to eat. We have a giant camellia - which is on his list of edibles - a black pine - also on his list of edibles - pecan tree, mulberry tree (on his list of edibles) and of course, all my weeds (call 'em weeds because they are mostly native wildflowers) which would be gone in short order. I have fun thinking about the walk around the block with the goat - him dragging me or having to put him on a trailer because he is very strong! All kinds of crazy fun just imagining . . . But for now, yes the heat. I'd better get moving and back out there to water some more of my weeds.
I just came back from feeding the raccoons - well, actually, I went out there to check on them and take Heidi an egg. drum beats and the rockets red glare were going off all around me, yet 4 wild raccoons stood around my legs, each w/in 1-2ft of my feet, all calmly eating kibble while ignoring the sound effects. How unbelievable is that? I mean, seriously, the cacophony out there was enough to be nerve wracking even to one who knew it wasn't actually hazardous (well, mostly not).
Amazing that the raccoons are able to eat on the patio, which, btw, is a pretty good distance from the safety of the forest, even while the air around them is flashing colors like an 80's dance floor and the punctuated by the staccato sounds of rockets and gun fire. Especially amazing considering that the neighbor directly beside me has 3 boys in the 18-25 range, all of whom are out there shooting off fireworks a few feet from my fence - and numerous others around the community are also shooting off fireworks. Also amazing considering how many pets around the country suffer intense fear during this event each year. (Btw, one year a rocket landed on my roof and several in my backyard. That's how close the raccoons are to the action out there.)
Anyhow, while out there I walked right up to Heidi, bent down and put the egg on the floor by her nose. She reached out, picked it up, and holding it with her two hands rapped it gently on the patio floor to break it (the 1st time I had ever seen that move. When on grass, she bites eggs to break them.). Once broken, she lapped the egg from the two shell halves as though she were eating a coddled egg.
I came back inside where Widget, who had been inside alone all that time, was sleeping peacefully despite all the noise.
The image of Heidi breaking the egg made me smile. Thanks for that.
My goat friend is afraid of the 'works - he hides under this old aluminum table in his shed and same table he gets up on to sleep on. Apparently he upended the table overnight and somehow trapped himself under it. Tracie found him (?!) that way in the morning. An unsettling stain is on the oriental rug (yes there's an oriental rug in his shed) beneath the table. It looks like blood to me but Court said combo of urine and feces. Tracie said it was poo and she cleaned it up.
Poor stupid goat. Glad racoons have more sense.
Hope you're surviving this heat. Certainly not thriving here! Just trying to keep my head down and get thru it. Hope it breaks soon.
Last night the kits finally arrived. It wasn't dark yet, and as I approached the patio door, I could see 4 kits. They appeared to be with that one raccoon who had the nasty wound on her back not so long ago. They followed her up to the door but ran to hide when I turned on the patio light.
One kit was on the patio as I walked out, but a minute or so after I got out there on the patio, he slipped between the flower pots and disappeared. The others were hiding somewhere already. I tried to call them back but w/o success.
I went inside to get more food and a toy (practice golf ball) and headed back out. On this my 2nd trip out, 3 of the kits were hanging around the rose arbor about 4ft from the patio and were trilling up a storm, apparently, wanting Mom to come over to where they were.The 4th kit was still on the patio, his upper body projecting outward from behind the flower pots to eat kibble beside his mom.
By the time I finished distributing food, all of the kits had disappeared and I could hear them trilling loudly from the area of the back fence where the raccoons usually come and go. It was clear that my presence had upset the kits and made them feel uncomfortable. Now they were at the back fence, wanting to leave and calling their Mom to join them.
If time allows tonight I will put a folding chair out there on the patio so that I can sit down. The kits usually feel less threatened when I am seated and very still. Even years ago when I used to sit back by the fence, the kits were always afraid the 1st time when they came to the buffet with their Mom and then suddenly saw me sitting there. Some would run back to the fence a time or two but as long as I remained very still and talked to them in a sweet voice, they would always come back in time.
Last night my neighbor was out there on his riding mower well after dark. That kept the raccoons away. I was pretty beat and ended up going to sleep before he finished and thus before the raccoons arrived - I'm guessing they probably showed up some time after the neighbor finished his yard work.
Sheri -- The kits were very tiny, not too small to be out an about (like Dennis' kits that 1st year), but definitely very young. I cannot put an age on them though. No, the injured raccoon I mentioned was not Bast. It was one that showed up earlier this spring with a nasty gash on her upper back. I took a photo which you should see if you scroll up higher on the thread. Although the wound looked painful, she was not anywhere near so badly injured as Bast was that time. The wound is now healed, but I can still see the 'V' shaped discoloration in her fur up on her back. Not sure why, but when they have a wound that results in hair removal, the new hair that grows in after the wound heals is a different color (darker) than the rest of the fur. It leaves the outline of the wound as a semi-permanent reminder for at least the rest of that year.
Still very hot here, too. Sorry to hear about the goat's fears and resultant battle with the table. Glad to hear he was not seriously harmed. Most prey animals have a built in fear of unusual sights and sounds. Makes them fear a predator is after them, I guess. They usually get pretty freaked out at such times and may even harm themselves in their efforts to get away. I'm happy to hear that the goat is still ok.
Seeing Heidi break the egg by rapping it on the concrete was new for me, too. Raccoons are very, very smart though. The one thing I keep looking back to when describing raccoons' higher intelligence is the problem of the moving bowl. For years I've watched dogs and cats chase bowls across the floor while trying to eat. Despite my best efforts to anchor the bowl against the wall with something heavy in front of it, seems cats and dogs always manner to find a way to get that bowl out in the middle of the floor somewhere with nothing to block its movement. Then as they push against the contents of the bowl to eat, the bowl moves away from them, and they (cats and dogs) merely walk across the room following the moving bowl. Raccoons, on the other hand, NEVER chase their dish. Raccoons are too smart for that. They just put one front foot in the bowl to hold it steady and then eat their fill. No chasing required. So now, every time I see my dog chasing his bowl, I want to tell him, "put your foot in the bowl, silly!"
Sorry I haven't been back to regale you with more stories of cute, furry, raccoon babies. I haven't seen the kits again since I posted that day. In fact, I've only seen the raccoon with the scar on her back once and haven't seen Heidi at all. I made several trips to the back door to look for them last night, but we seem to be on different schedules.
In all honesty, the evening when I saw the kits and hurried to let you know, I knew even then that the timing was bad and that I wouldn't likely be writing a lot of raccoon stories over the next week or so. I'm going through a bit of a rough time right now, just one of life's, many, inevitable bumps in the road. Nonetheless, I'm feeling very down today. To quote my very 1st ever employer, "I'm feeling low enough to walk in through that little gap under a closed door."
Now don't worry. I'm sure I'll be back to my usual, 'glass 1/2 full', 'gonna make it no matter what', old self in no time. Just on a down note today. I guess we all go through them now and then. Right now I'm about to leave for a Dr's appointment. Routine stuff. When I get home this evening, I'm going to get out my artist pastels and draw/paint something. That always helps to restore my soul, and yet, somehow, I never seem to find time for it. Today I insist on it.
In the coming week or so, as soon as I get over this bump in the road, I'm going to take my folding chair or garden seat out back to sit for maybe 30min or so each evening, camera and goodies at the ready, in hopes that maybe the raccoons - and kits - will join me.
Oh, there is one small thing I forgot to mention. The night when I saw the kits on the patio, I took a tiny, plastic, practice golf ball out there for them. I dropped it in the middle of the patio, but you know how things go, right? The ball hit the middle of the patio and then immediately rolled away, coming to rest behind the baker's rack against the house. Being thus hidden, I feared the kits might not find it - especially considering that the last time I heard from the little tykes they were back there at the fence trilling for their Mom to follow them.
The very next morning when I went to the patio door to let Widget out, the 1st thing that caught my eye was that little, white ball. Sitting out in the open, all the way across the patio from where it had fallen, and in the very spot where the raccoons eat. Clearly, those little kits had come back to the patio to join their Mom once I went back inside that night and found and played with the little ball I had put out there for them. :-D
Back from the Dr now and feeling better already! Maybe I just need to get out more, out of the house, out of the office, see the sunshine, talk to new people. Maybe that's the ticket.
Sorry if this is a little OT. I really am trying these days to stay on topic, but sometimes a discussions cuts across several topics. Sometimes it's hard to separate the cats from the raccoons from the dog from my own stuff. Anyhow, when I was leaving for my appointment, Cocoa (semi-feral cat) caught me at the front door. He was determined to come inside, but I know he doesn't like to stay inside w/o me, so I refused to let him in. I was in a hurry and didn't want to miss my apt, but I could see that he was hungry, esp since he missed dinner last night. I put his food bowl on the bench at the front door and took off.
I returned a good 2hrs later to find Cocoa STILL hanging out in the front yard waiting for me. He came hurrying toward me as I turned in the driveway. He had eaten all of the food I had given him and was still waiting for more and/or to come inside where it's cool. It's in the 90's outside.
Anyhow, mostly I just wanted to say that I'm feeling much better now.
I am SO glad it's not April 1 today. If it were, no one here would EVER believe what happened to me tonight!
1st let me say that I've been super busy this past week, as I had anticipated, and thus have not yet had time to sit outside to try to get to know the kits. Several days ago I did see what appeared to be Heidi's kits. It was early evening, shortly before dusk. Heidi was sitting right up against the patio door as she often does when waiting for me. It wasn't until I opened the door that I saw the tiny kits at her side. Several of the kits scattered when I opened the door, but one stayed right up on the threshold at Heidi's hind quarter. Clearly, she wasn't afraid of me, so neither was the kit. It was only after I stepped out onto the patio, that Heidi sent the kit away. All the adults were vying for positions, all trying to get their food first, so it wasn't really a safe place for kits that small - and the kits that were with her that night were VERY small, the smallest I've seen so far this year.
I didn't see the kits any more that night. The kits went and hid elsewhere in the yard while the adults ate. The kits may have come back later after things settled down, but I didn't stay.
The REAL adventure was TONIGHT. I went to the kitchen for something. On the way, I stopped by the patio to check for the raccoons. Heidi wasn't there, just some of the others. I grabbed the kibble and returned to the door. Through the glass panes on the door, I could see a couple of adult raccoons just beyond the door. I could also make out part of a kit that was standing up on the threshold against the [still closed] door. I couldn't see much of him/her, because the kit was below the bottom of the lowest glass pane and pressed up against the bottom of the door. I could only see part of and ear and some feet, but it was enough to see that it was definitely a baby raccoon.
I was about to open the door (which opens inward) to step outside with the food. I've done this before when older raccoons were up against the door. When I opened the door, they always either shuffled quickly away from the door, if they were afraid or caught off guard, or those that knew me well, such as Heidi, would stick their heads inside to look around. I expected the kit would do what the older raccoons do. I figured it would shuffle away once I opened the door and it realized it was inches away from a 'giant' human. But, what was I thinking. Toddlers don't behave like adults ...
(continued) yes, I'm still typing and expect to send by the time you finish reading this. :-)
(For a minute there I was having trouble getting back 'on' - like I promised - after I sent the prior post. We are having a tstorm right now, and I was beginning to fear I might not be able to get back 'on' to finish. I've at least got the thread back now. Here's hoping I will be able to send this part when I finish typing it.)
...I opened the patio door, prepared to step out onto the patio and fully expecting the kit to move away from me and scurry away to hide as all the others have been doing. But clearly lacking the observational skills of the older raccoons, the baby failed to realize that anything had changed or even that I was standing there behind him. The kit had been standing there on the threshold for a while. It had it's back up against what it perceived as a solid wall, a surface which wasn't going anywhere, so the kit's attention was focused on what was going on in front of it - and remained so even after I had opened the door and was standing behind it.
When the other raccoons, the adults, saw me open the door, they came rushing toward the door, all vying to be 1st to eat. Remember, Heidi wasn't there, and she is the one who keeps the others in line. Without Heidi there, the others were all rushing the door and jostling for position. The baby was looking in that direction, so all it saw was all these adult and/or yearling raccoons crowding in towards it (while acting excited). Seeing all these adults coming at him and perceiving that as a threat, the kit started to scoot backward rather quickly to get away from them!
The kit was so totally focused on the adults coming at him that he still had NO clue that the 'wall' which had been behind him was now gone, and I was standing directly behind him even as he began back INTO the kitchen! It all happened SO fast. I didn't know what to do, but I knew it wouldn't be a good idea to let the little fella keep backing into the house. By the time I could react, he was already so far into the kitchen that it was too late to use the door to stop him! I didn't know what to do, but I definitely didn't have time to think it over.
The kit's hair was standing straight up all over it's body - like a soft porcupine. The big raccoons were trying to get to me and the food, but all the little fella could see was them coming at him. The kit was frightened by them. That's why his hair was standing on end. It made him look bigger, and very fluffy.
I had to stop him from backing any farther. I didn't have time to think about it. I bent down and put my two hands behind him, wrists together, forming a wide 'V' shape. I didn't touch him. I just put my hands there to replace the 'wall' (door) which had been there and thus stop him from backing any further. The little guy backed right into my hands!!! It was such an incredible moment. At 1st, he STILL didn't realize that I was there. He had been so fixated on the raccoons in front of him. Even when he was basically in my hands - or at least backed right up against them - it took what seemed like a very long minute or two for him to realize I was there.
When he finally did look up and see me, he was pretty terrified to realize how close I was. That was the only down part of the event. I hated that I had to scare the little fella. Once he realized I was there, his eyes got big as saucers, and he took off. I didn't see him again. Still, except for scaring him, it was a really cool experience, even if it was very brief. Baby raccoons are just about the cutest things on the planet.
As for the kit thing, it was only very brief, but it was still quite unbelievably heavenly to have the little tyke practically in my hands for maybe 60 to 120 or so seconds. It was awesome - so inspirational. I think now I will be more motivated to get out there and spend some time with them.
I think I'm in love. ;-)
For sure I got a good shot of those internal, feel good chemicals.
And, no, this is not a joke or a hoax. It really did happen. I never in a million years would have dreamed it, but it did. I had actually never touched a kit that young before. Even Dennis was a bit older than that before he started coming over to me, and even then it was a while still before he got comfortable enough to stand up at my knee. Dennis was a yearling or close before I tried to pet her. At the very least she was a like a teenager. Definitely not a tiny baby like this one. I don't know who the kits' mother was, but I gather she was one of the more 'hands off' type moms, the ones that let the kits tag along and do whatever as long as they don't bother her. Heidi would never have let one of her kits get in such a position, alone and afraid that way.
Wow. Surprised I didn't hear from more people on this. We are 'live' here aren't we? Testing 1,2,3. Testing 1, 2, 3. Tchk, tchk, tchk (rapping mike lightly for effect) ;-D
I guess maybe you had to be there. It doesn't even sound all that 'wow' to me today, but it sure was a huge 'wow' at the moment - and for a while after. Raccoons, you have to admit, are cute as a bug to begin with, and raccoon kits are just, seriously, probably the cutest creatures on the planet. Seeing them in person and up close is such an endorphin rush - for me, at least - and I suspect it would be for most of you, too. Touching them and interacting with them directly is something one can't even afford to think about much less do.
I spent so many hours out there in close proximity to raccoon kits over the years, even hand feeding them, but I always ached to touch them, hold them, cuddle them. Sure I was able to pet Dennis and now can pet Heidi, and that's nice, but, oh, how I would love to be able to hold a kit in my hand the way you hold a kitten or puppy. There was a time, at the height of my time out there with the raccoons in years past when it was really all I could do not to reach down and scoop up a kit or two. I longed to interact more with them, so much so that at one time I even considered whether I could get a pet raccoon. A little research on the subject was all it took to know that would not work, as pet raccoons become extremely difficult to keep in captivity once they mature sexually, and spaying/neutering shortens their lives dramatically.
If you have never seen a raccoon kit 'in person', especially up close, I don't know if I can articulate just how magical the experience really is. Even though I've had it many times now, it still effects me in ways I fail to expect beforehand. Heck, even seeing the adult raccoons at the patio door usually turns my mood around any time that I am down. They just have this amazing ability to provide us with a hit of endorphins on sight alone - and the kits, OMG, there are just no words for what it is like to be around those incredible little tykes. I always catch myself at some point in the experience or afterward just grinning ear to ear like Gomer Pile. There is just something about them.
Thus, somehow, when the tiny little furball was backing into my kitchen, toward my feet, and ultimately into my hands, it was just a wonderful experience to have even that all to brief interaction. I guess it was analogous to having the brief opportunity to shake hands with a 'beloved' celebrity. It's all too brief, and you don't really connect in any meaningful way, but it somehow seems earth shaking just the same. I just hope that brief interaction with me was not too terribly traumatic for the little fella. I would have given almost anything to be able to let him know that I meant him no harm.
It really was like the opportunity of a lifetime, raccoon-wise. I'm over it now, but I was riding an endorphin high for a while afterward last night, although I really did feel bad about traumatizing the little one. After I got back inside from feeding the adults, I wanted to round up some of Widget's tiny, plush toys, the one's he doesn't play with anymore now that he's getting older and take them out there for the wee ones. I still might do that.
"in a good way"? Really? I was afraid he might remember me in a negative way due to the trauma he experienced. I've been concerned that he might have come away with the idea that he somehow narrowly escaped death, thinking me a predator, as apposed to realizing I didn't hurt him. Interesting. I hope you are right.
A few minutes ago I went to the kitchen to check for raccoons. Heidi, whom I hadn't seen for several days, was out there. She was standing right up against the glass pane, 3 tiny but very healthy little ones huddled around her. I grabbed the cat food, tucked a cookie and a practice golf ball in my pocket, and reached for one of Widget's toys, a tiny, 4in, stuffed donkey marketed for 'toy' sized dogs and perfect for a raccoon kit. I removed the donkey braying mechanism through a velcro opening in it's abdomen, and added the toy to the stash in my pocket before opening the door - gently.
As I opened the door, Heidi stayed there on the mat outside the door, and 2 of her kits, one still on the threshold ledge, stayed with her even as I stood less than a foot away. The kits began trilling, and I could see that they were afraid, so I began speaking to them softly and in a sweet voice in hopes of letting them know that I was not a threat. With no other raccoons around, this time Heidi didn't send them away, so the kits stayed even as I stepped out onto the patio.
As gently as I could manage, I dropped the little donkey near the kits but not so close as to scare them even more. As I walked across the patio to give Heidi her food, the kits, still trilling, moved back behind the camellias for cover. I put the little ball and the cookie, broken into pieces, beside Heidi's food, figuring the kits would return to her once I was gone.
This, well actually the other night when I 1st saw them, was the 1st time Heidi had ever brought her kits to the patio door. In past years some of the others had brought kits onto the patio, but Heidi had never done so. Her kits in past years had not come to the patio until they were 'teens' or at least 'tweens'.
Cheryl this is getting so exciting. And still no camera nearby! I mean...just point and shoot, I can lighten it for you if needed (ducking and running). I know the flash would scare them right now...til they get to know you...but I can pull your leg.
The kit who had backed into the kitchen the other night was not out there tonight. He and his sibling who I had seen hiding behind the baker's rack that same evening, come with a different group of some 3 or 4 yearlings who have not been traveling with Heidi lately.
I do think of the camera, and I will get a pic as soon as I can do so w/o traumatizing the little ones. Right now I'm so focused on trying to get out there w/o running them off. Tonight when I was scooping up kibble, one of the kits climbed up on Heidi's shoulders where for a brief moment he was fully visible through the lower door pane. It was one of those, "oh, man, if only I had the camera in hand and ready to shoot right now" moments but was over too fast to act.
LOL, Yes, it is comforting to know that you are there to lighten and brighten a photo (and my patio) if I get one. Actually, the patio isn't bad lately. The landscaper has been cleaning it by-weekly. Now if only I could figure a way to get him to come inside the house to work his magic.
I can't help but wonder if Heidi in the winter of her life is making sure that her kits know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are to be trusted.
Sad to think of but entirely possible as smart as Heidi haS PRoven to be in her parenting skills.
Chery; I am still following this thread and am thrilled you are still the racoon whisperer. I know after all you you have been through the last few years the comming and goings of Heidi and the rest have helped you get through. There is nothing as healing(both mentally and physically)as the warm feeling watching Gods creatures, Laughter of course is right there at the top and you seem to have benifitted in both of these from the visits of Heidi and the others. There is no doubt in my mind you have helped increase the lifespan of the group so there will be many more years of warm feelings and interactions.
I have seen a couple of kits recently but they are not really tiny,I'd say almost 1/3 size of the yearlings..Still very adorable though as they all are.
Just a little info on the "lifespan". I think Heidi falls in the middle of this, because she is more cared for than a truly "in the wild" raccoon.
Life span: In the wild, raccoons rarely reach their potential life span of ten to twelve years, but a tagged female was known to live in the wild 12 ½ years before being shot. Because conditions in the wild are so harsh, raccoons are lucky to survive five years and have the mean life span determinations of 1.8 years for Missouri raccoons and 3.1 for Alabama raccoons. In captivity, on the other hand, raccoons can live a stress-free and long life - the record was a male that lived seventeen years and twenty-seven days (MacClintock 1981).
Who knows for sure. Heidi is definitely very, very intelligent, and she does have her own agenda. She's looking very healthy though, so much so that I'm even having some difficulty telling her apart from the yearlings now that she has lost the baby weight. I think part of the reason she has become more willing to bring her kits up to the house is that for the past 2 seasons Widget has totally stopped sneaking out the door to try to run the raccoon off the patio. This year he doesn't even appear at the door to bark at them through the glass. I've taught him to expect a treat if he stays put on the bed until I return, and now he stays there quietly awaiting that treat - and leaving the raccoons alone.
So nice to see you again! It is so true about how wildlife and all aspects of nature help to restore the soul. As for those big kits in your area, I've long noticed that raccoons north of us seem to start their breeding season earlier than Heidi and company. My guess is the timing is related to such things as when food will be most abundant in an area and the amount of time available before cold weather sets in. Around here, there is no rush to get kits up to size and trained before ice and snow force the family into semi-hibernation. Here they have all of fall and winter to continue their lessons, a killing frost may not occur until Christmas (or after), and some plants continue to bloom and bare fruit/seeds year round. Thus, I imagine, raccoons here are in no big hurry to get their families started early.
I apologize for answering you in the wrong thread. I hope that this one is the right one.
I was glad to find so much to read here and I'll probably read every word. Also your reply to me in the "wrong" thread (where selfish people may become annoyed), was heart warming. You have made my day. Thank you,
A warm welcome to our little, happy corner of the universe! I'm so glad you decided to join us over here - where you will be surrounded by others who think more as you do.
If you do decide to read some of the thread, note that the 1st post at the top includes links both to the prior thread and to the very 1st thread. I would highly recommend that you go all the way back and start from the beginning, although that will cover many years and be very much like reading a book. I recommend this because in all honesty, the early threads are the best, as that was when I was learning the most about the raccoons and journaling my experiences and observations. In the early years I used to sit out back with them for an hour or more, observing and recording their behavior. It was in those days that I used to hand feed treats to the babies. I also took lots of photos up close. Because they learned to accept and trust me, I was able to observe things many probably never see. I even learned a few things the 'experts' apparently don't know. If you do decide to read some of the thread, you would be doing yourself an injustice to skip those early years.
The very 1st thread is titled something like "Raccoons Getting A Little To Close For Comfort". I started it to ask for help in, believe it or not, getting the raccoons to go away. LOL at well that worked out and how far I've come since then. Like most people, I was afraid of them back then. I had been raised to believe they were, get this, mean and aggressive, vicious even. I actually thought they might jump on me and bite and scratch me 1/2 to death. How foolish I was and how much I've learned since then.
In my quest to get Heidi to stay out of my yard (she was even dropping by in daytime), I ended up speaking with a local wildlife rehabber who explained that Heidi was a female with tiny, helpless babies somewhere nearby, and that she was coming to my yard because she was desperate to find food for herself and get back to her babies before a predator found them. She needed to find food so she could produce enough milk for them. My heart melted as I pictured her desperation and fear of loosing her helpless babies. The rehabber asked if I could put a little cat or dog food out for her until her babies were older, and that's how it all got started. If you want to know more, you will have to read the story. (Over the years, I've been asked many times to write it all up as a book. I'm working on that now. )
If you have any questions or comments, either about the story or about feeding the raccoons in your yard, please don't hesitate to post them here. Oh, almost forgot to mention the videos. There are links in the threads to the videos, in the order they occur, so that they help to introduce the characters and 'illustrate' the story. I need to cull out some of the less interesting video clips, some of which were taken just to allow readers to see this or that raccoon 'in person'. Here is one of my favorites, a clip of Heidi's kits on the bottom limb of a tree, just above my back fence. It was taken at dusk, so it's a little dark. Although you can't see her in the video, at the time Heidi was in the yard with me. She was eating. She had left her kits in the tree about 15-20ft away, something she does the 1st few times she brings the kits along, so they can get accustomed to the yard before they come to the 'buffet': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiudfYA39pI&feature=BFa&list=PL2741D55AEE3B1576
Oh, and most of the people on this thread have read some or all of the old threads. A few have even been with us since the very beginning. Most of us enjoy reminiscing about the old days, so it's ok to discuss things from the early threads here if you do decide to read them - warning, people have been known to sit up all night reading the old threads.
I have started reading your posts. It will take a while. Your writings could make a wonderful book.
I love your heart warming videos. Thank you.
I have many questions, but I'd like to read all your posts first. Actually I have found in them many answers already. So I will write to you again after I'll finish reading.
So Long for now, Lenore
Your 1st video in the series above actually includes the 'trilling' of the kits. Having been exposed to the wonderful world of Raccoon kits during my wildlife rehab days, I recognised it easily. If you have never heard their 'trill' before, go th the first video (link about 2-3 notes above and listen for it)
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy...the book is in progress, the
book is in progress!!! I will want 2-5 copiesto begin with!!
I've had several interactions with the kits over the past 4 or 5 days. Just didn't have time/energy to post. The 1st 2 sightings (after my last post about seeing Heidi's kits up close) could be described as Ditto 1 and Ditto 2, by that I mean, against a million to one odds, the 1st, Ditto 1, which occurred, I think, on Friday night was a replay of the big incident with the kit that tried to back into the house, and the 2nd, Ditto 2, which occurred on Sat night was a replay of the incident with Heidi's kits.
When Ditto 1 began, I had just walked up to the door and opened it as any other night when suddenly I found myself looking at the backside of that same, scared kit with the adult raccoons all rushing towards the door and the kit cringing and looking like he was about to start backing up. It was all so 'Deja Vue'. I could not believe it could all be happening all over again, same characters, all in the same positions, all doing exactly the same things.
For 30 to 60 incredibly long seconds I stood transfixed trying to wrap my head around the fact that this was playing out all over again and trying to figure out what to do next. There was the kit, all fluffy, hair standing upright from fear, his backside right there on the threshold of the door less than 12in from my foot, and just like last time the kit was too focused on the big raccoons in front of him to notice me there behind him. I wanted to touch him. I wanted to just reach out and touch his back. Touch him. Yeah, that's what I would do. It had worked last time, although that time I hadn't done it so intentionally, but...
Then, in an instant, before I could even mobilize my body to start the process of bending down to touch him, the kit realized his error, became aware of me there behind him, and slipped away behind the baker's rack to the right of the door and was gone. So close. We had come so close to repeating the episode but not quite.
The next night, Heidi was back. I don't know if it was her kits - could have been as they were the right size - but as I stepped out the 2 small kits just froze before me, just stood there huddled together, staring right at me but frozen as though unable to move. They were cute as a bug, of course, so cute they melted my heart. I just wanted to reach down and scoop them up in my two cupped hands. When they finally did try to move to back away from me, it turned out that they were blocked by my wheel barrow. They huddled there before me for another 60 seconds or so - seemed like forever - before finally realizing they could slip away to the side. They didn't reappear after that, but I had enjoyed those precious minutes being only inches away from these 2 very tiny kits. These guys were at the age where they are just fluff with giant eyes. :D
(Last night I started writing this overview of my last 4 o so encounters with the kits. I didn't have time to finish it. The above covers the 1st 2 encounters. There are 2 more to follow. Right now I'm going to break this and 'Send'. I'll come back later to write the rest. Now I'm not doing this as a cliff hanger. When you think about it the entire story is one HUGE "to be continued..." I'm just doing this so you can at least read this part now, while waiting for me to write the rest - as apposed to having this part sit around on my computer, where you can't read it and where it is at risk of being lost before I get around to finishing it. So here are encounters 1 & 2. Three & four to come soon... )
The other raccoons will come near me, but move away when I approach and/or get too close. Even though they only back up about a foot when I put their food down, that's enough for the babies watching nearby to derive that I am potentially dangerous. Heidi, on the other hand, doesn't even flinch when I bend over her to pour food. Sometimes she even raises her head to put her nose to my hand, all of which sends the opposite message to her kits who see that Mom is not afraid of the big scary looking "Sasquatch" - and it brings yummy food.
Yes, I was, but I've been working on this for several days now.
As I mentioned earlier, I still had 2 more kit sightings to describe. Those were the best and were the predecessors to the moment that yielded these pics. On the 3rd sighting, Heidi's kits all hid when I walked out to feed her. After putting the food down, I started talking sweetly to the 'invisible' kits, hoping but not really expecting to draw them out. Then suddenly the more assertive one (there is always the one in every batch) peaked out at me from behind a flower pot. I kept talking, and she finally stepped out into the clear where she stood for a few minutes looking at me. After a time, having satisfied herself that I was not that bad, she climbed up onto the large (seating) trunk - Mt Everest to one her size. She sat up there atop the trunk for a while watching me. I was only about 5ft from her, but she could plainly see that my foot was anchored a mere 10-12in from Heidi's face, and her mother was eating calmly.
I knew then that the kit and I were making great progress. The next night I opened the door to find her sitting in the chair, playing in catlike fashion with a morning glory vine which she had clearly brought with her to the chair and which was now dangling down the side of the seat where it made a great toy. When I walked out onto the patio, she did not leave the chair but only looked up from her game briefly.
Today when I saw Heidi up against the door with her kits, I opened the door and began talking sweetly to them w/o turning on the light and w/o stepping out. Although I hated to leave the door open on such a hot night and with possible mosquitoes about, I thought it was the right thing to do to give the kits a chance to see me w/o scaring them away by walking out the door. The kits stayed for a few minutes.
Then Heidi and they moved away. I gathered the food and walked out with them, still talking, still w/o turning on the light. The other 2 kits stayed this time, apparently emboldened by their siblings success in coming near me on prior nights. It was then that I decided it was time to go back for the camera.
I took the pics, some from inside the house w/the door open. Some from out there with them, all with no outdoor light, just the camera's flash. I lightened them a little myself before posting. For a while there I had stopped lightening the photos because (1) I didn't have the time and (2) I don't have a good editing program on this laptop. The 'enhance' feature on the program that I use on the laptop makes everything garish. I have to go in and manually tweak individual parameters to achieve soft, realistic lightening. Maybe someday I'll get around to installing my fav editing program on here.
Yes, I do still have the pool. It's not in service right now, but I've been thinking about filling it again.
When looking at the pics, I couldn't help but notice the kits look bigger than they are. I'm thinking maybe it's that 'camera adds 5lbs' effect. Heidi's kits are very small still - making me think they were underweight at birth - but kits always seem to look bigger in pics, even bigger with respect to their mom. Strange.
They are cute little tykes. Heidi has a nice face, and she tends to make cute kits. Cute - but not 'clown nose', Rupert cute. :-)
I think you might be onto something. We tend to think of photos as portraying the world as it really is, but that is not exactly true. Sometimes odd things happen when the camera attempts to 'smush' a 3D world onto a 2D surface. Sometimes things seen from odd angles produce strange results. Most of us have seen at least one photo of a horse or cow with a big head and small body or with a nose that's too big for its head. Cameras do at times produce unreal results.
I think it might actually be a combination of things, including both the angle as you point out and also perhaps the fact that their hair, which in real life is kind of thin and 'see-thru' with light showing through ragged strands standing upright at odd angles, nonetheless, comes out looking almost like a solid mass in the photos, a mass which adds a couple inches to their apparent size on all sides, both width and height.
Whatever the cause, this phenomenon is something I've noticed and commented on pretty much every year. Every year I see tiny kits in my backyard and am then surprised to see large, rolly-polly kits in my photos.
I read thru the last several days - smiled broadly while reading about the kit in your hands, and of course we believe you. Ha haha. :)
I can't imagine the rush you get, although it's the same with so many tiny creatures - hummingbirds, rabbits, squirrels, possums, butterflies lately, honey bees from the house down the street. It's a wondrous time of year. Thanks for the updates.
I've started a new job - what was supposed to be part time. I'm driving 60 miles one way and it's worth it - a ridiculously awesome job. Hope to start classes in a few weeks to finish the master's degree. In the meantime, the part time job became full time and just looking at the unread threads makes me tired when I log in.
Thanks for the photos. I'm suffering some raccoon envy, but I know with the rodents I can only feed the birds with the giant baffle and some squirrels in their box on the pecan tree out there. Now and then a baby rabbit comes thru and spends a couple of days in the yard. Rearing some black swallowtail caterpillars now on parsley in a butterfly habitat. More to come soon - prolly monarchs in a week or so!
Glad to hear about your part time job, & that you will be working to finish your Masters. There is never enough time is there? I know.
About that kit 'in my hand', I used the term rather liberally in that instance. The kit backed up against my hands (placed there to keep it from continuing to back farther into the kitchen). I didn't attempt to close my hands around the kit or, heaven forbid, pick it up or even restrain it. I was trying to avoid traumatizing the little fella any more than necessary. What I referred to as 'in my hand' was those brief moments between the time the kit backed up against my hands and when he realized I was there and fled the area. Hopefully, everyone got that from the original account, but just wanted to be sure.
The kits are adorable right now for sure, but they will be growing up fast. Still it is nice to be able to see them and interact with them a bit. Oh, and, yes, I know what you mean. There is so much life all around us this time of year. Isn't it awesome? That's why I am eternally 'dream[ing]OfSpring'.
I'm starting to see signs of rat activity around the patio now. It's impossible to eliminate all of the rats in an outdoor area. The best one can hope for is to greatly minimize their numbers. Now that I'm feeding on the patio, rats from the forest are, unfortunately, being drawn to the area for want of food. I see their tunnels in the ground around the patio. I would be more concerned were it not for the fact that there are always more raccoons out there than food, especially since they come in shifts now so that the 2nd shift arrives directly behind the 1st (often waiting nearby in the shrubs) and will finish off anything the 1st group may leave behind.
Raccoons are relentless in seeking out every last morsel of food, so I'm pretty confident the rats will not get anything. Also, raccoons enjoy a good feast of rat, so they have been digging up the rat tunnels in hopes of snagging an extra snack. With raccoons after them by night and cats by day, I figure that should be adequate to hold them in check. I'm not happy to have drawn the rats up to the patio though, and I am concerned about snakes (that they may be drawn to the patio now, too).
The kits are getting incredibly comfortable around me now. Last night I didn't see Heidi's group but rather a group of 4kits, the ones that come with the raccoon that had the skinned area on her back in spring. They appear even a bit smaller than Heidi's bunch.
Last night the entire group of 4 was on the patio eating while I was out there. One enterprising little fella even came up close enough and was sufficiently comfortable to allow me to reach down and put a handful of food in front of him. Normally either the kits eat from their mom's food or I toss them a scant handful, but that one was so close and I could tell that he/she wasn't scared, so I reached right down in front of its face to give it a nice, big handful of food (all in a mound as apposed to the scattered kibble they get when I have to toss it).
I didn't take the camera out with me last night, but I stayed out there a little while, and that one kit stayed right there the whole time even with me standing and walking (towering over him) only 1-2ft in front of him. Before I left I reached down and gave him another handful as he had done a good job of eating the 1st.
Heidi and her bunch were back tonight, and OMG I was shocked at what she did. When waiting on the patio, Heidi sits right up against the glass pane, the last (or 1st) one on the side where the door opens. She sits there to maximize her chances of being seen and getting my attention should I walk by. She knows if I see her I will feed her.
In recent visits her kits were young enough to stick right close up around her there at the door, but now they are getting a little bigger and are starting to wander slightly as children of all types will do. Tonight when I got to the door and switched the light on, Heidi was sitting there up against the glass as usual, but while I could see one kit nearby, they were not with her at the door. I have no idea why she did this, maybe just to draw them near, maybe to make sure I saw the kits, too, and brought enough food for all. Who knows, but upon seeing me at the door, Heidi actually walked over to the nearby camellia bush (about 2ft away), collected her kits, and brought them back to the door with her to wait for me to open the door and come out.
Heidi is very smart. She knows I am going to open that door and come out, so it seemed strange to me that she actually went for the kits and brought them up to the door after seeing me. It almost seemed an extension of the fact that she knows I will feed her if I see her - does making sure I see the family with her equal more food? Not sure, but I saw her quickly gather them and bring them to the door. When I opened the door, one kit had a food on/against the door, so I opened it a few inches and waited for the kit to move - so it wouldn't end up doing a 'splits'.
Tonight there were lots of kits on the patio, so many I had trouble keeping track of who they belonged to. Heidi had her 3 plus a spare. Her kits were growling at the spare early on indicating it was not a sibling, but it eventually ended up blending in and eating with them. The bigger one that backed into my hands that one night was also there. I didn't see her siblings, but she came out from behind the pots to eat from a pile of food I had put not far from my right foot. Apparently, you guys were right (and I wrong). She seems the opposite of traumatized, being more comfortable around me than her siblings and even comfortable enough to come to the center of the patio alone to eat near me.
I could hear other kits in the shrubs about 20ft or so away where they were trilling very loudly and making that 'whoot' 'whoot' call asking their Mom to come to them. I couldn't see them. My guess is they were probably deposited there by one of the other adults, one of the ones who never seem to have babies. I kept hoping those other kits would come over to the patio, but they never did. Judging from how noisy and insistent they were though, I don't think they will be willing to stay over there in the shrubs while everyone else is eating much longer.
The small patio was very crowded tonight, and I could tell all the activity made Heidi nervous. With so many other adult raccoons around and me standing over them, it's just hard for her to relax and eat, because she has to keep an eye on everything to make sure her kits are safe. I made several trips in & out of the house for more food, the watermelon, and egg, the camera and stayed a while to take pics, all the while standing very close to (almost over) Heidi and her kits. If you imagine having a 'giant' like me standing over the kits, she would have to be a little nervous. Even if she trusts me, just my size, the fact that I could step on one, has to keep her on guard. I felt bad for her and was a little glad to leave them to eat in peace - as much as was possible with so many raccoons milling around them and those loud kits calling incessantly nearby.
I have tons to do tonight. Will 'develop' and post the pics soon, hopefully tomorrow.
It has been a good 2+ hrs since I 1st went out there to feed the raccoons. I stopped by the patio door to see if they had eaten everything and was shocked to see Heidi still out there eating watermelon, her 3 kits nearby. It was particularly heartwarming to see, because of what I had done earlier today.
This afternoon after eating watermelon, I had scooped all of the flesh and juice from the rind and put it in a container in the fridge - taking what Heidi usually gets and putting it away for me. My plan was to put it in a freezer bag in hopes of making watermelon granita or sorbet at some later date. It was an idea which had grown out of my interest in finding ways to save money by using things I normally toss - but as you know, I don't so much toss the left over watermelon. I usually eat the heart and save the outer couple inches in the rind for Heidi and the others. Still, today I decided to save all that extra melon for me, even though I did feel a bit selfish.
I ended up piling some rind sections with a bit of red attached into the empty shell (from which I had taken the melon to put away for later). A quick note here - Heidi doesn't care for those pieces of cut rind w/melon attached. She likes her melon in the melon bowl shell. I think she likes it that way because she loves the juice almost more than the melon. She likes to cup her 2 hands together and drink melon juice from them. She will do that over and over and over, which is why it takes her so long to finish the melon. She does eat some melon, but she drinks as much or more juice. She usually won't mess with the cut rind sections, since there is no way to catch the juice.
Tonight when I took the empty melon shell out filled with rind sections, Heidi saw it and thought it was her usual melon - filled with real melon and juice not rind sections. I was out there when she went over to it and reached in looking for juice and when she patiently removed all of the rind sections from the bowl and scratched hopelessly at the empty rind hoping to find or make juice. I was out there to see her disappointment as she walked away.
Immediately, I went inside to get the container of melon & juice I had put in the fridge earlier (the stuff I had scooped out of the melon shell after eating the heart, the stuff Heidi likes and for which she had been looking). I took the container of melon & juice out there and poured it all into the empty shell filling it up to the top.
Heidi didn't return to the melon while I was out there, not after her earlier disappointment. I had left hoping she would do so eventually. I would hate to think I had ruined it for her and ended up giving the melon up only to have it go to waste. I had gone to the door 2hrs later to see if the melon had been eaten. I hadn't expected any raccoons to still be out there. I was thrilled to find Heidi out there her two hands cupped over a nearly empty melon shell, still drinking the remaining liquid.
I guess I'll just have to find another way to save. Seeing Heidi enjoy the left over melon gave me a lot more satisfaction as it turned out than shuffling it about in a bag in the freezer while desperately trying to make space for something else would have. I think I can do without the sherbert I might never have made anyhow and might not have enjoyed if I did. If I really want to make frozen, melon desserts, I'll just have to buy more melon, enough to make melon from 'my' part and still save Heidi's part for her.
I had to reread that last line. The 1st time through I read 'cows'. Of course, I didn't get the cawing thing, not for cows, but mostly I was having difficulty fitting cows into my mental picture of your (& you neighbor's) yard. Oh, CROWS. I need to slow down and read more carefully. Crows. That makes a lot more sense. Glad to hear (no pun intended) that your crows came for breakfast.
I've had those caterpillars before, however unintentionally. I quickly learned that I can't plant dill or fennel w/o ending up with 'tons' of those guys - and no dill or fennel, just sticks covered with caterpillars. Once I realized those 'worms' were my lovely swallowtails, I let them have the herbs.
I don't know what I was thinking the other day when I made a grocery run. Now that I'm able to get so close to the kits and walk among them, I really do wish I had so cookies to offer them. I definitely need to fix that and soon.
That I can get so close to the kits now is incredible and most unexpected. This is actually a HUGE step beyond what I was able to do even back when Dennis and the others were kits standing at my knee. Back then even the adult raccoons would run if I stood up and kits would, as well. I've always had to stay seated, especially when kits were around. The most I could do was stand up to go back to the house for more food, and it took a while before I could even do that w/o sending the raccoons running for the fence.
Now I'm standing up and walking the whole time, my feet w/in 1-2ft of all those tiny kits. Now that really is trust - and deserving of cookies!
They like vanilla s/w cookies - basic cookies w/vanilla in the center. I think that's pretty much the same theme as the golden oreos - but not the same quality. I buy the store brand or Murrays or whatever is on sale or priced best. They LOVE vanilla frosting and also strawberry frosting. Sometimes I buy the plastic 'cans' of frosting for them and pile, I mean spread, it on simple cookies (vanilla wafers, animal crackers, etc) or even put it between bread slices (cut or torn into small pieces) to make frosting finger sandwiches.
Heidi is on a health kick and thus will not partake of sweets - except frosting. It's the one 'bad' food she cannot refuse - well, that and syrup, hummingbird nectar, simple syrup, koolaid, or pretty much any sweetened water. For her, I take whatever, pile as much frosting on it as it will hold, and then hand it to her. It doesn't matter what I put it on, as it's just a vehicle for the frosting. I can pile frosting on the plastic lid and hand that to her. Doesn't matter. She just wants the frosting. She will actually reach out her hands to take a giant frosting covered cookie (or whatever) directly from my hands. She also likes to lick the can when it's 'empty' and apparently sees that as her right as matriarch. I usually give it to her. If I give it to one of the others instead, she will chase them down and take it - a behavior she does not otherwise display with any other food.
Well then that's an excellent choice of cookie. Truth be told, if I'm feeling VERY guilty about my Oreo habit I will buy the lesser brand - still a treat - and OMG if I bought frosting to put on them . . . don't give me any ideas!!! :/
You're a lucky girl. Thanks for sharing as it's easy to imagine Heidi reaching out to you for a frosted cookie or empty tub of frosting. What fun!
Not the same, but I eat a lot of peanut butter and save the "empty" plastic jars to give to the dogs for a PB party. Hours of enjoyment. :)
Same idea w/pb jar. The frosting container provides quite a bit of fun for the raccoons, too, although not hours, as they are eager to eat and get back to the forest. Usually Heidi eats her fill and when she is done, one of the yearlings will get the can next and spend another 30min or so off in some remote corner of the yard licking it. That can may make the rounds several times before they decide the plastic has given up all its flavor. Have you seen the pic of the raccoon standing on hind legs and holding a tall frosting can, her head partially buried in it? I'll try to find that one. I know it's on here somewhere. It's one of my favorites.
Raccoons prefer their peanuts in the shell and unsalted, raw if possible. They don't show the same excitement for peanut butter, although I've no doubt a hungry raccoon will eat some if offered. My info as to their preferences is based, not on what they will or will not eat if hungry - as they will eat anything if hungry enough - but on more 'scientific tests' in which I offered them various items and made note of which they ate 1st vs which they only ate if nothing else was available. I orchestrated the 'tests' a lot like sports playoffs.
Gotta run. Very busy day today. Will almost surely have to work tonight, too. Here is a very quick pic to tide you over. I haven't taken time to look at any of the other pics, so have no idea what's in there. As for this one, get a load of that front kit. That's my little boy/girl! That's the one that sat there in that same spot and let me put a handful of food in front of it - possibly a behavior learned from watching Heidi do the same.
In this shot I had just walked out the door to take them something. Is it just me, or does that one kit look like a 5yr old waiting to see what I brought him this time? That's Heidi trying to eat from the empty watermelon shell. (sniffle, sniffle) That's not a cut on Heidi's head/neck. Looks like I dropped kibble on her and it stuck in the fur. 2 of the 3 kits farther back are Heidi's. Not sure who the 4th one belongs to, but there were several other raccoons on the patio. I was standing right their in front of the picture plane. It's a very small patio, so I was really very close to them the whole time.
Later when I have more time I will work on cropping and chopping to provide better closeups.
group of kits. I think this is not the best positioning with me so close and standing over them. Not optimum for photos. Live & learn. I'll have to take a folding chair out with me next time. Think they may be far enough along now to allow that.
Isn't that little one SO cute. I love the way he was sitting there looking up at me sort of smug like when I went out there. I think that might have been when I went out to give Heidi the egg. I had already been in and out several times. That time, that little fella stopped eating momentarily and looked up at me with an expression that seems to indicate he's waiting to see what I brought him this time.
That one has a lot of personality. He/she is very outgoing and assertive, so he/she got over the fear of me much faster than the others. In every litter, there is always the one like this one who is bold and fearless, the one most willing to take a chance and come over to meet me. There is always that one bold kit in every group, and that's the one I get to know best and even sometimes get to pet, because it is so fearless.
If that one is a boy, it will be run off very early next spring when breeding begins. Then we [probably] won't see it again - unless, like Trouble, a prior male it is bold and fearless enough to 'dis' the females (and Heidi) and come to the buffet a few times before they finally run it off. If, on the other hand, it's a female, and there is a 75% or so chance it is, it will be with us for a year or two in the future and will feature big in future stories, because it will continue to be unafraid of me and thus interact with me much more than the others. I'm waiting for a name to appear in my mind for this one.
I knew there was something I forgot to tell you earlier. Ever since that time I told you about when I got Heidi to step off to the side to let Kitty come inside, the two have been getting along much better. They don't love each other or hang out together, but they have called a truce. Kitty has stopped hissing and growling at the raccoons and trying to chase them away. Heidi has stopped chasing Kitty the moment she appears on the scene.
For many months now Kitty has been coming to the patio door to be let in while Heidi and the others are nearby eating. Kitty only does this while I'm outside, and she goes way up against the house to stay as far away from them as she can, but the patio is only maybe 10ft long in that direction, so with both on the patio, Kitty at the door and Heidi somewhere between the door and the end of the patio (10ft away), they can only be just so far apart.
Lately Kitty has become sufficiently comfortable to go up to the door on her own (with me out there but not knowing right away that she is even there) and then wait for me to see her standing there and let her in - as apposed to before when she would wait at a distance from the patio for me to get between Heidi and the door, open the door for her to dash inside, and then call her. This new way means that Kitty is more vulnerable as she has to stand at the door where Heidi can see her (and could attack her). She has to stand there until I see her and open the door for her to go inside.
Last night while I was out there taking pics, Kitty did this. She walked up to the door and stood waiting, even while Heidi was on the patio WITH her 3 kits. Incredibly, although it was Heidi and the kits who let me know Kitty was there (by looking over at her), Heidi made no attempt to pursue Kitty nor did Heidi growl or otherwise show combative behavior. When I saw Kitty I opened the door and let her go inside.
It seems like now that Kitty has stopped hissing and growling at Heidi, Heidi no longer sees the need to chase her away. When Kitty stopped going on the offensive and trying to chase the raccoons away, Heidi stopped feeling the need to go after Kitty. Seems like they may be calling a truce, like maybe the war is over. Hoping.
Awwwwhhhh. Just came back from feeding the raccoons. No time to stay out with them tonight. Work to do still - and getting tired.
Tonight while I was scooping up kibble, Heidi was sitting against the door waiting, her kits and that 4th one (seems to belong to one of the other raccoons but more independent) huddled around her on and around the door facing waiting. When I opened the door, instead of looking surprised or running away to hide as they did in the past, tonight the little tykes just stood there in the doorway looking up at me, some standing upright hands in the air as though excited to see me. Except for being at the wrong door and on the wrong day, they looked for all the world like they were saying, "Trick or Treat".
Seriously, the kits all looked SO happy to see me, as if they were out trick-or-treating (and expecting candy) or going to see grandma (and expecting goodies. all grandmas have goodies). This is the 1st time I've ever had kits waiting at the door for me, so the 1st time I've ever quite seen this. Instead of being afraid of me, they all looked so happy to see me. Apparently even the little tykes appreciate a good kibble meal - perhaps as apposed to having to follow Mom for miles through the forest in search of tidbits, their little tummies hungry and their little bodies getting tired. They really did look happy to see me open that door! :-D
When I went out with the food, the kits all stayed right there around me, even the shy ones. Yep. They are definitely getting comfortable with me - and they do appear to have connected me with good things like food and toys. (and they have been playing with their toys, both the ones I've given them recently and the old ones handed down from prior generations and apparently still stashed somewhere in the yard where these guys have found them. I see all manner of little toys up around the patio and between that trunk/seat and the house where the kits used to hide and play before they were comfortable coming out to eat.
Yes, you may. I appreciate you asking, and I'm very happy that you like it that much. My only caveat is that I would appreciate it if you wouldn't share it with others. I'm hoping to use the better pics in the book, so I don't want them to get distributed on internet.
They have left already tonight. Last night, if you recall, Heidi and the kits were out there from 9ish until 12:30 or so. Last night they were probably very hungry having missed the night before. Also last night I gave them the watermelon shell piled to the top with melon and juice, which took Heidi a while to eat. They really had one heck of a party out there last night. I guess all things considered they were not as hungry tonight after eating for 2.5hrs last night. :-)
Just ate the last end of the watermelon. On my way back to the kitchen, I stopped off at the patio door to check for activity. Can't see through glass panes in door tonight, because everything is fogged/frosted up due to humidity. Opened door to look out and found 2 kits out there alone, eating. These kits, while still small, were a tad larger than Heidi's. When I opened the door to look out at them, they just stood there looking back at me but didn't run away.
I took a chance on walking out there to give them the rest of the melon. Unfortunately, that did cause them to walk away. They didn't run, just walked behind the flower pots to hide. Oh, well, put melon down near where they had been eating and left. They will almost certainly return for the food. I'm sure they must have a parent out there somewhere, too. At least, I hope so. Few parents are as careful as Heidi, unfortunately.
Edited to add: No, I'm not getting any work done. At this rate I'll be up all night. Just tired and want to do something else, something more fun. Ok, must work now.
Edited to add it was rainy last night; hence the wet patio. For the past few weeks we've had rain/storms every afternoon and/or evening. I'm not complaining though. It beats drought, which we had for a while before the afternoon storms started.
Notice the body language of the kits in this pic. These are Heidi's kits. The raccoon they are looking at is NOT Heidi. Heidi is the one whose back appears at the bottom of the pic. They are behaving in a cautious manner because the other adult is getting too close for comfort. Heidi apparently knows and trusts the other adult, but the kits are unsure, thus their demeanors. (and, yes, I do need to pressure wash that table - and the patio).
That container with the dirty water in it is one I gave Heidi last night with her food in it. It was CLEAN then. It filled up with rainwater, and the raccoons then tried to make a pool out of it; hence the accumulated dirt. Just didn't want you to think I was serving them filthy water - I just don't give them water at all lately. Those who have been with us a while may recall that I used to provide a dish of water back in the old days before I got the pool (kids wading pool I bought for the raccoons, currently out of order). The funny thing I learned is that raccoon SO love water that they will try their best to get into ANY container of water no matter how small. I've seen them somehow manage to get 3 out of 4 legs into a Cool Whip container. They will make a pool out of anything - and that's how the clean container full of clean rainwater ended up so dirty. A half dozen adults plus 3 or 4 kits each all tried at one point or other during the night to 'swim' in that tiny container.
OMG. Heidi is such a PET. I went by the patio door a minute ago on my way to check something I have in the crock pot for tomorrow. There was Heidi's familiar face up against that one same pane at the bottom of the door, the one where she always sits when trying to get my attention. I could just barely make out the faint outline of her face in the darkness.
I went to the door turned on the outside light and opened the door. For a moment or two, I was perplexed. I had already fed her, so what was she doing out there on the patio with her kits again now? I stood there, door open, looking at her for a minute or so, asking what she was doing here even though I realized she wasn't going to answer, not in a language I understood, at least.
Then I decided she must, for whatever reason, be still hungry - even though she had eaten earlier. I went to get the food. When I returned she was watching for me through the bottom door panes just like she usually does. Sure enough when I got out there with the food, she began to chow down. She was hungry and she had come back and sat there at the door hoping I would see her and bring her more food - all the food I had put out earlier was long gone now.
In years past, whenever Heidi arrived, if she smelled any indication that I had been out earlier that afternoon to put out any food, even to put stuff in the compost bin, she would figure she had missed the meal and would leave. She did this so reliably that I had learned to be careful about not putting anything at all out in the afternoon lest Heidi see/smell it and leave w/o getting her dinner. But now, something had changed. Now even though I had clearly fed her earlier, she had returned and waited hoping for a meal. Now she seemed to actually realize that I was not just putting food outside on some mysterious schedule (and then she just happened by to eat it). She seemed to understand now that I was actually giving her food and doing so because I saw her at the door.
I've no idea why she was hungry still. She did seem to leave early the 1st time and leave a lot of food behind, food which was eaten by others. Who knows. Maybe she had to leave in a hurry for some reason. Maybe the kids had to go pottie or she suddenly remember she had an appointment. Maybe she got an emergency call on her smart phone and had to run to take care of things. Who knows.
Or maybe earlier she was forced to surrender her food to another hungry mother with kits. Maybe after she had eaten her fair share of the food (which had been sized for one), another mother with kits had pulled a 'Steal', you know, the deal where the other raccoon slowly backs up to the food. The rules of their society are clear. If one raccoon has eaten enough to get by and another hungry raccoon (from this group) has none, the 2nd raccoon can execute the Steal, as a safe, legal, way of requesting some of the food, and the former owner of the food is required to back away and relinquish it. It's an absolutely beautiful method they have devised for maintaining order, preventing fights, and yet making sure everyone eats. It's a method not unlike some of our own societal rules for polite behavior.
Since Heidi left so much food behind earlier, and since I found another raccoon and her kits out there eating it after she was gone, I'm guess it was a 'Steal' situation, a situation in which Heidi needed to leave a good portion of her food earlier in order to allow the others to eat. So I gave her some more food and poured the container of watermelon juice I had in the fridge into the empty watermelon shell for them.
The watermelon had been well eaten by earlier raccoons, but when I opened the door this 2nd time for Heidi, I saw the one kit out there trying to find something inside the melon shell - thus I added the juice for him as it was all I had left. That one little kit was out there strutting around me as though he were a preschooler trying to get attention. The other 2 kits were hiding behind the patio trunk, but this time they were clinging to the back side of the trunk and peaking over the top at me, only their 2 cute little, furry heads sticking up over the top of the trunk. I spoke to them, and they came over to join Heidi and the other kit.
I'm finding now that a number of the kits, like these 2, are responding to my voice, showing a reduction in fear and turning around to come back toward me when I speak softly to them. This is big, because, notwithstanding our expectations to the contrary, raccoon kits are NOT normally comforted by the sound of human voices no matter how sweetly or softly we speak. Their natural reactions to our voice are terror, fleeing, and hiding in that order. Early on I learned this and learned to keep very quiet until after they got to know me and/or had a reason to trust me (such as a good reference from the parent).
(Yes, I did get some work done earlier. Not enough, but some. The work I have to do is stressing me out tonight. I need time to process it and figure it out. Sometimes answers come to me when I do other things and don't try so hard.)
Just came back from feeding the raccoons. When I got to the kitchen, I didn't see the familiar outline of Heidi's head through the bottom pane where she sits. I opened the door slightly to see better (due to humidity condensed on door). A yearling was standing upright a few feet from the door looking at me. Her kits were huddled against the door but quickly scurried off to hide when I opened it slightly. I didn't see any sign of Heidi out there.
Earlier today I had stopped off at the store to pick up a bag of store brand vanilla s/w cookies for the raccoons. I quickly opened the bag and grabbed two and broke them into fourths - hoping to give them to the kits only. By the time I got back to the area near the door to scoop up some kibble, Heidi was sitting in her usual spot at the door, having apparently seen or heard me open it earlier and come quickly to make sure i saw her. Once again, her young kits were huddled about her on and about the door facing. When I didn't see her earlier, I had assumed she wasn't there. Now she had quickly moved into position at the door in keeping with my theory that she knows I need to see her or I won't bring food. (Actually, I need to see any raccoon, but it now looks as if Heidi may think I will not bring food unless I see her.)
I opened the door again, cookie bits in hand. My goal now was to get the cookie pieces to the kits w/o the adults grabbing them - harder than it may seem. Heidi's kits were standing up close to the door still, looking up at me as though I might be Santa. Before I even stepped out of the doorway, I tossed a cookie piece in front of that one assertive kit (from the pic above), because he/she is always out front. The kit grabbed it immediately and ran over under the table to eat it. Yay! Success. (A few days ago the adults were grabbing things I tried to give the kits.)
I went out onto the patio, food bag in one hand, cookie bits in the other, determined to find opportunities to give cookies to the other kits. As I poured the kibble which kept the attention of the adults who were jockeying for position, I tossed cookies to kits. Of the 8 cookie pieces, I managed to get all but 1 into the hands/mouths of kits. A quick thinking adult grabbed one while the kit for which it was intended was busy eating kibble. I can get close enough to Heidi to put handfuls of food in front of her face and I can get my hands within maybe 8in of her kits now, too, (w/o scaring them) so I was able to easily deliver cookie pieces to them. There were several other kits out there, too.
I got cookies to those that weren't hiding from view. A few minutes later when I returned to the patio to see how things were going, I was met by a confusing sight. Heidi was in her usual spot, but now she was surrounded by 7 kits. Seven kits in a circular pattern around Heidi, all eating her kibble and that I had scattered about for her kits - but 7? For a moment, confused, I wondered if I had been mistaken about the number of kits Heidi had this year. All the kits were eating so close around her - and so far from any of the others - and all seemed to be getting along so well - like siblings and a parent. While I was still scratching my head trying to figure it out, one of the kits began sort of spitting at Heidi.
It was then that I saw the look of exasperation on Heidi's face as this kit which was clearly not hers tried to tell her to get away from 'his' (actually her) food. Whew. Thank goodness, all 7 of them were not Heidi's after all. Now it seemed a little humorous. Heidi is such a good mom that even kits belonging to other raccoons want to hang out with her. I had given each adult female her own pile of food - and scattered some around any kits I saw. You would think the kits would be eating with their own Mom, but, as we have learned, many raccoon moms are not such good parents as Heidi is. Many don't watch their kids at all, and some will even try to keep their babies from eating their food. Bad parents seem to be well distributed about the animal kingdom, human's included.
To rescue Heidi from this kit problem, I tossed food to one side of the kit who was arguing with Heidi over her food. Seeing this the kit moved away from Heidi and over to the new food. I tossed more food near the other kits which I was now able to identify as not-Heidi's based on their positions and behaviors. The extra kits moved away, leaving Heidi with her real kits only, at which point I left.
Just came back from checking on the raccoons. This time I was again befuddled to find that Heidi and her 3 kits had left. She had left quite a bit of food behind just as she did the night before. I don't know if she's leaving early like this so the others can eat (the Steal thing) or what. She may be leaving to get her kits away from a raucous and potentially dangerous environment with too many adults around. Heidi won't stick around if there is too much going on and she thinks her little ones may be at risk. It was raining lightly at times, but I doubt that would have caused her to leave.
I guess it is also possible that she may be leaving to take the kits about the forest for lessons, but I doubt she would do that w/o finishing her meal first. So why she is leaving early these last few days is something of a mystery. I may try to sit out there with them Fri or Sat nights if it's not raining - so I can see the dynamics and possibly prevent her from leaving if the reason is combative others. Lately it rains pretty much every night now. I don't care for all the super high humidity or the relentless wetness, but I'm not going to complain about rain - not for a long time. Also, the rains seem to be keeping the temps down a little.
I'll try to remember to check for Heidi later tonight, to see if she returns with her kits after the other adults have left. As last night, she may want more food then. I hope this is not going to be a habit as it will get costly fast if I have to feed her twice and basically feed countless other female raccoons that show up. I used to provide food for as many as 20 a night plus babies, but these days I need to keep costs down to save money for whatever hard times may come.
Here is something I didn't have time to tell you from a few days ago. That night I had taken the food out in a plastic container, the one seen in one of the pictures above now filled with dirty rain water. Seeing only Heidi and her kits out there at the time and remembering how Heidi prefers to eat from a dish, I had put the food down in front of her dish and all. Before I could even stand up to leave, another raccoon emerged from behind the flower pots. Now what. I needed more food for this other adult, so it wouldn't be coming over to bother Heidi and her kits for food, even while I was on the way back for more food.
Even though Heidi already had her face down in the dish eating, I reached my hand in to scoop up some food for the other raccoon. As I reached my hand in, Heidi moved her face out of the dish. She put her nose to the back of my hand as I was scooping up food (from her dish). She seemed to be trying to figure this out, to understand why I now had my hand in her dish. It was probably also confusing to her as to how to act. Being the queen bee, she doesn't allow other raccoons to stick their mouths in or even near her dish while she is eating, but she knows it's important to maintain a good relationship with me. I reached in 2 or 3 times, each time scooping up food while Heidi stood at her dish, sniffing my hand and trying to figure me out. She made no attempt to growl or bite me or otherwise try to take the food back, neither did she run off. She still had more than enough food left after I gave 3 small handfuls to the other raccoon, after which I moved away to let her eat in peace.
Her reaction is my testament as to how non-aggressive raccoons really are - unless trapped and forced to fight for their lives, of course.
Edited to add: It's ironic how most people who think of dogs as 'friends' consider raccoons vicious and aggressive. I'm not saying dogs aren't are friends, just that if I had done the same thing to a dog (put my hand in the dish while it was eating), there is a good chance I would have been bitten. Probably 40% or more of dogs would at least have growled menacingly at me and some percentage of those would have bitten me. Just something to ponder.
I have been thinking about shipping you kibble. Or cookies. Or just starting a college fund for the kits.
Thanks for filling us in. I couldn't possibly go to sleep (and yes, sleep I must) without finishing the thread. Really - I get tired when i log in and see all there is to read, but have to come and check on you and the critters.
Thank you for letting me post that smile on my desktop. Of course, the DG pre-printed copyright is on the image and you needn't worry about me using it or sharing it elsewhere. You have my word.
Get yer work done! Or go to sleep. Or hang out on the patio. Or tell us a story. ha ha ha.
Are you saying I should write less, so both of us can get to sleep earlier? :-)
That may not be possible for me, btw.
Glad you are enjoying the pic of the kit. I have total confidence in you. When I asked you not to give it to others it was only so you would know the situation, not because I lack trust in you. I always feel that people need to know what you want, before they can give it to you. In the early days of the threads, I used to email some of the cuter raccoon pics to my sister who also enjoys raccoons/animals. I hadn't considered the ramifications of my actions. Then one day I found out that she was forwarding the pics to all of her friends, just wanting to share. She didn't mean any harm, and I hadn't asked her not to do this, hadn't even thought about it at the time.
I did a double take when I realized how far the pics might end up being distributed once my sister sent them to her friends and they to their friends and so on. Email and the web have given us mass distribution capabilities once only dreamed of even by professionals. I was incredibly humbled and complimented to think that she enjoyed them enough to share them with her friends, but it also gave me cause for concern, since I hope to use the better pics in my book and/or for advertising, etc. This is why I added the line asking you not to share the pic. Also, please note that I often include sentences directed at everyone, even in posts for a particular person. I do this because I've learned that most people read all or most of the posts, including those directed to others, and I know that there are people out there reading but not posting. I like to include things, caveats and disclaimers aimed at everyone, including the silent/hidden readers (who I also appreciate very much, btw).
Off now to wind things up and get to bed - but check for Heidi 1st.
Hmm, that is a disturbing thought...So, I looked around a little bit and easily found Heidi and Fraidy's pics on the web. I am sure that there are more as I didn't look for more than 3-5 minutes. There were a bunch of hits at World News (wn.com) in their children's section. Google images didn't have any that I recognized, but I probably missed them...
I am so tickled that this year's kits are so calm and sociable with you☺☺☺ Every year I think that this year's group is the Most adorable, but this year I am sure that These are The Cutest!!
Bummer. Something is wrong with Heidi. I don't know what. She's moving her backside in small, strange, repetitive movements when she should be standing still. It doesn't look good at all. I 1st noticed it earlier tonight. Saw it again when I went out there a few minutes ago. She is not otherwise acting weird. She isn't having any difficulty walking. She is eating. It's just that she keeps repeating the same movement over and over and over.
I have no idea how to describe the movement, but I'll give it a try. Imagine you are standing upright, knees slightly bent, hands on hips, ready to do some exercises. Now tighten you glutes and tuck your butt under, tilting your lower pelvis forward momentarily. Hold for 1 count. Release. Repeat over and over ... If you got the move right, you will recognize it as something you wouldn't do in public, at least not outside of an exercise class unless you were say Madonna, Britteny, or J Lo. That's the basic move - except, you know, Heidi doesn't have her hands on her hips. She just keeps repeatedly tucking her butt under. Returning to the starting position and repeating over and over. It's a small movement just as when you did it (or imagined doing it). For Heidi it's a move of maybe 1in start to finish, not more than 2in.
It looks like it could be neurological, and, of course, the 1st thing that comes to mind in that category is the dreaded rabies - but, again, so far she shows no sign any of the signs I know like lack of coordination, salivating, inability to eat or drink, rage, fear, etc. Aside from the neurological, other things that came to mind as I watched her constantly repeating that motion while eating include:
(1) Constipation or blockage, since the butt tucking movement in quadrupeds also looks like the beginnings of moving into 'the position'.
(2) Lower abdominal pain and/or cramping. Even possibly back pain or almost any pain. I know from the several years I spent in severe pain that pain can cause you to act down right crazy, definitely weird. Rhythmic movements can me an attempt to sooth or distract oneself when in pain. When my hip/back/leg hurts a lot, I move my leg back and forth, over and over in a manner which might look strange to onlookers.
I don't know. I doesn't look good. It reminds me that she getting up in age. I always imagine the end occurring in the form of Heidi just never returning one spring, or maybe not coming back after a bad birth. Naturally, I prefer Option 1 if it must happen. I sure hope this is not it, because if something were to happen to her now, those kits probably won't make it - unless they somehow come back here w/o her and I'm able to take them in - or better, if they eat here and hang with the other adult raccoons in the forest, although I doubt the other adults will take them in, so that probably leaves me, and then only if I can get a hold of them - and if Heidi isn't coming down with the dreaded rabies, since that would mean they are likely also infected.
I sure wish Ruth were here now to advise us. Sorry folks. Hopefully, this is something minor, and she will be back to normal tomorrow, but as we have learned nature can be very cruel.
I sure hope you are right. I'll get a sw pot tomorrow just in case. She probably won't eat it, but I'll give it a try. Heidi has always been very careful and limited about what she will eat. The list is very short. I think I will also offer her a small piece off one of these Metamucil Apple Crisp Fiber Wafers. They taste like cookies but have that psyllium fiber in them. The human 'dose' is up to 6 wafers a day. I'll offer her 1/4 of a wafer to start. As for water, there is a TON of water out there right now. It has been raining every afternoon and/or night for about two weeks now. Our entire world is a soggy mess, and every flower pot saucer, food container, wheel barrow, cart, and other nook and cranny is full to the top with rain water.
Thanks for the ideas and for sending me more positive thoughts.
Pedialyte in watermelon. Now that is brilliant. I'll bet even picky Heidi would drink it in watermelon - or even syrup or sugar water. Good idea. Thanks.
Although, I really doubt if she is dehydrated - unless maybe she's too sick to drink, but since she is eating fine, I'm guessing she is also drinking. Like I mentioned above, there is no shortage of water around here right now. We are like a wet sponge right now. Also, it was just day before last that she ate a LOT of watermelon plus juice. Hmmm. Maybe she has the, how do you say, scoots from eating all that melon. It doesn't usually cause her problems, but we all have those days when we overdo it, and she did stay out there a long time eating that night. Ok, I'll try the pedialyte. I have some on hand (purchased for emergencies after my bout with flu and resultant, severe dehydration requiring a full bag of IV fluids). Seems like something that wouldn't hurt anything even if she doesn't need it.
Thanks for checking on the raccoon pics. When I get some time I'm going to check the one's you mentioned and some others and insist on removal of any pics I find - the ones which aren't mine, that is. I think I have some out there on at least one other site. I put them out there before I became aware of this issue - either the rate at which pics spread on the web and or the fact that I want to use the pics for the book and book related activities and thus don't want them to become 'old hat'. While I'm out there, I'll check 'my' sites and make sure the pics are either 'private' or removed.
I'm glad to hear that you really like this year's kits. I think they are especially cute, too. The one in that pic above is not only cute but really seems to be very outgoing and expressive and to have loads of personality.
Regarding the issue of photos being distributed across the internet, (I'm sure you guys know this already, but) I just wanted to add that I'm sure my sister was [by far] not solely responsible for the problem. She was more the one who helped me to see the problem. In the very early days when I was so excited to be interacting up close with the raccoons and before I realized the many reasons why it was better to keep it quiet, I also sent a few pics to friends and colleagues. I was incredibly naive in those days.
It doesn't stop there, either. several people on DG (also in the early days), spoke of regularly printing out and otherwise saving the posts and pics to share with non-DG members who were also enjoying the serial 'episodes' of their favorite characters. At the time, I was just incredibly happy to hear that people were enjoying it so much that they would want to share it with friends. One elementary school teacher said she was taking the posts to school regularly to share the story with her kids. The list goes on. It's the same method by which everything moves across the net, the method by which videos of piano playing cats go viral.
Heidi's list of 'eats' is very short, and it's all but impossible to get a wild raccoon to eat anything they don't want to eat, but Heidi LOVES watermelon. Hiding those beneficial things, especially liquids, in the watermelon/juice - wow - that might actually work!
Disclaimer: I'm forced temporarily to type w/o my glasses. Basically, I'm blind, so if this post is a messy jumble of senseless letters, my bad. I'm touch typing the words and hoping it comes out legible as I cannot actually see any of it. :-D
Hey Cheryl - hope your glasses are in a safe place.
I was about to go for bike ride with Court - he's off today - but I went out back to look for tiny Monarch caterpillars.
I was viciously attacked by mosquitoes. I have to sit still so the blood flow stops pumping up these bites. And wait for the benedryl to work its magic. And then probably pass out until sometime after dark. ha ha!
Have a great day. Take some time for you over the weekend.
I hate to have to say this, but I haven't seen Heidi since that night when I reported her strange movements. She has missed dinner for 3 nights now. Let's hold off though before we get to worried. Unlike the old days when I used to sit out there for an hour or so, these days it's much easier for us to just miss each other by arriving at different times. Hopefully, I will see her soon.
I was thinking that night but didn't want to start worrying...wonder about a prolapse uterus or bowel with her doing that.
I hope nothing more than sitting or stepping on a pricker that cause irritation. SURE hope that our girl is Ok.
Just returned from checking the door. Nothing. For these past few days, I've really missed that faint outline of Heidi's face in the bottom pane of the door. There have been raccoons out there - and lots of kits - and I've fed them each night, but no sign of Heidi.
'This' rain? We've had daily soakings for several weeks now, often replete with tstorm sound effects. Is that the rain to which you refer? We are definitely wet, very wet. Basically, it's the monsoon season here.
As for Heidi, we are talking about raccoons here. They love water and enjoy being wet. Back when I kept the pool full in the backyard, they would almost always get into the pool to drink, even though they could easily have reached over the rim to drink from dry land. They would even get in the pool (and stay in there for a while) on cold, winter nights when it was in the 30'sF. Also, they enjoy eating soggy kibble in the pool much more than eating on solid ground. I used to pepper the pool with handfuls of kibble for them to eat, and as many as a dozen adult raccoons would pack into the pool to eat (looked like college students packing a phone booth or VW bug/bus in the old days). I've gone out there in the driving rain to feed Heidi in the past, and she would always be right there, even when the rain was coming down so hard I could barely see.
However, Heidi IS afraid of thunder/lightening. Over the many years that I've been feeding them, Heidi has always been absent any time a tstorm was on the way. A few times the storm would be so far away that I could only see a faint flash far off in the distance, but still Heidi would not come to dinner. Many of the other raccoons will show up no matter the weather, but Heidi is older, wiser, and more cautious than that. She will also not show up if the wind is whipping the trees about violently. Unlike some of the younger raccoons, she seems to know that falling limbs/trees are very dangerous at such times.
We have been experiencing a LOT of thunder storms lately, almost daily. Lots of thunder and high winds, especially at night. It's possible that may have kept Heidi away some nights, and I may just have missed her other nights by arriving at different times. I haven't paid much attention to the storms, so while I know they are pretty much a nightly occurrence, I don't know how they correlate with Heidi's missed visits. I was about to say that I didn't think there had been a storm yet tonight, but then I recalled having to reassure Cocoa a time or two in earlier this evening due to thunder.
I would feel better if I went to the door and saw her face at the bottom pane, but I'm not going to get too worried yet. I've worried a lot in the past, and she has always shown up again. I'm going to wait until I'm sure it's time to worry.
Just saw that that this weekend is the best time to view the Perseid Meteor showers, basically a lot of space rocks and such raining down on us and burning up in earth's atmosphere. We are passing through this bunch of space junk as we do each year, and those that get to close get sucked in by earth's atmosphere, causing them to shower down towards us. At time you may see as many as 50 or so 'falling stars' as the debris falls towards us, burning up along the way.
Friday, Sat, & Sunday are said to be the best viewing nights. Maybe THAT's why Heidi hasn't been around. Maybe she's out in a high tree somewhere waiting to show the kits the awesome Perseid showers. Can't you see them now, sitting at the top of a very tall tree and quietly watching the night sky, until suddenly one of the kits calls out, "Mom! Mom! There it is Mom!"
You will totally never beLIEVE this. I don't even believe it myself - and I was THERE. I would be even more excited about it were it not overshadowed by the bad news that Heidi was absent yet again. Tomorrow I'm going to try to remember to get out there at dusk. That's when she used to come by with her kits. I want to see if she is coming early and then leaving due to the overcrowding. There have been quite a few raccoons out there lately. 4-6 adults and 8 or more kits.
Heidi doesn't like to have her kits around a big crowd, especially if it's a rambunctious crowd. Even back when the pool and buffet were open at the back of the yard, Heidi would gather her kits and leave if the crowd got to large or too rowdy for her to feel safe having her little ones in the midst of it. She has always been extremely careful with her kits. That may have been the reason she left early w/o eating all her food those last 2 nights she was here and then came back again later after the others had finished/left. (Even then she was arriving at dusk ahead of the crowd and then leaving once the crowd got too large for her comfort.)
So, back to the 'you won't believe it' part. The past few nights, even w/o Heidi out there, there has been this one kit that looks and acts just like the one in that 'smiling' pic, the kit looking up with the grin on his face. I almost certain this is that same kit. The other kits are fearful of me and stay close to their moms, but this one almost follows me around the patio. Earlier I thought it was Heidi's kit, but now I don't know. The kit stays off to itself a lot, making it difficult to know who the mom is. Anyhow, it has been here the past few nights even though Heidi has not.
Last night when I went out there stood some 8in from my shoe and on my left side the whole time I was out there - even though ALL of the other raccoons, adults & kits, were farther off to my right. Get that? Instead of staying away from me and with his mom and siblings, this little fella chooses to stand on the opposite side of me (opposite where the other are) and follows me around at close range. I've been carrying a couple cookies out with me each night, each broken into several smaller, kit-sized pieces. I toss them around to all of the kits, but I have to confess that I dropped an extra one or two off to my left side for little Desi. I told you early on he was my boy/girl, you know. :-)
He/she reminds me very much of Dennis, except that so far he doesn't show any sign of Dennis' rascal behavior - other than the fact that even now at such a very young age he's so very independent (not staying with his family). Before I continue, I'd like to say that I've decided to name him/her Desperado. I'll call him Desi for short. Like Dennis, I realize that 'he' is probably a girl, and I hope so, as that way he will be with us another year, at least. Now back to the story.
Tonight when I opened the door, I had a handful of broken animal cookie pieces, and was prepared to toss cookies out to the kits as I had done on prior nights. Little Desi was on the door facing and had his hands on the door itself such that as I opened the door he kind of leaned way inward with the door, making no attempt to get down from the facing or let go of the door. I quickly tossed cookie pieces to all of the kits (as they tend to be up near the door at that time). The others were mostly clueless still, standing around and letting the adults come up and snatch the cookies off their feet or from under their tummies. Desi grabbed his cookie as soon as it hit the door facing. It was at that point that he got down on the patio floor to eat it.
I stepped out and handed out kibble, sprinkling it about liberally to make it easier for so many raccoons to eat in close proximity. I felt something touch my shoe and looked down. I was standing upright on the patio, mind you, and I looked down to find little Desi literally sitting on my foot, not just standing there haphazardly. No, he was entirely on top of the instep of my croc and was clinging to it with both hands as though he were on a lifeboat in rough water.
I looked down, amazed at this tiny little ball of fluff hanging on to my shoe as though on an amusement park ride. And then I just acted, no thinking. I just did what felt right at that moment. I reached down and touched his back gingerly. I totally expected him to leap away as though I had zapped him with a cattle prod, but he didn't move at all, just continued hanging on to my shoe. I put a cookie piece down by my shoe for him, and when he got off my shoe and began eating it, still right there beside me shoe, I reached down again, this time petting him just as one might pet the back of a kitten. Again, he showed no sign of distress whatsoever, didn't move away, didn't even flinch.
When he finished the cookie piece, I reached down and gave him another, this time holding it near his mouth and allowing him to take it directly from my hand, which he did very gently. After that, I had to go out to my car to get the last bag of food from the trunk, as there was not enough out there for all of them. On my return to the patio with more food, I took 2 broken vanilla s/w cookies with me. As soon as I got out there, little Desi came right back to me, this time standing in front of me. I gave him a piece of the s/w cookie from my hand, and then distributed additional cookies and food to all. Before leaving, I reached down, petted little Desi one last time and handed him the last piece of s/w cookie.
Even now I cannot believe it myself. In years past, it took me days, weeks even, at an hour or more a day to get some of the kits comfortable enough to come close enough to take a cookie from me - and back then I was sitting down on a very low, garden scoot (10-12in high), which made me seem much less threatening than when standing upright. AND even so I could never pet any of those kits - except Dennis. Given the constraints of the patio, the fact that I'm standing upright and moving around (both of which make me more threatening) and the fact that I'm only out there for 10min or less each night, I really didn't think there was any chance that I would even be able to hand feed any of the kits, much less PET one. I am totally amazed!
I have no idea where little Desi gets his smarts or his moxie, but he is not only cute as bug but really smart. Even at such a young age, while the others were standing around looking clueless while adults stole the cookies I tossed them, Desi caught on almost immediately to the fact that I was handing out goodies - I think you can see that on his face in that one 'grinning' pic above, and that was taken before I bought the cookies. Even before he had the chance to taste sugar, he seemed to appreciate that each night I emerged bearing kibble and sometime watermelon - oh, and that chunk of carrot cake I gave him the one night.
Gotta go check the door again in case Heidi shows up.
There was one raccoon out there with 3 kits. I turned the light on to look out, and one of the kits walked right up to the door, alone, walked all the way up and stepped up onto the door facing with his two front feet, then stood there looking up at me. Looks like at least one more kit may be starting to figure out about where the cookies come from. I figured once the others saw me handing cookies to Desi - and no harm coming to him - they would soon be coming over to me, too.
Seeing that the Mom & her kits were searching all about the patio for any stray bits of kibble, I scooped up a little more and took it out to them along with another cookie, this one broken even smaller. I gave 2 tiny pieces to each kit, and even though I gave the Mom a piece, too, she actually reached over and grabbed one out of her kit's hands. I had tossed it to the kit. It landed between the kit's front paws. The Mom and the kit reached for it at roughly the same time. Both had their hands on it. The kit leg go, and the mother took it (from in front of the kit) and ate it. Man, that is low. Taking candy from a baby is one thing, but taking it from your own baby...now that is rough.
I do have the coolest new shoe ornament now, don't I? To bad I didn't have the camera with me as that would have made a great pic.
About Heidi, I'm hoping the same. Keeping my fingers crossed that she will show up again soon, and I'll feel silly for worrying, as has happened so many times before. One of the nights when she was here very recently, one of her kits climbed up onto the table on the patio and, how shall we say, soiled it. It rained heavily that night. By morning all that remained was a pile of some kind of seeds or berries, so apparently she has found a good source of natural food somewhere in the forest. She may be taking the kits around to teach them important lessons in foraging.
At any rate, I believe we cross posted. I had just posted my "The End, please move to the new thread" post. I'll repeat it now, since I need for it to be the last post; otherwise, people will miss it. Make sure you mark the new thread to stay with us.
No adorable face in the bottom door pane tonight either, just 3 adults, one with kits. I'm afraid I'm going to have to worry now. All that other stuff, the plethora of logical excuses for Heidi's absence, that was me trying to convince myself, but now, now I'm going to have to go ahead and start worrying.
Edited to add: bummer. used the wrong thread by mistake. I'll 'fix' it tomorrow. Try to keep using the new thread in the mean time. tks