The Heidi Chronicles has been an ongoing thread series here at DG for some 6 or more years. Unfortunately, it's namesake Heidi, a wild raccoon who became a beloved, albeit wild, pet, died in 2012. While her passing leaves a whole in our hearts, she is survived by her numerous daughters, granddaughters, great-grand... who will we hope carry on her legacy at the backyard buffet. This brings me to the following question:
QUESTION TO ALL READERS of the Heidi Chronicles Threads
In light of the page turning event of Heidi's death, if the raccoons return in spring, should the thread continue under the present name "Heidi Chronicles" or should that thread be closed to reflect her demise and another started under a new name? Should the thread continue to bear the name of Heidi as its founding member without whom none of this would ever have occurred, or should her portion of the thread be retired with her - like the jersey and number of an athlete?
I ask this because I'm torn. I can see a valid argument for both options. While we await the events of spring 2013, I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Please weigh in and help me with this decision. :-)
Note: The 'cover' photo below is an older pic of Heidi waiting patiently (and watching) at the patio door - waiting for me to show up with dinner.
I remember you, btw. Loved your pic of the tiny kit hanging from the feeder or pedestal, the pic that included the entire grouping with Mom & her kits but with that one little fella dangling by an arm.
Thanks for your input on the name issue. That's a name concept I hadn't considered, and I do like it.
I like June's idea. It keeps Heidi's spirit alive as her descendants show us what she taught them. Of course your use of "The Heidi Cronicles: ___ ___ ____" with the current happenings described as a chapter might be was great also
I have every confidence that your future writings will continue to bring each of your readers into the buffet, room or yard, coming to life before our eyes as we read.
ps...would love to see the picture that you described.
BTW, just the other day it occurred to me that 'spring' is closer than we might think. They could be showing up as early as the 1st few weeks of Feb. Of course, w/o Heidi to lead them here, it may take a little longer this year for them to get hungry enough to come back. Either way, spring is right around the corner here.
That's it! Thanks so much for posting it for all o see. Somehow in my memory that one kit was hanging by a paw. Guess that demonstrates the problem of relying on memory. That is the pic though, and I love it still. Ages ago I tagged it so I would always be able to find it again. That's it.
Nothing wrong with optimism. It will get you far in life. Oh, and I hope you turn out to be right about this one. Hope maybe she just had a special event to attend last summer, a great-aunt to take care of maybe, or a niece's wedding to attend in a land far, far away. Who knows.
And I do love that name with the Star Trek reference.
All great ideas! So much creativity here. I'm so glad I asked you guys for help with this. I would never have thought of all these great ideas. Thanks again!
Oh, and not sure if I explained this properly. I don't plan to change the names of the existing threads. DG doesn't provide that option anyhow, plus I don't think I would want to do that. I'm just looking for input on what to name the new threads going forward now that Heidi is no longer with us (as far as we know, that is, Debbie; but if she does come back, you have my permission to lighten ALL of the photos!).
How cute, Amanda. I sure smiled! I used to rehab babies who had fallen or had the nest destroyed or Momma was killed. So I have a special softspot in my heart for them and other assorted woodland creatures.
After that pic, I must tell you all a quick story. I do so wish I had gotten a picture of this, but it was one of those once in a lifetime things that happens when you don't have a camera handy.
Naturally, back when I was feeding the birds, the squirrels were always trying to figure out how to get the seeds. I had this one feeder, a doughnut shaped thing made of clear Lucite, affixed to the outside of the great room window by suction cups. The lower part of the doughnut was cut out on the inner side of the ring to make a place for bird seed. Birds would land on the edge to eat, and, as the entire gizmo was clear, this made them readily visible from inside the room.
One bright, sunny day I heard a loud thud at the window and looked up to see one of the most hilarious sites ever. The entire doughnut shaped Lucite ring about 8" or so in diameter was stuffed full of brownish grey fur. As I was trying to make sense of this scene I suddenly saw a foot pinned against the inside of the ring, then another foot, and finally a little face plastered against the Lucite from inside - a squirrel face. Determined to find a way to get some of those seeds, the squirrel had jumped from a nearby tree into the Lucite doughnut and now was STUCK there inside the clear ring, his little face all contorted against the plastic.
To picture this, imagine your car tire if it were (1) made of clear plastic, (2) removed from the wheel/car, (3) shrunk down to 8" or so across, and (4) stuck to a window. Now remember, the tire has been removed from the wheel or hub or whatever you call it, so that it's open on the inside of the ring, and in this situation it is made of clear plastic. Picture the clear, 8" tire stuck to a window and picture a handful of seeds in the bottom of the tire. Now picture a squirrel having jumped into the tire, his entire body 'smushed' into the clear, plastic ring, head, face, feet all plastered against the plastic at weird angles so that it takes a minute or two to even figure out what this thing inside the doughnut is even.
For a minute or so the squirrel just sat there all catawampus, his body stuffed into the ring in such a manner that he seemed for the moment unable even to move. Finally, the squirrel got it together. He struggled a bit before finally popping out of the doughnut and falling to the ground - without ever having gotten even a single seed. That picture of the squirrel stuffed all askew inside that ring, a foot plastered up against his head, another foot plastered on the other side of the circle, looking as though he had been playing Twister only moments before, was just too hilarious for words. Oh if only I had a camera at that moment. I actually considered moving the feeder to the kitchen window, so I would have something amusing to watch while cooking and cleaning. Squirrels do the craziest things.
I do so look forward to seeing who of all the Heidi "children" will return as the new "Boss Hog" errrrumm "Boss Possum". Heidi was such an excellent example and a great teacher of what was & was not acceptable behaviour. I do believe that one of her older daughters will come in to carry the flag. Bast?..Frady?...who knows...but surely one will have learned exceptionally well from Mom or G'ma.
I sure hope that little Desi is a female!
Thanks for letting me know you are still with us. It's nice to see you again.
BTW, did you see (Kitty & Cocoa thread) that Kitty and I have finally made a huge breakthrough? These days she is often down at my feet, rubbing up against me like a 'normal', pet cat. I can pet her now, and instead of being stiff as she used to be, now she is 'soft', relaxed, and responsive, pushing her body up against my hand in the 'normal' manner. She is like a new cat. Hope you saw that - and saw how the change occurred.
I'm with you on that. I, too, believe that by now one of Heidi's many daughters, nieces, or granddaughters will have taken the leadership position. It shouldn't be long now. The other day I put out some badly burnt, shortbread cookies (set oven at 425 instead of 325. Ouch). They were so burnt that Widget would not have anything to do with them, so I know he didn't eat them. They were gone the very next morning, which would seem to indicate that the raccoons may already be back on regular, nightly rounds. (A month or so back it took 3 days for anyone to eat an egg I put out.) It still might have been an opossum, but I doubt an opossum would have eaten the whole batch. At any rate, I see this as a good sign.
Oh, and I'm also hoping Desi is a female, meaning she will likely be back with the group. She was such a sweetie.
I think maybe I'll put some food out back Friday night. If it's gone by morning, I'll sit out with some food on Saturday to see if they come to me. If it doesn't rain, that is. It rains a lot here this time of year, has been drizzling all day today. Putting (dry cat) food out on Friday will serve 2 purposes: (1) to let me know if they are around and (2) give them an idea as to what time to show up to get the food. If the food is still there on Saturday or only partly eaten (opossum), the raccoons probably aren't showing up yet, so no need to waste my time on Saturday. If they show up and find the food on Friday, they will somehow - not sure how they do this - know approx what time I put it out and will be more likely to show up at that time on Saturday (to get 1st crack at the food).
Like I said, I don't know how they know what time I put the food out, or for that matter how the little rascals tell time at all, but I'm convinced they do. Over the years working with them, the results were always the same. If I changed the meeting time, they might miss me the 1st day on the new schedule, but they would be there at the new time the next and all successive nights. Ex: Say I had been feeding them at 10PM for a while, and then one night I decided 8PM would be better for me. The 1st night I showed up at 8, they would not be there. I would wait a little while and then leave. They would show up at 10 and find that I had left the food and was gone. The next night when I went out at 8, they would be there at the new time. It worked every time, and I never could figure out how they did it. Smart little rascals for sure.
It doesn't look like the weather is going to support our plans. It rained all week. It rained last night. And now, OMG, the plan for tonight calls for SNOW! Well, maybe. The NWS is calling for snow is the greater Charleston tricounty area. Charleston is a confusing concept. It is both a city and a county, and the two overlap - no idea whose brilliant idea that was. I live in Charleston and Charleston. By that I mean that I live Charleston County and the city of Charleston. Not everyone who claims to live in Charleston is referring to the city, as one might expect. One can live in one of several other cities while also residing in Charleston County. Confusing. I know. Anyhow, snow in the Charleston tricounty area doesn't necessarily mean snow in the city of Charleston.
I'm considering maybe putting out a bowl of cat food though - think I may go do that right now - for any critters that stop by in the snow (if there is any here). Oh, forgot to mention that the snow is expected to begin after dark and end around 1AM - with no accumulation. Argh! So even if we do get some snow here in the city, it will probably come and go in the dark of night with none remaining in the light of day. Bummer. Some may recall that as the way our last snow went. It started after dark, came down pretty hard for a short time, the POWER went out due to accumulation on the branches of those old, oak trees lining the main road, and then I awoke the next morning just in time to see the last few clumps of snow melt away. If I hadn't gone outside in the dark to take pics and watch in astonishment as the snow fell, I would have missed the whole things - except for the part where I was w/o power all night.
Oh, ugh! Maybe I don't want snow after all, not if it means spending the night by candlelight (better gather those candles and matches now) and w/o heat only to miss most of the event as it occurs in the overnight hours. Bummer.
We had weird wet snow flakes falling off and on all day. It was a crappy day to be out, for sure, but it was an excellent day for bird watching. They always seem to panic when there's the least bit of snow. As this weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, it all worked out perfectly. I saw signs this morning that I'd had a possum on one of the platform feeders. Something about the way the black oil sunflower seeds are shredded says it was a possum. Like you Cheryl, I think I will put out a little kibble for passers-by.
Great idea - except as far as I can tell, it didn't snow. I say, "as far as I can tell" because the weather report said the snow was expected to fall after dark and not stick. That kind of 'stealth snow' is difficult to catch - also difficult to see paw prints, although I otherwise love the idea.
It was just another wet day (Saturday) followed by a very cold night - well, cold for us, at least. Probably close to freezing. I haven't been out yet this morning to see the effect this may have had on my flowers. I already had daffodils, azaleas, camellias, flowering quince, pink magnolias, and red bud blooming.
We very rarely have any accumulation of snow here, but on the rare occasion that we did, my mother was always quick to put out a layer of seeds and toasted bread crumbs on the snow for the birds. She didn't otherwise feed birds or wildlife, but she taught me at a very young age that snow makes it difficult for birds and animals to get to their food, so we need to help them out.
I used to feed the birds here. I had a huge gathering at my feeders, including some very beautiful and rare types. I got such joy from watching them. Feeding them probably did more for me than for them. I stopped a couple years ago due to the combination of rats attracted to the feeders and raccoons constantly damaging the feeders and dumping the seeds on the ground. The decision to quit was very difficult for me.
Not long after I hung up my last feeder, I acquired 2 indoor/outdoor cats who delight in catching mice, rats, and birds. Since the cats joined my little ark, I've been afraid to offer any bird seed. I would surely hate to lure the cats to their demise. Even though I stopped putting out bird seed some 3yrs or so ago, many of the birds still come here, attracted by the plethora of natural seeds on the many trees and plants in my yard/garden.
One day in early January I saw a little goldfinch in the crepe myrtle tree at the great room window. I was both surprised and happy to see the goldfinch. We don't actually have goldfinch here, but some goldfinch leave colder areas up north and come down here for a month or so in winter. Back when I was feeding birds, I always looked forward to the arrival of the goldfinches. Absolutely none of our regular birds will touch nyjer, but I found that the goldfinches love it. Every year in Dec in preparation for the arrival of the goldfinches I would order several bags of nyjer from a place where the seeds were so fresh they smelled awesome even to me. No matter how many feeders and thistle socks I hung, there was never enough for the flock of birds that showed up, and the number seemed to grow every year. The little birds were very diplomatic though, periodically changing places at the feeder with those waiting on a tree branch, so that everyone got fed. The goldfinches were here for about a month each year, leaving in mid Feb, and I was always oh so sad to see them go.
Back in January when I saw that little goldfinch sitting there in the very tree where I used to hang the nyjer feeders, it tugged at my heart to think that little fella might have traveled so far to get here, all the way hoping to find the nyjer seeds in that tree. I was torn as to whether it would be better to offer food to the goldfinch or not. I had nightmare images of a sort of Freddy Kruger scene out there between cats and birds. In the end, I decided to hang the Nyjer feeders and let the birds decide. I could only find 1 4ft long tube feeder and one thistle sock along with a 3yr old, unopened bag of Nyjer. I wasn't sure if seed that old would even be any good, but I went out and filled and hung the 2 feeders. Within maybe 10-15 min both feeders were covered with goldfinches, and the crowd grew over the next few days.
It was so nice to have the old gang of goldfinches back for a visit! Those little fellas ate the 4ft tube down to 1/2 the 1st day. Those guys were hungry after their flight here. They ate most of the bag of nyjer. (The old gang used to eat 3 or 4 bags.) They left a few days ago. The good news is that I apparently misjudged their ability to deal with the cats. The entire time they were out there eating in the tree at the great room window, I never saw any sign of problems with the cats. Never saw the cats hanging around the tree, stalking birds, eating birds, etc. It went so well, since nyjer doesn't attract rats and isn't subject to theft by raccoons or squirrels, I think I will resume my annual, winter feeding of the goldfinches.
Oh, and as I mentioned above, I didn't see any signs of snow here. It drizzled most of the afternoon but appeared to stop before the temp got low enough for snow. It got pretty cold though. When I was outside a few minutes ago, their was still ice melting in the birdbaths, looking much like that giant block of ice people float in punch bowls.
It's 43 here, and I couldn't stay outside long enough to finish photographing my flowers. Can't imagine 14F. Kitty went out with me and she was eager to get back inside, too. Thanks for letting me know you are there.
Nice to hear your success with the finches. This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count which I enjoy every February. We aren't seeing very many finches, but then again, I don't have nyjer seed hanging either!
At my house the goldfinches are the only ones that will eat nyjer. We have other finches, house finches for instance, that are here year round but which refuse to touch nyjer. I don't know about your area, but goldfinches are not here year round. Mine are gone now and will not be back until next January. In fact, they are not listed as being here at all; however, when I did a bit more research I found that some goldfinches leave their northern homes and venture south when food becomes hard to find in their home area. I did this research years ago when I noticed that this group of small, very noisy, ravenously hungry birds was showing up at my house every year in Jan/Feb. Every year they descend on my feeders like a plague of hungry locusts (adorable locust though), eat like there is no tomorrow for several weeks, and then leave very suddenly as a group not to be seen again until the following year, same time.
Unless goldfinches live in your area more or less year round (or you have other birds there that like nyjer), it may be too late to get the nyjer out now. Like I said, the goldfinches have left my area now. I'll be tossing the nyjer that is in the feeders and putting those feeders away soon. If I were to leave them out all year, the seed would just get wet and rot. Not sure why the other birds here won't eat it, not even the house finches or chickadees. Just not there thing.
Do you have goldfinches where you live? I don't - not officially, anyhow. I have never seen a goldfinch in the bright, yellow plumage, except in pictures. When they are here they look nothing like the pictures. They are a drab, olive greenish color, closer to the female coloring but darker/drabber still. From my research I learned that this is their winter garb. Just before they leave here in Feb the males start to shed feathers. The 1st year I saw this i thought there was something wrong with them, but this is normal for goldfinches. In the days before they leave they start to show up with lighter and more yellow plumage. At that point they are in the process of changing from the drab, army green color to the bright yellow color. Unfortunately, they always leave before the transformation is complete. Thus, while I host the little darlings each year, feeding them 3 to 4 full bags of nyjer most years, I never get to see them in their beautiful summer plumage, not even once, not even a single bird. But I really do enjoy their visit very much just the same.
Maybe it's because they show up in mass and eat so much - you know, like how Grandma's are always happiest when everybody (who comes to dinner) eats a lot - because there is never any doubt that enjoyed the meal. Maybe that's why I enjoy them so much, because they know how to party big & eat like there is no tomorrow. Or maybe it's because of the adorable way they chatter endlessly all day long in the window while they eat. Maybe it's because while here they show up at sunrise and eat non-stop all day until sundown (in that one tree right up against the window where I can watch them). Maybe it's the elegance with which they harmonize their movements, dozens of tiny birds moving back and forth periodically between limb and feeder so everybody gets a chance to eat, and all with neither traffic cop nor choreographer and yet with no collisions. Maybe it's all these things and more. They are just a delight to have around. I envy those who live in the area these adorable, little birds call home.
If you see goldfinches year round where you live, then, yes, get your nyjer out. If not, you may be wasting your money if you buy nyjer now.
Dream - we here in Granville County, NC have goldfinches year round. They eat the sunflower seed that I provide for everyone (birds and the squirrels who invite themselves in droves). I don't use nyger seed as it does not seem to get eaten very much. The last time (2 years ago) that I hung out a mesh container with nyger seed, it hung untouched for 2 weeks. Then overnight a critter (probably a raccoon) climbed up, broke it down, and scattered the seeds everywhere. So for the 2 last summers I have thistles coming up all over the garden - major nuisance. Before that they were an occasional weed, now a real problem. I root them up the minute I see them (watch out for those nasty thorns - don't grab with your bare hands!). So I will never get this stuff again - the goldfinches will have to find that particular choice elsewhere. But they actually have always seemed to prefer the sunflower seed.
How strange. My experience with them has been just the opposite. For many years I kept several large feeders stuffed full of BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds). The sunflower seeds attracted a wide array of birds including even indigo buntings, tanagers, and even large woodpeckers, but the goldfinches that visit here always flock to the nyjer feeders. My experience did parrot your own in that none of the other birds would touch the nyjer. The 1st year or so that I fed birds here, I bought a bag of nyjer in addition to the BOS. I quickly found that the nyjer sat untouched for months, as none of our local birds had a taste for it.
That old, stale nyjer was still in the thistle tube one year in Jan when the goldfinches arrived. They descended upon the nyjer feeder like a hungry mob. Those who couldn't find a spot at the feeder sat on a nearby limb to await their turn at the feeder (even though their was room at the BOSS feeders). The little goldfinches spend the entire day vacillating between the nyjer feeder and the 'bench' awaiting another turn. The following year when they came back in Jan they sat in the (empty) tree as though waiting for me to bring out the nyjer feeder. That began the annual ritual at my house of buying nyjer in Dec/Jan in preparation for the return of the goldfinches. Each subsequent year I added a couple of thistle socks or tubes to my collection, always seeking to have enough room at the feeders to accommodate all of the goldfinches, but each year the crowd of goldfinches also grew such that I never came close to matching their numbers with associated feeder ports.
To recap, at my house (back when I was feeding the birds) their was always a lots of sunflower seed (BOSS) available year round, but here the goldfinches ignored sunflower seeds and flocked to the nyjer. The goldfinches here even waited their turn at the nyjer feeders instead of taking BOSS. Also, because I had quite a few large birds at my BOSS feeders (blue jays, woodpeckers, etc), I also provided special BOSS feeders just for the tiny birds (finches, chickadees, etc), feeders enclosed in an outer 'cage' through which only small birds could fit thus keeping large birds out and allowing tiny birds to eat in peace. Still, the flocks of goldfinches always chose the nyjer feeders.
This happened every year like clockwork at my house, the Jan arrival of the goldfinches (in olive drab, winter plumage), the gobbling up of outrageous quantities of nyjer, and the mid February exodus as the tiny birds left all at once just as they had arrived a month earlier. I even started a thread in the early years when I was still trying to ID the cute little birds that descended on my yard, ate like they were starved, and then left again. In that thread I posted pics of them, some even on the thistle feeders, I believe. I'll have to look for that. I'll post here if I find it.
I can only offer a few ideas for this difference between what you observe at your house vs what I observe here. First, it's entirely possible that different groups (of the same species) may have different preferences just as humans show regional food preferences. I've seen evidence of this in the large group of raccoons which I observed over a decade or so. It makes sense. You grow up eating certain things, and those become your favorites. As an example of this, I offer my love of collard greens. I buy 1-2 bunches on every grocery trip in season (just to feed me alone!). My friends who grew up in areas outside the south, simply cannot understand my love of such a tough and bitter vegetable. They prefer kale or spinach, anything but collards.
Also, you mention having thistles in your area growing like weeds. When the goldfinches arrived here that 1st winter and showed such a preference for nyjer, I reasoned that it must resemble part of their normal diet, something that grows readily in their normal range but which is not available here. Here we don't have those lavender/purple thistle flowers seen in pictures - or any other thistles of which I'm aware. I have no shortage of weeds in my small yard but no thistles. I don't know why the ones that come here don't eat BOSS, but as to the nyjer, my guess is it's the closest thing they can find here to the food they usually eat. That doesn't explain why mine don't care for BOSS, but it might explain why yours don't go for the nyjer, not when they have more fresh thistles than they can eat.
Even the literature suggest nyjer as the favorite food of both goldfinches and pine siskins. (Of course, whenever I note a difference between the literature and a creatures actual behavior, I'm always reminded that most species don't read the literature.) However, this is not why I offered them nyjer. For the 1st couple years I didn't know they were goldfinches. In their drab, winter plumage they did not resemble the pictures I had always seen of goldfinches. They just chose the old nyjer feeder which I had been too lazy to remove.
My final thought on this difference goes to quality, although it is my least favorite argument. Early on I was lucky enough to stumble upon a source of the freshest and highest quality nyjer I've ever seen anywhere. Whereas most nyjer (I've seen) is blackish in color, thin and dry in appearance, and mostly lacking in odor, the nyjer from this one source was unbelievably aromatic, so much so that it made me want to toss some into some muffins or hot cereal. This nyjer was deep brown in color and super shiny as though waxed and polished to a high gloss. It appeared fresh and 'moist' (inside not out). The seeds were a smidgen thicker, more plump than the ultra thin, black ones I had seen most places. There was no dust or other sign of dryness, but it was the rich aroma that really made this variety stand out. It was this wonderfully aromatic nyjer which I ordered each year for my winter visitors.
How lucky are you to have these little birds as year round guests! Not only are they not here year round, they are not officially here at all. Period. This is what made it so difficult to ID them. They don't officially winter here. (There's that literature problem again. My birds don't seem to read it.) It was only when my curiosity spurred me to quite a bit of digging that I learned that researchers have determined that some bands of goldfinches leave their normal range in winter when food becomes scarce. These bands travel to southern areas in search of food to tide them over until things get better in their normal range. It seems to me that once 'my' birds landed at my house and found all that nyjer waiting for them, they now seem to be making this an annual pilgrimage - and bringing more and more of their friends and neighbors with them each year.
While doing research to ID these little birds, I also learned about their winter vs summer plumage. Unlike most other birds, goldfinches actually shed and change plumage 2x year. I guess that bright yellow color is too high risk to keep year round. In winter the males take on a color much like that of the females, sort of an olive green color. Some years they stay here long enough for me to see them start to add some yellow feathers (they look quite raggedy during this time), but they never stay until they are solid yellow. From what I read, they need to be back home in time for the breeding season, the males to maximize their contacts, the females to build nests and avoid traveling while 'with baby bird'. Thus it seems, I will never get to see them in that regal, summer plumage, at least not so long as I live here.
The only other thing I can say to this mystery is: vive la difference!!! It's the differences that make the world so rich in diversity. Long live the difference. (Now I need to get off to work - after a cup of coffee.)
Yes - we have them year round. They are now all in winter plumage, but it will be changing soon and the males will be glorious (they seem to know they are good looking guys). Right now they are hanging out in groups along with purple finches - male and females. Later the purple finches will leave, but the goldies will stay. At least I mean there will be goldfinches all summer - I don't know, of course, if they are the same ones. My winter guys may move on and others move in. But we can count on goldfinches, chickadees, doves, and tit mice along with cardinals all year regardless of others who come and go.
Like I said before, you are very lucky. I would imagine that the goldfinches you have in summer are the same ones that are there in winter. From what I read, most goldfinches remain in their home territory year round. That is the norm for goldfinches. The act of going elsewhere for a month or so in winter is something relatively new, something done by only a small percentage of the species. They don't 'fly south' for winter as many species do, but rather some small groups leave their home when things get really bad and go elsewhere in search of food. My guess is the birds that do this probably come from areas farther north, areas with much harsher winters than yours, areas where their food may be buried under a heavy blanket of snow. In fact, it is possible that some goldfinches from farther north may also visit you in winter, but since you already have finches there it would be hard to notice.
We have the purple finches year round. I believe those are the ones called house finches for their tendency to coop human dwellings for nesting. A family of house finches nested in the globe of my porch light for many years. To keep from overheating the babies, I had to leave the light off 1/2 the year. The globe finally deteriorated and broke, forcing the finches to find another home.
There are many lovely song birds that can't hack it here. Too hot. Some varieties such as cedar waxwings stop over on their way through (from north to farther south and vice versa), huge flocks stopping off just long enough to refuel before continuing on their way. They cover my large weeping willow for part of a single day in spring. It's a grand sight just to see them swoop down in mass, hang upside down and ever which way all over the loose canopy to eat what I guess is the seeds of the tree, and then fly away again a short time later. Were it not for these brief flyovers and winter visits, I would never get to see many such birds. You are lucky.
Dream - purple finches and house finches are actually different. The purple finch is Carpodacus purpureus and the house finch is Carpodacus mexicanus. They are similar, but the purple version is more striking (my opinion). You are correct that you probably had house finches - they are in the south year round. The purple finches are in the South only as winter range. I like birds - that is why I don't have cats (just my little dog). I only had cats when I could keep them inside - I did not want to set up my birds as food (hawks are another story - I can't control them). Now that I can't keep a cat inside - no cats - that way I can feed the birds freely (and, of course, share with the squirrels). I wish I had a huge house with lots of rooms - than I could have everything! I don't have any room that I can put a litter box in with this house, so I had to choose.
Bad news. Although I hadn't found time to post this, the rain date for last weekend's [rained out] plans was this weekend (Fri/Sat). Unfortunately, it now appears I will need to reschedule that once more. That latest big storm system moving across the country is expected to bring us rain and Tstorms starting this afternoon and continuing through Sunday. Bummer. It has been rainy and overcast here for nearly 2 weeks now. We had one or two sunny days, but now it is overcast once more and growing darker and more ominous with each passing minute.
I don't like to put kibble out in heavy rain, especially if I don't know when/if the raccoons will be arriving. Obvious reasons. The dish quickly fills with water, soaking the kibble which disintegrates over time. If it rains enough, the particles of what had been kibble may eventually be swept away with the water. The rains we've had lately have been the type that go on and on for hours.
Hopefully this unofficial monsoon season will end soon, and next weekend will be clear enough to finally do the Friday test and then sit out waiting for the raccoons on Saturday.
As forecast, it rained pretty much nonstop from mid afternoon Friday until sometime in the wee hours this morning. There were multiple flood warnings. Once I made it home on Friday (already beginning to flood in areas), I stayed inside for the remainder of the event.
Last night during a brief period of light drizzle I put out a dish of food, not dry cat food but a mixture of leftovers culled from the fridge during cleanup, mostly garbanzo beans and potatoes. I took a peek from time to time until around midnight when I went to sleep. Up until that time, the food remained untouched. This morning I awoke to find the food roughly 1/2 gone.
At 1st, this seemed like cause for celebration. Something had found the food the 1st night, after all. As I thought more about it, however, I began to waiver. Yes, something had found the food 1st night, but given the timing and amount consumed, this something's behavior seemed more characteristic of an opossum than a raccoon. Despite popular belief, I find that raccoons, at least those in my area, are much more likely to show up in groups than alone. Opossums, on the other hand, do actually arrive individually. Also, opossums have often been more inclined to wait around until the wee hours when the house is silent and dark before coming out to eat. Any way I look at this, there is a good chance the food was consumed by an opossum rather than a raccoon - but that doesn't rule out the possibility that raccoons were also here!
Perhaps another bad sign...Since Heidi's disappearance, both Kitty & Cocoa have become very comfortable hanging out in the backyard at night. When Heidi was around (even if not actually here), Cocoa would not venture into the backyard at all after dark and Kitty went out there only by necessity (like to get inside) and tip toed around like a cat burglar when she did. The cats are telling me they have no fear of raccoon activity out there now. Bad sign? Maybe.
It's sunny for a change right now. If this clear weather holds, I may put the kibble out tonight. I prefer to do it on the weekend but don't want to wait too long.
Sorry I didn't get back sooner to tell you this, but the very next night's results gave me cause for much greater optimism. I refilled the dish, mostly potatoes. The next morning the contents of the dish were gone completely, and the dish was licked clean. THAT to me was a clear sign of raccoon activity. It was more than 1 animal could have eaten, thus indicating 2 or more (more likely w/raccoons than opossums), plus for some reason I equate the action of licking the dish clean with raccoons rather than opossums.
After that 1st night (of putting out the dish of food), I was a bit concerned that the raccoons might actually not be coming around at all. The 2nd day, however, gave me real hope. I did put food out on subsequent nights, but the endless rain made it difficult for the critters to eat it. The dish kept filling up with water, making it difficult for them to get to the food w/o 1st drinking all that water.
If the current monsoons EVER end, I will put the cat food out as previously described. It has rained endlessly now for some 3wks, maybe four. Every time one of those storms makes a path across the country, we get pummeled with days of nonstop rain. Our world is incredibly soggy now with flooding everywhere, so it hasn't been very inviting outdoors. We need a couple of rain-free days just to dry things up a bit. This morning Cocoa came in with mud all over his tummy, something one doesn't expect from a cat. I'm guessing that's just another indication of just how wet and yucky it is out there. (Oops. almost changed topics in mid thread from raccoons back to cats. Came here from cat thread.) Just realized you aren't so far away, so it may be soggy there, too.
That makes sense about Cocoa having to crawl under something, although I'm not sure what. I was wondering why he would be lying around in the mud.
I'm hoping some of the 'good guys' find their way back, too. The 'meanies' and juvenile delinquents are not much fun.
You know, Debbie, even as I was complaining about weeks of endless overcast skies, drizzle, and downpours plus flooding throughout the city, it occurred to me that many of you may be experiencing snow, snow, and more snow - plus ice. All this rain with endless cloudy skies is more than a little depressing, but I doubt if snow and ice would improve things any. It's not just that it's raining but that it has been raining endlessly for some 3 wks or more and that I've not seen more than a brief glimpse of sunlight in all that time. Many days it is hard to tell if it's morning, noon, or dusk as it seems always to look as though it is moments before sundown, not quite jet black but rapidly approaching it even at midday. Still it is not nearly so cold nor so dangerous (for travel, etc) as what I imagine you must be experiencing. Temps here have been in the 60s and even 70s. It's just oh, so soggy.
I'm guessing I could probably get an idea as to what you are dealing with if I were to imagine all that rain having come down as ice and snow - ouch. By that same token, imagine all of your snow and ice as rain, and you probably have something close to our situation. Yeah, I can see how soggy doesn't stack up against buried under snow and ice. I would like to say that hopefully it will be over soon, but I just saw a weather report that said the really bad snow storm in the midwest is now headed east - and that's us. They said in parts of the midwest the weather/snow is so bad that officials have asked people to stay off the roads completely. Batten down the hatches and take care!
The one plus for snow is that a lovely blanket of freshly fallen snow is so much prettier than rain. Deadly perhaps and cold but beautiful, none the less. Also, snow is much tastier (snow cream) than rain and you can build all kinds of neat stuff with it. All that said, I guess I would prefer rain. The last time we had snow, the power went out almost immediately, and I spent the evening by candlelight and w/o heat. No thanks. I'll keep my dreary rain.
Good news. while I've not actually made contact with our raccoon(s) or even seen one, I'm pretty much 99.9% sure now that we have at least one. That's the good news.
This past Friday evening was clear and the ground had at least begun to dry. Unfortunately, the 'monsoon' ended with a sudden temp plunge making it too cold to sit outside. That evening I left a dish full of pork chop bones on the patio along with the remains from some bolognese sauce. The bones had been through the pressure cooker which had left them totally devoid of meat/cartilage but which had also softened them, not enough so that I could crush them but certainly enough to make them much easier for a raccoon to chew. Still, with no meat on them, I wasn't optimistic that they would be eaten, thus the inclusion of the spaghetti sauce. The next morning I was surprised to find that ALL of the bones were gone and the dish licked clean as before. At this point I knew I had a little friend, and I was pretty sure he/she was a raccoon - or two.
After that I brought out my raccoon stash, a collection of dry cat/dog food plus a few, random treats and some left over toys, all of which I keep for just this purpose, the cat/dog food in a large, plastic container designed for that purpose, everything else on shelves at the back door. Each night thereafter I set out a container of dry cat food making sure to put it out before dusk. Each evening the food disappeared well before bedtime.
That the food is being consumed shortly after dark is an excellent sign. Raccoons wake up hungry and head out immediately in the direction of their most likely source of food (where they have had success previously). Thus in the past, the raccoons have always come here early in the evening (and sometimes even before evening), as early as experience indicated food might be available. Likewise, the current 'eater', having found food here on a couple of consecutive nights now shows up nightly and early in hopes of getting another meal. It could still be an opossum, but this behavior makes me optimistic that it's one or more of the raccoons. Opossums have been reluctant to come this close to the house so early in the evening, in the past having only been seen on the patio in the wee hours of the morning.
So there you have it, the current state of affairs at the buffet. It has been very cold, bone chilling, the past few nights, too cold to sit out there. Ok, cold here is 30-32F. I know that doesn't qualify as 'bone chilling' to some of you out there, but here that's just plain deadly cold. Thus I've not had the chance to see our visitor yet. The cold should be over soon. We don't usually have such low temps for more than a few consecutive days. This is probably the last gasp of winter, after which it should be fairly warm out, at least warm enough for me to sit out there with a jacket - if the rain doesn't resume, that is. (One of the rare downsides of HRT is that I no longer enjoy that natural protection from the cold which had previously allowed me to feel comfortable at temps that would make big, strong men tremble and shiver.)
Yet another very good sign is seen in the behavior of the cats, especially Kitty. Before Heidi's demise, Kitty & Cocoa were never seen lounging about the backyard after dark and on the rare occasion when Kitty exited the house via the patio door at night she always did so with the caution of a child having just heard a plethora of ghost stories. Shortly after Heidi's death Kitty began to display a hitherto unseen calmness on the patio after dark, as though she somehow knew her nemesis would be there no more. Over the last several months both she and Cocoa have been hanging out in the backyard all times of the night and doing so with a calmness that seemed to indicate there had not been any raccoons around for some time.
I didn't mention this to you previously, but the behavior of the cats these last few months had been very discouraging. I was happy they were able to enjoy the backyard, of course, but dismayed by what I knew this meant in terms of raccoon visits or the lack thereof. Now, within the past weeks Kitty has once again begun to walk out cautiously onto the patio at night, her behavior seeming to confirm my assessment that the raccoons are back and that the mystery visitor is most likely a raccoon.
Soon, very soon, I hope and expect we should know the ID of our mystery guest. Soon.
In my mind the mystery guest as one of the good guys, sweet and well mannered, perhaps one raised or otherwise influenced by Heidi. At this time, that's the only option I'm willing to consider, as if by believing I can somehow make it so.
(Seems like this must be your 'daytime' (or the active portion of the night) as this is when I'm most likely to 'see' you. It's like 4:30-5AM here right now, btw. Seems like I'm most likely to find you here when I'm up like this in the very early AM. Good to see you.)
I've just moved to Delaware and I still have my days and nights mixed up - I can't seem to sleep past 2am and am dead on my feet at 1pm :/ It is so nice to be back! (but I can't wait to go again! (giggles))
Oh, I didn't realize you were back 'home' in the states. Welcome home. So are you really planning to go back to S Korea at some point? Or maybe a different destination? I was just thinking of you the other day, with all that is going on to the north of you (or where you were). I know you must be glad to have new neighbors.
Yes, we are planning to go to Europe or Asia in 2 years, stay there 3-5 years and then try to get a posting to a place closer to our DSon & his family in Houston, TX. Because we got posted so far away from our families, we are at what is called a "boomerang post" and will probably leave it as soon as possible (2 years) so that we can get another chance at getting posted closer to home.
S Korea is a wonderful, peaceful country that doesn't pay very much attention to what the loonies up north are talking about... the North really only wants more foreign aid so that they can continue putting all of their money into their pockets and to the military. The South has military exercises twice a year and the North threatens and sometimes shoots at boats or islands during these times. I guess the next 'saber rattling' will be Julyish...
You two are quite the adventurers. I'm the exact opposite, total homebody. Wish I were more like you guys. I've been getting an endless array of job offers from all over the country and a few from elsewhere, jobs I would probably go for except that I just don't want to move, especially not alone - most recent offers from NYC, Miami, MO, and Raleigh. Most of my former colleagues have already left. Finally figured out the source of these offers, a resume I deposited on a job site some years ago & never removed because I lost my account info. (No, to ALL, beyond this little bit I really don't want to discuss the job situation right now - please.)
Glad you are able to enjoy the traveling lifestyle. Hope you will be able to acquire a post in the desired location soon. (Ok, Cheryl, now back to raccoons.)
Oh, how I do hope so, too! Thank you for reminding me of those moments with little Desi, especially the windsail thing. Just remembering it brings a smile to my face. He/she was so open and unusually trusting, climbing on my foot and clinging to my pants leg that way. It was such unexpected behavior. I remember at the time finding myself in such a ridiculous predicament, at once both insanely hilarious and yet potentially threatening, having a wild and unpredictable raccoon kit securely attached to my pants leg that way. It was like one of those silly sit com type predicaments, the sort of thing that would surely never occur in real life - and yet there the little fella was clinging to my lower leg and me trying to figure out the best approach to extricate myself w/o upsetting him and w/o getting scratched.
Desi was such an adorable little fluff ball, and it was nothing short of amazing how I could just reach down and put my hand over his back and/or head and pet him. No other kit had ever been so comfortable around me so quickly, not even Dennis. I would have expected him to scamper away at the sight of that giant hand, almost bigger than he was, coming down toward him, and yet he showed no sign of concern; didn't even tense up and tighten his skin. As I touched him, he remained as soft and fluid in my hand as a kitten. It was such a shame events ended up going so wrong shortly after that, with Heidi's demise and all. I would love it if Desi were to come back this year!
I can't help but wonder if this may have been what killed Heidi. I spoke with Ruth shortly after Heidi's death. She thought the symptoms were possibly indicative of breathing difficulty causing her to do a type of 'deep-belly' breathing in an effort to get enough air. In retrospect, that seems conclusive with this virus. As we all know, most viruses are worst for the very young and the very old. Since I lost contact with the group shortly after her death, I would have missed any indications that others were getting sick - except that I do recall mentioning in those initial weeks after her death that kits appeared to be missing. Just before I stopped feeding the raccoons I noticed that some of the mothers were showing up with fewer kits. Remember that? At the time I thought it might have been due to the fighting, either that or the young mothers were dismissing their young prematurely.
Gotta run. I just learned of this situation and wanted to let you know about it. (My mystery guest is still showing up but also still unseen. Due to the storms that keep battering the country, our weather continues to vacillate between 'warm with rain' and 'very cold'. It has to end some time though.
Cheryl, that is just scary! I often wondered about a virus or something going through the "neighborhood". At least (knocking wood) it isn't rabies, which is
what I really feared. BUT I hope there is something they can "drop" in the area for them to eat and be protected like a vaccine. So hard with wildlife.
I came back just now to update you. I sent that link to Ruth last night asking for her take on it. She has a lot of experience working in animal control and also rehabbing raccoons, and I trust her insights on these matters. She seemed less concerned than I had expected. She said, contrary to what the article implies, cats are not susceptible to that version of the virus (they have their own version). Dogs, of course, are, but Widget is vaccinated and is never allowed out there after dark these days, so I'm not too worried about him.
She said (and I hope I am paraphrasing everything correctly) that distemper (dog version) is almost always fatal to raccoons; that once one picks it up from an infected dog, the virus runs through the area raccoons like a wild fire; and that this might very well have been the thing that took Heidi. I've read that distemper from dogs is probably the number one killer of raccoons in urban and suburban areas (followed closely by the automobile). I guess what I took away from Ruth's response is that this is not particularly unusual or unexpected. She thought the article was riddled with inaccuracies and largely devoid of any real information. From that I gathered it is probably overblown, perhaps to sell news. Note that the article indicates we had a previous run of this same virus in the area raccoon population in 2008, a time when things were going so well at the raccoon buffet that we were blissfully unaware - and would be even now had my sister not sent me the link (appreciated, of course).
Ruth also said that veterinary efforts to save effected raccoon kits almost always fail. Thus with or w/out medical attention, raccoons who contract this pretty much always die. It sounds like the best we can hope for is that this thing stay clear of our group or at least make its 'run' through the area over quickly. The only good news seems to be the fact that none of the tested animals had rabies.
On a more positive note, providing food for the raccoons actually decreases their risk of contracting this or any illness. Doing so limits the area they need to travel to find sustenance and thus the number of outside raccoons with which they come in contact. In addition, proper nutrition strengthens their immune system. I've decided to continue putting out food, although last night I forgot (long before I received the link from my sister, so not related). Unfortunately, the seemingly endless array of storms making their way across the country lately continues to make our weather inconsistent with my plans to sit outside and watch for the mystery guest. Every night has been either raining or down in the 30s F, but this has to end some time - if only to get too hot.
Sadly, there is little indication that the county will do anything to help the raccoons (like dropping vaccine, if that is even an option). There have been national programs to drop rabies vaccine in some states (for raccoons) but not here. The reason for skipping this area (and Florida) with the vaccine drops is that the feds have basically written the raccoons in this area off due to the already high rate of rabies. They decided it was more cost effective to drop the vaccine in states around the border of the 'hot zone' to curtail the spread of rabies instead of trying to stop it in the effected areas. That really annoyed me.
I figure the one good thing is that everyone indicates the virus moves through a population quickly and effected animals die quickly. In most cases, such behavior usually makes an infection self-limiting. Hopefully, the end is near. I think that is the best we can hope for.
I should explain...I'm not complaining about the constant rain and/or cold. I only mentioned it to explain why I've not been able to sit out there yet to wait for the raccoon(s). Up until the 1st or 2nd week of Feb, it was in the 50s & 60s at night and clear most of the time. I could have sat out there easily back then, except that it was too soon. Since early Feb the weather here has been almost nonstop rain and on the rare night when it isn't raining, the temp plummets to or near freezing, thus keeping me inside.
I'm not complaining about a little rain and a few chilly nights though, because I know all to well that what we have is fabulous compared to most of the country. I realize that many of you are experiencing much colder temps and/or snow, in some cases lots of snow bringing much of the midwest and northeast to a standstill. Just had to clarify that, because I can only imagine how "rain or 32F nights" must sound to those of you in places where it is REALLY cold, especially considering these two things (low temps and rain) have not even been occurring together. It is either raining (with lows in the 50s) OR cold at night (32ish), not both.
The one positive thing I hold onto regarding Heidi's death is that she died while still at her 'peak', still able to do the things that were important to her, still the Queen of her domain, and still able to bare young. Ruth once predicted that if Heidi lived long enough she would eventually loose her leadership position to a younger, stronger raccoon. She would eventually become unable to bare kits, and it's clear even from my own observations that the group has great respect for kit-bearing females (only). A female who was not baring young would be pushed out, treated much like the males, and thus not allowed to share group resources (like food). Ruth said she would eventually be treated much like Fraidy was treated. Her words rang true. Nature can by necessity be quite cruel. The group's primary concern is raising kits not caring for the old and frail.
It broke my heart to even imagine such a thing, the once strong and proud Heidi relegated to the position of a Fraidy, hanging out on the periphery in hopes of gleaning a few left over bites of food to stay alive. The thought that her days might end that way was almost more than I could bare. Although I miss her terribly, I am at least glad to know that she did not suffer this dreadful fate but went while still 'on top of her game' and leader of her domain. Another thing and something I don't mention often is how much Heidi enjoyed being a mom and raising kits. You may be thinking, "how could I know that?" but it was always clear both in her actions and her body language. She never looked more joyful than in summer when leading a new group of little ones to the buffet, protecting them, introducing them to their new world, and experience everything anew through their tiny eyes. I'm also glad she didn't have to endure years of childlessness and a sense of futility (given that raising the next generation was her only true purpose in life - my apologies if that sets the women's movement back a few decades, but for raccoons this is how it is).
So, yes, as hard as it is to be without her, I do agree that it was better she go now than live through years of being old, arthritic, pain-racked, kit-less, and unwanted by her group.
I think of distemper as like an extremely deadly form of the flu. Victims of the 1918 Spanish flu presented with a worrisome cough in the morning and were dead before sundown. It was that fast. If Heidi had distemper, I like to think it was like this for her.
I knew something was very wrong with her that last day. I tried and tried to find a rational explanation that night that didn't mean something awful, but I could not. I didn't want to believe it, but I knew what I was seeing was a bad, bad sign. Once I started thinking about it, I realized there had been evidence she was sick at least a few days before that night. I actually mentioned in my posts the strange anomaly which at the time I didn't realize foretold doom. For a few days there she had been coming for dinner, leaving after eating only a small amount, and then coming back a bit later to eat again.
She would arrive hungry. I would give her the quantity of food she normally ate when nursing and leave her eating as she would have any other night. A few minutes later when I happened by to check on her, to see if she needed more, I would find quite surprisingly that she was gone, leaving behind some 3/4 o 1/2 of her food to be devoured by others. Scratching my head, I rationalized her behavior saying maybe the other raccoon had pulled a Steal and in observation of group rules Heidi had given up part of her food to the other, hungry, nursing female. It didn't really sound right that she would give up her food after eating so little, not while needing the nourishment to nurse her 3 kits, but it was the best explanation I could come up with at the time.
A little while later when the others were nearly through eating or sometimes gone already, Heidi would show up again looking for food. At the time I was feeding Heidi the best food to help her through nursing, sometimes even giving her some of Widget's high-quality and pricey food - while the others received the usual, inexpensive cat food. It was thus not only confusing but also a bit frustrating to have her give her food to one of the others and now have to give her more, but, of course, I could never be upset with Heidi. Still wondering why she would leave and return this way, I would scoop out a little more of Widget's food for her. Even with this 2nd round of food, she would eat maybe 1/2 and leave the rest. This went on about 3 days before that final, fateful night.
I didn't realize it at the time, of course, but in hindsight it appears she was struggling to make herself force down enough food to sustain her. She knew she needed to eat to keep the milk flowing for her little ones. What I was seeing (and failing to recognize) was like a very sick person unable to eat more than a few bites even though she knew she needed it to keep up her strength. She was probably going off to the edge of the forest or perhaps some lone corner of the yard until the sickness eased a bit and then returning to try to eat some more. I'm at least glad I was there keeping check so I could supply more food as needed. (This wasn't always the case, as I often put the food out and left w/o returning. Some unknown force caused me to check back with her those nights...
That is very touching. I guess I tend to be a bit pragmatic and perhaps jaded, thinking she came because she knew she needed to eat to feed her kits and maintain her strength. You may be right though, given how little she actually ate, she could probably have found that much closer to home. Either way, I'm glad she came and glad I was able to be there to provide food, care, and a little comfort in those final days.
**********OT Public Service Announcement - Because I Don't Want You to Get Sick******
BumbleBee has announced a recall on canned tuna, specific cans only. If you have any cans of BumbleBee tuna on hand, albacore or regular, it's very important that you check the list of effected codes to determine if it is safe to use. You can find the codes on the FoxNews site and on the BumbleBee site, plus I'm sure it is available elsewhere on the net, too. Google it. If you need it and have trouble finding it, PLMK, and I'll be happy to get it for you - even though I'm being lazy right now.
Please don't eat tuna from effected cans or give it to pets. There was a problem with the cans such that some of the lids did not seal properly, leaving the tuna at risk of spoiling and/or harboring dangerous pathogens. Per the news, no one has gotten sick yet from this. It's a voluntary recall at this time. Just wanted to be sure everyone got the word.
I have some tuna on hand myself, and I specifically purchased Bumble Bee after reading that it's the only tuna still packaged in the US. So much for that. I haven't had time yet to check my codes.
With so much going on tonight, I almost forgot to tell you that tonight, after 'running' to the patio door every few minutes to check and double check, I finally got a glimpse of the mystery guest. Sadly, it was Puddle the opossum. He/she was looking quite adorable, but, of course, I was hoping to see a raccoon. There is still room for hope that there may be more than one such mystery guest though. I'll continue putting out food and keeping a lookout to see who drops by to eat it. Bummer.
I really do love how you guys have the kinds of 'can do', problem solving attitudes that so quickly turn a potential problem (no raccoon) into no problem at all! Honestly, I thought [Ms] Puddle was quite adorable. I don't know if she (and let's face it, they are all most likely females) would be that comfortable with me going outside with her, but she was amazingly undeterred when I turned on the patio light and looked out at her. In fact, she even walked a good 3ft towards me (going from roughly 5ft away to 2 or less, while the light was on and I was there looking through the glass door), following the plastic container of food as it moved away from her (only raccoons seem smart enough to put one foot in the corner of the dish to anchor it and avoid the chase). We'll have to see if she is willing to actually come to the dish to eat with me outside.
Sheri, if she has babies, will she eventually bring them to the buffet to eat (outside the pouch, that is)? Even with me around? I would LOVE a chance to observe opossums, especially a bunch of baby opossums. When they are tiny babies, they may actually be even cuter than raccoon kits. Just not sure if she will be willing to come around me and bring her little ones, especially w/o the raccoons around to show that I can be trusted. Hope she maybe remembers me from years back - although, honestly, I'm not sure if this is The Puddles or a look-a-like. After so many years around the raccoons, I've acquired the ability to recognize them, at least the ones I get to know well, but I have no such ability with respect to opossums - yet.
Cheryl, after they come out of her pouch...they will be with her on her back or tail for some time traveling. She won't leave them alone to go eat for
some time, so you should get some visuals of the "droplets" for a bit of time. AND no doubt she knows of your buffet skills from the Racoons...so
is not afraid of you.
Back for a few minutes while taking a quick and much needed break from some high stress work. Whew!
Debbie & Sheri: Thanks for the info.
Sheri: Oh, I've seen the fear response. LOL. Years ago when I was living in my Mom's house (alone) while attending college I managed to trap one in a corner of a small utility room quite by accident. It made a sound, a sort of growl that had me envisioning a much larger and more fearsome creature, and then gave me that open-mouthed hiss when I turned on the light and found myself only a few feet away from the frightened creature. It was the middle of the night, and I was stuck out there in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilization and alone for the 1st time in my life. I don't know who was more terrified, me or the opossum - or the cat I was there to 'save'. I have since learned that opossums are all bluff and will go limp and play dead if pressed farther. My only other experience with them was what I got that one year when Snowball and Puddle came to the buffet along with the raccoons. Both were comfortable coming very close to me back then. Snowball even came right up to my feet to sniff around for food a time or two. I kind of miss that.
Debbie: I would love to see and observe the droplets. I'm excited at the possibility. I didn't know about the sight deficit. Glad you told me about that. I could be wrong, of course, but I think she saw me. She walked right up to the door and appeared to be looking right at me, then went back to eating. The inside lights were on at the time, and I was standing right up against the door. I'll need to get out there one night very soon to see if she will come to eat with me around. I'll locate the dish well away from me the first night, and then work my way closer each night if that works.
You are very welcome for the tuna warning. The thought of poorly sealed cans is frightening - and potentially deadly. I wanted to be sure everyone got the message.
Sounds like your weather is very nice right now. Here it quite literally rained non-stop for the entire month of February and continued into the start of March. Drizzle mostly, but some downpours, as well. The past few days, since about Thursday, have been nice, in the low 30s by night but 60-70 by day and sunny. Looks like today is clouding up again. I've not been enjoying all this rain lately, but I'm trying not to complain too very much. We probably need the water to make up for the drought last summer.
While we are on the subject of weather...I've been wanting to tell you guys something I learned recently. Yes, it's a bit OT, but I'll try to be brief - for me. First a quick review to setup the idea. For some time now I've been stressing that our weather here in Charleston differs from that pretty much anywhere else in SC (except Beaufort and Hilton Head, pretty much the extreme coast of SC from Charleston down to the border of GA, barrier islands included). It's not only significantly warmer here, so much so that our weather seems out of kilter for our latitude, but we also appear to enjoy some sort of protection from severe storms (except for hurricanes, that is). Per the Sunset Zone map, a much more elaborate and accurate Zone map than the one most often used, our weather here in Charleston is roughly equivalent to that of the upper or northern 1/2 of Florida - not that of SC or even our neighbor GA. As to storm protection, so many times I've watched as severe storms made their way east across the southern states of LA, Mississippi, AL, and GA only to make a sharp turn and head north or mysteriously disappear before reaching us. It is almost as though there were some kind of Star Wars type force field protecting us - from the west, that is.
For some time I've wondered why this is. At one point I thought it might be our proximity to the ocean, but the ocean doesn't seem to offer much protection to other parts of the Atlantic coast, especially farther north. Recently, I was watching a program about major ocean currents. I knew the Gulf Stream hugged our coast line, but the program helped to better explain its effects. In addition, the Great Ocean Conveyor comes up the coast here. Both the Gulf Stream and the conveyor move heat from further south up along the Atlantic coast in our area. I'll skip the details, but as a result of that program it occurred to me that the Gulf Stream (and possibly the conveyor) may well be the answer I've been looking for. The Gulf Stream hugs the coast of FL and SC and functions to distribute heat from FL up here. I think that may well be the reason our temps here on the extreme coast is so close to that of northern FL. In addition, I think the Gulf Stream may our Force Field for storms approaching to the west of us. I'm thinking maybe the pressure gradient just off our coast acts as a barrier of sorts causing storms approaching on our western side to turn or break up before reaching us. It's just a theory, of course, and I'm not a weather professional, so I could be totally off base here.
Yay! Now, of course, I don't know much about opossum behavior, but I'm guessing any creature that size that has survived since T-Rex roamed the earth (or thereabouts) must have the ability to learn and do so fairly quickly. That being true, I think I just might be establishing an initial connection of sorts with Puddle.
Last night I only put out a large handful of cat food, less than usual. It was just before dark, I went out there to let the dog/cats out/in - it's becoming a zoo in here, btw. It had been a long, stressful day and I needed a little down time. Feeling lazy, I put a big handful of kibble in the dish, got all of my brood back inside, grabbed a Dt Coke, and went to catch up on the day's news. I new there was little chance I would be able to catch whoever came to eat, since it would probably happen in the next hour or so, while I was resting and/or handling other things. To be completely honest, it was nice out, and I lamented the fact that I was in no mood to sit outside to await my visitor.
Sure enough, I came back a few hours later to find the kibble gone - and the dish turned upside down as if in editorial. Normally, that would have been the end of it for that day/night, except...I fell asleep early and slept like a rock, until this morning when I awoke to the realization that I had 20-some minutes to get the recycling out to the curb for pickup. I grabbed a light coat, more to conceal my pj's than for actual warmth and proceeded to set up bins and pour largish bags of aluminum cans into them. Try as I might, I could only do so much to keep down the noise of garage doors and rattling cans.
After 3 trips out to curbside, hauling cans, paperboard, and the like, I was on my way out for the last run when a familiar figure came waddling towards me on the driveway. Puddle? OMG, it was Puddle in my front yard, crossing my path. When I 1st saw her she was coming from the area around the mail box and heading diagonally across the driveway towards the side of the house, apparently headed for the backyard and/or the forest beyond. She showed no particular fear of me, making no attempt to hide or take an alternate path to avoid me. There wasn't another sign of human life anywhere up and down the street in any direction, so she could easily have taken any number of other routes to the forest avoiding all human contact, yet here she was wadding across my driveway where the lights were on, and she was more easily seen, not to mention she HAD to have heard all the commotion I made out there on my 3 prior trips out to the curb, juggling, and 'pouring' cans. Again, no one else on the street anywhere in any direction, and all houses/yards dark and quiet, except for mine where the outside lights were were on, and I was outside making noise - and yet that's where she chose to 'scuddle' across the drive on her way 'home' to the forest. Really?
Just to be sure you have the picture, my driveway is only 2 car lengths long, and I was just short of 1/2 way along the driveway on my way out to the curb when Puddle emerged from the mailbox (surrounded by shrub roses, clematis, and other flowers) and made her way across the drive in front of me. She didn't turn and head elsewhere upon seeing me, but then again she almost certainly had to know I was out there already whether from smell or noise or both. Also, just the width of my house farther down the street from where she stood (at the mailbox) is the much more secluded place where animals normally cross the street and make their way between mine and my neighbors houses. Deer, cats, raccoons, and opossums all normally use that spot to travel from the street to the forest, where 2 dense, parallel hedges 5ft tall, beginning at the sidewalk, form a 'fence' of sorts along the property line between the two houses, mine and the neighbors, and provide the perfect natural cover for wildlife to pass through there on the way from street to forest. Yet, again, she chose to cross there on the driveway with the light on and me out there. Hmm.
At the time, I just figured she was for whatever reason just coincidentally making her way across the street on her way home perhaps from foraging about the neighborhood, this despite the fact that in the 12yrs now that I've lived here I've really never seen any sign of opossums or raccoons out there on the street not even any sign of their activity out there, since nothing ever messes with the trash, recycling, and such out at the street, and even though I'm often in and out all times of the night walking Widget and such, I've never seen a single opossum or raccoon in the street - except for those that were sneaking around to my front yard in search of food back when I was feeding the cats out there, that is. Plus, I didn't actually see Puddle come from across the street. I saw her emerge from the area around my mailbox.
In retrospect, I wonder if she had actually been hanging out in the forest behind my house and made her way out to my front yard when she heard/smelled me milling around out there. Having received only a small qty of food the night before, she was likely hungry, especially if she is carrying 'droplets' as you guys propose and followed me out there in hopes of finding food. I think she was probably hiding in the dense rose bushes surrounding the mailbox just before I saw her there. Is it possible she might actually realize that I'm the one who puts out the food and has for years now and that I might give her something if I saw her there? I don't know opossums well enough to know this, but I do know she didn't need to be seen. She could easily have made her way across the street (if that's where she was coming from) in the darkness and traveled in the hedges to the forest, but she didn't.
At any rate, upon seeing her cross my path, I spoke to her in a soft, calming voice, just hoping to help her get used to me - not realizing she may already have done so. She had already passed me by the time I spoke and was making her way towards the corner of the house. She paused momentarily before proceeding on, although it's hard to say if it may have been due to that 'freeze' response for which they are known. Interestingly, a line of roses and azaleas runs along the foundation of the house on that side. I would think a wild animal would travel between the shrubs and the house for cover, especially knowing a human was nearby, but she headed along in the area 'outside' the shrubs on her way to the backyard and/or forest beyond.
I finished out at the curb quickly and rushed back inside. Having seen Puddle, I now hoped to give her something to eat before she disappeared into the forest. I grabbed the cat food bag and headed out onto the patio hoping I wasn't too late and that my activity out there would not cause her to run away to the forest all the faster. As I put food in the dish, I spoke her name softly. Kitty saw me out there and came back inside with me. I fed Kitty and petted her a few minutes. On my way back through the kitchen I looked out onto the patio, just in case - and there was Puddle happily gobbling up the food I had just put out.
Hmm. Is Puddle maybe living or hanging out in the forest edge behind my house these days? Did she actually follow me out to the street this morning? Did she show herself intentionally, hoping to get fed? Was all of this my idea - or hers? Am I in control here or the opossum? Or are they that smart?
It did occur to me that my thesis, 1st Paragraph, 2nd Sentence, above post might be more accurately stated as "...I think Puddle just might be establishing an initial connection of sorts with me", and everything else in my post changed in like manner.
I concur with still & Deb. They can easily learn to respond to their name or certain sounds. BTW you mentioned her stopping momentarily as you were softly talking to her. Possum people commonly describe "possum coma's".. IE: possum walks a few stepa or feet and then stops as if momentarily 'napping' after a few seconds they return to their travel mode. I have wondered if this serves the purpose in the wild to function as a stealth cricket catcher, etc. Their ear position is a 'tell' of thier comfort or fear state. When they really love you they will rub their faces back and forth over your shoe leaving love slobber and wet laces, but you know you are loved. During This 'love slobber head rubbing action they clearly apear to be in an extatic state of bliss!
This message was edited Mar 12, 2013 11:08 AM typos
The difference is that a 'dead' possum would not be sitting up as if frozen in action for only a few moments. Playing dead is their fear response and they lay down, curl up and truly appear dead. Rehabbers have even tried light corneal touch with no reaction from a very alive possum who is playing dead.
Sorry to say this, but my Dad once beat a 'dead' opossum over the head with a crowbar, just to be sure it was really, really dead. Then he scooped it up with a shovel, dropped it into a metal garbage can, and put the lid securely in place before returning to bed. The next morning he went outside to find the lid off and the 'dead' opossum gone. They are clearly some incredibly tough critters. I was a small kid at the time. I remember that he just could not believe the opossum could continue to play dead even when being whacked with the crow bar. He clearly didn't understand that the 'playing dead' thing is nervous system response not like a person just trying to lie still and appear dead or asleep.
I apologize for that 'ugly' story, but remember the opossum 'won' that round.
Possum babies make a unique sound to call their mother when in distress. It is sort of a combination of a sneaze and a squeak. It can be mimmickd by placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth as if to pronounce the letter sound of a 'T'. However do not engage your voice at all, but rather "sneeze" this sound out. Some humans demure methout of sneezing sounds like this. Not me though I think I's explode if ever trying to stiffle a huge sound into such a tiny , benign sound.
One excellent use for this 'call' is when there is a momma possum at side of road with open pouch that clearly indicateS recent nursing activity by swollen and elongated teats. By making this 'call' and walking around the grassy area near the mom or side of road (if mom is in the road) You may get some excited and frantic little sneezle-squeaks back in responce. Babies stay with mom for a # of months both inside the pouch and then riding on her back, holding on with little fists in a death grip of mom's hair. These babies are only viable if somehow they have maintained body heat. They can regulate their own body heat after about 6"-7" long, which also is about 5 months and back packing travelers. They stay in the pouch intill about 4-5".
I will try to locate and convert some of my possum rehabbing pictures to digital to share with you. There are also many pictures of "Bobi the bobtail possum" who lived with me a little over 3 yeaRS after her littermates cannnibalized her tail which rendered her nonreleasable.
It was an unbeleavably wonderful experience for the 3+ yrs that Bobi lived with me. She lived about 3 1/2 years.
possums also LOVE apples. And insects - living or not - mealworms, whatev.
We do rehab also. Learned also that they *MUST* have water to defecate in. Of course my green iguana likes to poop in the tub in a nice hot bath. The water helps to stimulate the process.
Last spring a possum was in the yard in broad daylight. More likely that my stupid landlord and her handyman frightened him/her from his/her hiding place. As I watched him/her waddle to the back of the yard likely to make its way up or down the powerline easement/fenceline that divides our city block, I ran into the house for an apple (trained much as Cheryl may be) and walked pretty much right up to it and dropped/rolled 2 halves right into its line of retreat. S/he said (I could hear it telepathically), "oh hey, look. an apple." The possum sat there in broad daylight and ate the thing. I came in and out with some other tidbits to make sure being out in the daylight would be worth the while.
We had one on our platform feeder a week or two ago. Did the same thing - went out while it was sitting there to put something there for him. It crawled up into the mulberry tree to the next crotch up - about 10'. It came down eventually to eat and then lumbered off.
Love love love 'em. I'm a sucker.
Here's Pete from last spring. Lady who does "pest" re.moval brought him to me as a baby. Took him far away to the headwaters of the Haw River to release him. The lady who gave him to me asked "why so far." Well, to avoid cars and cats, of course.
That is an adorable opossum face. I told you as much in the post I wrote over the weekend but failed to actually 'Send'. I do that sometimes.
I can't get over how different raccoons and opossums look in various parts of the country. I read somewhere that there are some 5 or 6 different varieties (kind of like breeds of dog) of raccoons across the country. I'm thinking there must also be different 'breeds' of opossum, because yours doesn't look anything at all like ours. Yours looks much cuter. It reminds me of a panda. Ours are much paler in color, shades of light to med gray with 'dirty' white faces - not actual dirt, just that the shade of off white is dirty looking (not bright white like yours). I would like to effect a trade, please.
As for that 'water' tip, I actually prefer that my dinner guests do their potty work elsewhere before they arrive. Not to worry though, because around here we are never w/o water, not even in a drought. We are very near the ocean and are on the banks of a large river whose tributaries wrap around us pretty much on all sides. In addition, our community has some 10 or so large, drainage ponds, one of which is directly across the street from me (where deer and other wildlife go at night to drink). Also, the land here is wetlands. The area behind my house is both forest and swamp, such that it's too boggy to even walk around back there w/o sinking to mid thigh. There is also a pond of sorts back there. Between ocean, river, ponds, wetlands, and swamp there is always water around here.
Thanks for the tip. I bought a 'ton' of very ripe bananas on markdown Friday - 15lbs actually. I've been eating them like crazy, since (1) my Dr called to say my potassium is low and to eat bananas and (2) they won't last long. I sliced a quart-sized container full for the freezer. When I get a late night sweet tooth, I like to grab a handful of frozen banana slices for a healthy, guilt-free, and filling treat. The texture is similar to that of a fudgesicle. I will try to remember to give her some banana tonight. Actually, I think she has been eating the many banana peels I've been tossing into the open compost pile out back the past several days.
Snowball was really fond of scrambled eggs. She bypassed everything else at the buffet years ago to grab some left over chicken egg foo young patties. She also went for the scrambled eggs on another occasion.
A couple nights ago I gave her some homemade chicken & dumplings, mostly dumplings, the fluffy, biscuit type (but made from scratch). She gobbled them all up (5 large ones) plus her cat food. That same night I opened the patio door a few inches and spoke to her gently. I was hoping to go out there with her depending on her comfort level, but she waddled away. Clearly I have much work to do yet.
I got preoccupied with something else and forgot to put out feed for a couple nights. Then last night just shortly after dark I went to the patio door to check for Kitty who was still outside. I turned the patio light on, opened the door wide, and called her a few times. I left the light on for the next 20min or so while I was working in the kitchen. On my way out of the kitchen I stopped by the patio door one last time. The patio light was still on. Again I opened the door and called out to Kitty. This time Kitty came inside.
I was just about to turn off the patio light and walk away when my brain made out a vague but definite pattern in the semi-darkness just beyond the patio - a long white face. It was Puddle sitting there calmly watching me. I wish I could draw you a picture. She wasn't far off in the distance, just sitting there on the grass just off the patio, sitting their watching almost as though she had heard me calling someone earlier and now was waiting. The patio is a rectangle attached to the house on one long side. The patio door is located about one foot from one end of that long side. The patio light was still on and had been on for some 20min by that time.
Puddle was sitting just across the patio from the door, across the short side (maybe 10 to 12ft). She could have chosen to sit at the far end of the patio, the end away from the door and the light. That would have been the obvious place to sit had she wanted to hide as it's not only dark down there and farther from the door but also there are large potted plants on that end of the patio to provide cover. Down there I would never have seen her, especially considering that area of the patio is hidden from view unless I step out of the door and onto the patio. But she had chosen to sit directly across [the short side of the] patio from the door where she was in the light and visible from the open door where I stood.
It's almost as though she is playing that baby game of Pea-Pie with me, the one where you disappear and reappear. Sometimes she shows herself, sometimes she hides. In particular, it seems like she shows herself when she is hungry and hoping to get food. I found that very heartening, because it seems to indicate that she knows I give her the food, and while she isn't completely comfortable around me yet, she does appear to have the idea that I may be friendly and may be feeding her intentionally - otherwise it would make no sense to show herself as she has clearly done at least 2 times now.
Some years back one of the opossums used to sit on the back fence at night waiting for me to put food out for the raccoons. Puddle could easily do the same. From the back fence she would be much safer (from people, dogs, etc) and yet would be able to see/hear/smell when I put out the food. She could have sat on a low branch in any of a number of trees in the backyard (or forest edge) to watch the house, but she had chosen to sit at the edge of the patio and in front of the patio door. She had chosen to sit within the bounds of the patio light rather than the darkness beyond its reach. She had actually made herself more visible even than my cat, the latter of whom was hiding in the darkness on the far end of the patio. I can only conclude that she wanted to be seen and that she had some idea that being seen might be the key to getting the food (as the raccoons before her had known).
Oh, almost forgot to mention that upon seeing Puddle sitting there I hurried back inside to fetch her some kibble. She did waddle towards the cover and darkness at the other end of the patio as I walked out there with the food, but even that seemed a positive thing in view of the fact that she could have headed away from me and towards the forest. Away and towards the safety of home (the forest) would seem the likely route for a wild animal. Anyhow, I spoke her name softly a time or two as I put the food out there on the patio. Then I turned the patio light off and went back inside to feed Kitty.
I need to get out back and mow the grass, well actually, the weeds. The grass is greening up nicely but is not growing fast enough to need a cut yet. The weeds, on the other hand, have taken off with a vengeance. The back lawn has always been 'spotty' with a few very weedy areas. With Mr Copperhead still on the loose, it's potentially quite dangerous to be walking out there in the dark through those weeds.
Unfortunately, since I was in so much pain the past few years, I had the gardener/landscaper doing the mowing. I could probably manage on my own now, but not sure if I can get the mower started. May have to get a new battery. Ugh.
I was hoping to work on that 'project' Saturday, but the latest storm traveling eastward across the country rendered that a 'no-go'. We had heavy Tstorms and torrential downpours all weekend. I didn't get to work on the lawn project nor did I manage to see Puddle again, although I did put some food out for her last night between showers. Every time I checked the food was still there. Until this morning that is, when I awoke to find every crumb gone.
An incredible thing happened this morning, and I just had to take a minute to tell you. Sorry, it is a bit OT, but it relates to something I told you a month or so back - and it's SO incredible.
About 2 days ago, a bit of tweeting and motion caught my attention and I looked out the great room window to see 2 tiny birds flitting about on the Nyjer feeders. I was surprised because, as you know, the goldfinches left in early February, and as I told you then, once they leave they never, ever return again until the following Jan/Feb. I even cautioned some of you not to run out and hang thistle socks for them unless you know that they are year round residents in your area - because they were gone for the year. As I've also mentioned, there are no birds in my area that eat Nyjer, just the goldfinches that make an all to brief visit here each Jan/Feb.
So who, I wondered, were these tiny birds that had suddenly shown up at the Nyjer feeder in late, late March, almost April? They sure looked like the same little birds which I had previously identified as goldfinches (in winter garb). But that didn't make sense. I looked again, scrutinized them even. Yep, looked just like those goldfinches. Is it possible? Could they have returned - something they have never done in the 12yrs I've been feeding them? No, that didn't make sense either. Many years when they are leaving in early/mid Feb they are already beginning to shed those drab feathers and put on some of the brighter ones for which they are known, leaving here in rather spotty, mottled coats, a mixture of winter and summer colors. If they came back this late, it sure seemed they should be wearing bright yellow coats, but these 2 birds were that same drab, olive green color they always wear here in Jan/Feb. So what gives? Who were these little Nyjer eaters?
The next morning, yesterday, the tiny birds were back at the Nyjer feeders, this time accompanied by several of their friends, but still all drab in color. This time I noticed that the larger feeder was 1/2 empty, whereas it had been just below full in Feb when the goldfinches left. Whoever these little guys were, they were surely hungry and eating like crazy.
I still could not explain the apparent color mystery - why they were not wearing summer garb now, but I had come to the conclusion that these really were goldfinches, whether some of the usual gang having returned again or a different group altogether. I decided this strange weather we've been having with all the storms and some areas of the north and mid Atlantic having snow still so late in the season, was the reason the goldfinches were here so late in the season. My guess is they left in Feb as they usually do, perhaps because at that time it was so warm here. With days in the 70s and daffodils and azaleas blooming, they probably figured the weather in their home area would be nice, too. Then the endless storms dumped snow across their area, blocking them from their food once more, so they finally decided to come back here where they knew there had been plenty of good food available.
Fast forward to this morning. I've been SUPER busy and rushed every day this week and very much preoccupied, having little time to watch or even think about those little birds at the feeder, except for noticing them out there each morning as I make my way past the window on my way to the kitchen to start my day. On this morning the crowd at the Nyjer feeders had grown considerably. Now it was an actual flock of goldfinches, all milling about the feeders, taking turns gobbling up seeds.
Then a bright, lemon yellow spot caught my eye, and I realized there on the far side of the little feeder was a male goldfinch in full summer clothing, looking just like all of the pictures I had seen of goldfinches throughout my life. It was like a little spring miracle, like someone up there had heard me lamenting that I feed the little guys every year and yet have never once had the opportunity to see one in its gorgeous, summer coloring. It was as though circumstances had sent them back again this one time to give me that chance to view them in summer colors, the males a brilliant yellow trimmed in high-contrast black.
For a few minutes despite all that I have to do today, I stopped to enjoy the view just outside my window. Now there were 3 males, all brilliant yellow, looking almost like so many fluorescent highlighters flitting about outside my window, showing off their lovely summer outfits as they ate. Today, for the first time in my entire life, I had seen goldfinches in their 'usual' color. Today, in a manner they could never understand, the little guys had thanked me for all those years of feeding them in winter. How beautiful they were (and are)! Have to get to work now, but I hope they will still be out there later today when I have a few minutes to watch them and maybe even grab a picture or two (through the window). Maybe if I'm really lucky they will stay here with me a few more days, although I realize they will need to get back home as soon as possible to start their 2013 families.
What a thrilling moment for you that must have been Cheryl. I'm so pleased for you. I remember my first sighting too. My first year with a tiny garden and I was growing Rudbeckia triloba. One day when I looked out the french doors it looked like the flowers were flying away. I had never seen such a thing, and it WAS marvelous.
I hope you get to enjoy more time with them. Perhaps one of the blessings we will find inadvertently thru Heidi's absence will be an abundance of other forms of wildlife.
In truth, no number of wildlife types could ever stand in for the close relationship I enjoyed with Heidi - but I do understand your sentiment and know that you meant it well, just trying to look for the some kind of silver lining amongst the clouds, and I would do the same. Actually, over the early years of my garden, back when I was still able to get around well enough to keep a thriving and overflowing bounty of plants, including many with fruits, berries, and seeds and when I offered an abundance of bird seed and hummer nectar, I had quite an awesome array of animal visitors around here - and still do to some extent. The presence of the raccoons here at night didn't seem to effect that.
The poor little goldfinches have stayed around and are still here today, but I'm afraid the cats have dogged them something awful, keeping watch over their feeder and making it difficult for them to eat in peace. Thankfully, I've not seen any sign of a 'catch' so far, most likely because the little birds are very much aware of the cats' presence and so far have chosen to forgo eating when the cats are on guard. Now that the cats are watching them, the goldfinches spend much of their day in the top canopy of a taller tree looking down on the cats (and the nyjer), swooping down to the feeders for a quick bite or two whenever the cats get bored and take a break.
Below is one of the two pics I got of a colorful male. I don't know if I mentioned, but the nyjer feeders are only inches outside the great room window (a 5-6ft wide window that extends from some 21" off the floor all the way up to about a foot from 'the ceiling' and which makes for excellent up-close viewing). This pic was taken through the window, from inside the great room. It's not a great pic but it serves to record that they were here - in case this awesome event, the goldfinches staying this long after getting their summer colors, never happens again. (I looked everywhere for my pics of them in winter color for comparison but couldn't find them, probably in storage.)
As I tried to take pics from across the room, it was clear to me that they were very much aware of my presence and were on edge at the realization that I was watching them, this no doubt a side effect of knowing they are being stalked by predators (the cats). The brightly colored males in particular went out of their way to hide from me, making it all but impossible for me to get a good picture including faces. They stayed mostly on the far side of the feeder where I could not see or photograph them and even moved around the feeder as I moved around the room to try and gain access to them. On the rare occasion that one came into view, I settled for any quick pic I could get. Then when the auto flash went off on the 2nd pic, they fled to the cover of the taller tree nearby where they remained until I left the room. Realizing that I was interfering with their efforts to eat, I decided not to try for better pics.
I've enjoyed having them here and am overjoyed to have had this opportunity to finally see them in their full summer colors, but now I hope they will leave soon, both to insure they do not become cat food and to make sure they don't loose anymore value time from what I'm sure is already all too short a breeding season in their home area. It would probably not be good for the females to be traveling while gestating. I would hate to see this delayed departure adversely effect the next generations. And as much as I love my cats and understand the cycle of life thing, I fear I would be hard-pressed to view them the same should I find a sad pile of bright yellow feathers on my patio.
We are having nice weather now, most of the time, although nights have often been quite cold. One of my coworkers from Ohio pointed out that the biggest difference he saw in our weather was the unusually steep rise in temps between night and day. Even when nights drop down near freezing, daytime temps often rise all the way back to or near the 70s, as has been the case the past week or so, nights near freezing, wonderful, warm springlike days.
I realize you guys are all anxiously awaiting word of opossums or raccoons. So far I've not seen a single raccoon, although it's not time yet for them to be nursing (which means peak hunger). Puddle hasn't been very cooperative lately either, despite my numerous efforts to see her out there somewhere in the darkness waiting and despite all the cajoling I do each time I put the food out and call her name.
After thinking about the few times she did show herself and about the dynamics that drove the raccoons, I've come to the conclusion that she isn't making herself visible to me mostly because she doesn't have to. One thing that helped with the raccoons was their numbers. A raccoon who wanted to eat could not afford to wait too long, hoping for me to leave. They always had to weigh their fear of me against the very real fear of loosing out should another raccoon show up and eat the food 1st. With so many hungry raccoons in the forest, each one knew that she had to act quickly if she wanted to eat. Currently, Puddle has no such issues to consider. She seems to be the only one coming to the buffet at present and as such has all the time in the world to wait me out.
The few times Puddle let me see her were when I either failed to feed her for a few days or only gave her a very small amount. That seemed to encourage her to come forward. Unfortunately, I tried to repeat those patterns and still had no luck. However, this past week was a tremendously busy one for me, so much so that most days I worked, ate, bathed, and slept ONLY, often taking only 10min or so to wolf down meals. In fact, when I finish this I have to get to work again. There is a LOT riding on my getting certain things done before morning. Anyhow, being so busy probably also played a part in the lack of Puddle sitings, as I really couldn't spare the time to just sit out there waiting.
So that's where things stand right now. I will continue to keep a look out and let you know if/when I see anyone at the buffet.
Tonight I managed to see Puddle again. I keep a bucket of 'fast food' and treats near the patio door (for the raccoons). I grabbed a handful of individually wrapped (restaurant) crackers from the bucket and put them out on the patio for Puddle (sans wrappers, of course). I called her gently as I've been doing each evening now, just trying to get her used to her name and the sound of my voice, but she didn't show herself.
From time to time I checked the patio to see if the food was gone. Finally, I threw on the light to find Puddle there eating. I watched her for a while as she ate the crackers, actually picking some of them up with her front feet to put them in her mouth. I had no idea opossums used their 'hands' that way, but Puddle did.
After she had finished, I grabbed some more items from the goodie bucket and slowly opened the door. Puddle looked up at me for a moment and then turned to waddle slowly away. I called out to her gently. She stopped for a moment and looked over at me. She did not appear to be 'frozen' or anything of the sort. She actually appeared for a moment to recognize my voice and to look at me as though she might consider staying, but then she continued on just the same. The looks said, "Oh, I know you, " but then she decided to leave anyhow, erring on the side of caution I suppose. I tossed a few more crackers onto the patio, hoping she would return to realize I had not been there to harm her but rather to offer her more goodies. I didn't see her again.
Last night, btw, I dreamed that she showed up with a bunch of adorable little ones that played with me much as the raccoon kits used to do. Maybe one day...
Just checked. Puddle never returned to eat the extra goodies I tossed her. Not a good sign. Means she didn't trust me enough to come back and she didn't get to see that I was there to give her more food. One step forward, two back. (Gotta get to bed. Up goofing off. Trying to extend the weekend. Doesn't work though.)
You may be closer to right than you realize. I slept an hour or two and then had to get up super early to get some work done before work (if that makes any sense). When I got up at 4:30AM, I couldn't resist the urge to check the patio again. It was only then that I realized she had apparently returned to eat every crumb of the original crackers but hadn't eaten any of the crackers I had tossed her for a bonus. Turned out those 2nd crackers were a different type altogether and ones she apparently didn't like. When I opened the door last night and she left, there were still some small bits of the 'good' crackers left on the patio. When I checked to see if she had returned, I saw the new crackers and decided she had not, but I was wrong. Since those last bits of the 'good' crackers were gone, she had apparently come back to eat them but had turned down the new ones.
Turns out the 'new' (actually 2nd not new at all) ones were really, really old, such that the 'natural' fruit had become moldy. The raccoons wouldn't eat those either - and that was 2 yrs ago. I need to put those in the compost bin once and for all. (I had forgotten about this when I reached blindly into the bucket and grabbed those cookies/treats.
I've had a LOT on my mind lately - and I do mean a lot. As a result, I totally blew right past April Fool's Day w/o evening realizing what day it was. I probably wouldn't have done a joke this year anyhow - not after last year's debacle - but would have enjoyed checking out the online jokes starting with Google. I always get a kick out of theirs. I used to enjoy Dave's AF jokes, too. It was this morning before I realized I had missed the big day and also learned that Melody had done one - to see it, check out her article for that day if you haven't already. (Mel, if you are there, I loved it. Just wish I had seen in on the 2nd and before reading that it was an AF joke [spoiler]. I would really have loved to test one of those. I dream of growing giant, double, pink peonies and lilac and having a golden rain tree dripping down upon my garden.)
As I said, I probably wouldn't have done another AF joke, even if I had remembered in time. Much to my chagrin, last year my joke upset some of my DG friends. The thing is, I had no idea it might upset anyone. I thought of that idea almost a year before Apr 2nd and then waited on pins and needles for the opportunity to do it. I had envisioned lots of laughter, so clearly I have no clue. As I've told you before, I'm an engineer. We aren't known for our social skills (think Dilbert with the cone shaped head). While we were still in college, my x-fiance once made a statement that has stuck to me all this time. He said engineers are insensitive - not intentionally so, just a a factor of how our brain's work. When he made that comment, I firmly believed that was only for male engineers. I thought female engineers were exempt from such things. Hmm, maybe not so much.
So on this day after the anniversary of that fateful AF joke, I humbly apologize once more for my insensitivity and ask that anyone who was offended by that AF joke please consider giving me another chance - and maybe cutting me some slack on account of that engineering brain dysfunction.
Earlier tonight (Wed night), I had an opportunity to see and interact with Puddle. I had left her a few extras, including a few handfuls of leftover popcorn (old school, not microwave) and a really tough dog bone/chew (that Widget won't eat).
A little while later when I turned on the patio light to see if she had eaten any of my offerings, I found Puddle crouching maybe 8in from the patio door while holding the dog bone in her hand munching on it as though it were a slim jim or carrot stick. It was a very cute picture. Like the other night when she was holding the crackers in her hand, I had never seen this rather adorably human-like behavior in an opossum. Also, I was quite impressed as I stood there watching her bite off a chunk of that incredibly tough 'bone' and chew it with the ease of a carrot. That bone was manufactured to be so tough as to force a dog to sit and gnaw on it for a while, and yet Puddle bit right through it with amazing ease, as though it were quite tender. I wasn't even able to cut through one of those 'bones' with my garden loppers! Bottom line, if you ever get to see that mouth full of very impressive teeth opossums sport, know that those things are not just for show. They work really, really well (although, thankfully, I'm told opossums are not inclined to use them for attack/defense purposes).
Puddle was crouching just maybe 8in from the door - but the other end of the door, the end with the hinges not where it opens. She had her back to the door/house. Given that she had been on the far side of the patio (maybe 10ft away from the door) the other night when she waddled away when I opened the door, I didn't hold out much hope for what would happen this time when she was so close, but I just had to do it anyhow. I opened the door about 6in or so and spoke her name softly. Kitty, who had been sitting on the door facing, rushed in through the opening. Incredibly, Puddle turned her head around to look up at me but made no attempt to leave.
After looking at me for a minute or two, she turned back to her 'bone' and continued noshing as though I weren't even there. By this time she was almost through with the 'bone', so I gently tossed her another one designed to land about a foot away so as not to hit her or unduly frighten her. I didn't want her to think I was throwing things at her, after all. When she finished the 1st 'bone', instead of grabbing the 2nd one, she walked over to the dish where she had found (and eaten) the popcorn earlier (before I got there). After looking in the now empty bowl for a minute or so, she came back to the door to eat the 2nd bone. During all of this I still had the door open some 8 to 10in and the door on. Still she showed no sign of fear and did not run away.
With things going so well, I was tempted to grab the camera and try to get a picture of her but decided to hold off on that for now. I like to end a session on a positive note if I can. I think that helps to improve their comfort level around me for future events. She came here; she got food; and when I saw her, I made no attempt to harm her. I figure that should help to establish good memories the next time she is hungry. If I can help her learn to be comfortable around me, I'll get lots of photo ops later. Conversely, if I had thrown the camera up in her face setting off a slew of flashes (for just one pic), she would almost certainly have left thinking she just barely escaped some horrible fate, and that would have set us back considerably.
I closed the door, turned off the light, and left her to eat in peace. I wondered though about the part where she had gone over to the empty popcorn dish in response to my tossing her a 2nd 'bone'. Odd thing to do, don't you think? I mean, surely she knew that dish was empty. She had eaten the popcorn earlier. This sounds crazy when I hear myself 'saying' it, but could she possibly have gone over there to let me know that she wanted more popcorn? After all, she went over there immediately after I opened the door and tossed her more food. Quite the coincidence at the very least. She went over there as though to check for more popcorn and then returned to eat what I had tossed her. Hmmm. Interesting.
No, I didn't give her more popcorn. I didn't have anymore popped - but I will definitely have some ready tomorrow night!
Thanks for the update on Puddles. I do love how they use their paws/little hands to eat. They are so endearing. Can't say why return to the bowl when you threw the bone, but they do have very clear food preferences. I remember chasing bugs/beetles around the yard in the dark that summer we had the possum baby. Court was feeding him by hand (bugs, and worms, mealworms) and became so enamored that we thought seriously (but not so much so) about keeping him.
About last year's AF. I don't think any one of us would call you insensitive, so engineer or not you're okay by me. ;)
Ps. Are you getting this rain today? Just makes me sleepy.
Yes to the rain. Very dreary looking day. We've been having semi-dreary/semi-rainy days off and on all week though. By yesterday the dreary, cloudy, rainy thing seemed to have settled in full time. Oh, I do love to sleep when rain is falling on the roof - but work beckons today. Just remembered we had a REALLY noisy (lots of electricity) storm early this morning while I was asleep. It was among the scariest sounding storms I think I've heard (excepting hurricanes, of course), but I was too sleepy to get up and check on things. Yesterday's storm had minimal lightning but lots of constant, roaring wind.
The image of you chasing bugs around the yard for the baby opossum and Court hand feeding him brought a warm smile to my heart. (Glad you weren't upset by my AF thing.)
one of those yummie Widget bits would really make a hit + be most beneficial as she probably has nursers in her pouch. If you used that as the "toss out treat" she would definitely associate wonderful things to you. Also it would prevent waiste of any of those superb yummies.
I loved your 4/1/12 notice last year. It was just 'too' over the top to possibly be true.
'Insensitive?, you? no way!! Engineer types just are not as 'showy' with their emotions.
U R tops in my book!!
Love that I can always count on you to make me feel better about things. :-)
Hmm. Interesting idea. I think I will offer Puddle a few of the treats I made for Widget. I'll put a few on the shelf by the door for the next time I see her.
We never waste any of the treats though. Widget makes sure of that. He will eat as many as he can get. To make sure they last as long as needed, I have a system whereby I keep the large bag(s) of treats in the freezer to refill the small bag I keep out for daily use. I don't really fill the small bag, just put 3 or 4 scant handfuls in it at a time, enough to last a couple weeks. The treats are hard and dry like commercial dog biscuits, so they come out of the freezer unchanged. That way no matter how many I make and how long it takes to use them, they are always as fresh as the day I baked them. Sometimes I even give Widget one straight from the freezer for a change of pace. I figure it's somewhat analogous to us eating a frozen treat (except his doesn't drip as it thaws). He seems to like them that way, too.
Folks, I think Puddle really is getting comfortable with me - or perhaps she is telling the kids that I seem to be getting comfortable with her. It's like this, either she is becoming 'tame' or she would otherwise have to be a total, bumbling idiot, and the latter seems most unlikely, since (1) opossums haven't been behaving this way before in all the years I've been here and most importantly (2) her species would never have survived this long if they commonly behaved this way just by mistake. At least, that's my take on things.
Earlier tonight I had put another one of those really hard, 'rubbery' dog bones (commercial variety, one of the many I have around here that Widget just won't touch) on the patio. At that time, I heard some kind of animal noise. I stood listening. I heard it again. It was very brief and simple and definitely not loud. It was neither loud enough nor distinct enough for me to describe it with any certainty, but from what I thought I heard I'd say it was like a 'mew', definitely not a meow but similar enough that I at 1st wondered if Cocoa might be out there hiding and calling out to me - even though it really did not sound like him at all. Just in case, I called out to him a time or two, "Cocoa, Cocoa," but he neither called out to me nor stepped forward out of the darkness. Still, every few minutes or so, I would hear it again, a single 'mew', definitely the sound of an animal in the back-most part of the yard somewhere, and it seemed to be speaking to me (although I could be wrong about that last part). Just in case, I tossed out a few handfuls of cat food and left.
A few minutes ago (around 2AM), I opened the patio door and called out into the darkness, "Cocoa, Cocoa." My cat Cocoa had still not come in for his dinner, so I was checking for him before going back to bed. I went to the front door to check for him, and then, just in case, went back to double check the patio door again. Once more I turned on the outside light, threw open the patio door, and called out into the darkness. This time, much to my total surprise, Puddle stepped out from behind a wheelbarrow where she had been completely hidden and into the light, standing there on the patio just a few, short feet in front of me. She turned her head toward me and stood there just looking at me as if to say, "Hi, there.Glad you returned."
We both stood looking eye to eye for what seemed an eternity. Then, finally, I spoke to her softly calling her name, "Puddle, Puddle." She continued to stand there looking at me, before finally walking away, crossing the patio in front of me and at close proximity to the door before disappearing behind the camellia shrubs. If she had truly been afraid of me, it would have made more sense to spin around and rush back behind the wheelbarrow and into the shadows from which she had emerged as that would have risked far less exposure.
Intrigued by her behavior, perhaps the bravest to date, I tossed yet another of those dog bones out onto the patio (trying to use those up), and then as an afterthought tossed a vanilla sandwich cookie out onto the patio, too, before turning off the light and leaving for the night.
Incidentally, I'm really starting to wonder about those goldfinches. As of yesterday, they were STILL here. There is quite a sizable gang of them out there now, and they are really putting away the nyjer big time now. If they stay until the end of the week, I will have to go out in search of more nyjer to keep them fed. They have never stayed anywhere near this far into the season. I'm wondering if they are actually going to stay all summer - or try. Since they went home earlier and had to return again for food, perhaps they are reluctant to try that again. I wonder though if they will remember they have somewhere else to be when it really starts to heat up around here - or will that be too late for them to fly home? Perhaps by then they will have built nests and laid eggs here. I guess time will tell.
I was in the kitchen a little while ago for one of those late night snacks. While there I thought I should check the backyard for Cocoa. As I cast a glance across the room toward the patio door something incredible and just so totally unexpected caught my eye and stopped me dead in my tracks. There at the patio door a raccoon face looked in at me. For a moment, she was Heidi standing there up against the glass looking back at me, just like in the cover photo for this thread. It was only a moment but a long moment, during which different parts of my brain argued with each other over what I was seeing and what was reality, and for an all too brief an interval she was Heidi and she was back and standing there at the patio door looking in at me.
My rational brain won out, of course, and I quickly realized the adorable face staring in at me was not that of Heidi, but I was thrilled nonetheless to finally have a raccoon visitor again. I was all the more excited to see that my new visitor remembered me at least well enough to come to the door to look for me. She was right up close to the door, maybe 8-10in away, standing there on her hind legs, looking inside, and waiting impatiently for me to see her. As I walked over toward the door, she continued to stand there looking back at me. I spoke to her, "Hi there" my happiness at seeing her spilling out effortlessly, "Hi, Sweetie."
I opened the patio door wide and stood there talking to her for a few moments. She took a few steps back from the door but otherwise stayed there on the patio before me, looking up at me as though largely unafraid. I grabbed the cat food bag and headed out onto the patio to feed her. Much as I had feared, seeing me step out onto the patio sent her running for cover, back down the arbor path in the direction of the forest. Not willing to have this moment end this way, I remained there on the patio calling her and speaking to her even though I could not see her anywhere in the darkness.
After a moment or two, she emerged from the rose bushes at the arbor just beyond the patio. That she had shown herself to me again this way spoke volumes. This was a raccoon who was fairly comfortable with me and one who would probably come back to me if cajoled a bit. As I continued talking to her, she came toward me, walking right up onto the patio in front of me. She seemed amazingly comfortable around me, all things considered. In fact, she seemed almost as comfortable as Heidi would have been, and yet it was clear she was not Heidi.
Up close she really did not look anything at all like Heidi. There was something very unique about the area around and above her eyes, and she looked to be a yearling. It was hard to imagine who among the remaining raccoons, kits included, would be this comfortable around me, especially upon just returning from such a lengthy absence. After all, at the time Heidi left us, I really didn't have much of a relationship with any of the others - except Desi, that is. Could it be? Was it really possible? Desi?
She was about a foot from me and still walking forward when I reached into the bag to get her some food. The movement caught her by surprise, and she turned and ran, hiding once more. If this was Desi, she was all grown up now and probably carrying babies of her own. She had been gone all fall and winter and even most of the summer. In that time she would have learned fear in a way that a tiny kit would not have understood. She would have learned the importance of avoiding predators and humans in order to stay alive. It made sense that she might not be that same fre-spirited kit, especially not at 1st, and that she might have some misgivings.
Again I stood on the patio alone and calling out to her in the darkness. Again I could see no trace of her anywhere. Then as my eyes scanned the yard, her imagine came into focus standing in front of the foundation shrubs just outside the MBR. As I continued to speak to her, she came toward me. In her absence I had placed some food on the patio for her. I could see her nostril flare now and she smelled the air, perhaps smelling the food, perhaps double-checking her ID of me.
After a brief hesitation she walked right up to me on the patio and began to eat even as I stood towering over her only inches away. Yes, this was a raccoon who knew me well and who was exceedingly comfortable around me. Of the adults I had known all these years only Heidi, Dennis, and post-recovery Bast would have walked up to my feet this way to eat, especially upon returning from hiatus and especially w/o other raccoons around to sound the alarm should something go wrong - and most of all w/o Heidi, their once trusted leader around to say it was safe.
Being alone with me takes considerably more courage and/or comfort than being part of a group, and having me standing upright and towering over her is much more potentially threatening than approaching me while I'm seated. If you recall, it took me years to reach the point where I could walk around Heidi w/o her running away. For a very long time I had to remain seated and motionless to avoid scaring her/them. Later I could move and speak as long as I remained seated, but they would head for the hills if I even tried to stand up. Eventually, I could stand very slowly but only if I warned them 1st and only to turn in place and go back to the house, returning with treats - and even then sometimes they would bolt. And so it was, this long, slow process of the raccoons and me getting comfortable with each other, and much of that was about Heidi's comfort, because it was she who signaled the others when things were ok and when to head for the forest.
Not withstanding her tendency to spook on this our 1st meeting after so long an absence, this raccoon whoever she was had exhibited immense courage and trust just to come back and stand at my door looking in and now to be willing to walk right up to my feet to eat this way. Last summer, except for Heidi, the other adults would mill about on the patio some three feet or so away from me but would often wait for me to leave before lowering their heads to eat. Others would stand around on the grass just beyond the patio until I went back inside.
At the moment, I really cannot think of anyone else this could be except Desi. The color and features and especially the unusual markings around her eyes ruled out Dennis, Bast, Fraidy, and any of the others who had been close to me in the past. Even some of the others like Sissy would not have been inclined to just waltz right up to my feet this way to eat. This raccoon was amazingly unafraid, all things considered. And she had obviously come here alone. That, too, was a biggie. In time, others would follow her lead, but it would always be she who remembered where to come and was brave enough to do so.
I stayed there with her on the patio for a short while and then slowly bent down to pick up my bag and leave. As I did so, I spoke to her, telling her, "It's ok. It's O-k. Don't worry. I'm just going back inside now. You'll be ok..." This time she continued to eat and did not run away as I gathered my things there beside her, turned and went back inside, excited not just to have raccoons again but to have this raccoon who clearly knew me and trusted me a great deal.
I hope they are willing to live and eat in peace with Puddle though and don't chase her away. Even tonight as I was standing in the doorway, patio light on, looking out onto the partially lit space, I took a really good, close look at that wheel barrow, the one Puddle had emerged from behind the other night when I opened the door to call the cats. As I looked I saw that the spot where Puddle had been hiding out behind the wheel barrow was well hidden, and suddenly it became all the more apparent to me that Puddle had stepped out from her cover and into the light quite intentionally, doing so the very instant I called the cat and doing so with the intention of being seen. I would hate to see her chased away now and our developing relationship brought to an end. Here's hoping the raccoons and opossums will be able to coexist at the buffet again as they did that one special year so long ago.
Isn't this very unexpected news awesome? It would really be great if this one raccoon could continue to be the only one as was the case last night, but I suspect others will be showing up very soon now, following her trail in search of food. But it's still awesome. I had already accepted that I might really not get any raccoons this year. And it would also be nice if I could verify, maybe by photo comparison with her unique markings, that this really is Desi. Seeing her again, heck, seeing any raccoon, really was so very, very nice.
She has to be Desi! If any other raccoon came up like that the would have to be sick and you do not describe any strange behavior.
it at all possible that Desi is a lone surviver of Heid
YYYYYYYYYYYEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH !!!!! Desi's back. I wonder if she remembers windsailing on your shoe. This is so wonderful
Is it at all possible that Desi is Heidies lone survivor of last years kits?? I hope the older ones don't overwhelm her when they come. There's always the possibility that there may not be many of the adults who would have traveled more & possibly into infected areas.
I am so excited!! doing the Happy Dance with 12 eyes looking at me like I've lost my mind! Hooray, Hip Hip Hooray!!
I know, I know. I'm so happy, too! It was like seeing a mirage, the face of an angel framed in the patio door. I could not even believe it at 1st. That's so funny, because I did the happy dance, too, last night. Seriously though, I really doubt that she alone survived. Raccoons are incredibly tough and resourceful. My guess is there will be others coming soon. But then again, I didn't really think we were ever likely to see Desi again, so what do I know. As for the others, if/when they come, if Desi will trust me enough to hold her ground and let me help her, I can use my bottle of vinegar water to keep them away from her and her food. Last spring when the others came, Desi's mother ran, taking Desi with her. Thus I could not do anything to help them. It's all up to them. I can help if they give me the chance as Bast did when she was sick.
Isn't it wonderful?! I really can't tell you how happy I was to see her standing there outside the door looking in at me that way, like old times. I had pretty much resigned myself to not having any raccoon visitors this year, and even if some did show up, I figured they would be afraid to come to the house. I thought I would probably have to start all over from scratch putting the food back there by the fence and sitting some distance away, then very slowly moving closer over time as I gained their trust. I had no idea she would just waltz right up to the door like Heidi used to do - and practically knock to see if I was home. But then again, who would ever have thought she would do any of the things she did as a kit - windsurfing the pants leg (shaking head in disbelief but smiling, too)
I could appreciate what you said about your brain up in your first post - taking a minute to figure out what the hell you were seeing in the doorway.
Once upon a time, a brother and I were going to miss eachother at Christmas. He was going to NH to be with his girlfriend's family. I was going back home to PA and then returning to Boston afterwards. We joked about trying to set up a rendezvous somewhere halfway while we were driving back, but we never did.
Imagine will you, when I was at a gas station on the Massachusetts turnpike when I turned to look at a car beeping its horn. There was my brother looking at me, and my brain was like, "that guy looks familiar," "who is that guy?" "Hey! It's Steve!!!" "What the hell is HE doing here . . .?!" That was a crazy, one in a billion moment, so I understand when you said your brain was having a hard time resolving exactly what you were seeing. :)
I wonder why she is the only one coming. I can't (but will) wait to read all of the Desi stories to come. Yippee, Whoopee. This is such a wonderful and exciting happening. All I can think of is that you are really blessed and deffinately 'a whisperer'
You are right. As a kit, Desi was absolutely fearless. Not only did she windsurf on my leg and try to come into the kitchen, but when I bent down to pet her (while standing over her, btw), she didn't flinch or tighten her muscles when my hand touched her. One time I even placed my entire hand over her back/body and wrapped my fingers around her sides as if to pick her up. I didn't attempt to actually lift her, but I recall be amazed that even this did not evoke even the slightest reaction from her. Her little body was as soft and supple in my hand as that of a kitten raised with constant human contact.
She is also the only one from last year (other than Heidi) who has had enough contact with me to feel comfortable coming right up to me, the only one who wouldn't fear being hurt.
I knew I was forgetting something in my response. (Thanks, June). Your idea about feeding her in the kitchen is adorable. I laughed at 1st. Then I stopped and thought for a minute or two, "Maybe..." I probably won't try it, though. As a kit, Desi probably would have been fine in the kitchen. As an adult, however, she might get upset - not to mention Widget and the cats - but I did give it a few seconds of serious thought.
no, that was deffinately said tongue in cheek. Of course I was joshing. Adult raccoons can really make a fast mess inside a house, especially if suddenly spooked. But it is a nice picture to remember the fearless, trusting little kit just walking on in as you were trying to go out. Isn't that how the shoe windsail ride was initiated?
Oh, yes, I did realize you were joking, but after I laughed at bit, I actually gave it a few seconds of serious consideration. Me, not you. I would never have considered it for any of the others. It was only because of how totally calm, fearless, and carefree little Desi was as a kit that I even gave it serious thought for her. I was thinking, well, maybe after spend some time together now that she's grown, if she resumes being anywhere near as fearless as she was back then, maybe.
Even the other night, despite the fact that she did run off a few times, her mannerisms showed enormous courage and trust. Each time she walked up to me, she didn't do so with slow, hesitant, start-stop type steps but strolled right up to me. She didn't stop 5ft or so away as most would have done but walked right up to my feet as one might expect from a pet dog. Having not seen me in a while, she vacillated between moments of caution (running away) and fearlessness (walking right up to my feet and putting her head down to eat with me standing over her).
I knew you were being facetious, and it was a very cute joke, but for a few seconds there it struck a cord with me. It would definitely solve the problem of interference from the others. If she got sufficiently tame, I might consider it, IF I had a 'normal' house with 'normal' walls. If the kitchen were closed off from the rest of the house by a door (or even two or three doors) that I could close, I might actually consider it - if she got sufficiently tame over time. Unfortunately, my house has one of those open floor plans with numerous missing walls, such that most of the rooms downstairs cannot be closed off from the rest of the house.
The wall between the kitchen and great room is missing as is the walls between the great room, dining room, main hall, foyer, living room, and the hall leading to the MBR, so all of those spaces are permanently open to each other like one huge room. I love it for all of the open space and how the sunlight permeates the entire downstairs; however, it has it's disadvantages like whenever I want to confine Widget to a particular room or area. I basically can't do it w/o putting him in a pen of some kind. The only rooms I can close off are baths, bedrooms, and the mud room (now the cat room). The fact that once a raccoon gets into the kitchen it would be free to escape into the great room and then run rampant throughout the entire 2k sqft of downstairs put a stop to my brief fantasy about letting Desi eat in the kitchen.
I need to tell you something, and it's a little OT. It's about wildlife, just not about the raccoons, although it could possibly effect them, so here goes.
Some years back I went out one morning to work in my garden and was surprised to find that the neighbor's backyard had been essentially plowed under. It looked as though he had taken a rototiller to the backyard, turning his entire back lawn under in the process. I wondered what on earth could be his reason for doing that. It was an awfully large area for a city dweller's backyard vegetable garden. A few minutes later he came out, saw me staring at it, and told me the wild boar (hogs) that live in the forest back there had come out during the night and rooted around in the lawn in search of edible grubs, roots, whatever.
I was mortified to think that we had wild hogs living back there. For those who don't know, wild hogs are incredibly dangerous. They will kill a grown man or a large dog with ease. About the only hope for getting away from them is to run fast and climb a tree close by before they reach you. Very scary creatures. Incredibly ironic that I never had any contact with them in all the years I lived in a rural area while growing up, and now they live behind my house (in the city) and come out periodically at night to destroy lawns. The neighbor told me that others in the neighborhood had seen the hogs come out in the late night hours.
After the hogs destroyed the neighbors backyard, he came home one day with some wire which he used to block off his backyard, stretching wire from my fence to the fence on the other side of him. He put the wire in the edge of the forest where it would not be visible unless someone actually ventured back there in the forest to see it. After that, there wasn't another hog sighting or sighting hog related damage over the years after he put up wire to block them from entering his backyard from the forest. It has probably been 8yrs or more. I had almost forgotten about the hogs entirely, until...
Today I was outside doing some yard work, and when I walked over to my side yard on the opposite side (not adjacent to the neighbor mentioned above but opposite side) I was horrified to see that much of it had been churned up and turned over leaving large holes with dirt exposed. The hogs. OMG, the hogs had returned, and not being able to get through on the other side, they had come through on this neighbor's side and for whatever reason had run along that side of my house, 'rototilling' the lawn in that 'heckstrip', a term for those narrow and relatively useless strips of lawn on either side of houses like mine. (I cleaned the term up a bit, since DG is a family-friendly place.)
The damage to my lawn shows that the hogs came all the way to the front corner of my house. That is really scary, because I've been out in the front yard before in the wee hours, usually walking Widget or taking out the trash/recycling. Even scarier is the fact that occasionally when I take Widget out at night he goes over in the dark area over on that side of the house if he needs to, well, you know. I don't like for him to go over there, but when I take him out at 2 or 3AM I usually don't use a leash and thus can't readily control him, and I'm not willing to go walking around over there in the dark to get him for fear of snakes and such. He only does that on rare occasion. He usually does his business in the backyard when I let him out there in the mornings.
Sill, the thought of him going over there and finding a herd of wild boars is terrifying. Widget isn't very smart about such things. He would run right up to a wild boar barking. He would pick a fight, and a wild boar would swallow him in one gulp. I guess I'll have to remember to use a leash with him no matter how late it is and also be careful myself. If they have come to the very edge of the front yard, what's to stop them from coming into the front yard to chase me? Scarey. I will have to remember to be careful out there in the dark. As for the raccoons, I guess their very acute senses and ability to climb with such ease should protect them.
Last night I fell asleep early, around dusk, and didn't wake up until around 2AM. Having completely missed the interval for feeding raccoons, I put some food out just in case. It was gone by morning, but I have no idea who actually ate it.
Not wanting to risk a repeat of last night, I decided to put some dry cat food out a little while ago along with a single Oreo. In doing so I might not actually get to see the visitor(s), but they might get fed. I just went to check the patio, hoping to find Desi there. Instead I found Puddle. I couldn't help but notice that while the pile of cat food was still there (and she was working on it), that Oreo was long gone. She had apparently eaten the Oreo 1st, so I'm guessing I've found one of her favorites - sugar.
I opened the patio door and looked out at her, spoke to her even. This time she did not leave. After looking back at me for a minute or so, she resumed eating. After a few minutes I closed the door and left.
It was around midnight when I saw Desi out there the other night. I will try to remember to put some more food out around 11PM or so in hopes of feeding her.
I put more food out at 11PM. At 11:30 when I checked, there was a raccoon out there eating it. Unfortunately, it was a different raccoon. This one was more greyish, whereas the 1st was reddish brown. Also, this one split as soon as I turned the light on and did not return when I stood on the patio calling. I refilled the food that raccoon had eaten and added 2 Oreos in hopes that Desi might come along soon.
News seems to get around the forest as fast as gossip spreads in human society. I'm thinking when a raccoon comes home with cat food on her breath, the others hold her down, shine a bright light in her eyes, and drip water on her head while questioning her for hours on end until she finally spills the information about where she got it. That's my current take on how information spreads so fast in the forest.
Just checked again. Both Oreos are now gone along with about 2/3 of the cat food. I'm guessing that was the work of the same raccoon who I saw out there, since she was too full to finish all of the cat food I added (on top of what she had already eaten). Those Oreos sure do seem to be hot tonight. They all seem to be eating the Oreos 1st, choosing them over the cat food.
OMG, the wild boars sound terrifying! I once had a close encounter with boars (well, they were about 30 ft, away, but that was close enough for me) & my friend & I ran (uphill) as the baby boars & mother approached us. We'd been sitting quietly, listening to the "deer" munch their way up the hill, until they came into sight & I can't remember ever being so frightened!
Sounds like things are ramping up at your little wildlife preserve & you've got some pregnant moms-to-be enjoying your bounty! :-)
Wow, your story sound terrifying! Thus far I've only had property damage. Never actually come into contact with them. I can't imagine having to run uphill to get away from them. I'm so glad neither of you was harmed. I saw a program once about the boar problem in Florida where their numbers are especially high. A woman encountered a boar on her property. She ran, but the boar got close enough to rip into her calf muscle with its tusks. Still, despite the damage to her leg, she was lucky to get away without further harm. Those things are vicious, and as I'm sure you know, you don't have to be messing with them in any way to be attacked. I'll just have to keep in mind that they could be in my yard at night and keep aware of my surroundings.
Basically, no. The boars aren't coming through on my property. Remember I have a 6-7ft privacy fence around my entire backyard. That's the same fence that you have seen many times in the raccoon pictures back when I used to sit near the forest/fence. That fence runs along the forest edge, and keeps non-climbing animals from entering my property from the forest. It was that same fence to which my neighbor on the one side attached the wire fencing at the back of his property to keep the boars out on that side. The problem (for me) is that the boars can still come out of the forest via the property of my neighbor on the other side.
My fence keeps them from coming out of the forest on my property. The wire my neighbor on the one side attached to my fence and stretched across the back of his property (hidden in the forest edge) keeps them from coming through on his property, but the property of my neighbor on the other side is unprotected. The boars can just walk right out of the forest into her backyard and gain access to my side property via hers.
Unfortunately, I don't have any contact with her. She is rarely ever home. When I 1st moved here she was married, and her husband did a good job of upkeep on the property. He left maybe 7 or 8yrs ago. Since then the property has not been well kept. By herself, she probably doesn't have the time or the money to deal with property issues. He probably would have been more likely to do something about the situation, but now that he is gone...
I was thinking I might talk to the HOA about the situation, since I never see that neighbor. I don't know if the HOA can help, but maybe they could discuss it with her. She may not even realize the boars are coming through her yard putting her family and visitors at extreme risk. But, basically, I can't get anyone to erect wire back there because it's not my property where they are gaining access.
I can't begin to express how happy I was to see the raccoon looking in at me through the patio door. With Heidi gone, I had sort of accepted that I might never see that again, as the others didn't sit by the door as Heidi did. When I saw that face looking in at me again like old times, I just wanted to run out there and hug her. :-)
Yes, that is exactly the same kind of situation. I can see that you really do understand those seconds or minutes of confusion like I experienced when I 1st saw the raccoon at the door. I wasn't thinking about raccoons or even really paying attention at the time. I was daydreaming when the raccoon face in the [glass] door caught my eye. Also, it was around 12:30AM at the time, and I had just awoken and gone to the kitchen for a [midnight] drink/snack, so my brain was still a bit foggy. It took my brain a minute or so to jump into gear and make sense of it all.
Still, good to hear even a Puddles sighting. Stay safe. I don't know a thing about boar behavior. Maybe you should read up to see if they are nomadic or will hang around. I thought possums were supposed to be nomads, but have always been surprised to have them stay for long long periods at a time.
Hugs all 'round. Have a busy week so I'd better git.
Haven't seen any of them since I last posted, neither raccoons nor opossums nor boars. The food I put gets eaten, but despite numerous attempts, I've not been able to hook up with the actual diners. At present it looks like the raccoons are coming around later, like midnight or after. This allows a nice window for Puddle to eat early in the evening and even makes it possible for me to feed them both if I'm willing to put food out twice each night.
Amanda: I believe even nomadic humans pitch a tent and stay in one area until they have (temporarily) exhausted the resources there before packing up and moving on. I don't think nomadic means they must keep moving constantly, just that they don't put down roots, erect permanent dwellings, try to own the land, or stay indefinitely on one piece of land,. They use what the land provides rather than trying to control the land through agriculture. Hmm, I hadn't thought about this before, but now that I've hammered out a simple definition it occurs to me that we humans may actually be returning to our nomadic roots. These days working class people are all but forced to move periodically to stay employed and few farm in an effort to produce most of what they eat/use. If/when there is no longer suitable work available in an area, most people pack up and move to where the work is - hmm, sounds oddly nomadic. Although on paper we still 'own' our homes, if one moves repeatedly to stay employed, essentially trading one home for another and another, how really does that differ from the life of the nomadic wanderer - other than on paper, that is.
As for the wild boars, I've seen a number of programs on the subject on NatGeo, Animal Planet, Science, etc, enough to know that wild boars are, as Debbie points out, exceedingly dangerous. Growing up here, I had heard from hunters what I assumed were 'tall tales' of wild hog ferocity, but after seeing several programs on the subject, I now realize those stories were closer to the truth than I dared imagine. Wild boars have been known to chase humans down and are quite capable of killing even an adult male or a large dog. In their native area they are stalked and killed by tigers; however, even tigers tend to avoid adult males, and wild boars have been known to kill tigers! That last part really puts things into perspective for me.
From programs on educational TV, I've learned that hogs are not native to N. America but were brought here by the early settlers who set some of them free with the intention of producing a wild population for later hunting. Unfortunately, the climate in the southern US has allowed wild hogs to grow to a size, weight, and ferocity not seen in their native Europe, thus becoming quite dangerous, and has allowed them to reproduce in large numbers and prosper to the point of being invasive and problematic. Like most non-native species, they have no natural enemies or predators in this area (N America) to hold their numbers in check. Prior efforts on the part of both government and locals have failed to irradiate them. Aside from being quite dangerous, wild hogs also do considerable damage to the land, often to the detriment of native plants and animals. Wild hog populations now exist in most southern states, and are particularly out of control in Florida (warm climates seem to benefit them). They continue to spread to new territory.
Lastly, just from their history in this area, I know they will be back. I just don't know when. They came through in 2002/2003 when they destroyed my neighbor's backyard. At that time, my neighbor was familiar with the wild boars from stories he had heard from previous residents/neighbors. From this we know that the wild boars had been seen in the area before the 2002/2003 event. After my neighbor fenced his yard off from forest access, we didn't see the boars or their damage again (on our block, that is) until recently when they dug up my side lawn. The wild boars live in the forest behind our houses, the same forest where Heidi and the other raccoons live(d). They appear to remain deep in the forest most of the time, coming out only when food becomes scarce in their area or when pushed out by new development.
(Just last week I could hear chain saws back there in the forest felling trees. I have no idea what they are clearing or building back there, but it's interesting that the boars came out of the forest to eat during that same week.) The boars don't appear to come into our yards often, but their dangerous nature and the fact that we can't predict when they will show up again makes them quite scary, not to mention the serous damage they do to yards. I need to take a picture of the damage they did to my yard. It's not something one can adequately describe except to say that they leave the lawn looking as though it has been turned under with a rototiller (or plow). Wikipedia says in the US alone, wild boars do some $400M property damage annually.
Earlier today, btw, I was thinking of maybe approaching the neighbor on the side that is not currently protected (fence off from the forest) to see if she would be willing to have the area behind her house fenced off from the forest (fence hidden in forest edge) if I pay for it and take care of hiring someone to do the work. It would be worth it to me just to know that Widget and I (and anyone else who visits) are safe from attack, not to mention the cost of virtually unlimited repairs to fix lawn damage. On that one side of my house, they have now left several large mud puddles (2 or more ft in diameter) where there was previously solid and healthy grass. That area is normally quite arid and being on the southwest side of the house, bakes in the afternoon sun. (Muddy now due to endless rains but normally very dry). Thus it will be quite the challenge to try to get grass to grow back over the newly cleared areas (cleared by boars).
Hi, I'm new to DG, I have spent the last few weeks reading your great story. It is nice to hear about kindness and understanding these days.
You have helped me with my critter problem. I have a chipmunk that I find very cute and very destructive. I have been feeding him/her as a bribe to leave my plants alone. I use to put Critter Ridder out to try to repel him/her.(did not work) I have many other critters that do not eat as much as that little chipmunk.(rabbits, opossums,skunk,raccoon,deer and a ground hog) I live out in the country. Love the wildlife out here. Anyway the chipmunk now takes bird seed to my raised bed and sits on the edge to eat it. My raised bed is straight out my back door almost. It's like he/she wants me to see him enjoy his treat. I enjoy my chipmunk more these days. Now if you only had a cure for the digging. The digging is not as much of a problem. I can fill in his holes. I will try to get a picture of the chipmunk eating it's meal.
I live in Zone 6 in Ohio and my raccoon's are not a bother at all. They are bigger than yours, however they are still very cute and funny. They never bother us. They do like to play on the slide to my son's gym set in the back yard. They climb the rock wall and slide down to run back around and start over. It is fun to watch. Will try to get a picture not sure I can they would run away if I went out there.
I'm sorry I have went on about my chipmunk. I just wanted to let you know that you have helped us to live together better. You have a blessed day and Thank You for your help and story.
Welcome to The Heidi/Raccoon/Opossum Threads! (Or whatever we ultimately decide to call the Next Generation threads)
It's very nice to hear from you, and I enjoyed hearing about your many wildlife guests. The image of the chipmunk eating his meals outside your back door is adorable as is that of the raccoons playing on your son's slide. Please do post pics or video links if you get any. I do, of course, understand the difficulties of trying to get photos w/o scarring the critters away. It's the very same reason why I haven't posted pics yet of any of my 2013 visitors, as I'm waiting for them to feel more comfortable around me before breaking out the flashing lights.
I'm happy to hear that you have managed to work out a truce with the chipmunk and your other visitors. If you read the beginning of the Heidi threads you know that my relationship with the raccoons started in much the same way, with me 1st trying to keep them out of my yard and then eventually learning that their presence in my yard was truly a gift rather than a problem after all. Once I opened my heart to them, I went on to enjoy their company and their antics for many years and still do to this day.
As for your raccoons being different, yes, I've read that their are as many as 5 different varieties of raccoons adapted to different parts of the country. From what I read those in the northern US tend to be some 10-15 lbs heavier than ours and have longer, thicker fur. From photos I've seen, I think your raccoons with their dense fur coats are more beautiful than our own. I'm guessing you probably have a fair amount of snow in winter where you live. As a result, raccoons in your area should go through periods of semi-hibernation when snow is heavy on the ground blocking access to food and sometimes even making it difficult to leave their dens. During such times their metabolic processes will slow to a crawl so that they need little or no food for days and even weeks thus allowing them to survive winter storms. Thus it is that during such times in winter when you might think they need your help the most, they may seem to disappear for a while, returning once more when the weather improves. (The truth is that all of our raccoons need our help the most when they are nursing the next generation in spring and early summer. It's during this time that their metabolisms are in overdrive as are their appetites.)
Oh, and no problem about discussing animals other than raccoons. As Debbie points out, we all do that sometimes. I do it a LOT. Recently, in the absence of raccoon visitors, I've discussed goldfinches, opossums, dogs, cats, and now wild boars. I figure, while we may all have our favorites, for the most part those who love animals tend to have a soft spot for all of them to one degree or another.
I don't know what happened to my raccoon guests. After that one wonderful visit from Desi and after seeing a 2nd raccoon outside the next night, I've not seen raccoons nor opossums for a while now. I do continue to put out food each evening, sometimes adding a 2nd meal later in the night in hopes of reaching both Puddle who comes early and the raccoons who both came later. The food is always eaten. In fact the early meal is usually gone w/in an hour or so. I just haven't managed to catch up with the diners lately.
Even now as we are only a few very short weeks from May those bright yellow goldfinches remain in my yard daily noshing on nyjer. My guess is these are young renegades bucking the system. With such a nice climate (now, that is) and unlimited food, they may be wondering why their elders bid them leave here to fly to their northern home to give birth to their young. They may think they know better, think why not stay here. In another month, maybe two, I'm guessing they will find out that the climate here will soon become inhospitable and their elders knew better, after all. But for now this group of several dozen goldfinches remain happily eating nyjer at my backyard feeder.
Thankfully, I've not seen the boars again. I'm hoping they won't be back for another decade or so. Below I've attached some pics to show the damage they did to my side yard in that one visit. The 1st pic shows an untouched section of the same side yard for comparison. It's early in the season, and so far I don't have a dedicated gardener this year, so I haven't fertilized the law yet. But while the 'before' shot may look a bit anemic, it's in decent shape for a lawn that is just starting to wake up in early spring. The other shots include both long shots to show the overall damage and closeups to let you see just how bad the damage really is.
Edited to add: Remember these pics were taken weeks later, after heavy rain has had time to settle the soil. In the days immediately following the boar visit the area looked as though it had quite literally been plowed under.
Your words have me wondering how/if I might make 'friends' with the boars. I doubt that's really feasible considering this is an animal that really is capable of harming us - and doing serious lawn damage in very little time. But your words did help to remind me of my own prior statements challenging the way we view the 'bad' things in life and especially the unwanted wildlife visitors. Still, I doubt I will ever be able to appreciate Mr Copperhead or Mr & Mrs Boar and their family, even though I suspect those piglets are probably very cute. There are limits.
Hello, My raccoon's are bigger they they are more rounded than yours and their hair is fuller. We do get snow in winter. I do not have many critters that I see in winter. Only my birds and 3 squirrels. Mine are very shy and do not cause me any problems. They do not bother my bird feeders. I hope that does not jinx my feeders. I have Goldfinch year round and love them. I bake my nyjer seed in the oven at 170 for 10 minutes. It kills the seeds ability to germinate. That works on all bird seed btw.
I'm not sure you can make friends with boars. They did years ago. I saw on Animal Planet that if farm raised pig is let go in the wild with in weeks will grow teeth and hair like a boar. I wonder how they did it long ago. I do pray that they do no harm to you or your yard friends. They sure make a mess. I feel silly being upset with my chipmunk after seeing that. My chipmunk just likes to dig by my plants and taste them. I have never had to fear him/her. I would just have to keep fixing my yard I think. I could never kill God's creature's. I have even made peace with my skunk friend. She stinks, however she eats bugs and that makes me enjoy her. She has had several sets of babies.( not sure what you call a skunk baby) They smell from baby on. A baby skunk is very cute. It's a shame they smell so bad.
I have a Robin nest in my plum tree out front. I went and bought them some dried meal worms to feed their nest full. They work so very hard. I do hope the Hawk or Crow does not find the nest. Last year I had one out there and a crow came and took one of the babies right before my eyes. It was hard to watch my little friends so upset. I do not blame the crow that is what he eats. It's just hard to see anything lose it's life before it really had a chance to start. The parents tried to scare the crow away, with no luck. He came in took the baby and was out of here with 2 robin's on his tail they chased him for a bit.
I hope your Raccoon friends come back. They are fun to read about.
Have a great day.
Whew! Another super busy day. Came home and 'passed out'. Awoke around 10PM. Went to the front door to check for cats. Only 1 waiting there. Went to the kitchen for a drink. After a few minutes in there, decided I should also check the back door for the other cat. Arrived at the patio door to find that same smallish raccoon standing upright and looking in at me, the one with the strange face markings, the one I think may be Desi. This was the 1st time I had seen her since that night when she 1st came back - so, basically the 2nd sighting overall.
I was thrilled to see her, although I was still a bit groggy from my long nap. Cocoa was at my feet. Just as I went to pick him up to take him to another room, he caught sight of the raccoon just beyond the glass door (ie, inches from us) and started hissing big time. By the time I returned from putting Cocoa away (only minutes later), the raccoon had disappeared, probably scared off by the hissing cat.
I grabbed the cat food bag and headed out onto the patio. "Here, Sweetie," I called out into the night. Immediately, the raccoon reappeared and came toward me - and I do mean right smack up to my toes. Unfortunately, Kitty (my other cat who was still outside) showed up at the same time, and I found myself in a precarious position. Both cat and raccoon were trying to get close to me, but were scared of each other and behaving a bit warlike. I decided the best thing to do was get Kitty inside, as that was what she wanted, and that would solve the problem between them.
As I reached behind me and opened the door, I called to Kitty to go inside. I turned back around to find the raccoon practically on my feet. I stepped towards the raccoon in an effort to move her back a little ways from the door so Kitty could go inside safely. The raccoon moved away from my advance but only very briefly before coming right back up to my toes again. I had to keep an eye on her. She was super friendly, but her tendency to come so very close made me a little uncomfortable. It was like if I let her out of my sight for a few seconds too many, I would find her using my pants leg for a wind sail again.
I did manage to get the cat inside and put food down for the raccoon. She came right up close to me to eat. On this visit she seemed visibly less fearful than the last time. After talking to her for a few minutes, I stepped back inside for a vanilla sandwich cookie which she totally enjoyed. Then I went back for a 2nd cookie, the last one left over from last spring. I had kept it sealed and in the fridge, so it was still like new. I know because I took a bite of that one before giving it to her. When the cookies were all gone, I headed back inside for the night, secure now in the knowledge that she would be back again sooner or later.
The 1st night it was around 12:30AM when I saw her at the door. For many nights following that I ran to check the door from 11:30 - 12:30, but she was never there. Last night it was 10:30PM when I saw her, so she doesn't seem to be keeping consistent hours yet. It's important for me to know when she will be here, or vice versa. This left me with a quandary for tonight. What time should I look for her?
A few minutes ago I was up letting Cocoa out, so even though it was still quite early (9PM), I swung by the patio door and turned on the light just to check. Much to my total surprise, there she was standing amidst the dandelions (lots of them in the back lawn this year) just maybe 2 feet from the patio edge. She had positioned herself directly in front of the patio door so that I could easily see her from the patio door and so that she could easily tell when I was in the kitchen.
I opened the door wide and called out to her and she came quickly onto the patio. She was about 1/2 way across the small patio when I decided to pop back inside to grab the bag of cat food. Not wanting her to leave, thinking I had gone away for the night, I left the patio door slightly ajar, just maybe 5-6in. I was, after all, just going a few steps across the kitchen (breakfast area) to grab the bag from the baker's rack. When I turned around to head back to the door, I was a bit surprised to see her little head sticking through the door! I chuckled to myself thinking how I probably should have anticipated that.
As I approached, she backed away, making room for me to go out onto the patio with her, but she didn't leave (or run away briefly) as she had done some times in the past. She stayed there with me on the patio as I reached into the bag and dished out several handfuls of kibble, all the while my body casting a giant and ominous shadow over her. Tonight, having no more cookies on hand, I gave her one of those single serving packets of the caramel dipping sauce (for apples and other fruit), putting it down beside her food, top removed. Right now she moves maybe 2ft away whenever I reach my hand toward her food that way. That's very good, actually, as it took a number of years to get Heidi that comfortable around me. This one is making fast progress. She is really quite trusting with only a little lingering doubt.
So far the past few days no other raccoons have been showing up to challenge her for the food, although I strongly suspect they will be here all too soon.
I know you were kidding about her wanting to get into the kitchen, but I had to laugh last night when she looked as if she might be about to come on in through that gap in the door. When I made that hasty decision to leave the door slightly ajar, I clearly didn't consider her prior tendency to come inside. LOL.
She does seem like Desi in so many ways. Thanks for the reminder about the eggs. I just went to the market Monday and got 2dz eggs and watermelon. I even had a section of watermelon rind (w a couple inches fruit) ready to go out yesterday but forgot to give it to her last night. Will try to remember to do so tonight. I had already forgotten about the eggs. In the last couple years I had mostly only been giving eggs to Heidi, trying to keep cost down, but raw eggs are a big hit with most of the raccoons. Any time Heidi failed to eat hers, the others were always quick to grab it. I'm sure I can spare a egg or two for Desi. She will probably be thrilled.
I meant to pick up some grapes (on sale), since they are also a big hit with the raccoons. Didn't think about cookies on my grocery trip but now realize I need to stock up on some of those $1 pkgs of vanilla s/w cookies and maybe some animal crackers. A WalMart run might be in order.
She should have a small litter, no more than 2 and more likely only 1. If she shows up with more than 2, I may have to rethink her ID, since yearling moms usually have very small litters. She doesn't look visibly pregnant, nor did she when I saw her some weeks back. By now, there is a good chance she may already have given birth, although she probably was still carrying young when last she was here.
I have several pairs of very comfy crocs, the original, clunky types, that I wear virtually all the time when home. In fact, I was wearing the crocks when little Desi stood on my shoes to windsurf last year. I don't have any bell bottoms, but since I lost that weight recently my pants legs are pretty floppy (and I still wear those 2sz too big pants around the house).
I totally understand. A couple years ago I found a show that I really liked. It was maybe 5 or 6yrs old but new to me. As a result, reruns were showing on several channels. I recorded them and enjoyed viewing them at will. For a while there I always had really good viewing on hand. It was a real bummer when I finally caught up on all those old shows. Now I have to wait for and make do with the one weekly episode, so I completely understand. The good news is that Desi appeared to hear you, as she came back right when you asked.
I wasn't too worried when Desi didn't show up these last few weeks. I had a feeling she would be back once she started nursing, if not before. When nursing they are unbelievably hungry and almost as tired. I was pretty sure that intense hunger would bring her back here in search of food. :-)
I definitely would be she has had babies already if she was pregnant. We have had many sitings (sadly) of very small raccoons on the side of the
road that didn't make it across safely. SO, if they have had them already up here in the Northern areas (still rather cold) I would say yes in yours also.
Wondering if you should add marshmellows to your list also! lol AND...that camera.
Actually, raccoons in colder areas such as your give birth earlier. My guess is they do so because of your much shorter summer or growing season. They need to get those babies grown (or old enough to take care of themselves) before the cold weather begins. People in northern areas always report seeing kits out and about with their moms before our raccoons have even given birth yet.
Desi may have given birth already (judging from when the raccoon babies usually show up here) or not. Either way, the kits here are not old enough to leave the nest. Kits usually show up here in May/June.
Tonight a 2nd raccoon showed up along with Desi. I tried to get pics, but I overplayed my hand. They weren't ready yet. I ended up scaring them off. Oh, and the other raccoon looked very "with raccoon" which corresponds with my contention that our raccoons give birth later than those in your area - I thought it would be the opposite, too, in the beginning, I guess because it gets warm earlier here, but the winter cold ahead seems to be the greater concern for them.
Waddling? Not really, but she did seem thick around the middle. Not a beach ball like Heidi in the month before delivering a litter of quads but clearly too thick for a normal raccoon. As to her being 'the side kick', I should have expounded more on the dynamics between them. The 2nd raccoon appears to be the new leader. I say this because of the totality of her behavior, including the fact that from the moment I 1st laid eyes on her this new raccoon was snorting and grumbling and vocalizing orders just like Heidi used to do.
I did manage to get a quick pic of the new one (below). I didn't bother to download it last night, because I was disappointing at not getting the pic I really wanted, the one of Desi. I got over confident. I took my folding stool out and tried to set it up on the patio with them. The spot where I put it was closest to Desi. She stayed until I started unfolding the stool at which point she fled and did not return. I grabbed the quick pic of the other raccoon after which she also left. Like I said, I overplayed my hand on this. Moved too far too soon. Bummer. But they will be back.
(Note: the new raccoon's stance looks odd in the pic. She was leaning back on her haunches while reaching forward with her hands to rake in kibble from the pile in front of her (out of range of the photo). It doesn't play that way in the photo where she looks oddly stilted, but that is what was actually going on.
It was a great Birthday gift to read about Desi's return. That face had to be so cute peeking in the door. Glad she did not come in to sail out on you pant leg. Even if that would be cute. Hope she comes back tonight!
I think my skunk is sick or something. She has been going in circles, does not seem to use her back legs. I have been worried about yer since yesterday when she started this weird actions. Does anyone have a thought about her problem? She does stink, but she hurts nobody(well maybe their nose). Any ideas might help. Thanks for being good people with good hearts for animals.
I hate to say this, but I think you should keep your distance from the skunk for a while. I know this isn't what you want to hear, but the symptoms you describe sound like possible rabies. I don't know for sure if skunks get rabies, but I think they do. As you probably know, rabies is deadly. If you are bitten or scratched, you will need to get shots just in case. Once one (animal or human) develops symptoms, there is no cure; rabies is a death sentence.
Rabies can be contracted from a bite, a scratch, or even if saliva or blood of an infected animal comes in contact with a sore or other break in the skin. Scientists suspect but aren't sure if it may also be contracted by breathing the air very close to the nose/mouth of an infected animal (i.e., having your face very close to theirs).
I think you know by now that I love all animals and always do what I can to help them, but there are times when you need to take care of yourself and times when you cannot help the animal. Even if she doesn't have rabies, there is likely nothing you can do to help her other than provide food and water and hope she will be strong enough to overcome whatever ails her. You have no way of determining what is wrong with her, and giving the wrong medicine could very well do more harm than good. But, again, her symptoms sound very much in line with those of rabies, and if she has rabies not only can you not help her, but you should avoid even offering food and water as her presence puts you and your other animals at serious risk.
A few questions though to help determine if it rabies vs something else. When you say that she is going in circles but not using her back legs, do you mean that she is dragging her back end on the ground as she tries to walk? She would not otherwise be able to walk w/o using either of her back legs. Does it appear that she is walking in circles out of confusion, like she's drunk? Or is she walking in circles because her back legs don't work? If she appears confused or is staggering like a drunken person, that could very well be indicative of rabies.
If she has visible injuries, like from a car accident or fight with another animal, that could explain not being able to use her back legs. She could have a spinal injury or broken legs. One of my raccoon visitors was badly injured in an apparent fight with a dog or other animal, and as a result was unable to use her hind legs for a while; she dragged her hind end on the ground for a couple weeks, then walked with her hind legs over her head for another week or so before finally getting the use of her legs once more. I believe her legs may have been broken in the fight. But then she had several, very visible, open wounds. However, if the skunk has no sign of injuries but is unable to use her back legs, that may indicate paralysis which is also a symptom of rabies.
Will she eat anything? Does she drink water? If she has a good appetite, if she eats and drinks water in a normal manner, these would be good signs. How does she look? If she appears horribly ill, sicker than any animal you have seen before, that is yet another bad sign, possible rabies alert. You should proceed with extreme caution when dealing with a wild animal that is sick, especially one that staggers about and/or appears confused.
I just checked. Unfortunately, skunks not only get rabies but are listed 2nd only to raccoons in the number of cases in the US. Please be very careful in dealing with a sick skunk. I know you want to help her, but you must also think of your own health as well as that of your other animals. Rabies is a terrible disease for which there is no cure.
Thank you caring enough to try to help me out! I'm sorry to have to tell everybody my skunk passed on. I found her in my front yard this morning. I still do not know what killed her, may never know. I used many strong garbage bags to collect her and buried her at the far back end of my yard. Then I put big rocks over her so that nothing digs her up. That had to be the stinkiest and heartbreaking thing I have done in a long time. She had no wounds that I could see, however I did not touch her except with the bags. May she rest in Peace.
Thanks again for all your helpful info. The world needs more people like you! You have a Blessed Day!
I hope Desi comes back soon!
I am very, very sorry for your loss. I know how much you enjoyed the skunk's visits. Just know that by offering her a place to come where she would be welcome and fed, you helped to make her life much better. That she chose to come to your yard when she was so seriously ill, speaks volumes.
Cheryl, Thanks for your kind words. I did enjoy her she was very pretty. I was not so fond of her odor. If my two Peeks scared her, my deck and dogs had to be cleaned with homemade mix to get rid of smell. My dogs are current on all vaccines. I'm still going to take them to vet just to be safe.
Thank you again for your kindness!
Amanda, I was happy I was able to help her rest in peace. I have named her Stinky, felt she needed a name for her grave stone.
Thank You for the kindness you give to animals! It shows the goodness in your heart.
I have lurked on your native, wildflower forum before. I would not call them weeds. To me a weed is something you do not want in your garden. If you planted it then they are not weeds. Enjoyed your white aster pics.
Lizzipa, Thank You for your kindness! I'm painting her a rock headstone. My DH thinks I am crazy.
Hope to hear some happy tales about cute critters in someones yard. You all have a Blessed Day!
I think Stinky is a cute name for her. As for burying her, painting the stone, etc, do what feels right to you and what helps you to feel better. I understand. I would have loved to have done the same for Heidi. Those who don't share our love of animals often fail to understand. More than a few people thought my interaction with the raccoons crazy, too. You are a good person. It shows.
Edited to add: By chance do you have any photos of her that you could post here?
Not changing the subject. Just wanted to post my pics. Feel free to continue to discuss Stinky or whatever feels right.
Last night I managed to get photos of both Desi and the new Leader.
The 1st is Desi (or the 1st raccoon, whoever she is). I took several pics but was never able to get her to look up from the food. Seems she is now over her fear of the camera and its flash. The 2nd one is the leader. I think she looks a bit like Heidi is some of these pics. Perhaps she is one of Heidi's older daughters.
I do see Heidi in the second one a bit. Her shadowing is very similar! Desi looks delicate.
Taylor, I am sorry for your loss of Stinky. I would be doing the same thing. Actually have a little memorial
for a squirrel that got hit out front. She had a spinal injury, and after assessing her (and her grabbing my finger) and
waiting to see what "rehab" would say, she passed.
My "rose of Sharon" in the back the kids named "memory tree" as it has so many pets, and other kritters that have passed
over the last 20 years buried underneath. Everything from hermit crabs on up.
Cheryl, Sorry I do not have any photos of stinky. I never think to take my camera out with me.
I know what you mean about people thinking we are crazy. I don't think we are crazy at all. I think the people that want to hurt animals and people are the ones who are crazy. I also think a lot of people miss out on the beautiful creatures God gave us to enjoy. That is one reason I enjoy this forum, it is full of good people with good hearts!
I love that you posted new pics of Desi and the new leader. They sure are cute. Thank You!
I will work on getting pics of some of my critters. Then I will have to learn how to get them on here. I'll get my DH to help me out.
You have a Blessed Day!
Debbie, You sound like me. We have even buried dead goldfish. That is a good idea to plant a memory tree to honor the life that once was. Thank You! I think I will plant some kind of native berry bush. That way it will also help nature. Thank You so much for the great idea!
I have to get to my house cleaning! You have a Blessed Day!
Oh my gooness, Cheryl...how do you tell them all apart? Do you have any Idea who the older adult is? Does the fact that she came & is claiming Alpha mean that she is the "new Heidi"? Well, I guess you have yet to just wait and see too...duh.
I just know that nobody better pick on little Desi. There's a whole lot of us and we is bigger critters who will stick up for Desi.
Sheri, I agree, I would hate to hear of sweet Desi being bullied. I'm going to pray they can share the yard in peace.
Be proud of being a critter lady. I don't think of critter people as crazy, I feel us critter people are special, the others are crazy. We notice the beauty in the world. Many do not , they are the crazy ones.
Hahaha. Burying fish just reminded me of my large fancy goldfish. Oh the stories, but when the first one went, my heart was crushed. A giant Oranda, I wanted to bury him in a special box. So the only one I had at the time he would fit in was a gorgeous jewelry box given to me as maid of honor in a friend's wedding. Oops!
One I buried in the tiny Lane cedar chest I received when I graduated high school. Another went in another jewelery box, an the last one went in a super cool wooden box made specially to house a Jose cuervo Gold special edition. I found that one when I moved into my condo. It was a piece of art, and my bf protested, but Morty needed that box!!!
Oh yeah, we're a bunch of freaks if you don't mind me saying so, but I love every one of you! :)
Taylordaylily -I am enjoying the natives thread too. Jump in any time. I feel like maybe I finally found another thread where I feel comfortable talking about another one of my eccentricities. Natives plants go together with wildlife, especially when you grow stuff hoping things will come to eat them for you!
Cheryl, I am so pleased to see your images today. You're making fast progress with these two. We can only assume they are Heidi 's kids since they are so comfortable with you. Has to be why Heidi brought them up in your lap when you noticed she was ill. So they would feel safe with you when she was gone.
We can also help you, if you have questions/problems when trying to post pics. Also, there is a Test Forum just for trying things, playing around with new things, etc. You may not need the Test Forum. I just thought I would mention it. You are always welcome to try posting pics directly here w/o 'testing'.
I do think the other raccoon is acting like the leader. It remains to be seen if others also see her as the leader, but based on her behavior so far, my guess is that she is probably the new Heidi, as you put it. From the moment I 1st saw her standing some 10-15ft from the patio that 1st night, she was grunting and snorting and belting out orders. Reminded me very much of Heidi. Remember how Heidi used to 'talk', and how for the most part the others did not? Well, it's the same with this new 'leader'. She grumbles and snorts and gives orders just like Heidi used to do - and Desi does listen to her and show respect.
You know, I think I'll call her Captain.
That 1st night when they were here together, Desi came toward me on the patio when I called her. Captain did not seem to approve of that. I'm guessing she wanted to make sure we both knew that SHE was the boss, not Desi. I put some food down for Captain in the spot where Heidi used to eat and some for Desit a few feet away. Desi started to eat hers. At that point, Captain was still some distance away. This did not set well with Captain. She ran Desi down and took a pretend bite out of her backside.
After a minute or so Desi returned to eat beside Captain and all was peaceful again. Desi had no blood or scars, no sign of an actual bite. It was clear the apparent fight had been all show. The raccoons do that sort of thing a LOT, in fact almost constantly. Pretend fighting gets the point across w/o the bloodshed and healing time of the real thing. Captain was just making sure Desi understood her place. After that they got along great. I've not seen any sign of even a faux argument between them since.
Forgot to mention. As to telling the raccoons apart, an interesting thing happened way back around the 1st or 2nd year after I spent so much time sitting out there among them. One day I suddenly realized that they no longer looked identical to me anymore. It's not anything in particular that I have to do now to tell them apart. They actually look different (from each other) to me now. Now it's very much the same as telling other humans apart. It pretty much just happens naturally.
You know those hidden 3-D pictures that were so popular a decade or so ago, the ones where you stair at a bunch of gibberish for several minutes and suddenly a 3D image of some kind just jumps out at you? That's how it was with me and the raccoons. In the beginning the group of raccoons was like that gibberish, just so very many rings and stripes and lines, and then one evening after spending so many weeks and months out there looking at them, suddenly a bunch of unique individuals just popped out at me. Suddenly, I could see each one as a distinct individual that looked different from all of the others.
I'm guessing when you spend a lot of time around any group be it humans or raccoons you start to really see them, to see all the little nuances that you never saw before. That's how we tell each other apart and how I tell the raccoons apart.
I'm always aware that I am seeing things with respect to the raccoons that most of you cannot. When I say, "this one looks like Heidi or Bast or Reba, etc" the unique features of each of those raccoons is clear to me, as clear as is the face of a friend, but then I remind myself that to most of you that clear Heidi or Bast or Reba image is not something you can see. It hasn't "popped out" of the striped background for you yet, if you will. Try as I will, this is one thing I simply cannot share with you. It's something each person must acquire for herself or himself, like learning to see those hidden 3D images.
Not all of the raccoons are equally distinct, probably because I didn't spend as much time with them, but Heidi, Bast, & Reba, for instance, have incredibly distinct features. Now that I've gained the ability to really see them as individuals, those 3 looks so different that there is no way I could ever confuse them. In fact, now that I can see them as separate individuals, it's hard to understand how they ever looked alike to me. Reba had a very long, think, luxurious coat, almost like a woman wearing a mink coat, and the red in her coat was very distinct. There was no confusing her with the others. Bast had that long, tall, sleek, Greek cat-like silhouette, and her coloring was one of a kind. Bast didn't have the usual striped coat or the medium long, shaggy fur. Bast's coat was short and sleek like that of a short-haired cat. Her coat was a fairly solid taupe, that mid grey-beige color used a lot in women's shoes, and she had light beige trim on her face and other key areas. Heidi did not have such distinct key features that I can point out. Her face stood out to me because I had known her so well and for so long.
What made things a bit more complicated was the kits - in many ways. For starters, some of the kits resembled their mother, and every now and then one would look almost identical to her. As a result even the most unique among them soon had doppelgangers. Soon there were lots of raccoons bearing fiery red coats and an entire army of taupe and beige Bast look-a-likes and the Heidi face was everywhere. Just as with humans, I could still pick out the original, but sometimes it took a bit more scrutiny.
The biggest ID problem of all, and the one I was never able to fully overcome was that of telling who was who when the kits came back 1/2 a year later as fully grown adults in spring. It was analogous to spending time with a group of toddlers and then trying to ID them 20yrs later as adults. Remember raccoons go from infants to adults in less than a year! In summer I would see them as toddlers and the equivalent of elementary school kids. Then I wouldn't see them much if at all over the winter before they would emerge again the following spring as fully grown adults looking much different. Sometimes if I spent enough time with one as a kit, I would see some characteristic that would still be there in the adult, or maybe the adult would reveal herself to me through her behavior. Other times, I really could not say for sure which kit this or that adult had been - this was the case with most of them, especially the ones I didn't get to know well as kits.
Like your Avatar. It's nice to have an image of the person to whom I've been speaking all this time.
I guess it really was quite helpful how Heidi brought her kits right up to the door that last spring, almost as though she knew her time was short and they would need to know who to trust in her absence. I have long believed that animals know and understand much more than we think, and now it seems that scientists are beginning to come around to see things my way. Now that scientists have begun to consider the possibilities, they have started to devise tests which clearly demonstrate that animals of all kinds know a lot more than most people ever dreamed possible - but we knew this all along, didn't we?
As previously mentioned, that 1st night when both raccoons were here and I went out there with my camera and my folding chair hoping to sit among them and take pics, I ended up scaring them away. At the time, I was especially concerned about Desi and wondered if she would return the next night.
I worried in vane, of course. That next evening even as I walked toward the patio door I could make out the faint image of Desi dancing before me in the darkness. Sure enough, I turned on the light to find her there standing on her hind legs, dancing around, her arms flailing about vigorously as though to flag me down. It was the most adorable image. Others have stood at the door and some have even done so while holding their arms up in the air as though to catch something (recall our quarterback). Heidi had walked backwards while upright in front of me pawing the air much like a small dog doing tricks, but Desi's arm waving dance was a 1st. My guess is many times she had seen me walking to the kitchen in the distance, and this time she wanted to be sure to get my attention. It was very cute.
Another night more recently, I went to the patio door and turned on the light to find her sitting upright (hind on floor, front legs vertical and straight) directly in front of the door and some 4ft away, just sitting there looking at me. I wish I had gotten that picture. She looked most adorable just sitting there, looking up at the door, and waiting for me to show up.
Desi has shown up every night, except tonight, that is. (She may have come early and left, but there was a storm and much rain.) After showing up 2 or 3 nights consecutively, the Captain hasn't been seen since. I've no idea what became of her. Captain would stand around a short distance from the patio, while Desi waited at the door to get my attention. Even if I didn't see the Captain, I would put down food for 2 just in case, and when I checked again some minutes later I would see the 2 of them on the patio eating. Then after a few nights, I stopped seeing Captain at all. I would go back later only to see Desi out there eating alone, and if I checked later still, I would find Desi eating the 2nd pile of food, still alone. As a result, lately I've still been putting out 2 separate piles of food, but now the total quantity I put out there is only that for a single raccoon, something I plan to do until I see another raccoon out there again. I must say that I'm quite surprised that others haven't shown up yet. Very odd.
I should add that I know there are no other raccoons showing up. I can tell this not only from my trips to the door to look out but also from the silence. If others raccoons were out there, I would expect to hear a lot of grumbling and arguing over who gets what, a sound very familiar to me. But so far Desi eats alone, peacefully, and in silence. Strange.
You may be seeing the few survivors of that virus that killed so many over on Folly Beach. Perhaps a few had super immunity or just were not exposed. Whatever the case, I am most delighted that little Desi is so 'bonded' with you.
I can just imagine her out there waving those arms to get your attention. I have this mental picture of a raccoon with flags waving as if directing an aircraft. ;-D
Birdie Blue, How cute! Your image or the airplane controlling raccoon is very cute and funny.
I'm glad Desi is making nightly trips. I keep hoping more will come. They need to be nice to Desi if they want to come. I hope Captain is ok. Wonder what happened there. Is it to late for babies to be coming?
My backyard has been quiet. Just me and the birds and the chipmunk.
As cute as Desi is when she is out there dancing around to get my attention, I think she is even cuter when I turn on the patio light to find her sitting a few feet from the door and looking up at me with that adorable look on her face. Wish I could get a pic of that. Maybe in time.
I actually haven't seen her for about a week now - and Captain has never returned since those 1st couple nights so long ago now. Three nights ago I put out a bowl of leftovers: a thick, ham based, homemade, vegetable soup w/butter beans, tomatoes, corn, and okra and bits of ham; rind from several very sweet slices of cantaloupe; leftover biscuits, also homemade (cream biscuits, made with heavy cream). The next day it was completely untouched, indicating no one had been by, not Desi or Captain or even Puddle.
The next night, I put out some 5 or 6 slices of whole grain bread in addition to the bowl of leftovers from the prior night, still untouched. When I went to bed (very late), nothing had been touched. The next morning I saw signs that something had nibble the edges of the bread. It looked like this had been done by something small like a mouse or maybe a bird, definitely not the work of a raccoon or opossum. Otherwise, the food remained untouched STILL, so clearly Desi hadn't even been here.
Last night, I added 1/2 of a large, seedless watermelon to the mix (along with the items listed above). I had eaten the center portion of the watermelon leaving 3 inches or so around the outside. I scooped that with a spoon and left it in the rind for easier eating. When I checked this morning everything was gone: the bread, the vegetable soup/stew, the cantaloup rinds, the watermelon, EVERYTHING. The watermelon had been consumed rind and all, leaving only the thin green outer shell pushed up against the door as if in commentary.
That was most likely the work of Desi and possibly another raccoon. It's possible Desi may have been missing during this time to have a kit. I didn't think she looked 'with kit', but they often don't 'show' when carrying only one or two. Whoever showed up last night had a powerful appetite, the kind that could be explained by a nursing mom.
Cheryl, my daughter has been having "strange sounds" coming from the crawl space under her house. Went all around, could find no
signs of entry.
SO, she said "Mom, I have to go in and see, can you come over...just in case." We open up the entrance to the crawl space under the house,
she crawls in...and we listen. I said "Carrie, that is a baby raccoon I hear." No way Mom...how would it get in there?
SO, she gets her cell phone, googles "coon sounds" and starts playing it under the house to compare. Well, no need for that, upon hearing the coon noises...Mama raccoon dropped out of the insulation nest she built...and just looked at her.
Baited a trap and called the DEC. First attempt...mama and babies had a feast of sardines and never set the trap off at all.
Second attempt, caught Mama. Mr. DEC ...whom it turned out ran the greenhouse my daughter frequents...came right over.
Said he had a den all scooped out for them...and would move them safely. He gave Mama a going over, said she was about 2 years old...
and this was her first litter most likely.
Here are the babies...cute little things! Sure made a mess in the crawl space, pulling down the moisture barrier under the house and insultation.
Carrie is just glad they are OK and moved safely.
Glad to hear Desi may be back with kits. Hope she keeps coming back. Have been missing reading about them.
Debbie, Those little guys are so cute. The little one hanging on the side of the cage looks to be saying LET ME OUT OF HERE! Thanks for sharing them with us. I just got my camera fixed hope to have some pics to share after the storms pass.
OMG! They are so adorable! I just love raccoon kits. It is all that I can do sometimes not to get one for a pet - but, luckily I've read the horror stories and seen videos of that one that ate the owner's kitchen cabinets. They don't make good pets, but I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to play with a new crop of them each year when Heidi was around (and hope to continue to do so for years to come).
Glad you guys were able to get them rounded up safely and that they will be going to a good place. That's cute about the Mom responding to the kit sounds on the smart phone. LOL.
Actually, 1 or 2 is the expected number for a new mom, no more. Nature is smart enough it seems to only trust or burden 1st time raccoon moms with 1 or 2 kits. Litter size remains small for the 1st few years to give the young raccoon time to learn what it takes to keep her babies safe and to train them well. Raccoons don't begin having large litters (4 to 6 kits) until they reach their prime, at which time they have the experience to handle a large litter with relative ease. Litter size declines again in old age as we saw with Heidi who had only 3kits the last few years.
The only part of the story I would take exception with is the assessment of her as 2yrs old and a 1st time mom. From my experience those two things don't go together. At least, it's not what I observed with the raccoons here. The females I observed always had their 1st litter as yearlings, when they returned the following spring and were actually slightly less than 1yr old. If you think about it, this makes sense. Cats, dogs, most animals that size come have their 1st 'heat' around 6mo to 1yr. Raccoons are constrained by the seasons, needing to give birth at the right time to get their kits raised before harsh cold weather returns; hence, it makes sense that a raccoon female would be ready to start her 1st litter the spring of her 1st or yearling year.
2 is definitely a 'good' number for a young raccoon. Any more than that and I would seriously question her assessed age.
I know. I know. I have been SO lazy lately. Sorry about that, and thanks for prompting me to get typing. I haven't seen any kits yet. I have seen Desi and Captain a few times since I last posted, although they still don't seem to be showing up regularly, or at least not at the same time each night which is important for meeting up. I'm really quite surprised at how different things are w/o Heidi around. It seems her guidance had much, much more effect on the young adults that I ever imagined.
I did have one especially noteworthy interaction with Desi, one which I wanted very much to run in and share right away - but then my laziness got the better of me. I have things to do right now but will try to get back later today to tell you about it.
One other thing I noticed in the last few weeks is that Desi has suddenly and for no apparent reason become noticeably more cautious in her behavior. This leads me to believe she may have a kit or two stashed in the forest somewhere. I noticed this behavior with Heidi and some of the others over the years. Heidi in particular would become noticeably more careful to avoid danger when she had young kits depending on her, especially in those early weeks when the kits were 'blind' and helpless 'infants'. Once the kits were older, Heidi would relax considerably - until the next litter came along.
Decided to post now. I need to cut the top branches off of the crepe myrtle in the backyard, so that annoying squirrel out there won't be able to use them to climb onto the roof, but It's hot and stuffy outside right now, so I think I'll write instead. A few days ago that bad, bad squirrel discovered that she can run right up the tree and onto the roof. The past day or so she has been sitting on the roof scolding me when I step out onto the patio. Have to nip the roof thing in the bud asap but later in the afternoon when the temp drops a bit will be just as good - and better for my health. :-)
...so back to raccoons...
The very night that I posted recently saying I hadn't seen either raccoon in a week or so, Desi showed up. In addition to dog food and watermelon, I gave her 1/2 of one of those Little Debbie Fancy White Cake squares. She seemed to really like it. I saw her several time over the next few nights. Each time I gave her another 1/2 cake square for a treat. About the 2nd such night, I bent down and held the piece of cake out at arms length and was delighted when she walked up and gently took it from my hand. I was surprised at her willingness to come up and take the cake so soon and under such conditions.Things were going quite well it seemed.
Then one night I was inside when I heard the all too familiar sound of raccoons arguing outside. This was the 1st time I had heard the raccoons fussing that way so far this year, so I hurried out back to see what was going on. Desi was on the patio eating from a large section of watermelon I had left out there for her, while Captain, whom I had not seen for some time, was a short distance away. It appeared that Captain wanted some of the melon, and Desi was growling menacingly in an all out effort to keep it. Quite honestly, I was more than a little surprised to see Desi standing up to Captain this way. It seemed to be working though, as Captain kept her distance.
After seeing me in the kitchen, Captain came up to the patio door and sat on the facing, her body pressed up against the glass as she watched Desi eat the watermelon. This, too, surprised me, as Captain had not previously shown any such 'friendly' behavior (sitting on the door facing). (It seemed there was no end to the surprises.) Seeing Captain sitting at the door the way Heidi used to do touched me, so I grabbed the bag of dog food and headed out to give her some.
Previously there had been only the one watermelon rind outside with Desi 'owning' it and eating from it and Captain keeping her distance. For some reason, once I went out there and gave each of them a small pile of dog food about 3ft apart, the dynamics between them changed abruptly. Whereas previously Captain had kept her distance from Desi when she (Captain) had no food, as soon as I gave them both the dog food, Captain began to behave menacingly toward Desi, and Desi, who had previously stood her ground while guarding the watermelon, became passive once more. I haven't been able to make any sense of this. Just reporting what I observed. When Desi alone had food, she guarded it, and Captain respected her right of ownership. Then when they both had food, they immediately resumed their usual roles with Captain being bossy and Desi being passive. Odd.
Captain kept doing this posturing thing where she would pretend to make a run at Desi. Desi in turn would run from her. Each only ran a few strides, Captain the 3ft or so to reach Desi and Desi a few ft, just enough to get away. Sometimes Captain only ran 1ft in Desi's direction, implying the rest of the trip, and Desi ran maybe 1 stride from her food just the same. This was something I had seen them do before. Desi never bore any wounds indicative of a real battle, but the threat alone was sufficient to drive her away from her food. On this particular night I was in no mood for Captains antics and would have none of it.
From where I was standing, Desi had been eating directly in front of me a few feet away, while Captain was roughly the same distance away on my left. Imagine a triangle with each of us representing one of its angles. It's an equilateral triangle, each side being roughly 3ft long. Desi is directly in front of me. She and I stand facing each other some 3ft apart, such that the line between us forms one side of the triangle. Captain is to my left, also about 3ft away. The lines between Captain and each of us form the other two sides of the triangle.
Have you ever heard that sound The Dog Whisperer uses to get the attention of a dog? It's sort of like, "Shhhht" No, there's no implied 'i' in there. It's like the sound we make to tell others to be quiet, that "Shhh" sound but with a 't' on the end. I like it. It's a good sound for getting an animal's attention. After Captain made the first partial run at Desi, I took charge and started doing some posturing of my own. The next time Captain growled at Desi in prelude of another faux attack, I made a partial step between them (not really positioning myself between them but projecting my body in that direction as a means of 'saying' I would do so). I used the small food bag moving it out in front of me and insinuating it between them, again not actually placing the bag between them but moving it very slightly in that direction, posturing rather than doing.
This worked to prevent Captain from staging another run at Desi, but Captain continued to growl in Desi's direction periodically and even this was sufficient to drive Desi back from her food. Again I took a tiny, partial step as though to step between them. I looked directly at Captain and made that "Shhht" sound each time she growled. After 1 or 2 times Captain stopped growling altogether. What happened next totally surprised me.
By this time Desi had been driven back a few steps from her food. Even when Captain ceased growling at her, Desi hung back off the patio and away from her food. For a minute or two she seemed to have disappeared altogether but then she reappeared on my right. She had gone around a bunch of large potted trees on the patio to reappear beside me. Being right beside me, she was much, much closer to me now, only about 10in or so from my right foot. By going around to my right side, she had positioned herself so that I was now directly between Captain and her. Feeling safer there, she dropped her head and began eating the kibble I had dropped. After a few minutes she gained the confidence to eat her way back across the patio toward her original food pile - although now standing with her back to me, having approached her food from the new position beside me.
I never cease to be amazed at the intelligence raccoons display. Captain had gotten my message, and so it seemed had Desi. Desi understood that I was protecting her. She understood it so well, in fact, that she had repositioned herself to take better advantage of the protection I offered. She had moved from 3ft away to 10in away and in the process had placed me squarely between herself and her attacker. I was touched. Very much so. The two ate peacefully for the duration of the night.
You have to remember that these are not Heidi and the gang. These are two raccoon I barely know, two that I have only interacted with a handful of times. I haven't taken the time to slowly and painstakingly introduce myself to them, to start at a distance and work closer, to 1st sit very still and then move a little at a time and then finally try to stand upright in their presence. I had started not at the beginning but at the end. Heidi had not been here to reassure them that I was ok, and yet somehow they had understood anyhow.
It touched and amazed me that Desi understood and trusted that I would protect her. For Fraidy or Dennis or one of the others who knew me well this behavior would have been endearing. In truth for any wild animal or for that matter any creature with whom I did not share a common language to understand and trust me in this manner would have been exceptional, but it was truly touching coming from Desi who barely knew me. Like I said, I never cease to be amazed at the intelligence of raccoons.
Oopsie! Edited to fix a few minor errors and that one gigantic one you must surely have seen if you got here before it changed, the latter being one of those deals where one uses the wrong one of two or more words which sound identical but have altogether different spellings and, of course, meanings. I knew better and the error leapt off the page at me the instant I attempted to reread my post, something I should have taken the time to do pre-post, but, seriously, who has the time? But, as usual, I digress...
Good to hear that Captain and Desi have come to an understanding about what is allowed behavior. I am so glad that you were able to 'nip that in the bud' so that it didn't have a chance to escalate over the summer.
I haven't seen any of the raccoons for a while now. Not sure exactly what happened. At one point I thought maybe they were out there but hiding from me, hiding out in the shadows until I left. When I would go out there to put out food, I just had that feeling that I wasn't alone, that something else was out there with me, watching me. It didn't seem like a nefarious entity, just some creature waiting for me to leave so it could grab the 'loot'. As I put the food down and turned to go back inside, I sometimes thought I saw movement in the shadows...
I had a lot going on at the time in my personal life. It was a difficult and trying time, a time when I really didn't feel like writing, not that there was anything much to write anyhow - other than to list the creatures I didn't see. At the end of May, I began a project to clear the small 'trees' and underbrush that had taken over parts of the backyard in the years since I had been unable to work out there. Initially, I worked for some 4 to 5 hours a day, trying to get as much done as possible before the heat got turned up. Many days during that time I fell asleep in the early evening and slept soundly until the following morning, oblivious to the goings on in the backyard.
Any food I put out there was always gone by morning, but it was impossible to say who actually ate it. By that time I hadn't seen a raccoon in ages, so at some point I stopped putting food out at all. Out there as I was clearing brush each day, I was very much aware of the risk of accidentally finding Mr Copperhead. I didn't want to leave food out at night to attract rats or mice from the forest. I didn't want to encourage Mr Copperhead's presence in my garden by providing him with ready-made meals. So seeing no raccoons around, I stopped putting out food. Perhaps this might also help to bring them (or whoever) out of the shadows...
But still there were no raccoons in the backyard, ever. None that I could see, at least. A couple weeks went by. No change. Then Saturday just before sundown I put a container of food out on the patio. For the past week or so, we've been having these positively unbelievable, end-of-the-world variety Tstorms complete with thunder and lightening and torrential showers that go on and on for hours, days even. It's like it never ends. Even as I walked out to set the container of leftovers out, I felt light rain pelting my face.
Realizing this was the calm before the storm, I set the dish far up under the patio table in hopes the coming rain would not wash it all away before any creature could find it. Within minutes after I came back inside, the sky opened, sheets of rain fell, and the light show was on once more. The storm continued throughout the night and into the early morning. I slept restlessly that night, waking every few hours and always to the endless rumble of air split by electrical currents. It was sunrise before the thunder finally stopped (for the moment). I doubted that any creature would have come out in that 10hr storm to eat the food I had left. I was, therefore, surprised to find that the food was gone by morning.
By 10AM Sunday morning thunder could be heard rumbling in the distance once more. The storms, the thunder, the rain all continued all day Sunday. In the mid to late afternoon I took a nap. I love to sleep on a rainy, lazy day. When I awoke, it was early evening but still light out. I thought of my cat who had been missing for a week and headed to the patio door to call him once more, something I had been doing relentlessly since he left.
As I approached the [glass paneled] door, I could see my other cat Ms Kitty up close against the door facing, only the back of her grey striped coat visible through the glass. I rushed over to let her in, but as I drew nearer I suddenly realized OMG it was not Ms Kitty at all. It was Desi! The grey striped fur on her back had at a distance mimicked that of my brown tabby perfectly (she looks grey, but is officially 'brown' because the trim on her abdomen and other discreet areas is a light cream color not gray.).
I could not BE-LIEVE it! It was broad daylight, and there stood Desi just outside the patio door. Where had she been all this time, and why had she shown up now, I wondered. Not wanting to risk 'loosing' her before I could feed her, I opened the door a few inches and spoke to her. Then as I went to get a bit of cat food for her, I left the door slightly ajar so that I could continue talking to her. I was just so afraid she would leave while I was scooping the food, thinking I had gone away.
While I was getting the food, she stood with her nose in the crack I had left in the door. It seemed as though she was breathing in all of the odors of the house in an attempt to better understand it. When I returned and stepped out onto the patio, she ran momentarily into the hedges maybe a car length away. I put the food on the patio floor and turned to see that she had already come out from the hedges and was standing just a few feet away looking at me and clearly wanting to come back. Gently I spoke to her, "It's ok, Desi. Come on. It's ok."
It took only a few words of encouragement and she was back on the patio with me. I was just SO happy to see her again, especially to see her in daylight this way and to realize that she had taken the risk to come all the way up to the house this way in the light. I didn't want to go back inside. I didn't want to miss one moment with her. Luckily, I had left my little garden buddy (seat) right there on the patio. It was awfully close though, and I couldn't move it farther away because of the outdoor rug. I wasn't sure she would be comfortable with me sitting that close, so close my feet were almost touching her food. I spoke to her as I slowly lowered myself onto the seat.
She was ok with it, so there we were, Desi eating kibble on the patio in daylight, and me sitting right up close beside her on my little garden buddy. I was almost childlike in my delight, almost 5 again, although I could not help reflecting on the irony of loosing my cat and now finding my long lost raccoon. As I sat there talking to Desi, I noticed how very small she looked - and thin, very thin. Her hip bones jutted out in angular contrast to her soft fur. I felt so sorry for her and so confused as to why she hadn't been back sooner - or had we just been on completely different schedules just never meeting up in the same place at the same time? At least she was here now, and I was going to sit here with her to make sure she got as much food as she needed.
Then at the back of the yard, back near the forest edge, I heard a loud wailing sound, low at 1st but growing louder with each cry. Desi heard it, too. As the sound drew closer, Desi became alarmed and ran for cover in the nearby shrubbery...
...unfortunately, Desi did not return, at least not while I was there or even before dark. Something else, something of equal or greater importance, came up at this same time, and I had to leave, so I didn't see her again that night. While I was out, I picked up some little cakes for her, hoping she will return again tonight and every night, not only because I enjoy seeing her but also because I really need to get her fatten up again.
It was clear that our time apart had not effected our friendship at all. Desi's memory of me had remained as sharp as had mine of her. It was as though we had never been apart. I was amazed at how willingly she came when called and how undaunted she was about having me sit so close to her as she ate. They are, after all, at a disadvantage when they lower their head to the ground to eat, but she seemed to know that I was not there to harm her. There in the daylight for that brief time before the wailing sound drove her away, she had reminded me of any, 'ordinary' pet dog, tail-wagging (not really but it seemed that way) as she came to me and ate.
I sure hope she will be back tonight. I do so want to get her back up to 'fighting' weight. I don't understand why I haven't seen her before now, but given how friendly & comfortable she is around me, I know she could not be the presence I felt lurking in the shadows at night and waiting for food. She would have recognized me and come out from hiding had it been her. Could this other presence be keeping her from coming around? Could it be another raccoon, perhaps one stronger than herself? Had the lengthy storm Saturday night kept the other one away thus giving Desi a chance to come by and eat the leftovers I had put out there under the patio table that night? And had that food Saturday night been the impetus that brought her back last evening before dark in search of more?
Tonight around 8PMish I headed for the patio door hoping to find Desi standing there waiting for me as she was the night before. Unfortunately, this time I was to meet with disappointment. This time the patio would be empty of wildlife. This time Desi would not be there waiting for me. Now what?
As I stood there for the moment reflecting on things, it occurred to me that last night may have been but a very brief oasis in a long desert and that Desi and I might now return to days, weeks, months even of failing to meet up for whatever reason. The thought made me sad.
I stood there for another moment or two, and for some reason opened the door to look out, perhaps hoping to see little Desi out there waiting, but she was no where to be seen. I closed the door and was about to walk away when all of a sudden Desi came running to the door. Keyed by the opening of the door, she had come out from the nearby shrubs where she had been hiding and had run over to the door in hopes of receiving dinner.
In an instant my mood did a 180. I was so elated now to see that she had returned around the same time of day and had waited near the door for some sign of my return. This was great news, as it meant we now had an agreement of sorts as to when and how we would meet each day.
I left the door slightly ajar for a minute or two as I talked to Desi and she danced on hind legs in front of the opening no doubt excited to see me and eager to make sure I saw her, too. This time I pulled the door shut for the few minutes it took to grab a scoop of cat food and one of the oatmeal creme pies I had picked up for her last night (on sale) when I ran out for another bag of cat food (for Cocoa my returning and formerly missing cat).
Again I sat beside her on the garden buddy seat while she ate. She loved the oatmeal creme 'pie' and I managed to get the one pic (below) this time before my camera flashed the 'memory full' message. She was looking up at me when I squeezed the button, but as you can see she dropped her head to eat before the shutter closed. Argh! It was daylight out but extremely overcast and not too long before sundown, which is why it looks so dark in the pic. It looks all soggy because, well, it has rained night and day for at least a week now. Oh, and that is only a level scoop of food. It just looks huge because she is so small.
Thanks for the reminder. Earlier I forgot to mention that I did get a chance to see that Desi does have swollen mammary glands indicative of a lactating mom. I haven't seen any sign of the actual kit(s) yet, but based on the mammary situation suspect there is one (or maybe 2) hidden somewhere. With any luck perhaps we will get the chance to see the kit(s) soon.
I do think the presence of kits is a major contributing factor in her gauntness. One of the things I learned from my time with the Heidi group is just how much energy lactating requires of them, how hungry they are during this time, and how incredibly much they need to eat to maintain their weight (and even to keep the milk flowing). I'm sure glad Desi came to me when she did and before her lack of nutrition forced a shutdown of milk production.
From what I've read, raccoons with kits need to walk some 5mi a night in search of food (whereas they only need to do 1mi/day w/o kits), but a new mom may fear leaving her kits for that long. It's a double edged sword. I also think it's quite possible that, with everything that was going on last summer, Desi may not have received adequate instruction on finding food in the forest before being cut off from her mom. She will likely figure it out in time but is probably struggling now. Yet a 3rd factor effecting her weight in my opinion is the loss of Heidi as a mentor (especially when their do not seem to be any other, older females around for guidance). I think Heidi probably had a lot to do with locating food sources for the group, whether intentionally or just because they knew to follow her lead to find food. I think all of these things together have contributed to the situation we see now with Desi being so thin.
Thanks for the idea RE eggs. I have almost 2dz to use up, so can spare a few. Keep after me about that. I saw your 1st post but forgot to give her one tonight. Maybe tomorrow. (Don't let me forget, please.)
Sorry to have scared you. Didn't mean to. I was just having one heck of a time finding a place to divide the 2 stories this time, raccoon story vs cat story. As Amanda said the wailing sound was just Cocoa on his way home right smack in the middle of (actually the beginning of) my visit with Desi. He was coming through the last trek of the forest screaming loudly all the way. I'm sure he knew I was out there to hear him. He just wanted to make a grand entrance for his homecoming.
As to the daylight visits, that surprised me, too, at 1st, but it's really just the same old reason the raccoons have been coming around in daylight in summer for years now. Remember all those video clips I took in the past, requiring daylight? Just as most humans wake up hungry for breakfast, so it is with the raccoons - especially those lactating moms, their bodies working overtime to make milk and needing all the nourishment they can get.
The rest of the year it is usually dark by 6-7PM, but by mid summer it doesn't get dark until 9-9:30PM, and that's just too long to wait around in the edge of the forest for breakfast when you are a hungry and busy mom. Thus, driven by hunger and circumstances, they tend to venture out before dark in search of something to hold them over. Sadly, I'm guessing this unfortunate set of circumstances probably gets a lot of raccoons in trouble each year, as many people equate this behavior with rabies. Don't forget, that 1st day Heidi came down the fence in front of me (starting all of this), it was in broad daylight this same time of day, & she, too, was a starving mom out looking for food.
As to the presence I had sensed out there, I don't 'feel' that anymore. Don't know it might have been. I'm guessing either Desi or another raccoon, maybe Captain. It did not feel like a threatening presence, probably just some raccoon or maybe an opossum watching me and hoping I would put some food out and leave. Back then there was some very high brush in certain areas around the perimeter of the backyard, the perfect place for critters to hide out comfortably and watch. I've cut all of that stuff down to the ground now (over the past month or so).
I was a little late tonight. Got there closer to sundown. This time I opened the back door and called Desi. When she didn't show right away, I closed the door again but stood there. It was then that she came running up to the patio. I'm guessing she didn't feel comfortable coming out while being watched - since it might be someone else at the door or a dog might run out, etc.
Tonight I put her food about 1ft away to give her more space. She is awfully brave to come up and eat beside a potential predator such as me and trust me as she has. I just thought a little more space might help her be more comfortable. I resisted the urge to give her a cookie tonight. Given her condition (thin) and circumstances (lactating), I decided she really needs all the nourishment she can get right now. There will always be time for the occasional sweet treat later. An egg would have been a perfect and very appropriate treat for tonight, but I forgot. Maybe tomorrow. I can also offer her some watermelon one night, as that is yummy and also has a lot of good stuff in it.
Comforting to know she is back looking for you. It sounds as though the irrational exuberance of youth has given way to a mother's instincts and self preservation. All told, this is the perfect continuation of the Heidi Chronicles.
It reminds me of a television drama. In last season's cliffhanger finale, Desi and friends shrink under pressure and harassment from the bullies and our heroine (Cheryl) makes a gut wrenching decision to pull back to avoid civil war. The sorrow and suspense of that last episode left us hanging on, desperate to find out what would come of our pitiful band in the next episode, next season.
And here we are filled with suspense and the spectre of villains lurking in the dark and our heroine reunited with the darling newcomer from last season.
The question was whether to continue to call the show the Heidi Chronicles. I suppose every sequel refers to the original. if for instance you have watched past television episodes, there is the show 's name, the season number, episode number, and the new episode's title. I didn't start watching this show the first season! But I did go back and read a lot of the original threads. I'm glad I had that time on my hands when I was out of work with my hand injury. :)
I remain hopeful for Desi.
Just now, I can't remember how Desi got her name. It is short for the word "desiderata", title of a favorite writing, the plural of which is the Latin "desideratum" (from neuter past participle of the Latin verb "desiderare", to desire), "something considered necessary or highly desirable."
While I love your idea and wish I had thought of it, Sheri is right about this one. Desi is short for Desperado. I named her that when she was such a free-spirited, fun-loving kit. We actually had a Desperado already some years back, but at the time I had forgotten about that.
Tonight it was (and still is) raining. I wasn't kidding when I told you we have been having Tstorms almost 24/7 for a couple of weeks now - and man is this wet, yucky, soggy mess getting really old now.
I opened the door a few inches and called out, "Desi, Desi," closing the door again. Before I could even get a scoop of food, Desi came running to the patio door and stood looking in at me. This time I remembered to take an egg out with me. I sat with her a few minutes in the rain, before coming back inside (mostly because the mosquitoes were getting the best of me).
Desi loved the egg. Thanks for reminding me about that, Sheri! I put the egg on the back side of her kibble. At 1st she ate a few bits of cat food. Then she stretched her head past the kibble to sniff the egg, and her face immediately said, "Oh, yeah!" She took the egg in her mouth, put it down gently in front of her, and then used her teeth to crack the shell. She lifted off one end of the egg like a perfect coddled egg and then proceeded to pull the yummy contents out. She did not stop until she had consumed every last drop of the goodness inside, leaving behind a totally clean, dry shell.
I was tempted to get her a 2nd egg, but then I realized there will always be tomorrow - and the day after that and the day after that and...
When I said, "...there will always be tomorrow..." I clearly hadn't considered that tomorrow would be the 4th, that day of joy & celebration for all Americans - and terror for all pets (except Widget who is oblivious to the whole thing).
The 4th is a huge fireworks night in my community, this despite rules forbidding it. There is a fireworks stand (seller) down the street a short distance, and people all around my community shoot off copious, powerful fireworks each year for days surrounding the 4th. Some of there work even resembles professional displays at times. I'm guessing this is when they are setting off various 'cannons'. I know I periodically hear what sounds like shotgun blasts amidst the backdrop of near constant 'machine-gun' fire. Even the family just next door sets off fireworks each year, as does the family across the street. One year I even found a spent cannon on my roof the day after.
This year the fireworks officially started Wed evening and tonight (the 4th) had already been going strong for hours (in daylight) even before it was time to feed Desi. When the appointed time arrived, I was not optimistic that Desi would even be out there. Nonetheless, I opened the door, called her name, and then closed it once more. I stood there for a few minutes looking out the patio door. No Desi.
I'm not sure what I was doing after that, just daydreaming, I guess. Just procrastination, which is good because I would otherwise have left the room, since Desi, it seemed, was not coming. Then all of a sudden and to my great surprise, I looked up and caught a glimpse of the grey hair on Desi's rounded back. I did a double take. No, not a cat. Definitely Desi. "Desi!" I cried out in joy.
Hearing me and not quite knowing what to do, Desi stood upright on her hind legs and danced around for a few minutes there at the door. I spoke to her again from across the room, telling her I would be right there, as I set about gathering kibble and an egg.
On this night Desi and I seemed to make a small but meaningful step forward in our relationship, for as I was pouring the kibble from the scoop, Desi was already there and starting to eat. She was still there as I reached to put the egg down. Yes, this was a noteworthy accomplishment, her coming to the food even as I was still there up close to it and my hands were still right there beside and in front of her.
Tonight Desi was incredibly and unbelievably brave, as she sat there eating with 'bombs bursting in air' all around us. What was especially incredible was that she held her ground even when my next door neighbor would set off cannons which at times even caused me to jump. My patio is close to the property line near his property, and he was outside setting off fireworks on the side of his yard closest to my property line. Fireworks were going off all around the neighborhood, and on all sides of us in the distance, but my neighbor or his kid was periodically setting off 'cannons' (sounded like shotgun blasts) just over the fence from us, just maybe 2 to 3 car lengths away, and yet Desi stayed.
I talked to her almost constantly throughout the event, and it seemed to help a lot. She seemed to be just beginning to trust me when I would reassure her about other events, like the fireworks. I just kept saying, "good girl" and "it's ok," that sort of thing.
I had placed her food up under the patio table in hopes of giving her more of a sense of safety. She sat upright under there a good bit while eating and was very cute sitting that way, her mammary glands quite visible for all to see as she sat picking up kibble with her hands as though eating nuts at a cocktail party.
Tonight she didn't show an interest in her egg despite having loved the one last night. It might have been the DEET on my hands (mosquitoes are awful out there) when I put it down or perhaps because, unlike last night, this time I didn't pre-crack the egg for her. She did such an awesome job of cracking the egg last night, that I felt my efforts in pre-cracking it had only caused problems by throwing her aim off, so this time I left the egg un-cracked, but without the crack, she may not have been able to smell the yummy stuff inside.
She had been eating for a while when I realized I had forgotten the watermelon 'bowl' that I had saved for her earlier in the day. Amidst the hail of gunfire, I stood up, hoping against hope that all this simultaneous activity would not frighten her away. As I rose from my seat, Desi quickly scampered out from under the table and around behind a potted plant. 1/2 up, 1/2 down, I froze in mid stance, and quickly began talking to her, "Come back, sweetie. It's ok. Come on." Amazingly, she listened and returned, almost as though she understood my very words.
I went inside and returned with the watermelon. It was the outer remains of a melon which, quite frankly, hadn't been all that flavorful or sweet even at its center. While inside I had sprinkled a teaspoon of sugar over it, just to sweeten the pot, so to speak. In the past, Desi had displayed a luke-warm reaction at best to watermelon, but this time, whether it was the melon or the sugar, she was spellbound, forgetting everything else on her plate and gobbling watermelon with near abandon. For a while there she seemed so engrossed in that melon that even the relentless hail of bullets and cannons didn't seem to phase her. It was like she was off in a place all her own. :-)
When I left she was still eating watermelon and had the egg and a handful of kibble on her plate. All I know is she was still eating, and later when I checked back everything was gone but the shell. (While I was setting that watermelon down earlier, I had taken advantage of the opportunity to rap the egg gently on the cement cracking it to let all that wonderful eggy smell out.)
What a sweet and thoughtful prayer. I hope it will be heard.
When I said (in my post above) that little Desi was incredibly brave, I really did mean every word of it. I can't even get my cats to give up their hiding places tonight to come in for dinner, but that's the norm for them on Independence Day. When the revelry is finally over for the night, and the humans go inside once more, they will come home to eat, but they are not about to walk across the lawn in that hail of 'bullets' in the mean time.
How courageous it was for Desi to chance all of that scary noise and the smell of humans just beyond the fence. How brave of her to come out in daylight even and once again to sit alone beside a predator to eat, even with all that non-stop, background noise. She really is quite unusual that Desi. Only a very few raccoon such as Heidi & Dennis & Bast after her injury were ever willing to hang out alone with me. There is, after all, safety in numbers.
I'm so glad she felt safe enough to come to you. I really was prayin for over an hour and then again before I went to bed.
Even my Pookie (min Poodle) who is terrified of those boomers stayed right beside me in the recliner. The cats were cool too resting in each of their chosen thrones. Harmony has her a little nest made on the couch and there she stayed.
I was rather impressed yet not really surprised. After all it is written that you will be given the desires of your heart when you love & serve the Lord
Yesterday I made a breakthrough in my knowledge of raccoons. I have no idea if this is known to the 'experts', but I've never seen it mentioned anywhere - at least not that I can recall. Anyhow, I now know for certain that raccoons DO see in color. As you probably know, scientists insist that many animals (including, I think, dogs) see only in black and white (and shades of gray) not in color. Raccoons, however, definitely see in color!
Some of you made this assertion some years back, when I kept mentioning how much the kits back then seemed to love the blue dog (plush toy). I had given them a number of plush toys, but that blue dog seemed to get lots of play. It seemed like there may have been other blue or partly blue toys out there at the time which also seemed quite popular, leading some of you to believe the raccoons could see blue - and were apparently quite fond of or drawn to that color (for toys, at least). While I could see the argument, at the time I was not totally convinced that this was not just coincidence.
Last night I gave Desi a container of watermelon chunks, having decided it would be better to give her a decent sized serving of melon chunks each day until it was gone, rather than give her the whole melon rind/remains at once. The benefits seemed many: less waste, more 'melon' days, and less risk of gorging on melon and finding herself too full of water to eat the much needed cat food (before some other creature could eat it for her). Desi was visibly excited to receive the melon. She sat holding eat chunk between her two hands and scarfing it down with a look on her face not unlike that blissful look Heidi used to get when eating watermelon.
It just happened that the nearby crepe myrtle, it's branches draping over the patio on that side, was in full bloom at the time and had begun dropping its perfectly watermelon-colored petals all over the area. One such small petal roughly the size of a dime lay beside the dish from which she was eating the watermelon. The dish was nearly bare when Desi spied the petal lying there. The petal was convex and even to my eyes was a perfect color match for the melon. Desi reached past the dish to pick up the petal momentarily. She raised it maybe 2 inches off the floor, fingering it lightly, before dropping it once more in favor of the last piece of melon from the dish.
I had been almost in a daze when suddenly a bell went off in my head and I realized, OMG, I had just witnessed something important. Desi had seen that petal sitting beside the dish and had believed it was a piece of melon. She had picked it up for her next piece of fruit and had dropped it upon realizing she had been duped by the similarity of its color. She had dropped it and quickly picked up the actual melon to continue eating.
If you have ever seen my patio, then you know there were other items all around her and her dish. There always are bits of flotsam out there: fallen leaves, twigs, etc, and today even, I'm unhappy to say, a pile of feathers and other bird remains left by Ms Kitty. When eating her food, Desi is never seen reaching for any of those items by mistake. She only reached for that one waterelon-hued petal. It was an extreme anomaly. She had reached for that particular object because she had believed it to be a piece of watermelon, and she had made that mistake because of the extreme color match. I could clearly see how perfectly that petal matched the color of the melon, and SO HAD SHE.
Oh how amazing! Cheryl, I really really do hope that you write a book, or even small pamphlate ?? of highlights. You have learned so much over the years...valuable information that many would be excited to know!!
A couple days after Desi started showing up again recently, I found myself wondering how we could be so lucky as to only have the one raccoon. After years of dealing with such a huge group out there, it just seems impossible that there could be just 1 left. I guess it is possible that there may be others stopping by now and then, others that are only show up in the wee hours and, like the presence I felt out there some time back, just never reveal themselves.
"But what about Captain," I thought. Don't get me wrong. With her attitude I'm actually glad she isn't around, but I couldn't help wondering to what we owed that favor. I seemed quite odd that she had not followed Desi back, especially since she (Captain) had found food her in the past. Once they find food in an area, they make a point to revisit that area often. So where was Captain now that Desi was back and enjoying nightly meals of cat food, egg, and watermelon?
I was to get my answer sooner than I imagined, as 2 days later I got busy and forgot all about feeding Desi. By the time I remembered, it was quite dark out, and I wondered if she would even be out there still. She had been arriving well before dark, and I had been going out to feed her in daylight.
When I reached the patio, I threw on the light to find her already on the patio sniffing about in search of edibles. I grabbed everything and hurried out. Her behavior was quite odd. She ran away when I opened the door, and I had some difficulty convincing her to come back for her meal.
She had just started eating when I caught sight of a 2nd, smaller raccoon emerging from behind the flower pots behind me. My 1st thought ran to kits, but I quickly realized that this 2nd raccoon though smallish was still way to big to be a kit. So who was this 2nd raccoon?
I hadn't realized it quite yet, but a better question would have been, "Who was the 1st raccoon?" It took me a minute or two to get it together, but then I realized the 2nd raccoon, the smaller one, was actually Desi. The one who had been on the patio when I 1st went to the door was Captain whom I had not seen for some time before that night. I had been so accustomed to feeding Desi each night that I hadn't paid that much attention, at least not until the real Desi came out from hiding and sneaked up behind me.
Once I recognized Desi, I spoke to her, and she came up close beside me. Captain immediately bared her teeth, growled, and gave chase. If Desi had only known to stay close to me, I could have protected her, but as soon as Captain showed her teeth, Desi ran. Captain continued to chase Desi away several more times before I was finally able to set Desi up with some food close by me, and let Captain know to "Back Off."
I stayed out there with them that night until they finished eating, and Captain remained on her side of the patio from that point on. Unfortunately, the next night I made the very same mistake, showing up after dark only to find both Desi and Captain outside waiting for me.
Bottom line, now I have my answer, at least with respect to Captain. Desi is willing to come out in daylight to eat, and so far Captain is not. Desi arrives between 6 and 7 most nights, although she has come as early as 5ish a few times. That's 3 to 4 hrs before sundown, so as long as I make it out there to feed her early, she has plenty of time to eat before dark - and before Captain arrives. Since those 2 nights described above, I've been careful to feed Desi in daylight and have not seen Captain again.
Eventually the long days will end for this year, and Desi will have to eat in the dark again and deal with Captain. The good news is that this won't happen until some time in fall, which will at least give Desi time to raise her kits up to a decent age 1st. Of course, it is always possible that Captain may eventually get over her fear and come to eat in daylight, but so far she has shown no inclination to do so, and Desi & I are hoping she never will.
I actually never saw the 'wonkiness'. Can you tell me which browser you were using when you saw it that way? I'm using Firefox, the latest stable version, which I keep up to date. I saw somewhere where Terry listed some 3 things that seemed to provoke the 'wonkiness' thing. Per my understanding, really long sentences, posts with 5 pics, and posts with some version of "--- ----" (but with many more dashes/characters) were on the list, and I'm guilty of all of those things, especially the long sentences. I use the dash, dash thing sometimes for alerts or special announcements.
Incidentally, she was not saying that we should stop doing the things listed, just that those particular things seemed to make the site go crazy before they rolled out the fix. I would not be able to write at all if long sentences were banned. ;-)
As to the situation between Desi & Captain, I must not have phrased things right as I seem to have confused people. Although it is true that Captain behaves that way, taking over and chasing Desi off, Captain hasn't been around at all with the exception of the 2 nights a month or so back when I failed to get out there to feed Desi before dark.
So to recap. Desi arrives to eat as much as 2-3hrs before dark, and as long as I am careful to get out there to feed her before dark, there is no problem. This is because Captain never comes out before dark, at least not so far. I'm guessing Captain is afraid to come to the house in daylight. Thus as long as Desi eats early, Captain is not around.
That said, there will likely be trouble in the fall when the days grow shorter, and Desi can no longer get here before dark. Then Desi and I will almost certainly have to contend with Captain. The good news is that by that time Desi's kits, which I haven't seen yet, btw, will be older (i.e., Desi should at least be able to eat in peace during the time when she is nursing and raising very young kits.). Also, I'm hoping by that time Desi and I will have established greater trust so that I may be able to help/protect her.
Cheryl, I have Google Chrome and also tried it with Internet explorer, and I also had the "wonkiness". The page was enlarged and everything on the right side of the page was cut off, you couldn't read the last couple words along the side of each paragraph.
It didn't do it on any of my other threads, just this one.
As mentioned, I haven't seen any sign of kits yet beyond the obviously extended teats which tell me they are out there somewhere. While still on the small side overall, Desi is looking much, much better now. Not only has she started to fill out a bit so that her hip bones don't jut out at odd angles, but her coat, which previously had the appearance of an atrociously hacked up cut on seriously over-processed tresses, is now looking smooth and shiny.
Before her hair looked dry and straw-like and stuck out in all directions like hair that had been bleached and permed far too many times. Now it looks as though she has had some kind of really awesome hot oil treatments and deep conditioners applied. My guess is the nursing kits were leaching all of the vitamins and minerals from her system, and she had been unable to find sufficient food to restore them. Aside from the occasional egg, watermelon, and leftovers, she is just getting cheap dog food right now, but it does have all those much needed vitamins and minerals and has clearly helped to improve her condition.
Right now Desi is an odd study in curiosity and the beginnings of trust tempered with a healthy fear lest I should mean her harm. Each day around 6PM or so, I go to the patio door and call her in a low, soft voice, "Desi, Desi." If she is out there, she usually waits in the hedges under the MBR window. When I call her, she comes to the door immediately, right up to the where her front legs touch the door facing, and stands there looking up at me like, "Here I am. Where's the grub?"
Then I have to turn around to gather the food before going out. If I close the door, she vacillates nervously between sticking her nose in the crack of the door to try and get a read on what I'm doing and dancing around on her hind legs in front of the door as though wondering why I called her and then ran away. She seems to be saying, "Wait! Don't go! Here I am! Where is my dinner?"
Sometimes, in an effort to reassure her that I'm still there, I just pull the door 'to' without closing it completely. When I do that, she usually pushes the door open with her nose and then stands there right up against the facing and leaning in to sample and try to make sense of all of the unusual odors in the house/kitchen. She seems truly curious about me and my 'den'. She also shows more interest in possibly coming inside than did any of the raccoons I dealt with previously. I always wonder if she may recall having come into the kitchen when she was a tiny kit - and those wind-surfing, ankle rides she used to take while standing on my shoe?
A few times I've stood there for a few minutes talking to her with the door wide open before I go to gather the food. When I do that, she stands right up against the bottom door facing, only inches from my feet, and leans into the house. At such times she seems so carefree and eager to come inside again. Of course, I don't encourage the latter, but I am always stricken by her curiosity, trust, and exuberance.
When I go out onto the patio to put her food down, she comes right up and puts her nose into the pile of food even as I am pouring it. Yet oddly enough and despite all of these positive signs, when I sit down close by to hang out with her while she eats, she usually shows signs of stress and concern. It's like she is cool with everything up to that point, but is a bit intimidated at having a potential predator sit around watching her as she eats.
I do understand some of it though. I know that it takes considerable courage, for instance, for her to be that close to me and alone. As I've mentioned many times before, the presence of other raccoons goes a long way toward helping them feel comfortable. There is safety in numbers. Each additional raccoon brings another set of eyes, ears, and nostrils to watch for danger signals. Another raccoon might catch something that she has overlooked. Most of the other raccoons were afraid to stay at the buffet alone with me even after years of eating there.
Only a very few like Heidi and Denise were ever comfortable hanging out and eating alone with me. The others would leave and come back when there were more guests. The mere fact that Desi is willing to come all the way up to the house alone is huge, and it's nothing short of amazing that she will eat alone with me there, especially after having known me for so short a time. Actually, she is making faster progress in this respect than any of the raccoons before her. I can't help but wonder if her earlier contact with me as a kit may have some bearing on this. After all, I not only petted her back then, but several times I wrapped my hand around her tiny body and did everything short of picking her up. If she has any memory of those events, it would almost have to influence her behavior now. Still, she is an adult now with adult responsibilities and an adult knowledge of the risks involved.
I don't sit out there with her every night. I don't want her to be anxious all of the time while eating. I don't want her to wonder if I'm just sitting there biding my time for the right time to strike. I figure by sitting out there some days and just feeding her and walking away other days I may look more nonchalant. I think that does seem to be working.
I keep hoping to see the kits, but I realize that she may not be comfortable enough to trust me with them at all this year. That 1st year, Heidi didn't start bringing her kits to the buffet until they were 'teens', and I was sitting farther away back then - there just isn't enough room on the patio to get very far away. I must remember to give her time. I must not become confused into expecting to instantly make the same progress with Desi that it took me some 6-8yrs to make with Heidi.
I'm just curious as to why I never saw the weird layout on this thread. I'm curious to know if Firefox actually somehow managed to work around the problem or if I just didn't visit the thread during the time it was effected.
It was nice to think that one browser might have shown itself superior, but I had a hunch it was really just that the problem showed up during those rare few days recently when I wasn't doing much online. Thanks for letting me know.
Last night on CNN they did a brief segment about a guy in, I believe it was, PA who 'saved' his dog from a raccoon. The whole thing was somehow caught on video - which somehow makes it seem oddly less spur of the moment. The video has gone viral in case you want to see it. I saw it on CNN and wish I hadn't, as I'm haunted now by the vision of the guy picking the raccoon up and throwing it down a flight of stairs.
The guy assures us the raccoon was not hurt, because he saw it get up and walk away. Right, because no one has ever gotten up after an accident and walked a short distance before dying.
This time of year the raccoon would almost certainly have been a female with nursing kits at home. She would have been out in search of food for herself to keep the milk flowing for her young. The dog would have attacked her, it's just the nature of both animals that it would go down that way. She had no choice but to defend herself.
The guy heard his dog cry out in pain (or fear). He ran out, grabbed the raccoon, and flung it down the stairs. The camera follows the raccoon so you see it flying through the air. I believe they said someone has since set it to music. Great.
I do understand the desire to protect one's pets. I went through this if you recall that time when the raccoons jumped on Widget. Widget yelled a lot, and I was terrified they were killing him. In the end he only had a few small and insignificant puncture wounds. I took him to the ER where he got antibiotics and an extra rabies shot just to be on the safe side. Otherwise, he was fine. Widget is tiny. Two raccoons could have done a LOT more damage to him if they really wanted to. They were just letting him know to leave them alone, and from what I saw that's what was going on in this case.
In this case the dog was about the same size as the raccoon, maybe a little larger - vs Widget who weighed 4.5lbs or less at the time. You could see the 2 'fighting' in the video. It was not a vicious type fight, and the dog who was shown on the segment had no serious injuries, no injuries at all from what I could see. The whole thing looked a lot like the thing with Widget.
I guess I just felt like the guy over-reacted. Pulling the raccoon off his dog was heroic. Tossing it down a flight of stairs, not so much. It would happily have run away on its own given the chance. Of course, I do also understand that the guy probably didn't know that.
It also bothered me that everyone was cheering the guy on - because we all know how viscous and mean those raccoons are. Everyone from the CNN folks to the web folks and even PITA, for heaven's sake, who was quoted as giving the guy a pass in this case for saving his dog. If only there were a way to get people to understand that raccoons really are not the horrible, mean, vicious animals they've been made out to be.
I think the reports of rabies being very common in raccoons is a big part of the negative attention they get.
Yesterday on another thread I sadly read " my next door neighbor always jest catches 'em & drowns em. I can't do that". The writer traps & rehomes them. I had made the comment of looking out for rehoming nursing mothers.
Glad you are passing the news around about raccoons. I do what I can to educate people on the topic, too. I guess, if nothing else, maybe that is Heidi's legacy, the fact that she helped to educate all of us about her species, so that we can now go on to educate others.
Here's a link to a video which tells about scientists discovering a new carnivore species related to the raccoon! It lives in the Andean cloud forest. I learned about it because the team that made the discovery is a Ph.D. from NC State.
I was on my way to tell the news. You beat me to it. I learned about it, because they have been sharing it on CNN. How cool is that, about the new critter, I mean. This is the 1st new mammal in 30 some years. It's smaller than a raccoon & now the smallest member of that family.
I thought it was amusing that they had this animal in a zoo for a while, years, I think. They finally figured things out when trying to figure out why it would not mate. They had it labeled as a totally different and completely unrelated species. They kept putting it in cages with others of its type (the wrong type), and wondering why it was behaving so strangely and not mating. Poor thing was probably just trying to keep from getting beaten up by the strangers they kept sticking in its cage.
Well, he just looks like the sweetest, most adorable little fella - or she, if that fits. Look at that big, sloppy kiss. Viewing that pic, I'm reminded of the other night when Cocoa climbed up on my back while I was sleeping and draped himself along my shoulder blade so that his head was resting on my shoulder and his face/mouth was pressed up against mine. Cocoa was being extra sweet because he was trying to wake me to get his food but didn't want me to be angry. Does the iguana ever climb up next to you while you are sleeping and give you a big kiss? Ewww!
I'm getting silly. Think I need to eat something. Seriously though, I asked about the iguana in case you might consider helping me out. I'll understand if you aren't comfortable doing this for whatever reason. One of the things I've been interested in painting, and by painting I mean either pastel or oil, is an iguana. Online I've seen a number of closeups of iguanas, usually of the head and shoulders up to about the mid section, and I've been very inspired to paint one in detail - except that I don't have one to paint. So I was thinking if you could send me yours...
No, wait, what I really need is a picture of one, a good, clear closeup image of the head and shoulder area taken from the side or maybe at a slight angle between side and front (but mostly side, if that makes any sense at all). Well, just think about it for now. I don't need an answer right away. If sometime down the road you take a good pic and think you wouldn't mind letting me do a painting from it, you can let me know then. No rush and no pressure - at all. Totally did not mean to put you on the spot.
Now I'm going to get a bite to eat to see if that will make me less silly, eh, I mean happy.
Some of you may have noticed that I started out with a raccoon avatar recently and then changed to my dog Widget. When the avatar thing was 1st announced, I thought a raccoon seamed like the obvious pic for me. But after I wore one for a while, I began to realize that I post in other forums now and then and not just animal forums either, and most people outside of this thread HATE raccoons! I started feeling self-conscious and uneasy out there in the real world in my raccoon 'suit', so I changed to something more widely accepted - a dog.
Thanks everybody! Rita is a she, thankfully. Males get very aggressive during breeding season, even if there aren't any females around to impress. I know people who have received some pretty serious bites requiring stitches and emergency room visits. We have been fortunate with Rita. She has never bitten one of us, with the exception of two of the cats, I'm to understand.
While I was traving for work my BF said that on separate occasions two of the cats showed red around the neck and hair loss. Probably mucking around with her when she was smaller made her nervous and perhaps to react.
Fortunately she's so much larger now no body messes with her. Or didn't used to. We have two kittens now who are just over a year now. They like to watch her move around. She Will take care of herself if necessary. Doubt she'd bite, probably just whack 'em with her tail.
She's at least 8 years old. She's a rescue from a mom and pop "pet store." She weighs about ten pounds and spends .most of her time on a shelf about eye level (for me, 5' ish) looking out an east facing window (absolute requirement when looking for this new house when we moved). She has her own room because of her very specific heat, light, and high humidity requirements. She's got very important food/ nutritional requirements too. If anyone really knew (or cared!) how much effort it takes to keep 'em healthy, no one would have them. They are wild animals and I respect Rita' s moods and her body language, posture, etc. She definitely tells me if she doesn't want me to mess with her.
She's a fussy eater, my bad probably, spoiled her I have, and in breeding season will stop eating completely to live off fat stored in her tail. She may or may not develop eggs to lay. the whole process is maddening and makes me very anxious. From about mid December till End of February or into March. In between my job is to get as much food as possible into her gut, which is sometimes a challenge when all she wants to eat is red grapes.
O well. Happy to answer any more question
Cheryl if you're serious about painting an iguana I'm sure we probably have plenty of photos to choose from. She is so beautiful in a wild exotic way. I am fascinated with her still even after being together since summer 2006.
Yes, the eggs are infertile. What the world does not need is more iguanas (captive or otherwise) in North Carolina. :D
She was very possessive of the eggs. Instructions are to let them lay until she sort of recovers/loses interest. It was a very stressful process. I had to prepare an "egg laying box" and monitor - it's very dangerous if the eggs rupture inside or something goes wrong. I'm member to several advanced iguana care boards online and have heard horror stories, so though she is a very peaceful and calming influence most of the time, I am a nervous wreck for parts of the year. Another behavior that comes with the breeding season is her stomping around the house looking for a place to lay her eggs. She manages to get to places I wouldn't dream possible, and since they are arboreal want to be up high. I have to monitor this too so she doesn't get hurt by falling (unlike tiggers, iguanas don't bounce). Of course, some would say just close the door! But I want her to be able to act on her instincts when possible as a wild creature, even though she wouldn't be dumping the entire contents of my bookshelves in the wild, it's the most reasonable facsimile I have been able to create. :D
Thanks for your interest. Don't want to hijack the raccoon thread with talk of iguanas. If you want more information or happy pictures send me dmail please. :)
It's no problem, really. There hasn't been much going on with the raccoons lately anyhow. I've enjoyed reading about Rita and have also very much enjoyed seeing her many glamor shots. Thanks for posting those, btw. There are a couple in the group that I might be able to work from. I'll need to zoom in to see. I'm in a bit of a hurry right now, so I'll have to come back later for that, but I really do appreciate you posting them - and she is a very lovely lady.
Two impressions that I had about iguanas from things I had read and/or heard over the years (from people who had them) are:
(1) They are not affectionate, at least not in any manner that is recognizable to us mammals.
(2) They are, for lack of a better word, somewhat fragile in captivity. I think this one fits with all of the things you have said about the things you do to try to recreate her natural environment. My guess is they appear fragile to those who expect to just give them food & water and that's it, no additional effort required. Some years back my vet had one (in her office) that she was trying to rehab. The owner had brought it to the vet in very poor shape, very thin, etc.
I'm very impressed with all that you do to take care of her properly and to try to make her happy in your home. Seems like others are also enjoying hearing about Rita as have I, so feel free to discuss her here.
I did come here to tell you something about the raccoons, but I've decided to change to a new thread 1st. It's WAY past time for that. I have to do some things 1st but will try to get it done tomorrow if I don't get to it tonight. Feel free to remind me, if I forget.
Well Cheryl - I think the more an iguana is handled the less fearful it is of being handled. The human interaction is stressful. Supposed to minimize that so I don't handle her more than I have to. I do pick her up several times a week to take her to the bathtub. We haven't talked about that till now, but she does potty in the tub. Being in water stimulates this process, plus it's good for her skin as she sheds several times a year. So she's relaxed a bit when (?) she knows we're going for a bath.
I have brought her into my bed with me and have been surprised when she went under the covers and laid alongside my legs. she could stay like that for hours and has done so, but she does not move about during the day much and particularly not in the evening. She is not affectionate, but I've heard other owners say to the contrary. AND the pic of her at the vet's office? I was surprised when a vet tech took her from me to go out of the room and weigh her, Rita reached for me like a baby reaches for its momma. That really touched me. I'd forgotten till now.
about being fragile: iguanas in captivity that don't receive the proper nutrients and don't have access to full spectrum UVA/UVB light will suffer calcium deficiency called Metabolic Bone Disease. Fragile is not a word I would use to describe Rita. At the vet's office two or three people had to hold her to restrain her. My vet was very impressed with her strength. In the wild, and/or with the proper husbandry, they can be very strong and very aggressive. Yes fragile perhaps when they don't receive the proper care.
I'm my own worst critic, I feel there is something I could always be doing better so I always try harder to make sure it's right. The humidifier, the lights, the heating elements, electric timers, heating pad, her food, her water, the temperature, in the winter an electric heater, in the summer something to block the air from the HVAC vent, and on top of it all everything in there is a fire hazard. All plugs and cords have to be kept a safe distance from these high powered heaters and lights. GAH. She is the most work of any of my critters, but she asks for the least from me. Court and I agree she is our favorite most of the time, but we haven't had that discussion in a while. :)
Cheryl, Glad you can use some of Rita's glamour shots. Your Iguana art project sounds like fun. Good Luck!
Don't forget the raccoon update!
Amanda, Sounds like you are doing everything you can for Rita to have the best life. I'm proud of you for saving her from idiots. It makes me sick when people obtain any living thing without proper knowledge of how to care for it. People should always research before they take any living thing on. Nothing should have to suffer. Yet so many different critters suffer everyday due to people that don't know or care about their needs. Many exotic reptiles and mammal's need for people to educate others to their plight. You are helping them by putting the information forward. Thank You!
Unfortunately, I'm one of those who gets critters (often!) and know not what to do with them. Sometimes I rescue things, and I just assume there'll be someone/a rescue organization to take them. I didn't know anything about iguanas when I told my BF "I'm going back to get that lizard tomorrow."
I didn't know anything about raising (crippled meat) chickens when I took them from a box slated for disposal after the 4H program at our extension culled them from their healthy "raise a chicken" program.
I enjoy the critters, obviously. Like my old trial lawyer profession, had to learn everything about anything that came down the pipe. Makes my brain swell with sometimes useless information. :D
p.s. Birdie - Rita laid 55 eggs that one time.
p.p.s. The pics I've posted are all of our favorites of Rita. Thanks for helping me find them!
I've started a new thread here: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1330336/
The Heidi Chronicles is now CLOSED. This marks not only the end of this thread but also the end of the Heidi Chronicles. The next thread will start our NextGen series, a new chapter in the ongoing story of the raccoons and other animals at the backyard buffet.
This is THE END! (for real. but follow the link above for the beginning of something new.)
Edited to add: When I say "we will continue our current discussions on the new thread", I mean that to INCLUDE our conversations about Rita! Please, please, please come to the new thread to continue the discussions. Please. :-)