I'm not sure if this is a wildlife issue or a garden foe issue, but I'll start here.
Basically, the racoon(s) in my yard are not afraid of me any more. This has been going on for years, but it's getting worse. There is no indication that they are diseased, merely acclimated. They are a bit too accustomed to my presence. They almost seem to think that they are my pets.
One evening, I almost jumped out of my skin when I turned the patio light on and saw 3 of the little masked bandits standing on their hind legs just on the other side of the french doors and peering in at me through the glass!
On occaision, I have seen one in the backyard (I have a 6' privacy fence and live in city limits) at 10AM on a sunny, summer day. I went outside to "scare" him away. He showed neither fear nor aggression. He just gave me the same look my dog gives me, kind of like "Hi, there". I threw a can of soup (impromptu response, you use what you have) "at" him, well actually beside him - I didn't want to hit him for real. No kidding, he walked calmly over (3'), picked it up, and looked at it as if it were a gift not a weapon.
Now, when I go out in the evening to take in the bird feeder (which I have to do because of them), the racoon ambles slowly away. When he gets about 3 or 4' from the feeder (and me), he stops and waits. When I yell at him and make threatening poses he just sits there like "right, right, you're not goind to hurt me".
I have a 4.5lb Maltese puppy. Often when I take the puppy out in the evenings the racoon is there. So that's another concern. To chase the racoon back over the fence and into the forest on the other side, I have thrown a tomato cage at the fence (where he was) as hard as I could, hurled a frisbee at him in the tree that hangs over the fence (now I have to explain to the dog why we can't play frisbee), broke a rake handle in half while thrashing the ground with it and then threw it at the fence. It is getting harder and harder to "scare" him away. Lately, even when I do these things he just sits in the tree branch at the fence. The past few nights after I chase him into the edge of the forest and while I'm waing for my dog to finish, the racoon has started coming BACK down the fence WHILE I'm still standing there. I have to jump up and down like a gorilla and hurl things just to hold him back. I am, frankly, amazed at his hubris.
Tonight, I chased him into the forest where he sat in the branch atop the fence and within minutes I could see him climbing back down the fence towards up. I chased him back up the fence. Minutes later he was coming down again.
I love animals. BUT I've always heard that racoons are NOT friendly and should be avoided at all costs. I'm beginning to be a bit concerned. What to do? Should I be afraid? Will he attack me? Please help me take back my yard.
Racoon(s) Getting A Little Too Friendly For Comfort
I'm not sure if this is a wildlife issue or a garden foe issue, but I'll start here.
Could we have video of your attempts to scare him? Just to help us understand the situation? :-)
Really, though, I have no suggestions. If it were me, I'd try to coexist. When I was in college on the west coast of Florida, many years ago, one local resident made a raccoon playground with swing ropes, rope ladders, slides, etc. and lit it so that he could watch them play. I believe they were quite accustomed to him and that he felt they were safe visitors.
Thanks, Julie, I love all animals. I'd love to think that he/they (not sure how many there are) are reasonably "friendly" and that we could coexist. It's just that all of my life I've been told to stay away from them and that they are very, very mean and dangerous. The one that I've been dealing with lately doesn't look mean or threatening. He just looks like he's accustomed to hanging out around me and my dog and just isn't afraid of us. Sometimes I find it a bit unnerving when I try to scare him and he all but ignores me. I've never done anything to actually hurt him. Maybe he's smart enough to realize that I'm actually a very gentle person and I'm just bluffing - either that or he figures I have such terrible aim...
I'll see what I can do about the photo. I never PLAN these meetings so I'm never holding a camera or even thinking about taking pics. I can no doubt get photos of him, since he is quite content to stand 3 ft from me. Don't think I can take photos of my attempts to scare him - not enough hands.
It's like this. Picture a 6' privacy fence - wooden. Now picture a forest on the other side with trees growing right up to the fence and a few large, live oak branches with lots of leaves for cover extending a foot of so over the fence into the yard. The racoon climbs up the fence, into the branches and waits. Lately, he only waits a minute or two before he starts climbing back down the fence and into the yard despite the fact that I am standing there maybe 20' away. When I throw things, I toss them at the fence, to scare him, never directly at him. I don't really want to hit him. The frisbee that I hurled into the tree was one of those soft nylon frisbees.
So, basically, are you saying that you don't think he will attack me or my dog - unprovoked, I mean?
We rented a cabin in Tennessee last year and every evening 6 raccoons would come up the the sliding glass doors and wait to be fed while looking most innocent and adorable. Of course we obliged. (not sure if that was the smart thing to do....but at least we kept the kids in the cabin where they could watch) We actually went out on the deck and hand fed them.....obviously they were used to this sort of pampered treatment.
Looks like you'll have to adopt him.....just wait....if it's a "her"....maybe she'll bring the whole family to play someday!
Hmmm, Scutler, I wish I had some advice. I used to live in the mountains of New Mexico - place called Ruidoso. The previous owner of the home I bought tamed the racoons and even let three of them indoors. I didn't know that until after I moved in and my new neighbors told me. They eventually quit coming around when I ignored them- no food no talking, lol just some stern looks. Are your neighbors feeding them? I love racoons & think they are extremely cute but want them to remain wild too - like the coyotes around here. Other than being real careful with the food being racoon proof or have-a heart-traps with relocation- I don't have a clue!
I don't think anyone is feeding them. This one seems to be coming to my yard for the sunflower seeds at the bird feeder.
I just called SC Wildlife Dept and talked with them about the situation. The person that I spoke with said that they are seeing a lot of problems due to (1) humans pushing the wildlife back farther and farther such that they are running out of habitat, (2) people raising racoon babies and then turning them loose when they grow up and start destroying the house, and (3) people killing or relocating lactating mothers, leaving helpless babies to fend for themselves. She said that each year they have to raise and rehab large numbers of babies whose mothers have been removed/killed.
From the description she seemed to think that this is likely a female with babies nearby, that she has to find food in the area so that she can get back to protect the babies, that she has been in the area long enough to know that she can always find a quick snack and clean water at the feeder and that I won't hurt her. She thinks the behavior suggests that she is pretty desperate to eat and get back to her babies - also that she may even have been raised by humans herself and set free - in which case she may lack hunting skills.
The lady at the wildlife department said that it's very rough for them (racoons) out there these days with diminishing habitat. She said if the racoon isn't threatening me, she'd leave it alone. She suspects that it will go away as soon as its babies are grown. That fits my experience. It seems that these episodes come in cycles that may coincide with litters. She also suggested possibly putting some food - dog food maybe - on the other side of the fence for her until the baby thing is over.
yes, angele, I am glad that I talked with her. I'd be happy to help the racoon mommy out; I just didn't want to encourage a situation that might be dangerous to my dog or to me.
Last night when we went out to get the feeder, the dog (4.5lb) ran over to the feeder and "wet" on the ground under it. Then I saw that the racoon was just 3 ft or so away from the feeder/dog. It scared me, but I did notice that she/he showed no sign of aggression toward either the dog or me.
I have some dry dog food that my dog doesn't like and a full bag of AIMs puppy food that my dog is allergic to. I'll give her that - on the other side of the fence.
Yes, that is the only reason I even mentioned the relocating, a little dog might not have a chance against a racoon.
Could we have video of your attempts to scare him? Just to help us understand the situation? :-)
Hmmmmm. Have you tried "shooting" the raccoon with the garden hose? I know they like water, but a hard spray aimed at them might run them off, and won't hurt them. I know this has worked for me. I've run off many a pushy tom cat, while my old female cat looked on with a gleeful smirk on her face.
I don't have any personal experience - just hearsay - but all my warnings about raccoons were about the chances of them being rabid. That doesn't sound like it's the case here, so - again, hearsay - I'd think you're safe. I don't know about the puppy, though, because the raccoon could see it as a threat.
I like the idea of the dog food on the other side of the fence.
I did have one experience with a raccoon, on one of my two tent camping trips. A big one ambled into our camp, in broad daylight. My friend and I dove into the tent, and he protected me by lobbing strawberries (the only handy ammunition) at the invader. He (the raccoon) caught and ate a few, then ambled off. My hero!
We had a raccoon family that used to snack off of our cats food. We tried everything to get them to leave and finally had to trap them with a box trap. Then transport them off to a remote area miles from home. (They are like cats if you don't take them far enough or to a habital the will like they will find their way back.)
Hi, all, I've missed a few days. Was "hit" suddenly by a nasty stomach virus. Whew. Still revovering, but definitely doing better. I got seriously dehydrated and suffered SEVERE muscle pains and cramping due to electrolyte imbalance so Dr has FORBIDDEN any exposure to heat and sun (including gardening) for the weekend. : (
This thing hit me right after I said I'd try to get a pic of the intruder. Needless to say, although I was forced to take the dog out (some things can't be avoided), I didn't feel much like taking photos. Since I had to drag myself out there anyhow, I did grab a few of the dog's least favorite dog biscuits (she is so spoiled) and toss them over the fence. The afternoon, when I felt slightly better, I put some of the "unwanted" dog food in a plastic dish and placed in against the fence but still on my side - too sick to get to the other side.
That night around midnight when I took the dog back out, she was there at the dish eating. My puppy (he's young and has much to learn), apparently didn't see her so he went trotting on back there to relieve himself. It all happened SO fast, and I was very concerned. She backed away and ran back up the fence. I know she can't be afraid of a 4.5lb puppy. But she has repeatedly shown a complete abscence of aggression towards either me or the puppy - even when food is involved. I think she is behaving this way to acknowledge that this is OUR territory, not hers.
Julie, that must have been SO scarey - and romantic(?) when all ended well.
MsM, based on the info from SC Wildlife Dept, prefer not to relocate her/him. They think it's likely a lactating mommy so relocating will leave babies "homeless". Also, as they pointed out: she has apparently been around here for 5 years or more and has never shown aggression (my other 9lb maltese used to CHASE her). Removing her will open her territory to another possibly less friendly raccoon. I'm sure there's an endless number of them out there.
Hope you're feeling better soon!
And it would have been scary and romantic, if I could have stopped laughing long enough! :-)
scutler, sorry to hear you've been sick & you have been missed! Glad to hear things are working out with the racoon :)
thanks, Julie and angele. I'm feeling much better. I've gotten from the point where "you can't do anything and don't care" to the point where "you want to do things" but can't. When you are well enough to be tired of doing nothing, you know that you are on the mend. lol.
Ok, this is SO surreal! Still can't believe it is true. REALLY need your input.
To review, Thurs I tossed dog biscuits over the back fence, Fri and Sat I put some dry dog food in a bowl at the back of the yard by the fence. Late this afternoon, near dusk but still light out, I went out for the feeder. Seeing me come out the back door and head toward the feeder, the racoon came down the fence and started toward the feeder at the same time. This time I didn't yell, jump up and down, or throw things. I just talked to him like I talk to my dog. I told him to go back and, with an almost comical demeanor, he went back to the fence. I left the dog inside during all of this. After I took the feeder inside, I got some dog food and went back to put it by the fence. The racoon was waiting for me. He acted like he wanted to come to me. I'm afraid of him. I told him to go back over the fence, and he did. It was a lot like commanding my dog. I was afraid that he would come back over the fence so I was too afraid to put the food in the container. I just tossed it over the fence and left.
Around midnight I took the dog out back for his "walk". We had only been out there a few minutes. The dog had finished sniffing everything and found a good spot. Suddenly, the racoon scooted down the fence and started coming over to us! I am certain that he/she heard us come out and came to us intentionally - like a pet! I've never had any dealing with raccoons, but I just don't think this one acts like a wild animal. I love animals, and he/she is very cute, but I'm AFRAID of him! I would like for him to stay over there. I really believe that he would walk right up to me if I'd let him. More and more, I'm wondering if he may have been raised by someone or rehab'd by someone. He's just too abnormally friendly!
So anyhow, the racoon waltzed right up to us. It was dark out except for the outside lights. I was trying to contain my fear. Even fussing at him and trying to command him to go back did not work. I walk away from him, picked up a stick, tapped it firmly on the ground and told him to go. He ambled slowly on back to the fence. About twice along the way he stopped and I had to tap the stick and insist. He went back over the fence. I could see a pair of eyes shining at us over the top of the fence.
I came back inside utterly amazed. Both times that I went out, he came over the fence a few minutes later. It is as if he is waiting nearby for me to come out. Both time he tried to come to me. He doesn't act threatening. He acts like a pet would act. He just ambles over to me as if that is quite normal. What do you make of this strange scenario? I don't know what to think. If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not believe it. I'm afraid to go out after dark. I'm afraid he's going to attack me. He doesn't act like he's going to attack me, but I've just always been told to stay away from racoons and stay away from wild animals. Now it seems the racoon won't stay away from me. And on the other hand, I love animals so I'm flattered that he wants to be "friends". But I'd like to be friends from a distance!
Hey there scutler ..
I tell ya, you're one of 'those types' that will probably never have a boring day in your life!?! (still luvinly teasin' you!)
Besides, aint it wonderful ?!? .. ((huggs))
I've been tryin' to keep up with this coon tail (tale) that's taking place nowadays .. hee ..
Kind of late for me to be up lurkin' about .. but I wanted to at least remind ya: that it really doesn't take TOO much for a wild critter to learn and become accustomed (conditioned) to the 'who/where' providing a food source .. and becoming 'attuned' to the sounds associated to yours (even the poochem's) habits, etc. ...
However, that .. don't mean that they won't bite the hand that feeds 'em either. (hee) So 'enjoy' and relish in the attention and gratitude s/he gives you - but maybe, jes as you've been doin' - continue to demand that she maintain a distance from you, jes for safety!!
Very possible she's been a pet .. or jes a very spoiled lil gal, that dotes on you and the pooch'em to pay her a visit. Doubt she'd be rabied or otherwise diseased - but by golly, I'll bet that a bite could still put some mitey fine 'hurt' on ya, jus the same. (hee) And with not knowing where else she travels (garbage cans/scraps) and the foods she may partake of elsewhere (bacteria/germs on teefers!) - ya jes don't know what she could sink into you! So, be cautious ..
I'll be keepin' a check on you and miss cunning coonie, ever so often ...
Always great to hear from you. I wrote that last post just before retiring for the evening. Your response gave me a chuckle - never a dull moment - you have no idea! ; )
Don't worry. I have no intention of gettng that close to the racoon - atleast not intentionally. I mentioned how he seems too "friendly" to be wild because I was trying to convey his behavior - NOT to indicate that I think he's tame. Honestly, I don't mind being his "friend" as long as we can be friends from a distance - preferably long distance, like across the fence.
Magpye, I had to "court" those Cardinals for 5 years to even begin to get close to them even though I've been feeding them. THAT's what I was expecting from the racoon. I expected him to hang around on the other side of the fence, lurking in the shadows somewhere at "dinner time" and come out to eat only when I am well out of the area - like the Cardinals did for the 1st 4 years or so.
I saw a program on one of those educational type channels. This guy's job was to physically remove small, wild animals from peoples home, property, etc. He wore a kevlar vest like the one the soldiers wear along with kevlar gloves and some kind of "apron" that covered his shoulders, arms, etc, also made of kevlar. He said that racoons were the worst to deal with, and that with them he could often STILL feel the claws and teeth through the kevlar! THAT made quite an impression on me! Kevlar stops bullets! I definitely don't want to get in a tussle with anything that can bite and scratch through kevlar!
Also, one time I picked up a ferrel kitten - by the scruff of the neck - because I thought that caused them to go into that handy "carrying" position. Right! I could not put that kitten down fast enough! He was all OVER me. It was like one of those cartoons where all you see is a ball of dust and hair with an arm or leg sticking out from time to time. And that was a tiny, cute little KITTEN.
This afternoon, I put the racoon's meal in a biodegradable "compost pail" bag (which he could easily tear open with those Freddy Kruger claws), tied it loosely, and tossed it over the fence. Later, when the dog and I went out and he tried to "visit", I sent him back over to his side of the fence.
But, Magpye, your words about making him keep his distance were very helpful. That rang true. For both safety and respect. I'm unnerved by this recent tendency to come right up to me. He's quite stealthy. I'm afraid I'll be out there wandering around my garden not even knowing that I have a racoon at my feet!
Hi, scutler; just had to join this thread, it's unique! For what it's worth, I used to work in animal control and also worked with professional wildlife rehabilitators, so I've had lots of experience with raccoons. A crusty old fellow trained me in animal control, and when I asked him how I'd know if a raccoon was rabid, his reply was classic: "it'll be the sickest d... thing you've ever seen." And he was right: beyond the first few days of infection, the animal is visibly and horribly ill. As long as your raccoon escapade has been going on, you can be pretty sure she's not rabid; if she were, she would have gone to raccoon heaven long since.
As babies, raccoons are quite handleable (and unbelievably charming, in a mischievious sort of way - think squirrel at birdfeeder times 100). When they hit puberty, they become very hard to handle, even if they've been raised in captivity. When professional rehabbers raise the babies, they do a gradual release to the wild that takes a month or more, gradually deacclimating them to humans. It sounds to me like your friend was raised by an amateur, kept as a pet and released too abruptly, probably when she became a bit feisty around puberty. As adults, these former "pets" will have no fear of people, and will walk right up to them as yours does - because they know people are a source of goodies, and have been treated warmly by them. This does NOT mean it would be safe to try to touch her or (god forbid) try to pick her up; but I know you wouldn't try either of those foolish moves. The person who raised her may well have had a dog, since she has no fear of yours; this would have been doing the baby a real disservice, since most dogs will attack raccoons.
I think you're doing the right thing in urging her to keep her distance; not because I think she would attack you or your dog at this point, but primarily for her own safety. If she approaches you, she might approach someone else who would report her as a nuisance, or as possibly rabid, and that could be the end of her. If you don't mind feeding her at a distance, this is doing her a great kindness; if she has been a pet, she probably has never properly learned to hunt/forage for food. [If you ever want to be totally entertained, give her a whole overripe canteloupe. Most raccoons will open a tiny hole in it with their paws, and then scoop out all the good stuff through the tiny hole. They become a complete mess, but are in hog heaven and it's a riot to watch - from a distance!]
A side note. Since she comes and goes in the yard your dog uses, it's important to ensure that your boy's distemper and parvo vaccine stays current. Raccoons are vulnerable to both diseases; they pick them up from yards with unvaccinated dogs, and can carry them to other yards and dogs.
Let me know if I can help in any way, and good luck with your night visitor!
Thank you, spartacusaby. Having a sleepless night. Decided to check DG. Great to get feedback on this subject from someone who has so much experience with racoons.
I don't worry about her being rabid. 5 yrs ago when this started, I discussed the situation with one of the states biologists specializing in wildlife; he reassured me that her behavior was simply indicative of one who had become comfortable around people.
That's funny about the melon. When I lived in the country, I had a large garden including several varieties of melons. All too often I would come out to find a hollowed out mellon with the end missing but still attached to the vine. I had a hard time getting any cantaloups or honeydews that year.
My dog was ok with her at a distance but is less so now that she wants to come up to me. He stays indoors, only coming out for brief gardening intervals and bathroom breaks. He has regular medical attention and is always up to date on all of his shots/meds. When I go on work-related trips he has to stay at the kennel so parvo, etc required. I tell his Dr that we have a racoon visitor, so he also gets treated for ticks and vaccinated for an organism that they might pass by drinking the same water.
BTW, my bird feeder has a brass nut with hanging ring that screws on top to keep the top on. One day last summer, I walked out to see her sitting on top of the sheperd's hook and slowly turning the feeder to remove the screw.
The other night I took some really bad photos in the dark. Here she is very reluctantly being sent back over the fence. (She hid her face from the flash)
Know about those sleepless nights, scutler; I'm up most nights, as you can tell.
Great photo, and that looks like a beautiful, very healthy raccoon. It's a drag that your dog doesn't get to enjoy the yard much these days; I'd definitely keep feeding her on the far side of your fence, but doubt that will do much to deter her from your yard.
Aren't they amazing with their hands? One of the funniest, and saddest, animal control calls I had, was for a couple who had been away on vacation for a week or so; while they were gone, a raccoon came down the chimney, which had a liner but no cap (hence he/she could come down, but couldn't go back up). When the coon realized he was trapped in the house, he panicked, tried to escape, then did his best to make do. Molding was chewed around all doors and windows. They had tropical fish, but no more; they had several large potted plants, all now removed from pots so soil could be used for sanitary purposes. And the kitchen: my my. It had been clean, neat, and well stocked. Raccoons can open refrigerators and cabinets..... I had to chase the raccoon out; he was well fed but scared to death. Felt bad for both him and the people, but what an ungodly mess...
Hang in there!
Well, I think it's working now. Every afternoon I put some dog food, treats my dog doesn't like, and any table scraps in a small bag, loop the top loosely, and toss it over the fence. Since I started tossing the bag over the fence, she only came back over the fence that one time the 1st day. Although I hated to say, "goodby", I gently but firmly insisted that she go back. She has not returned since. She seems very smart. I hated to send her away, would have loved to be friendlier, but I think it's best this way.
It's kind of nice to feed an aminal that isn't so finicky. Yesterday I included a bag of Chew-rific dog treats. (My dog just drops them on the floor). Tomorrow I'll throw in the Old Mother Hubbard "gormet" dog biscuits. (too many of them on the floor, too). Oh, and I can finally clean all the stuff we don't want out of the fridge and freezer. Tonight I threw in a half stick of pepperoni.Next day, out with those freezer burned Bocca burgers.
Oh, and about those bags...I'm using BioBags Compost Pail Liners. They are thin, fully compostable, and made entirely of non GMO corn. So not only am I not littering, but I figure she can go ahead and eat the bag, too.
Congrats, scutler: sounds like you've found a solution. And what a great way to recycle unwanted leftovers - yours and the dog's!
This has been one of the most entertaining threads. I love happy endings!
Great thread! And once again, very relevant to me right now - just a week ago I saw a raccoon (HUGE) sniffing around our garbage cans. I'd say he was close to 50 pounds! I'd never seen one around here before, but was wondering who was stealing sunflower seeds from the 50lb. bag I keep in a small alcove. He quickly exited, but last night I came home about 9:30 p.m. and heard a shuffle sound. We have an automatic light that goes on as you step onto our patio, and boy, what a sight when it went on - the raccoon was on our 45 degree angled chalet roof! He tried to climb it, but it was so steep it took him at least a minute to get to the edge of the second roof, one that is at a normal pitch. While he was nervous, he didn't seem all that afraid. My hero of a DH is going to get out on the roof this weekend to check out just what's going on and make sure he hasn't found a hole to get into the attic, etc.
What's so interesting is that he is both frightening and beautiful. While I am afraid of him (like you), I also find him absolutely fascinating and would love to count him as an at distant friend. Maybe I'll start leaving him some treats like you do. Frankly, it's like having that crush on the "local bad boy" when you're about 16 - know what I mean? Sheesh, on one hand that's pitiful, but on the other, it's as much excitement as I need. Thanks again for the wonderful thread!! Dax (Becki)
Thanks, Pati. I had no idea !
Becki, I know exactly what you mean. You wrote just exactly how I've been feeling. At first I was so relieved that she was staying in the forest. Then almost in the same breath, I felt a tiny sadness at the loss. And when she came to me in the yard, I felt a rush of excitement tempered with fear. The child that still lives in me delighted at the almost surreal opportunity to be friends with the animals, a dream come true; while the adult cowered at the idea of a possible confrontation with a wild animal. When I sent her away, my fear was diminished even as my heart cried out for her to stay. Now at times I feel a sadness at the realization that I have forfeited a once in a lifetime chance to get to know her better; I mean, how often do animals come right out of the forest to greet us?
Honestly, I miss seeing her, but I do enjoy feeding her. I had been thinking of getting another dog, so I think she will be my 2nd "dog". When I've finished cleaning out the fridge (still have some salmon and tilapia fillets that have been in the freezer too long - know she will love them) and feeding her the wealth of food and treats the dog doesn't want, I'll just grab a big bag of the discount dog food. She doesn't have big expectations.
Maybe sometime when I'm at the grocery store, I'll pick up some of those overripe fruits priced to sell or 10 cent dented canned goods or that really stale "pet" bread the day-old bread stores sell 5 loaves for $1. Hey, this is both rewarding and kind of fun! You can feed an extra racoon real cheap!
This message was edited May 26, 2006 8:39 PM
What an interesting thread! And the racoon is beautiful. Scutler, have you thought about giving her a name?
I have racoon visitors to my yard on occassion. I get excited when I see one from the house (in fact, I leave the back yard light on at night just in case I can catch a glimpse of one from the window) but I am also afraid of them. I've actually only had a few sightings...the rest of the time I know they've visited me because they've been able to get in the trash or I've seen tracks in the snow.
Thank you, jujucaps. I really appreciate hearing that so many of you have enjoyed the thread.
Funny you should ask, but just this evening I was thinking about naming her. I have an idea but need to "play" with it a little more before revealing it.
Did you see, that she actually came over to me a few times? The last time she came right up to within a few feet. At that point I had to stop her.
It was also incredible how she responded to me when I gently scolded her and told her to go back. She responded the way your dog might respond, not like a wild animal but like one that had been around humans enough to understand some of what we say. It was so cool. Still sorry it had to end. Secretly hoping she comes back for a visit every now and then.
Thanks for posting the additional photos, Scutler. I can completely relate to your mixed feelings about the experience (fear at getting too close but sadness at urging the racoon to stay away). It certainly does seem like she was raised by humans or at least regularly fed by humans prior to you.
Well, it's been a little while since my last post ... but, finally, I'm back.
When we left off, I had told Heidi (that's what I named her - no reason, just came to me) to go back to her side of the fence and had begun tossing goodie bags over the fence to her each evening.
Heidi was amazingly smart and "obedient". She stayed on her side, almost too well. From that day forward, I did not see her again. Day after day I dutifully filled an edible bag with dog food and various left overs and then carried it out and lobbed it over the fence in "her" spot. Each day I secretly hoped for a glimpse of her, but she was no where to be seen or heard.
It didn't take long for me to grow tired of these daily treks out into the now inhospitablely hot and humid yard, braving mosquitos and snakes alike, just to feed a seemingly lifeless forest. Soon I began to wonder if she was even there, if some other animal(s) - even mice - might actually be eating the food. I wondered if there might even be a "grave yard" of decomposing food packets gathering on the other side of the fence. The only possible sign that Heidi was, in fact, receiving my gifts came in the noticable absence of midnight raids on the bird feeder.
Then one day about 2 weeks into the feedings, I finally got around to defrosting that pound of badly freezer burned, deli-sliced, Boar's Head Roast Beef. With a mixture of excitment at the value of my "gift" and fear that Heidi would not even be there to receive it, I headed out to our rendezvous spot, the fence. As I was running considerably late, Heidi had already given up and decided to visit the bird feeder in my absence. Seeing me, she loped back to the fence, climbed it and sat on top as I approached. When I got to about the 10ft area, she disappeared over the fence. Excited to see her, I reared back - it takes more heft to lob a pound of beef over the fence than some dry dog food - and threw my special gift into the "abyss" between the tree branches.
Instantly, I heard a "wallop" sound followed by frantic running...and running...and running...Ooops! In an apparent 3 stooges moment, I had apparently clobbered Heidi with this my best possible gourmet raccoon feast! Big Ooops! AND I had sufficiently frightened her such that she had not just run a few feet then stopped to smell the "Au Jus" - no she had kept going far, far away.
Needless to say, after that I really, really didn't see her again - for a very long while. In time I again began to tire of the thankless job of feeding the fence. I wondered again if she was even there. I dropped back to feeding her only ever other day, sometimes two. Again the only assurance I had of her continued presence was the correlation between feeder raids and my days off from feeding duty.
Still, as I am regrettably inclined to be wasteful - food I forgot to eat before the expiration date or was too busy to cook, food I tested but didn't like, treats the dog turned his nose up at - I was pressed to continue the feedings: a bowl of 2 day old mashed potatoes; lots of overripe melons, nectarines, peaches, cherries; more deli roast beef, just a few slices this time; the better half of a dish of meatballs and penne pasta that didn't quite hit the mark; Chinese takeout - roast pork egg foo young, general tso's chicken, steamed chicken and broccoli - that just wasn't that good. Some days the left overs piled up in the fridge faster than I figured she could eat them. All in all , Heidi ate well, and mostly I enjoyed imagining her delight upon seeing each day's menu. When I ate a watermelon, I left the last few inches of red on the rind, cut it into manageble pieces and included some with the meal of the day. As usual, all of these offerings went to the empty gap in the foliage over the fence - no raccoon in sight...until...
scutler!! You'd better be typing!! LOL
Dying on the edge of my seat.. (maybe I should stop holding my breath?)
Last night - one of my night's off from feeding Heidi - Widget and I ventured out to find Heidi standing under the bird feeder while her 4 positively adorable little fluff ball "pups" hung from the feeder as though it were a jungle gym - with treats. Ahhhhh....they were so CUTE! She was apparently teaching them to raid the feeder...ahhhh. Suddenly any quantity of lost bird seed was well worth the opportunity to experience this moment. As the dog and I approached, Heidi and 3 of the little ones fled, but one little guy, hanging upside down under the feeder, was so consumed with the task of righting himself that he did not see us or realize that he was now alone on the "monkey bars". As he finally scaled the top of the feeder and reached the optimum position from which to steal some snacks, he seemed most satisfied with his accomplishment...at least until he looked up to see that Widget and I were just a few feet away.
He sat there atop the feeder for what seemed an eternity, only about 4 ft from us, looking at us, apparently trying to decide what to do next. Little 5lb Widget, young and naive, leaned forward with that "I think I can take him" look. "No, stay!" I commanded. Thankfully, Widget remained at my side. About that time, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Heidi over by the fence. She had not left; she was watching to be sure no harm came to her missing baby. But she didn't show any signs of aggression. I thought she seemed amazingly calm and almost "trusting" to allow us to be so close to her baby - but I had little doubt that she would be willing to act in his defense if necessary.
Finally, he hopped down and ran to his mom, and they all dissappeared over the fence - except Heidi, who sat atop the fence when I called out to her. Excited, I hurried inside to make a BIG dinner bag for them; I hadn't realized that I was feeding 5!
When I returned with the grub, I walked up to the fence (in the dark) and tossed the bag over. There in the tree limb at fence level, were a bunch of little baby raccoons, looking like little Koala bears standing amidst the branches and looking at me. The didn't run away. They seemed familiar with this feeding - me walking up and tossing food bags over the fence. They had likely seen me do this many times before.
Wow is this incredible or what? I feel so lucky to have this opportunity to befriend them and experience some close up time with them. While I don't intend to touch any of them, I've lost my fear of being near them.
And do you know what this means? The lady who 1st advised me about how to deal with Heidi - the one who I have since learned was with "Keeper of the Wild" not the SC Dept of Wildlife as I had thought, the one who guessed that Heidi was approaching me because she was a very hungry and desperate lactating mom - was RIGHT. Wow. Incredible that she could hear my description and so correctly diagnose the situation from affar! I am glad that I listened to her, glad that I helped Heidi, incredibly honored that she came to me when she needed help, that she trusted me to help her, and that I received such excellent advise - albeit by "accident" since I was trying to call the Dept of Wildlife. I am happy that I did not listen to ALL of the people who told me to harm her. And Wow, what a precious opportunity I have been given to interact with creatures we so rarely see.
Tonight, realizing that I'm feeding 5, I made the bag considerably heavier. Tonight's menu: Jim Dandy with a pint of chicken gravy and 1/2 pack of stale pita bread. Tonight I didn't see them - but I know they are out there and it does my heart (and bird feeder) good to share with them.
This message was edited Jul 10, 2006 11:37 PM
Now you might think that I'm "encouraging" them, but truth is that Heidi has been raiding (and often destroying) my bird feeders for 5 years now while I've been sending lots of non-compostable meat-related leftovers to the landfill. Ironically, I had been afraid to give her the left overs for fear of causing her to hang around more. In reality, when I feed the left overs to her she stays out of the yard and leaves the feeder alone - which is no small thing considering that on one recent night when I did not feed her, she broke my $40 squirrel-proof feeder and now I have to buy another one!
Before, the left overs padded the landfill, not to mention smelling up the trash container while sitting around in the heat waiting for trash day. Now the leftovers feed hungry animals, keep them out of my yard, give the bird feeder a break, and provIde these occaisional opportunities for me to experience the animals up close.
Those baby raccoons on the feeder were SO adorable! Such a shame I didn't have the camera with me!
After seeing them play on the feeder jungle gym, I was seriously considering building one of those play areas for them like someone mentioned earlier. They were just too, too cute. I wish you could have seen them.
What a great sequel to your earlier posts, scutler; and congratulations on your new and bigger foster family! Enjoy the show, and know that you're helping to raise some of the fattest, healthiest raccoons in town!
Your story... made me *smile*... really big :D ....REALLY big...
One of my best friends, also a wildlife rehabilitator, had two raccoons living freely in her house... along with her husband, two kids, two mid-sized dogs and one large dog. One (raccoon) was completely blind from very young, the other too tame/habituated for release. The raccoons used the pet door to go in and out as they pleased; the yard was set up so that they couldn't get over the fence(s). Of course, my friend had to maintain barriers between the raccoons and the chickens :)
I, too, have raccoons visit my yard--which doesn't happen much in Phoenix unless one lives near some undeveloped/natural desert. (We're a few blocks from some desert mountains.) I've seen four raccoons on my patio at once. Four raccoons with four of my cats--all on the back patio and in the backyard together. The cats weren't particularly afraid--mostly curious. I don't know if it holds true for all raccoons and all cats in all situations, but some of my cats have had multiple encounters with one or more raccoons without incident.
Yeaaaah, my cats run with the 'coons... LOL!!!
Thanks, spartacusaby. lol about those fat raccoons. better them than me!
On the other hand, they remind me a bit of mobsters. Seems I have to "pay" protection "money" (in the form of meals) to keep them from trashing the yard and wrecking the feeder.