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.
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.
Quoting: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.
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!
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...
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.
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)
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!
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.
Here she is with my Maltese puppy Widget. Widget is that little "ghost" in the foreground (behind the weeds). The racoon is about 10ft back on the left. He is eating from a little bowl. Widget is drinking from a small copper fountain.
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...
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.
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.
Thanks, magpied! Those little fellas really made me smile big, too - for days! There was just something so unexpectedly magical about the little guys.
Glad to hear that your cats and 'coons get along so well. Heidi was fine with Widget - in the photo above she can be seen eating with Widget nearby, no signs of aggression. Then Widget started growling at her which started some tension. I think he picked up on my fear and that's what started the friction between them. I've gotten over my fear of them now. As a result, Widget is starting to be more comfortable with them again, slowly.
Whewww.. Thank you for a great story, scutler! I'm so glad you are helping this little family (and cleaning out your fridge at the same time - what a bargain! LOL) I hope you can get some pictures. :-)
Well, it may now come as no surprise to those of you who know better, but there have been a few minor wrinkles in the plan. You know, no good deed goes unpunished.
Last night, as I was otherwise engaged, I missed the daily feeding. Later that night as I was working in the kitchen, I heard what sounded like a knock at the back door. I turned to see to see 2 little masked faces, noses pressed against the bottom panes of the french doors. It seemed as though they wanted to come inside. I went to the door to "scare" them away. As they were litterally touching the door, I only opened it a few inches. Scared? Not! They tried to come in. I grabbed the (extension) duster and "shewed" them away from the door so that I could open it. Still they stood about 2 feet away looking up at me quite fearlessly and much like 2 new pets. At that point, Widget (who is all of 5lbs) barked. Thankfully, while they are not afraid of me, they are afraid of Widget despite his diminutive size. They left, but not before ransacking the patio, knocking potted plants off of tables and stands and out of their pots onto the concrete floor, emptying the food from the rat zapper and dragging it across the patio, and just generally making a mess not unlike the one depicted in that commercial in which the raccoons party in a house while people are away.
You can bet I fed them on time today. Thankfully, I did not see them.
(But they are still very cute, inspite of all their antics!)
Just found this thread tonight...worth all the reading to see how it ended, or so far...LOL!
I had a friend that had a family of racoons that came up to her door each night and she handed them a each a piece of bread with honey on it. I wouldn't have believed it possible, but she had pictures.
Maybe you need to fix them up with a dogfood dispenser so they can eat when you are away. I can't help but wonder where you live, will you ever get backyard neighbors? All that stuff being lobbed over the fence may not be welcomed! LOL!
Seriously...You need to think about writing your story for a children's book. It was very entertaining. Thanks and best of luck.
Hi Sheila, thank you so much for the compliments. Lately, I have begun to think of trying a magazine article. Hadn't thought of children's books. Hmm.
Believe it or not, I live in a subdivision in city limits. Moreover, it is a rather "stuffy" area with a HUGE set of HOA rules. My yard is quite small, and my neighbor's homes seem to be in my yard. (lol) I grew up in a more rural area and had quite a bit of difficulty getting used to such close quarters. Accordingly, I chose this house in part because it backs up to a thin strip of forest that offers me a little privacy (from all of the 2story houses overlooking my property) and the illusion of the rural area of my childhood (with the exception of the houses on each side, that is). The back yard is also enclosed by a 6ft privacy fence.
Because the sanctuary offered by "my" tiny strip of forest is so important to me, I checked it out before I bought. It belongs to the state department of wildlife and natural resources, and their is no plan (so far) to do anything with it. While nothing is impossible, it's use for anything other than wildlife support is unlikely in the near future as the land back there is so "swampy" as to be almost impossible to walk through. Their is also a small pond of some sort back there. I have seen a giant blue heron resting in the trees back there.
I'll have to think about that dispenser. Interesting to hear that your friend fed them by hand. I've been wanting to offer them something that way but was afraid they would hurt me.
Forgot to mention that my little backyard cottage garden/habitat is not strickly "legal" in accordance with all of the city and HOA rules but so far I've been getting by largely because with the forest (and hence no houses) behind me, the only way for the HOA folks to see back there is from the street in front. The privacy fence (which is also not legit, but thankfully has been grandfathered in) conceils the view from that angle. As long as the neighbors on either side don't complain, I'm probably pretty safe. I had my little "sanctuary" registered as a backyard habitat. If I ever get "busted" by the rule keepers, I'm hoping the current interest in the environment will help me make a case for keeping my little garden.
Actually, I've had far more interactions with wildlife since I moved to the "city" than I ever had in the country. I guess that little strip of forest isn't big enough for all of them. Since I filled my backyard habitat to the brim with shrubs and trees and flowers, esp those bearing fruits and berries, it has been overflowing with creatures. The fence doesn't seem to get in their way. Raccoons and oppossoms climb over. Rabbits, turtles, etc sneak in under the gate and between 2 warped boards that leave a ground level gap near the back. On one occaision when I put out corn for the squirrels, some deer even jumped into the backyard! It's a zoo back there!
Just for anyone who may be concerned about the possible environmental rammifications of the stuff I've been tossing over the fence, I'd like to reiterate that I am using BioBags that are made of 100% corn and are designed for use as compost pail liners: http://cleanairgardening.com/compostbag1.html . They decompose in 10-45 days leaving no harmful chemicals. I fill them with the food just as I would otherwise put it in a dish, having removed any packaging, wrappers, etc. Even when I gave them mellon, I cut it from the rind and only included the edible portion as I do not want decaying food products lying around over there. So I am careful not to toss plastic, trash, or excess and inedible food over there.
On one occaision my pitch missed the mark and the goodie bag fell back onto my side of the fence. As I had been wondering whether the racoons eat the bag (corn, afterall), I decided to leave it on my side. The next morning I found only a small portion of the bag left behind. Apparently the bag does not taste that great by itself - probably made from the cob or husks. It looked like they ate any portion of the bag that had gravy or juices from the food on it; it also looked like they may be eating food and bag without opening it - like a sandwich.
My neighbor across the street feeds coons, and I enjoy taking chicken parts over there and watching a big mama coon and her three babies come for the goodies.
My other half is worried about feeding them over here---thinks they will cause mischief.
The other night, I put a 1 lb plastic container filled with chicken parts, bones and some vegetables out under our security light, and watched out the window through binoculars to see what would happen. By the time I went to bed, there had been no action. But when I woke in the morning and went out to look for the container, that was all there was, the empty spotless container, and not a scrap of anything to be found in the area.
I can't be sure what ate all those leftovers---coon, possum, skunk, coyote or dog. I guess whatever ate those goodies stays up a lot later than my bedtime!
Oh, hi, CJ, I didn't realize that you hadn't seen this thread yet.
I haven't seen Heidi or her kids (I like that name for them) much lately. I'm trying to take a back seat, provide food from time to time so they don't starve, but let them seek their own food as well. I figure this is a very crucial time for the kids. They need to learn to feed themselves now while they still have their mother around to teach them. If I feed them too well, I think I will be doing them a disservice.
My task was to help Heidi through the tough period when she needed extra nourishment to be able to nurse her babies and yet couldn't afford to stray too far from her helpless pups to look for food. They are about 1/2 her size now and I can see that she is teaching them important life skills - like how to raid my bird feeder and patio and how to dive into the nearby patch of black-eyed susans to hide from the dog. So as much as I will miss the little fellas, I feel it's time for me to bow out gracefully.
I still put something out every 3 days or so, just to be sure they get a good, home cooked meal from time to time. Over the weekend, I bought a large watermelon. It turned out to be over-ripe. I put the two halves on the top of the open, wire-cage, leaf-only composter at the back of the yard. It's only about 10ft from the fence where Heidi hangs out. Normally, I would have cut the watermelon up and put it in the fully enclosed composter so she couldn't get it. I figured this way she and the kids could eat the flesh and leave the rind with the compost. I left the watermelon halves sitting upright. This morning I checked and found two empty watermelon rinds atop the compost pile. They were eaten out as deftly as if someone had taken a melon baller or ice cream scoup to them.
A few nights ago when I was walking the dog, Heidi appeared atop the fence and sat there looking at us - in the very same spot where I always toss her food. She always comes back to that spot to communicate with me. I wonder if her "home" is near by. At any rate, that night she was barely visible in the dark, amidst the branches over-hanging the fence, just sitting there. It was the 1st time I'd seen her in a while. When she shows herself I usually take that as a sign that she's hungry. I went back to the house and packed her a lunch.
As I see her less and less now, I know that I am going to miss her. But I also know that this is as it should be. I'll probably keep giving her my leftovers from time to time. And I know that she will be back next spring when we can do this all over again. She has been here for years. In the past, I had noticed that the feeder raids were REALLY bad at times. I had wondered why those times always seemed to occur not in winter when I'd expect food to be scarce but in spring when food should be most abundant. NOW, I understand. Babies.
Sometimes still I wonder at the fact that she came to me when she needed help; wonder how she knew that I could help her and that I would help her. Still think it is likely that she was raised by humans. At any rate, I remain incredibly honored that she chose to come to me for help when she needed it. It has been a fabulous experience. I have been very lucky. Sometimes life's little annoyances may be the good things in disguise - if we just take a moment to look more closely.
When I first started this thread I was afraid that Heidi would cause trouble - or hurt me or my dog. She's been here for 6 years or so, and so far (fingers crossed) she has behaved very well. She never threatens me or the dog. Most of the time she hides out quietly in the darkness until we leave.
Here's the worst so far. She bends the sheperd's hooks trying to get to the feeder. Sometimes she damages the feeders. One of my best feeders is sitting empty right now because she hid the little ornamental, screw-on hanger thingy that holds it together. I'm still hoping to find it somewhere. She only does these things when I DON'T feed her.
And she's pretty smart about it. One day last year I came home and found her sitting on the curve at the top of the shepard's hook, one hand on either side of the large, cylindrical, multi-section, squirrel B gone feeder, turning it around and around quite deftly until she managed to unscrew the nut/loop sending the whole thing crashing to the ground with seeds spilling everywhere. Earlier this spring, before she "talked" me into feeding her, she started climbing up into the crepe myrtle that holds the hummingbird feeder, grabbing the feeder while sitting in the crotch of the tree, and turning the feeder to a horizontal postion while holding her mouth underneath to catch the nectar that ran out.
She climbed my maypole crabapple and ate the "apples". When I left the compost pail on the patio by mistake (got called away on my way out to the compost bin), she made a heck of a mess, but that was my mistake.
About that midnight raid at your house, most of the year I don't see her at all. In the spring and early summer she gets very bold. That's when she starts coming into the yard earlier and earlier, sometimes even in the day time. The lady who advised me to feed her said she behaves that way because when she has nursing pups she gets desperate to get food and get back to them before they are stolen by a predator. Makes sense. Now that they are getting older, I see her less and less. So maybe you need to put your food out in the spring.
Thank you, CJ, and spartacusaby. I am honestly sorry that it over for now. I wish that I could go back to those few nights when she climbed down the fence and approached me. That was awesome. Wish that I had not been afraid and had let her get closer, maybe offered her something up close, perhaps from that 3ft grabber thing I use to get stuff from behind furniture. Maybe next year.
Thankfully, no! But I do still look very carefully in all directions before I step out of the back door and anywhere I walk out there. For a while I wore tall boots out there. Also, I removed (down to the soil!) all of the groundcover from around the patio in the area where the snake was. That way, before I go out I can easily inspect the ground for signs of him or any of his friends.
I have noticed ONE thing. I haven't seen any rats or signs of rats out there since shortly after the snake sitings. (Plural because I also saw a large garter snake out there a week or so later.) In fact, the last rat I saw was lying dead a few feet from the patio. I suspect that he had been struck by one of the snakes, and that I had come by and scared the snake away.
I'm trying to look on the bright side. It works as long as I don't SEE the snakes.
I haven't been feeding Heidi much lately. Saturday I did deep clean the fridge (wow, is it ever bright in there now) and put all the throw-aways out for her in a really full bag. Tonight around midnight when I took the dog out, I heard her in the compost bin - where I put the last few mellons for her. Apparently, she was searching for anything edible. I walked back there to see her. She scampered away over the fence before I could see her, but I knew it was her from the sound/movement. I called to her softly and clicked a few times. (I didn't mention, but ever since I named her I've been calling her name and clicking when I toss her the food.)
I didn't expect her to actually come to me. She's never come to me before in response to the calling of her name, but I just wanted to see her again, and I knew she was over there. There was a rustle in the bushes, and just like that she appeared atop the fence! Then she climbed down the fence, looked at me, walked a few feed along the fence, and stood looking at me. Her demeanor reminded me of that of a cat that's about to rub on your legs requesting dinner. Unfortunately, at that moment Widget saw her and charged her. As I've mentioned he's just under 5lbs so I'm surprised she doesn't just smack him one, but she scrambled back up the fence and dissapeared. Bummer! I took her some dog food and a slice of watermelon, put it in a bowl by the fence, and called her again; but she wouldn't come back over the fence even though I left the dog inside.
Maybe I'll try again another night. It was SO exciting to see her come out of the forest when I called her!
I'm a little confused though. Around 7PM I tossed her a dinner bag that should have left her waddling: a whole (very ripe) honeydew melon, a broiled chicken breast, a pint of artichoke and spinach dip, and a cup of sour cream - the last of the fridge cleanings. I had to double bag it. Seems like something else must have eaten the food since she was still hungry and scrounging for food. Also, while I was sitting out there tonight with the bowl of dog food near the fence, I heard a nasty "fight" on her side of the fence, lots of spitting and snarling.
Although I didn't see her again, I sensed that she was still there hiding in the bushes/trees watching me. Do you think the children are still with her, and they ate the food? I haven't seen them in a while. I've caught a few glimpses of her, but they were never with her. The last time I did see them they were almost full size, so I figured they had left home, so to speak. Do you think one of them is now fighting with her for food/territory? Or has another raccoon found out about my raccoon buffet? Or maybe the opposum? Curious.
BTW, the kids did have a nasty argument the last time I saw (or heard) them raiding the feeder. When they were little fellas they were content to all climb on the feeder at the same time, but when they got bigger they started having little spats out there.
Hmm. Grown up children coming back to get food and supplies and argue with the parent, now where have I heard that before? LOL. Seems to be the same for all species.
You know, Marylyn, the more I think about all the facts, I'm inclined to thing it's those kids, too. That spat on the other side of the fence last night sounded a lot like the spat's I witnessed at the feeder when they fought with each other. Also, last week "something" (raccoon-like) went on a rampage, ripped the bird feeder off of the shepard's hook and destroyed it, broke the feeder ports off the hummer feeder and drank the nectar, and trashed the patio, breaking pots and dumping plants and dirt everywhere. Saturday morning I went out and bought new feeders, filled them, and hung them out. That evening I put out a large food package for the raccoons so they'd leave the feeders alone. Sunday morning I awoke to find that BOTH of the new hbird feeders were destroyed. The ports had been broken off, so they would no longer hold fluid.
In the six years that Heidi has been here she has NEVER been destructive like that. Sometime she unscrews the top off the bird feeder and eats the food, but the feeder is still ok. Once or twice she drank the hbird nectar but she didn't damage the feeder. Sounds like a gang of marauding teenagers, huh? Amen to getting their own territory, and LOL about the bigger fridge. (Now my fridge is spotless and nearly empty. Still need to purge the freezer though, and I know I have a freezer burned salmon in there along with 2lbs of cheese that I know Heidi will love.) I'll have to buy even bigger bags of Jim Dandy.
At any rate, last night when she waltzed right down that fence when I called her, no one was more shocked than ME. I STILL can't believe it. But it was SO, SO magical...at least until Widget spoiled everthing by chasing her away. I must try that again w/out the dog.
You know, scutler, you were the first person I thought of when I came face to face with my first raccoon the other night!! Something kept setting off the security light and when I opened the back door, sitting right on the fence not five feet away was a big raccoon just looking me right in the eye. I loved the look on his face...like "yeah...and so..??" I just stood there like a knucklehead with my mouth wide open and then he very calmly climbed away. If I'd had your phone number, I would've called and woken you up I was so excited!
I've been watching my h-bird feeders after reading our account of how Heidi drinks out of it to see if there is any evidence of tampering, but none so far. Something did however chew the plastic rod that was holding a bird feed bell and walked off with it...now who could do something like that, I wonder?
I do hope Heidi gets a grip on her rowdy teens. I hate the thought of her in a scuffle and not getting food.
Racoons are so cuuuuuuutttte! We watch them from a distance while they eat from the deer feeders at our pond. Unfortunately, last week a baby wandered into our fenced dog yard and didn't live to tell about it. :( Two of our dogs killed a full grown racoon on the back deck several years ago while we were out of town. We returned to find the racoon carcass and two dogs with bite marks and eyes as big as saucers! It must have been some fight!
Scutler, I sure hope you don't end up having a lot of damage done by your "pets". (didn't you have the crazed bird tearing up your screens?) Sometimes, when they start to "expect" a free meal, they get very destructive when you don't meet their schedule. They can do a lot of damage!
I remember my first experience with destructive racoons. I was living in a second floor apartment with furniture on my balcony. First started noticing unidentifed poop (what could get to the 2nd floor balcony and poop like that????), then my furniture cushions were shredded and a plastic bread bag was left behind. I finally realized what was happening when I drove up one night and spotlighted a whole family of racoons "dumpster diving". Ah ha! Mystery solved!
Hi Lee, Hope you enjoy the antics of your visitor as much as I have enjoyed knowing Heidi. Don't get me wrong; there are pitfalls. Heidi has been known to run off with pretty much any food item not nailed down. I've never known her to be seriously destructive - think that may be those roudy teens, but over the years she has made off with everything from suet (wire holder and all, sometimes I find them, sometimes I don't) to thistle sleeves (generally found empty near the fence). She is a master "re-appropriator". And her presence does limit what I can put out for the smaller and gentler creatures. But then, so do the squirrels and the opossum - just have to work with what we have.
Debra, you must have some large and/or mean dogs there. Seriously, though, I have read that dogs are a major killer of raccoons, which shocks me, too, since I would expect the raccoon to be the tougher competitor. Because dogs are mostly kind and friendly to us, it is easy to forget the power that they really possess, and, thankfully, don't show us. Just an aside, I have also read that since the fairly recent sequencing of DNA and genomes, it has been determined that there is little or no justification for the classification of "dog" because dog and wolf DNA is essentially the same. Dogs (even the furry, little ones) appear to be mutated and domesticated wolves. Now that definitely puts things in perspective.
I do realize that there are risks involved in feeding the raccoons. My biggest fear has always been for the house - TIAD (titmouse induced anxiety disorder). But I spent 5 years doing everything possible to keep Heidi out of my yard to absolutely NO avail whatsoever. So, as I have learned, it is not my yard. It is OUR yard, and she will continue to be here regardless of what I do. I'm not encouraging her. I'm just interacting with her. She will be here no matter what.
I could trap her and relocate her. Some very well meaning people recommended that at the beginning of this thread. Thankfully, the wildlife rehabilitator told me that Heidi's behavior was consistent with that of a lactating female; she was right, and if I had "humanely" relocated Heidi, 4 baby raccoons would have faced certain death. Moreover, as the rehabilitator pointed out, any attempt to remove Heidi would only create a vacuum to be filled by another, possibly less friendly, raccoon - nature hates a vacuum.
So she's here, and I'm here. We might as well try to be friends. I used to get angry when she ate the bird food and ran off with the suet. And my BP did rise when my new hbird feeders were trashed recently. Now, frustrating as it is, I try to realize that it really makes no sense for me to put food out and expect that the birds will know that they are welcome and all the other creatures will know that it is not meant for them. I mean, seriously, wouldn't it make just as much sense to be angry with the Cardinal for stealing the seeds and the hummingbirds for drinking the nectar? That doesn't mean,of course, that I won't try to find a way to prevent the raids mechanically - or that she won't find a way to circumvent my best efforts. ; )
Oh, and the night they destroyed the hbird feeders, I DID put out feed, but probably not enough for 5 grown raccoons. Here's hoping the kids get married and move away SOON!
Got to go now. Have an appointment in the backyard.
I took out my really, really last bag of leftovers from the fridge cleaning. really: sun dried tomato tortilla wraps (whole bag I forgot about), trimmings from tonight's smoked pork chops, Jim Dandy. I sat on my garden seat about 20ft from the fence, holding my goody bag. I called out to Heidi in a soft, gentle, friendly voice. There was no response, but I refused to leave. Somehow, I was certain "she" was there. For maybe 10 minutes I sat, calling out and clicking from time to time. (BTW, no dog).
Then, a clue. The shadow of what seemed to be the tree limb on the fence (due to my spotlight some distance away at the house) began to move ever so slightly from time to time. I felt no breeze. Nothing else was moving. I was sure this was her somewhere in/under the limb. I persisted in calling, clicking.
The leaves on a branch nearby moved. Then another branch. Then another. Almost like the wave thing at sports games the movement flowed along the branches in front of me. Now this was confusing because there was still no breeze. And nothing else in the yard was moving at all, just a flowing "breeze" amidst the branches in the area in front of me. Then, the slightest, faintest impression of a little grey striped head appeared atop the fence, followed only seconds later by a small body. But this was not Heidi, too small. No, this was one of the kids, and he was smaller than I thought. Then as the little fella stood atop the fence eyeing me curiously, the ghostly apparition of another face appeared amidst the branches, almost like the cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland. There were 2 of them.
Slowly, I stood up, holding the food out in front of me, and walked toward them. (don't worry. I had no intention of petting them. just wanted to carry the food closer.) When I had moved about 5ft they scampered back into the branches. I stopped and tossed the food to about 10ft from the fence, then went back to my seat.
A few minutes later 2, no 3, make that 4 little raccoons climbed down the fence in front of me. It was exciting -- and a little scarey. They are wild animals after all, and I felt out numbered. The 1st one down hurried over, snatched up the bag and scrambled back up the fence - gone. The others, apparently unaware of what had happened, walked over to the spot where the food had been, sniffed around, milled about in front of me. They were only 10ft away. Each in turn, realizing that the food was gone, turned to me and walked toward me a few steps, before turning to leave. One by one they filed back up the fence and dissappeared.
I went back inside, got them another bowl of Jim Dandy and a bagel - hey, I was hoping for the chance to offer portions of it at closer range. I didn't see them, so I left the food.
They were so adorable!!!
I didn't see Heidi. You know, I am really starting to believe that they LIVE in those branches right over that fence - or in the attached tree. I mean, come on. Every time I go to the fence and call, one of them shows up. How likely is that unless they live there?
Hey, scutler: love the new chapters of your ongoing and fascinating saga. Raccoon young typically stay with mom quite a while; there's a big learning curve as she teaches them to forage and hunt (granted this is much easier in your yard!). If she becomes pregnant with a second litter for the year, she'll probably kick them out then. Meanwhile, there are a lot of mouths to feed, and they probably are old enough to start getting scrappy with each other. If she's not yet pregnant, she will typically let them eat first, so she may often be pretty darn hungry. And yes, the tree at your fence may well be their home base; if there's a cavity somewhere in the trunk, it's probably the original nest site.
And yes, dogs really are just wolves bred for different size, color, coat, and function in human society. If you've ever seen feral dogs in the cities or third world, their pack behavior is remarkably similar to wolves.
Scutler, have you tried a racoon baffle on the bird feeder? We have a pole feeder that was constantly being raided by raccoons and opposums. They not only ate the bird food, but tore up the feeders and knocked over the pole several times causing it to be "not so straight" anymore. The baffle really works as long as they can't jump onto the feeder from a nearby tree.
Maybe I've missed them, but have you gotten any photos of the whole family? Would they pose for a family portrait?
The two dogs that killed the adult raccoon a few years back aren't vicious (the Basenji does have an attitude, but that's another story). Actually, the Doberman/Lab mix is very submissive to us, but watch out any creature who dares enter the territory she's assigned to guard! She takes her job very seriously. (she has killed or alerted us to snakes, chipmonks, squirrels, rabbits, lizards, turtles, deer, raccoons, oppossums, and uh, a pile of rocks that "weren't there yesterday!") They both had battle scars after the fight with the adult raccoon. It was obvious the bigger dog had grabbed the raccoon (wounds around her mouth) and the Basenji had then made a run at it from the wrong end - front end - probably while the other dog held it (he had a bite on his snout). They would not even come back onto the top deck again until we removed the dead raccoon. They wanted NO PART of that critter again!
Marylyn - it's true! She has a very distinct "something's in the yard that doesn't belong here" bark. I put her out one morning and soon heard that bark so went to investigate. She was barking at three flat rocks someone had stacked on top of each other on the back porch. She was right - they didn't belong there! She redeemed herself later when she alerted me to water mocassins in the back yard on two different occassions.
Is it just me, or does everyone else miss the Microsoft Word spellcheck feature while posting on these forums? I think I've completely forgotten how to spell!
Scutler - what's the latest? Any babies today in the daylight? Oh, and would you please come clean out my fridge? It's been so long since I've done it there's no telling what's lurking in there. Sounds like you do a heck of a job! LOL
Miss Spell check? Absolutely!!! Most of the time I have DG in one window and webster in the other which makes for slow typing. Other times I just say "what the heck". I figure I've probably added some letters to "raccoon" but I'm too lazy to check. Definitely miss spell check!
I'll try to remember to take the camera out with me tomorrow night. It was raining lightly tonight. My camera is a Nikon and it has the ability to take good night photos, has a red light for "night vision", etc. The photos near the top of the thread are lousy because I don't know how to USE the camera. Since then I read up on the settings for night photos and tested on flowers so hopefully I'll be able to do a little better. Tonight the raccoon clan caught me off guard and it was raining anyhow.
Debra, after the feeder destruction this weekend I decided that I will have to change the setup and add baffles. For now I'm taking them in each night which is less than satisfactory for me and the birds - besides which Heidi just learns to visit earlier and earlier. I'm using shepard's hooks, so I'll need to get feeder poles and anchor them in concrete to do it right. I'm torn between the raccoon baffles sold commercially and 6" PVC. I've read that the latter also works quite well, but like the baffles, it is not inexpensive. I priced it once at somewhere between $40-60 for one 10ft pipe, but figured I could make several from it. And yes, my poor "poles" are all bent to a 45 degree angle.
About the fridge, you must have missed my comment about how bright it is in the fridge now that I have finally completed the excavation. I found stuff in there from the Pleistocene period, including a few potentially important fossil records. lol. I only cleaned it out when I did as an act of self-defense.
spartacusaby, thank you very much for the compliment RE the saga. I am so glad that you are enjoying it. I am glad to have all of you with me. Just today I was thinking about how very important all of you are to MY enjoyment of this ongoing event. At work today the memories of my experience with the kids last night was so fresh in my mind, and I kept wanting to tell others about it, but my collegues are relatively young males and great guys though they are they are just not "into" critter stories at this stage of their lives. (Need I say more?) Nor for that matter are any of my "non-virtual" friends and acquaintances. So I can't begin to tell you how VITAL all of you are. This is just the kind of experience that cries out to be shared, and shared with others who can truly understand the significance of the events. (And who won't insist that I'll be needing rabies shots or that I should kill all of them ASAP.)
And thanks also for the input on raccoon behavior. It helps a lot in making sense of all of this.
I have to get to bed early tonight, but wanted to relay that I did see the gang tonight. When Widget and I went out at dusk to get the feeders, Heidi was out there. She must have been pretty hungry. She ran back to the fence when she saw us. Widget went back there.and was nosing around. She came down the fence and chased him back. She didn't hurt him, and it was very clear that she was just saying, "You're getting too close to my kids, so back off, buddy". I put him inside, grabbed the near empty Jim Dandy bag and headed for the fence.
I filled the plastic bowl at the fence, sat down on the garden seat, and called them. A few moments later the branches started moving and out popped Heidi. She came down and ate with the ferocity of the half-starved. After a while, one of the kids joined her. There was a bit of growling, a very small bit. It seemed to come from the kid,and she seemed to move away a bit letting the kid take center stage. I watched them eat for a while before they were joined by a 3rd. Eventually the 4th head appeared in the branches, but he never came down to join the family picnic.
I sat with them for quite a while. A few times I moved to slap mosquitoes. One or more of the gang would move back toward the fence only to return when I called out to them in a soft, friendly voice. I refilled the bowl (they retreated over the fence and returned when I went back to my seat and called to them), In time Heidi got her fill and quietly retreated over the fence leaving the kids to finish the feast. At that point I, too, retired for the evening.
Photos tomorrow if it doesn't rain.( I had watermelon this evening and saved the outer portion for them.)
Alas, the refuse in my fridge spanned several eras. I offered the more current stuff to the raccoon family. I need better discipline (and possibly adult supervision). I tend to buy things that "expire" before they are used either because I forget about them or because I'm too lazy to prepare them or because after I get home I no longer want them or because I buy more than I can use in the allotted time or...
Tonight Heidi was out but no sign of the kids. I gave her the watermelon and dog food. She preferred the latter. I tried to get photos but quickly learned that I need to read the camera manual. Trust me when I say that the camera knows how to take night pics - but the person running the camera does not. There is supposed to be a red light that shines on things to allow you to see and focus in the dark. I've seen it before by accident but cannot seem to activate it intentionally. When the red light is activated the subject looks essentially the same as if it were taken in daylight except that it is against a black background. That is not what I have here. I took these photos by holding the camera in the direction of the raccoon and hoping for the best since I could neither see nor focus.
Here is Heidi. I'll try to read the manual and get better pics - perhaps by then the kids will also be available for the family photo.
Not bad at all, Scutler. What camera do you have? And you have the same horrible shopping, not eating habits that I have. Just cleaned out the veggie bin of all manner of things slimy (eeewwww) that hadn't been touched since my shopping spree. Such good intentions; such poor follow through.
Actually I am kind of glad she is back. Seems kind of lonely without hearing about her coming over. My racoon ( whom I have only seen once, with two other sets of eyes back in the forest), has been only raiding the water sources--the hummingbird feeder and the bird bath. So tonight I went down and left a big dogfood bowl fulll of water and some corn on the cob that was getting dried out. Humm...are you an influence on us or what?? :-)
CJ, I have a Nikon CoolPix 8800. But trust me it is not the camera's fault. I'm not even a photographer wannabe. Just too many other projects, no time left to learn about white balance and apertures. I just wanted to get good photos of my flowers. This is not a camera for the uninformed, not a point and shoot. When I got it, I found that I couldn't even read the manual - and, yes, it is in English. It took me months to figure out how to get it to auto-focus (you'd think that would be obvious, huh?). It was another month or so before I gained "some" modest control over the flash(es), and almost a year before I accomplished macros. (The camera can take pics as close as a fraction of an inch - but for almost a year I couldn't get closer than 3ft.)
It has a red focus-assist light for low light. I've seen the light work - but I have NO IDEA what caused it to be activated. lol. The red light allows you to see the subject even in the dark. As a result, you can focus properly, and the resultant photo is a perfect as one taken in daylight, except that the background is black. I have some flower photos taken that way. In one case, a viewer asked about my "special effects" and whether I had photographed the flower in front of a black background of some kind. I know that the camera would take excellent photos of Heidi and crew if I could figure out how to get the red light to engage. I'll have to get that book out and see if I can figure it out.
When I took the photos above (all of them), I could not SEE the raccoons (or anthing for that matter) through the view finder or the lcd screen. Everything was solid black, so I had to use "trial and error" to even FIND the raccoon. I took lots of photos of the fence behind the raccoon and a few of the ground in front of the raccoon and even beside the raccoon before I finally got a few pictures OF the raccoon. LOL. Clearly, I am not doing something right. huh? Anyhow, if you can't SEE the subject, you have no hope of bringing the subject into focus.
Now about that grocery shopping, I must do better with that. In fact, I'm going to put that on my list right now of things to procrastinate over.
Yep, Karen, that's the way it started here. You are well on your way! LOL. I may be a bad influence.; )
Tonight Heidi and the bunch were all dangling from the feeder when I went out. It was raining AGAIN so I just grabbed the feeders, dumped some dog food in the bowl, and left.
I think this weekend I'll go out to the local pet supply warehouse and get a humongous bag of "cheap" dog food. As a group they are now eating like a lion. Luckily, they are not too finicky about "what" they eat. And I need to get to work on those new baffled feeder poles as well.
Well, I THOUGHT the story was over for tonight, but I can never just leave it alone...
I took Widget out one last time before bed. He seemed a little wary of the back fence so I went back there with him - to protect him. As I sat on my little garden seat, I could not resist the urge to call Heidi. But I didn't really expect her to show up. After all, I had already fed her earlier and I had the dog with me, so I figured even if she was nearby she wouldn't come.
Suddenly, the dog started to growl, then the branches started to move, then a shadowy figure started backing down the fence, and there stood Heidi, as if to say, "You called?" Not wanting to call her without giving her something, I took the dog inside and came back with 3 dog biscuits, and a giant (bought the wrong size) smart biscuit (made with greenie chips). I moved my seat closer to the fence and called her. She came back down and stood about 15ft away looking at me. I tossed a biscuit about 5ft from me. Cautiously, she aproached, picked it up in her 2 hands and started to eat all the while keeping her eyes fixed on me lest I should move a muscle. When she finished that one and I tried to toss another one to her I scared her and she ran away. I moved my seat back a bit and threw the greenie chip biscuit over toward the fence. She stood on top of the fence for what seemed like forever trying to decide what to do. Finally she came back down the fence, walked over to the giant greenie chip buiscuit, grabbed it and ran back over the fence with it. Moments later one of the kids came down for the remaining biscuit. I suspect that that particular kid, the fearless one, is most likely a boy.
After that I came back inside. And now Widget is trying to tell me something so ...must go.
ROTFLOL!!! Probably! Except that Widget doesn't LIKE them very much, and he REALLY doesn't appreciate me giving them his stuff! One day I put 2 of his rawhide chews out there to see if they liked those. Even though he has a zillion of them and looses interest after he licks all of the flavor off, he was very upset when he found them out there. He was like, "How did my stuff get out here?!" Totally outraged, he dragged both of them back into the house and put them down just inside the back door, never to look at them again. He doesn't want them, but he's not about to share.
Took a nap after work. Woke after dark. Ran out to find my furry masked friends at the feeder. Took them that less than perfect watermelon half I cut and rejected at dinner. Filled my pockets with dog biscuits and went out to sit with them. Somehow in the excitement of the moment I always seem to forget the camera, but it soon began to sprinkle lightly anyhow. (Appears to be the monsoon season.)
When I walked out with the biscuits, Heidi and one pup were sharing the watermelon. They continued to eat while I approached and sat down, but ran back over the fence when I swatted a mosquito. I sat holding a biscuit out in front of me invitingly. Heidi came back down the fence. Instead of walking back up in front of me (where the melon was), she sneaked through the dense cover of black eyed susan, hydrangeas, lantana, and butterfly bushes to come around beside me. I saw her face appear in the brush beside me. I find it odd that it's always that masked face - that surely must be meant for camoflauge - that I see 1st when looking for them in the dark. Odd.
I tossed a biscuit out some 10ft in front of me. Rather than come out from her hiding place beside me, she went all the way around and approached from in front of me to retrieve the "cookie". I didn't understand the significance of the manuver. The single kid came down beside her, and for a while I sat tossing biscuits and watching the 2 of them eat biscuit and melon.
I kept wondering where the other kids were. I neglected to mention that when I came home this afternoon the odor of a dead animal lay heavy in that area of the back yard and, frankly, gave me cause for concern. But, then, suddenly a small body, small feet, started to come into focus atop the fence. I was happy to see at least one more of the kids about to join the party. Perhaps they were all back there, just being shy. But when the kid's face appeared atop the fence, in the very spot where Heidi always made here appearances and where the kids sat on the tree limbs weeks ago looking like little koala bears, it was not the masked face I had expected but rather a longish, thin, solid white face. What? Was this.. no it couldn't be...surely my eyes deceived me in the darkness... No it was; it was a baby oppossom!
Now I really was confused. But Heidi wasn't. She let out a low gutteral growl and scampered up the fence in pursuit of the interloper who waddled off along the top of the fence line. The appearance of the oppossum seemed to signal the end of the feast for even after Heidi had chased him to the far end of the fence, she and her kid left the remaining food behind and disappeared amidst the branches atop the fence and did not return. A few moments later the small, solid white, lone baby oppossum scuttled out from the cover of the flowers beside me, cast a seemingly unconcerned glance my way, and then continued over to grab a biscuit and carry it back into the flower bed.
I saw no sign of an adult oppossum anywhere nearby. But now I realize that I have seen this little "guy" before. Twice I had walked out and caught him sitting atop the crook of the shepard's hook that holds the feeder. He had been even smaller then, and in the darkness I had mistaken him for an odd looking white rat - but even then I realized that his movements and mannerisms did not fit that id.
So, does anyone know what all this means. Where are the other 3 of Heidi's kids? Is it likely that they would have stayed on the other side of the fence the whole time, getting none of the yummy treats? What of the definite odor of decomposition in the area? The kids are 1/2 to 2/3 the size of Heidi now; are they at risk of predator attack at that size? And the baby oppossum. Where is the mom? Is he an orphan? What is the relationship between raccoon and oppossum? Is one a threat to the other? Will the entire forest eventually heed the call of my catering service and come to join the feast in time? Will a baby bobcat and a cougar show up one day for their dog biscuits? Will a black bear amble on down from NC for a treat? Am I starting a backyard zoo?
Well, scutler, I think you already HAVE a backyard zoo, and we love you for it. No way to be sure what/who died out back, of course; but my guess is it's not one of the raccoon babies. While they're still with mama, I think she'd remove the body from her nesting area to avoid drawing predators/carrion eaters near her brood. It might be mama opossum or a baby possum, or just a random unfortunate.
Raccoons and opossums compete for food sources, but neither preys on the others, at least not on the adults. Possums are omnivores, and not at all fussy; they eat bugs, slugs, rodents if they can catch them, vegetation, fruit/veggies, and carrion. They're not super effective predators because they're pretty slow; been around since the dinosaur era, and haven't changed much in the eons. As mamas, they are nowhere near the same class as raccoons. As you probably know, they're marsupials; babies are born in mama's pouch looking more like embryos than babies. They lock onto a nipple and remain in the pouch for several weeks, growing madly until they outgrow the pouch. When they outgrow the pouch, they ride around on mama's back as she goes about her business. Soon they're too big for this, and fall off; mama just keeps going, and they're on their own. Sad side effect of their biology: when mama is killed by a car, as happens so often with possums, she often has live babies in her pouch. If they're recovered quickly, before they're poisoned by nursing on her after death, they can be rehabbed and raised and released. When I used to work in animal control, we always checked possums by the roadside for live babies if they were female; and I must confess I still sometimes do if it's clear that mama was recently hit. People look at me like I've lost my mind, and I do understand...
Oh, and if I see any black bears up here, I'll tell them you're running a great buffet down there!
Just came back from feeding the crew. It is such an exhilerating experience.
As usual I was late going to rescue the feeder - and they were not. And, in keeping with this little dance we do each evening, they scattered when they saw that they were busted. And, as also happens all to often, that ONE little fella broke left when everbody else went right, so he got stuck between me and the house. As I grabbed the feeder I saw him standing there a mere 5 ft away amidst the potted plants.
(Whew! Either my laptop screen is blinking, or I'm lapsing in and out of conciousness - at a very rapid pace...but no matter...)
He didn't look all that concerned, so I chided him gently, "Now you know you aren't supposed to eat the bird food." At that point, he decided to join the rest of his family. But he didn't bother slinking around the perimiter of the yard to stay as far from me as possible. Nope. As I was standing in front of the shepard's hook holding the feeder, he walk right past me (and almost over my feet) to scoot back into the melange of flowers and shrubs just behind the pole. Then, once within the relative safety of the flowers, he stopped, turned around, and came back to the edge apparently just to see if I might have brought any food with me - like he figured he'd get to the front of the feeding line.
Sadly, just as I never think of the camera, neither did I think to take a treat out with me to retrieve the feeder. By the time I got back out with my bowl of Jim Dandy and Milk Bone he was gone. So I took my garden seat and moved it way, way closer to the fence, and sat down with my bowl of treats.
A few faces appeared over the fence. I threw a handful of quarter sized nuggets on the ground in front of me. Wow, did that ever work. All 5 of them spilled over the fence and came running. It was great. Tossing the food worked really well because it allowed all 5 of them to eat without trying to share a single bowl, which is getting a bit difficult these days. Even so, there were a few brief spats as inevitably 2 would reach for the same nugget at the same time. At those times I'd say "now, now, no fighting".
There is one "runt". She's extra timid, both of me and her sibblings so she doesn't seem to be growing at the same pace as her peers. She hung back by the fence and kept scampering back up onto the fence from time to time. Then while the others were milling about eating with abandon, I'd have to talk her back down off the fence. I made sure to toss some of the kibble back there to the fence line for her to eat away from both me and the pack.
All this time, I was holding the bowl of nuggets and a couple of those huge smart biscuits with the greenie chips, all the while tossing handfuls of kibble around in front of me. One little fella (I think this was that same bold one) left the pack, went around and came up beside me (always with the sideways thing. I still don't get that maneuver.can anyone explain?). He stood there looking at me. He appeared to be either trying to figure me out or deciding whether to come up and get the best stuff - maybe the biscuits.
Then someone down the street started shooting off some left over fireworks. Immediately, as if on cue, all 4 kids ran back up the fence and disappeared for good. Mom kept eating for another 5-10 minutes. Then with only a scant handful of food left, when she reached that point of equilibrium between fear and hunger, she too ambled away.
It was raining tonight (and all day for that matter), too. Just sprinkling, but not good camera weather. As soon as the monsoons end, I'll take the camera back out. By then I should be able to get much closer. Also tonight I was out there at dusk, when it wasn't really dark yet. Maybe with all that and another scan of the camera manual I will be able to get some "real" pics of the family soon.
I didn't see Snowball (that's my new name for the baby oppossum). Also didn't smell the dead animal, which was odd considering how thick the smell was yesterday. Clearly, it was not any of the raccoon family. Based on the input from spartacusaby and the fact that I now realize that Snowball has been on his own since he was no bigger than a small rat, I don't think it was his mother either.
Karen, I don't have much hope for seeing the ground on the other side of the fence. The forest is pretty thick back there, a robust mixture of trees, shrubs and underbrush. Furthermore, the forest has begun to encroach on my property, branches drape across most of the fence line along with muscadine vines. In winter when the temp gets back down to 70F, I'm going to have to cut some of that back before it swallows the fence altogether - but I'm going to leave those grapes because I've seen both cardinals and raccoons eating them - and I also have to cut around that hummingbird vine that grows some 30ft up into the trees.
spartacusaby, you can keep those bears up there if you don't mind. I don't think I have room in my little zoo for one of those fellas. From what I've seen on tv they seem a bit testy.
The decomp smell is probably gone because a carrion eater found the source overnight: nature doesn't let much go to waste, when there aren't humans around to disperse the clean-up crews!
I haven't yet seen a bear up here, but know they're around based on many stories from the long-time locals. I'd prefer to avoid them, too, thanks; they're too darn big and I know way too little about them to feel safe! Besides, our foolish dogs would probably feel the need to defend the fort, and I hate to imagine the consequences.
Ok, I know I said I'd try to get a pic tonight - and it's actually the 1st non-rainy night in days - but I forgot that Sunday afternoon/evening is a chaotic disaster around here. You'd think by now I would have learned to do SOME of the essentials before the last minute, but no such luck.
Anyhow, tonight as I was in an awful rush I decided I'd just grab the feeders and run. But that is getting very difficult to do these days. When I got the feeder I found myself surrounded by 5 furry little masked faces waiting for dinner. Ahhh. How could I resist? Even as I hurried back to grab something, they were standing upright watching me go.
Cutting to the chase, I grabbed a box of dog biscuits and ran out to take my seat - which I gently moved a little closer. I tossed a few biscuits about in front of me, and BOOM, all 5 of them rushed down the fence and towards me at a pace that made me a little fightened. The bold one (I have a name for him but forgot it) rushed on past all of the biscuits and just kept coming at me. If we were playing chicken, I was just about to blink (and run) when he stopped just 5 ft from my toes to eat a gormet peanut butter biscuit (I'd forgotten those were in the bottom of the container) that had fallen short of the mark. I don't know whether he has a particular fondness for peanut butter (and maybe prefers the premium dog biscuits to Milk Bone) or whether he comes up closer than everybody else in hopes of getting more food.
No sooner had I calmed down from that event and gotten (somewhat) accustomed to the 3 raccoons milling about some 8-10 ft in front of me and the 1 just 5 ft away, than I saw the little shy one again sneaking up from the side. He seems to prefer to be farther away from the group. Beside me, on the right where he was (tonight and last night) is a rose bush and some knee high weeds (hey I'm not perfect). Just like last night he stood there amidst the weeds just watching me. I tossed him one of the small pb biscuits. For a while he ignored it and just kept staring at me. He was a scant 3 ft away. Again, I was unnerved, especially since I can never really figure out what he's doing, why he sneaks around on the side, comes up so close, and watches me. I'm always afraid he's going to run up, jump on me, and steal the box of food.
It was difficult keeping an eye on all of them at the same time. Exhilarating, yet a little scarey because I don't know what they are going to do. But I guess that puts us on even ground. They no doubt feel the same way about me, wondering why I "sneak" out there in the dark to sit and stare at them while tossing them food, wondering if at any minute I might suddenly rush them, wondering just what I am going to do.
Oh, and the shy one eventually settled in and ate his biscuit along with the others I continued to toss to him there beside me.
I promise I will get a family photo - and soon, hopefully tomorrow night if it doesn't rain. I need to do it soon because it is getting increasingly difficult to tell the kids apart from Heidi unless I see them side by side.
thank you, jujucaps. thanks for letting me know that you're with us and still following the story. I am accumulating quite a menagerie, aren't I? Snowball was a no show again. I think Heidi has caused him to feel unwanted at these gatherings.
Oh, and I figured out why the monitor was blinking yesterday. The good news is I'm not lapsing in an out of conciousness and the monitor isn't defective. The bad news is that my AC adapter has developed a bad connection (broken wire) such that it "comes and goes" with the slightest movement. Since I have the laptop set up for power saving mode when it's on battery power, the screen blinks as it goes from high to low power with each break in the circuit. Clearly, I will need to get another one ASAP. It's an annoyance, but compared to the alternatives (for why the monitor would be acting this way), it's not so bad after all.
Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate and enjoy all of the info you've provided (hope you'll continue to fill us in. I'm learning so much). Tonight I noticed that after Heidi grabbed one biscuit she spent a lot of time hanging back at the fence and watching. Just as you indicated, she usually does most of her eating at the end, often after the kids have left. Also, near the end of tonight's feast, when the shy one came up so close beside me, she was eating in front of me. I noticed her glancing over at him from time to time, as though keeping an eye out for his safety.
Now that I'm inching ever closer, I'm starting to notice occaisional communication within the group - beyond the more obvious growling and hissing that happens every now and then. It really looks to me like Heidi is "directing" the activities, at least to a degree. Last night when the kids all left at once as if on some cue, I had the feeling that she had "sent" them away.
I am enjoying this opportunity to observe them. And it is amusing to note that - much like their human counterpart - even when there are many times more biscuits on the ground than raccoons to eat them, none the less, 2 of them will rush to grab the same one at the same time and get a little cranky - as though there is something special about THAT Milk Bone dog biscuit that makes it more desirable than the other 3 or 4 at their feet.
Oh, and to all of you, please note that were it not for you I would not be "hanging out" with them as I have been lately. I've always been raised to fear raccoons, no ifs, and, or buts, just stay away from them. It is only through talking with you and hearing about your experiences that I have been so emboldened as to feed them up close.
I hope that you think about a backup if for some reason you are not able to feed the group. I expect that if it were not for your help the shy one would not have survived. It is not so much a case of them becoming dependent on you as that there environment on that bit of undeveloped land is probably not capable of feeding all of them and left alone the weakest would not make it.
I have a very soft spot in my heart for animals. You might take a walking stick with you just in case one becomes agressive at some point, not to hurt it but to ward it off.
I agree, George, that the shy baby might well not have made it without scutler's support; and worry what will happen to him/her when they must go it alone, as will happen eventually. Of course, in the wild it's pretty rare for a whole litter to make it to adulthood; but Heidi and scutler have an investment in this little guy, and I hope he'll make it.
And scutler, I have no doubt that the raccoons communicate with each other. But then I think most animals communicate with each other; they just don't do so verbally in a way we recognize (unless, like you, we spend a lot of time observing). I KNOW my cats communicate and probably plot and plan; can see it happening, and they always get the better of us (lol). And Heidi undoubtedly is still directing their actions nonverbally; when they stop listening to her [as happens eventually with all adolescents, no?], it will be time for them to move out on their own. Thanks so much for your kind words, by the way; I love the wild critters, and figure that the more we know about them, the less we'll have to fear and the better we'll be able to share the world.
Scutler, since last posting I've been having my own raccoon adventures. Previous posts told of our dogs recently killing a baby raccoon. Well, in the wee hours of Sunday morning our Dobi/Lab would not stop barking and we discovered another baby in a tree just outside the dog yard. Brought the dog in to get some sleep! Didn't realize the baby had stayed in the tree all day yesterday until spotting him last evening. Am convinced he's sick because he barely moves even when sprayed with the water hose - eventually climbs a little higher but very slowly.
After spotting him last evening I walked to our pond and was standing on the dock as a mama raccoon and 3 babies came out of the woods to raid the deer feeder. Mama quickly climbed one leg of the metal tripod, easily walked across a cross bar and climbed into the wire cage formed around the feeder to keep squirrels out (yeah, I know what you're thinking...) and sat in there eating deer feed caught in the spinner mechanism. One baby followed her. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud as I watched him struggle to climb the tripod leg then hoist himself onto the cross bar. Clumsy, he wasn't nearly the highwire artist his mother was and slowly inched his way toward the feeder. About every three steps he lost his balance and ooops! fell to one side hanging on for dear life and ended up hanging upside down from the cross bar. I had to put my hand over my mouth to keep from scaring them away with my laughter. He eventually found his way into the metal cage where he and mama had dinner. The other 2 babies ate off the ground.
After they were scared off by my husband's approach, I sat on the dock hidden behind a large tomatoe cage hoping they would return. Well, they didn't return but 4 deer did! It was so exciting to see them that close. They saw me but, even though both legs and arms were suddenly itching, I didn't move a muscle. One doe was the obvious scout and started leading them around the pond toward me! When she got along side the dock causing me to be completely exposed, she stopped. We stared at each other for the longest, then she started stomping her hoof to see if I would move. She eventually turned and went back towards the feeder "stomping" with every step she took. It was fascinating to observe the behavior. By now the timer on the feeder went off throwing deer feed around the ground for them to eat. They know exactly what time to show up every morning and evening to be there for the timer to go off! Anyway, I watched them until something scared them off then returned to the house to tell my tale.
Better go - am already going to be late for work. BTW - I couldn't find the baby raccoon in the tree this morning. Hopefully he is ok and moved on.
Hi, just a note from a lurker to tell you how much I am enjoying this thread. I've been following from the beginning and am fascinated. I love all things furry, but would be frightened close up, I'm sure. My only close encounters with racoons has been in the Adirondack Mtn's in NY. There's no cover for them here. I'll be reading and watching. thanks for sharing your stories.
I have a continuous problem with raccoons. In fact when I read your initial post, I could have written it except for the dog. They tear up my deck containers, leave poo on the sidewalks and decks, and tear up the birdfeeders. I can barely bring myself to do what needs to be done when they have become this familiar with human habitats. I love animals and it is very difficult.
I guess it wouldn't be welcome to tell you about the intestinal parasite that raccoons uniquely carry that is transmissable to cats, and humans. It is known to be fatal to humans because in the encysting stage it does not travel to human intestines, it can encyst in heart muscle, and hence cause death. Contact with their feces could infect a pet or human. This is per the Ohio State Extension Service.
Do you know that raccoons are incredibly dirty and disease carrying. They are one of the few animals that dump garbage and leavings from their food like bones, and defecate next to their homes, and will do the same any place they are. They aren't much better than rats altho they are certainly cuter. I have cleaned up a lot of raccoon gifts from my deck and sidewalk the past couple of years and I keep gallons of bleach in the garage to kill any potential nasty stuff they leave behind. They will leave a pile, and then walk thru it. Because we had 26 cases of raccoon rabies in our county last year we have to be extremely careful not to attract them toward the house. It is only against the law to trap and re-locate a raccoon in our area - subject to a $250 fine. I have spent a good bit of time talking to the Animal Warden and the Animal Control Officer to try to find ways to discourage them from coming up to the house in order to avoid having to do something that I really don't want to do as an animal lover. To no avail. Because the population is booming and the only predator is cars, they recommend destroying the excess animals by any means necessary. When females have litters of 2-4 at a time and the mother couldn't even find enough forage to sustain herself - what do you think they are going to do? They will become bolder and bolder if humans give them hand outs.
I take it you've never read any accounts of what a boar raccoon can do to a dog. Their skin is substantially looser than most mammals and canines cannot get their teeth into it to defend themselves. Their claws are long and sharp for digging and climbing trees. There are numerous accounts of a boar raccoon ripping a dog to shreds or maiming it so badly it has to be destroyed. An adult male can weigh up to 40 lbs, a formidable opponent.
If you have raccoons coming up to the house, its time to stop feeding them, or you risk ultimately having to make the decision to have them destroyed. I've known one family who had a family of raccoons in the attic, who got down into the house when they were gone and did over $60,000 worth of damage trying to get out. Then there's my husband, who in his bachelor days got just a little bitty squirrel in the house, which freaked out when it realized it was trapped inside the windows and it ripped up curtains, furniture etc to the tune of $10,000 before he could shoo it out the door.
For the feeders I've spent a living fortune on replacement and baffles. Nothing has worked. See I look at it differently. Why should one species ruin it for all the other species?
I was at a nature center the other day and saw something that is ugly but it works. They strung a vinyl wrapped wire from 2 posts, and threaded 2 liter plastic pop bottles end to end along the wire. Their bird feeders were far enough off the ground so that the non-birds couldn't jump up to them, and they can't walk on the rolling pop bottles.
I can appreciate your foray into nature by befriending Heidi and I hope nothing happens as a result of it. But I also hope you stop feeding raccoons and attracting them into your and other peoples yards.
alyrics - I've never heard about that parasite. Yikes! We enjoy our raccoons from a distance but don't encourage them to come close to the house or areas we frequent. (one reason I was trying to encourage the baby to leave by trying to spray it with the water hose) We will keep up that policy! Thanks for the education.
Similar things are said about having cats! So many racoons are kept as pets in the midwest where I grew up and I never heard of problems there. They do get difficult when they get older. Apparently the intestinal parasite is not unique to racoons since humans and cat can also get it. If we lived further South we would be faced with quite a lot of internal parasites.
scutler, do tell us about your furthur adventures.
Tonight just rushed by at an incredible pace, worked late, ran some errands, got home late. While, regrettably, I just haven't had time to respond, I've been reading and reflecting on all of your comments. I just have to get to bed "early" tonight (considering it's already 12:45AM it's too late for that). I will be back, hopefully tomorrow, to comment. Thanks for the info. Special thanks for all the heart-warming support.
BTW, I hate to ruin the surprise, but this evening I got lots of close-up, well focused, "daylight" pics and even a very short video clip of one little guy washing his biscuit!!! Will post soon so - stay tuned. And, again, I reiterate, your supportive comments have been most touching. Thanks.
I think I mentioned the raccoon roundworm in a much earlier part of this thread, and the threat it can pose to humans, which is quite real. The usual mode of transmission between species is fecal-oral, which literally means getting raccoon poop in the mouth. Typically happens when raccoons soil a child's sandbox, kid plays in sandbox, puts hand in mouth, and there you go. Can also happen if you're gardening bare-handed in soil a raccoon has soiled, then put your dirty hands in your mouth; I don't know any gardeners who do this. The roundworm can cause heart and/or brain damage in humans; but if you wear gloves when cleaning up any fecal gifts, and wash well and thoroughly, the risk is minimal to nil for adults who understand and practice proper hygiene. I worked with raccoons for many years as a wildlife rehabber, and had to clean up their offerings daily; was never infected, and would not hesitate to rehab them again. Rabies in raccoons is also very real; those who work with them professionally all receive pre-exposure rabies vaccinations (ordinary shots in the arm), and these are a must if you ever HANDLE raccoons; saliva from an infected animal must contact an open wound, bite, mucous membrane, etc. to transmit rabies.
"Stovepipe" baffles usually work very well to keep raccoons out of bird feeders and nesting boxes, unless there are overhanging trees from which they can jump. Bird seed can be sprayed with Ropel, which will repel by horrible taste all mammals but not birds, without being toxic. There are many non-lethal ways to discourage and repel wildlife if that is what you want or need to do.
I'm up late too and have no wish to be alarmist. Just sensible.
Summary on rabies http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?cls=2&articleid=347
All warm-blooded animals are at risk for contracting rabies, however, some species are much more resistant than others. Transmission of the virus is almost always through a bite from a rabid animal. There are a variety of different symptoms and once contracted there is no cure, and death is almost always the outcome. The disease is very preventable through vaccination. While relatively rare in humans, the risk of contracting it, and the outcome of the disease make precaution with wild animals and vaccination of domestic ones essential. Rabies in raccoons may never enter the symptomatic stage or may take up to 3-4 months to activate in the brain tissue.
Raccoon Roundworm http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/4892/raccoonroundworm.html
Raccoons are the normal host for the parasitic nematode or roundworm known as Baylisascaris procyonis... In the Midwest, prevalence is 70% for adult and 99% for baby raccoons according to the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine...
The disease is spread through the eggs contained in the feces of an infected raccoon, by ingesting either raccoon feces or things that have been in contact with raccoon feces. Adult female roundworms produce thousands to millions of eggs per day. After the eggs are shed in feces, they embryonate into a larval stage in about 3-4 weeks. They remain viable in the environment for months to over 5-6 years... Signs and Symptoms
Clinical and pathological symptoms occur when an abnormal host (an animal other than the raccoon) becomes infected. It can cause a very rare disease called visceral larva migrans (VLM) in humans and other animals, as well as ocular larva migrans (OLM) and neural larva migrans (NLM). If ingested by an abnormal host, the eggs penetrate the small intestine (which they apparently do not do in raccoons) and undergo an aberrant migration through the body. The eggs hatch, and the larvae migrate to the brain, eyes and other organs. The parasite has been implicated in cases of serious eye disease or central nervous system disorders and infection can cause death or paralysis depending on the location in the body and number of worms. ...
Contact with wild raccoons or exposure to their feces should be avoided. Hunters, trappers, and wildlife rehabilitators should wash their hands after handling raccoons. Wild raccoons should be discouraged from inhabiting buildings or other areas used by humans. Prevention also consists of never touching or inhaling raccoon feces, using rubber gloves and a mask when cleaning cages (or attics, etc.) which have been occupied by raccoons, burying or burning all feces, keeping children and pets away from raccoon cages and enclosures, and disinfecting cages and enclosures between litters. All cages and nest boxes used for housing raccoons should not be used for any other animals. They should remain strictly for raccoon use. Remember that raccoons may have fecal matter on their paws and bodies and take appropriate safeguards...
That goes for gardeners too - raccoon feces is small, black, amorphous and dry. You could easily not notice it in your garden soil or lawn.
Be careful in the year coming if you now are attracting and feeding 5 coons into your yard. The yearlings will be cut loose by momma when she gets pregnant again and they will be new at foraging for themselves. The most aggressive animals I've had were hungry yearlings who aren't quite self sufficient and are too lazy to go learn how when they think its easier to raid the humans. I had a yearling who climbed my screen door and began to rip it while I sat about 6 ft away inside one night. This is kind of like bears - when they get to this level of familiarity with humans they have to be removed because of the damage they can cause. And you can't diagnose at that time just exactly why they are being that familiar with humans. Are they sick or just unafraid. Better never to encourage them to become this familiar. And my last comment is.. they will never ever go away. Even if you stop feeding them now, they will come back anyway.
I have very much enjoyed all of Scutler's adventures. Very much! But if there is a danger involved, I think she should know about it so that she can make an informed decision. I would hate for her to be harmed in any way, just because I am enjoying her encounters with nature, vicariously. alyrics - thank you for the information. I know that I learned something from it. And you also, sparta...
alyrics, as much as I have hated hearing your message, I do appreciate the information and believe that it was given with all the very best intentions. And I am very glad that you have told me (and all of us) these things. I also realize the courage required to go against the grain.
PLEASE know that I very much appreciate each and every one of you, both those like alyrics who have presented difficult and potentially unpopular information and those who have been quick to rally support on my behalf. I believe that we ALL want the same thing, what is best for both the animals and the humans. I also believe that it is ok for us to disagree and to debate the issues as long as we remember to be respectful of each other, of our rights to have and voice desenting opinions. And I appreciate ALL of your opinions.
Please don't think my "silence" these last few days has anything at all to do with any of the statements recently expressed. I have just been incredibly busy, the timing of such is but a coincidence. I still have lots of photos, events, and thoughts to share with you, and I look forward to doing so as soon as time allows. (Even now I am 2hrs, 13 minutes past my ABSOLUTE cut off for bed time.) If anything the new information and opinions have provided a springboard for MORE conversation, not less. There are so many things I'd like to say about all of this - I just can't afford to open those floodgates until I can give the topic(s) the time required.
But I will be back very soon. Please "stay tuned".
I just want to say, scutler, that I know you were very uncomfortable with the coons at the start (hence the beginning of the thread) and that you sought expert advice. Perhaps you would have proceeded differently if you had the info that alyrics has presented, but you did not. At any rate, there is no going back, the situation is what it is, and I have very much enjoyed the trip with you.
Yep, we will stay tuned. Although now I am a little afraid of what is going to happen when she cuts the kids footloose. Will you still have to feed all 5? Will there be a real fight for control?? Will they start on your house after they destroy the birdfeeders? Or will the go away on their own--probably not as someone says. So you choices are to keep feeding or ??? Possibly having them removed to somewhere else?? Karen (pending grandma...November, can't wait)
I've given this a lot of thought. I'm going to do my very best to do what is in the best interest of all. I have some ideas on this and look forward to sharing them with all of you - AND to hearing your opinions. Together, I hope that we can resolve this issue. Sorry that things have been so chaotic this week. Unfortunately, as I have to get some work done around the house before I get a beating from the HOA, I may not be able to discuss these matters before the weekend. I don't want to delve into it until I have the time to give it the attention it deserves.
Karen, happy to hear about your pending blessed event. ; )
I have decided to go back to tossing "baggies" of dog food over the fence - temporarily. I thought about this a lot. Since I've fed them for so long, I think instead of just dropping them "cold turkey", I will wean them by decreasing the amount of food over a period of time so that they will get some food but will also be increasingly pressed to go out in search of additional food. By switching back to baggies over the fence, the interim feedings will be less personal and less likely to encourage them to approach people.
I am, however, eager to hear what ALL of you think about this idea. ALL opinions, thoughts, protests, and ideas welcome. Together, I am hopeful that we can find the best solution.
Below is one of the many photos I took a few nights ago.
I still have much to share with you about the events of the last few evenings along with the many conflicting thoughts I've had about these matters. As well, I have dozens of photos to share, including some family shots and, as previously stated, a brief "video" which I will post elsewhere and include a link so that you can view it. And, we have a lot to discuss, I think, as a group, regarding these matters. And I do plan to respond to your recent comments. We won't be able to cover all of this in one sitting (especially since my AC adapter has now all but died and my laptop battery has less than an hour remaining).
I hope that you will all stay with us, and I hope that you will feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings in this matter. As I have said before, as long as we treat each other with respect, we can disagree, and that's ok. Together, by sharing our diverse opinions and perspectives I believe that we can find the best "solution".
Oh my, sheeba, what a great photo and such an adorable little fella! As this was only the 1st of what became 3 (i think) parts to the thread, I hope that you have read or will read more of the story. It changes dramatically...but I don't want to give away the plot ...
Think about what it was like for the first humans who took in a dog, wild, or a cat! If they had known about rabies and worms, would they still have done it? And where would we get our precious pets now, if they had hesitated? Also, think about Jane Goodall, and the other one whose name I can't remember right now! Think about how much we've learned from these brave people who were not detered by alarm bells!!
I have to laugh at myself when I recall those afternoons when I stood WAY across the yard throwing things "at" (or near) Heidi in an effort to chase her away. How silly I must have looked. How scared I was of this "fierce" animal back then. Yes, I really have come a long way in 2.5yrs or so.
When I suggest that new readers go back and read the story from the beginning, I'm always aware of this and thinking how shocked they will be to find that the story opens with me trying to chase the raccoon away and terrified that it will attack me if it gets too close.
starlight -- LOL. that line really is funny when read in view of more recent thread(s). Thanks to you and Terese I went back and reread some of the stuff above. It was a very interesting walk down memory lane for me.
Terese -- I can still recall how afraid I was of 'the raccoon' (who later became Heidi) back then. I don't know if size would have mattered much. Back then I believed that raccoons were mean and vicious and possessed 'secret powers' that would allow them to shred a human in seconds - or something close to that. In retrospect it is humorous to realize how naive I was back then.
Saw that this thread had been "bumped," so of course had to reread it. It truly is hilarious to read it all now, in retrospect. As the old song goes, "what a long strange trip it's been"... not to mention more than a little miraculous.
I happened to stumble across your thread while looking for something esle( cant even remember what I was looking for now..lol) but when I seen it had three parts I immediatly thought of a good book you just can start in the middle so I started at the begining...WOW what a great read ,,,cant wait to get to part to ...
It's so great to hear from you! I'm very happy that you found the Heidi threads. You are correct that this is the 1st one; however, it is now one of dozens - and still going! I sure hope you will take the time to read through summer of 2007 as that was one of my absolute favorite years, simply magical.
You may not have noticed the others because after the 1st few I changed the title. "Raccoon getting a little too..." and "Raccoon getting...2" was followed, I believe, by "They're Back". Somewhere after that I changed the name to "The Heidi Chronicles". Like I said, there are now dozens of "Heidi Chronicles" threads (all in Wildlife, of course).
Oh, and after having been repeatedly prompted by readers to do so, I am now working on writing a Heidi book.
Great to have you with us on the Heidi threads. Thanks for the compliments.
Welcome, Jeanisodyssey! I'm sure you'll enjoy these threads as much as all the "regulars" who check it first every day. I really recommend reading the threads in order: it's a fascinating and quite remarkable saga, and you don't want to miss any of the journey.
thanks for the warm welcome..scutler and apartacusaby. I have been reading in order and I not at the end of Heidi awaiting delivery...the anticaption is killing me..lol..I feel like I already know all who follow the thread..lol Ok, got to get back and see what happens next..see you all soon
Since finding the current Heidi Chronicles I thought I'd start at the beginning. This is a very exciting and heartwarming tail..er tale and I am so glad to hear of a Heidi book in the works. Got to get back to reading! ( 3 years to go!)
Thank you so much Cheryl for sharing your world with us!!
welcome BirdieBlue, I come across this thread a couple months ago and after I started reading it I also decided to go back to the
beginning and I am so glad that I did...enjoy reading...your definitly not going to regret starting from the beginning
I'm glad you said that because I feel exactly the same way. With truly heartfelt apologies for the inconvenience suffered by those on dial up who may have difficulty loading some of these older threads (because of the very large photos I was using back then), I truly enjoy hearing from new readers who are just starting on this journey that many of us have been on for some time now. It is fun to relive some of the older days through their eyes and nice to know we have new friends on the way as they catch up with us.
This is a truly ancient thread, so I kind of hate to horn in, BUT...in our neck of the woods (and we ARE on a green belt and near a huge forested park), we are told never to feed the wildlife. (Hmmmm...would that keep the coyotes from eating our cats?).Raccoons are on the wildlife menu, to be sure. They are adorable, and I have certainly "shot" the babies high up in my pine trees. However, we are all so sick of their destruction in the garden, and in my case the use of my back yard as their "latrine" (the technical term). For those not in the know, 'coon poop is extremely toxic. Look it up online. The County recommends you actually hire someone to come in and remediate the soil. Well, we do it yourselfers hate that idea, and THEN what, anyway. How do I keep them from poopin' and peein' in my yard?
'truly ancient', hmm, well, the thread is a few years old. I don't know if that quite qualifies as 'ancient', but whatever.
Bottom line, if I understand your concerns and questions correctly, I think this may not be the forum where you will find the answers you seek. Although as the title suggests, this thread began as my quest to get rid of the raccoons, it has grown to be about my acceptance of them. I fought with the raccoons in my yard for years to no avail. This thread has become about my decision to accept and embrace their existence. This thread is now about my journey of exploration into the lives of these rather magnificent creatures. It is about my attempts to make friends with them and to document my observations of their behavior.
Make no mistake, in order to accept the presence of the raccoons in my yard, I have had to make sacrifices, but for me it has been worth it. They eat my grapes and other garden fruits and make it difficult to feed the birds without feeding them, but overall I feel that in accepting them into my world I have gained far more than I have lost.
If you were to read on you would find that we are acutely aware of the pros and cons of interacting with wildlife in general and raccoons in particular. We have discussed raccoon roundworm (the thing that makes the poop 'toxic' as you say) as well as rabies. I have made an informed decision to do what I do understanding that it is not without dangers but realizing that life itself is not without danger either. I take precautions. I wash my hands thoroughly when I return from feeding them. I have been inoculated against rabies.
I understand that experts advise against contact with wildlife, and in general that is sound advise. But understand that it has now been 4 years since I began this ongoing adventure, and no harm has come to anyone, neither me nor the animals.
I can't tell you how to keep raccoon out of your yard since I failed in my attempts to keep them out of my own, nor can I tell you how to keep them from using it for their latrine. I've not had the latter problem myself. Despite the time the raccoons spend in my yard, thankfully, they do not use it as a latrine. Now that I have spent 4 years observing raccoons and learning about them, I doubt that anyone can tell you how to get raccoons do do much of anything they don't want to do or how to stop them from doing anything they are determined to do.
One of the participants on this thread recommends a product called Ropel for keeping raccoons and other wildlife away from things. You might give that a try. You might also consider starting your own thread to ask for help with these problems. I wish you and the raccoons in your area the very best in this endeavor.
Velveteena, scutler is absolutely right in saying that raccoons are very difficult to discourage or deter. They are extremely curious, very intelligent, and though they don't have opposable thumbs, they use their front paws just like hands. They can open curbside dumpsters, tightly-lidded garbage cans, bird and suet feeders of all descriptions, rat and mice traps, etc., etc.
The Ropel that scutler mentions is a highly effective taste repellent; it tastes incredibly bitter, and one application endures through rains for several months. It can be effective at deterring critters from eating your ornamental plants, and is great for dipping bulbs prior to planting, to deter squirrels, voles, etc. Just don't use it on fruit or vegetable plantings; it will taste just as horrible to you as it does to the wildlife.
I have seen squares equipped with plastic spikes that you can place under mulch around your plants to discourage use of the area for latrine purposes. These reportedly work very well to deter cats; but raccoons can use those dextrous front paws to remove them and use them for a toy.
There is a hose-end gadget called the Scarecrow that is a motion-activated deterrent; when an animal walks into its range, the animal is hit with a sudden blast of water. This might help chase the raccoons, though I suspect they could become accustomed to it and ignore it over time. If you try this, remember to turn it off when you're going to be outside if you want to avoid a sudden shower.
The roundworm issue is a legitimate concern for human health, but wearing gloves while gardening is all the protection you need against infection.
I do understand that it can be frustrating to share your garden with wildlife; I curse every time I plant a new echinacea, because the rabbits love them enough to munch despite the Ropel. But we plant to attract birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects; mammalian wildlife is also a native and natural part of the landscape, and frankly they were here first. Frustrating though it is, I've learned to accept that only the strongest echinacea will survive to thrive here; I curse, but I've learned to live and let live. I wish you luck if you want to try deterring the raccoons; you're taking on a challenge that is almost impossible to master. Even trapping and removal - or killing - is rarely if ever successful. If the area is attractive to raccoons, others will move in if the originals are removed.