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Racoon(s) Getting A Little Too Friendly For Comfort

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.)

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

Pleistocene??? I don't even attempt that without spell check!!! LOL

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

websters - cut & paste. ; )

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I don't get to use the word 'Pleistocene' often, but it seemed the best way to convey (in polite conversation that is) the condition and contents of my fridge prior to The Great Cleaning of 2006. : )

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

I wait until everything turns a lovely shade of green and is unrecognizable. Then I toss... I think it would kill a raccoon though...so I feed it to the trash bin!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

And a super unfocused, grainy crop:

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

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.

Valencia, PA(Zone 5b)

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?? :-)
Karen

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Pasadena, CA(Zone 9b)

He's probably trying to tell you there are a family of raccoons at the door and they would like more biscuits! :-))

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

OMG, I LIVE IN A ZOO!!!

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?

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

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!

Valencia, PA(Zone 5b)

During the day, can you get a ladder and peer over the fence to see what the smell is from? Would be interesting to know. Maybe Heidi killed their mom?? Karen

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

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.

Silver Spring, MD(Zone 6b)

Scutler, congrats on the new addition to your backyard family. I'm looking forward to your next updates.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

spartacusaby,

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.

Valinda, CA(Zone 10a)

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.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

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.

Ferndale, AR(Zone 7b)

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.

Debra

Wheatfield, NY(Zone 6a)

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.

gram

Beachwood, OH

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.

Ferndale, AR(Zone 7b)

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.

Debra

Pasadena, CA(Zone 9b)

Scutler, please don't be discouraged from sharing.

I know most of these points were raised previously and you have thought about them.

No matter what you do, many of us have really enjoyed hearing your story including your doubts and the thought you have given the situation.

I'd be more than happy to have you as my neighbor.

Ferndale, AR(Zone 7b)

NY2CA - Amen!

Debra

Valinda, CA(Zone 10a)

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.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi guys,

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.

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

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.

Beachwood, OH

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.

US Animal Health Association 2005 report on the spread of rabies across the eastern US
http://www.usaha.org/committees/resolutions/2005/resolution31-2005.pdf#search='raccoon%20rabies%20%20cdc%202005'

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....
Transmission
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. ...

Prevention
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.

Pasadena, CA(Zone 9b)

Gee, glad you're not an alarmist. Can't imagine what that would be like.

The Woodlands, TX(Zone 9a)

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.....

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Yes, I do agree, CJ.

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".

Wheatfield, NY(Zone 6a)

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.

I will certainly stay tuned
gram

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