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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bandits!

One morning recently when I walked into the kitchen first time for the day, I got a sudden surprise! I started making my breakfast, then when I turned around, this is what was looking at me through the window.


It was
in the tray on top of the funny feeder shoveling black sunflower seeds in its mouth as fast as it could go, and eating them whole, shell and all. Some birds do that, swallowing them whole, but one at a time. This bandit was shoveling them in en mass, chewing, and smacking away. No wonder the bird food was disappearing so rapidly. Squirrels do their part, and we enjoy watching them, but at least they take one seed at a time before reaching for another one.



Once it found easy dinner, the raccoon kept returning day after day. I finally found a trapper who would live trap and relocate the bandit far, far away.

Raccoons are an ever ongoing problem here. I am sure you have read your share of news relating how sprawling communities and developments have caused a clash between man and wildlife; how there is no more truly wild area for them to live in. When I ride out through the countryside, I see development everywhere and farms getting smaller and smaller. There is no country any more. Most everywhere is looking much neater, hedgerows and woodlots are cleaned and cleared. Therefore, the critters have no place to go. They are trying to live among us, and we among them. This causes conflicts. They haven't been taught manners. They are just trying to survive.

One year we did not get a single tomato from our plants. Whole sections of vines were pulled loose and strewed across the yard. I gathered them up and composted them. I did not suspect rabbits; I wondered if it might be groundhogs, but I suspected raccoons. Those little hands are just too handy and skillful. I kept maligning raccoons. One day our local son was over here, and he said he wouldn't have believed me if he had not found a raccoon's muddy, little paw prints on the yard chair he had given me. He laughed about how perfect and visible they were.

Several years ago I was enjoying my new Green Cone Composter that was set into the earth near the garden door. Then one day I went out the door and the lid was flipped over. A hole had been dug into the plastic basket section that is buried in the ground, and on the outside were little muddy hand prints sliding down the side from the top.

It was obvious what had happened. Something had dug into the ground under the cone, ripped into the plastic basket to get to kitchen scraps that are deposited and fall there. They ate what they could find then came out the top, pushing the lid out of the way, then slid down the outside of the plastic green cone leaving a trail of muddy little hand prints elongated into a slide down the outside. Pretty cute, actually. I told Husband/Best Friend/ Chief Photographer that if they had been smart enough to close the lid, I would not have noticed it; it was the open top that gave them away. Not sure I would have noticed the sliding paw prints. I closed it. Next day or two it was open again. It had been raining, so my compost was much too wet and composting action had ceased. I began to get riled!

I kept closing it, and they kept opening it. I put a heavy rock on top, but I didn't like that, because when I go out with a bowl of scraps in one hand, I am not strong enough to lift that rock with just the one other hand. I was spoiled, I wanted to do it my way, the way it was meant to be used. With one hand I open the kitchen door, go down the steps, open the garden door, open its storm door; I reach and flip the lid, deposit scraps, then flip lid back on. Task completed all with one hand. I did not want to have to set the bowl down in order to remove the rock. Then have to set it down again, while I replace the rock. Besides, sometimes it was raining, or sleeting, or snowing, or dark.

I called a trapper and showed him what was happening. He set a live trap against the house beside the composter, then went on his way. I was supposed to call him if he caught something. I was busy as usual and one day I was weeding and working in an area near the composter and trap. After awhile I grew a bit weary, so I sat back, stretched, looked up, and gazed about to rest. A minute or two later, I glanced toward the trap. There, silently watching me was a beautiful, full grown, white, longhair cat that I had never seen before. "Oh, kitty! How long have you been there!" I went over and released it. It shot out of sight without making a sound. I never saw that cat again, don't know where it came from, and don't know where it went.

I called the trapper who came and reset the trap. Several days later, I was weeding almost in the same place and almost the same thing happened. After I had worked a good long while, I sat up looked around, and couldn't believe my eyes! There were two cats in the trap. This time they were young, half grown cats that I had never seen before. I turned them loose, they bolted, and I never saw them again. I called the trapper: same song, second verse... you caught two cats this time. He said, "I never caught cats before on raccoon bait." I replied maybe it had something to do with the curiosity of cats; I'd often heard the old saying, "curiosity killed the cat". That is why I requested live traps, as opposed to killing traps. We do not have pets, but other people in the neighborhood do.

In time the bandit was caught and relocated. Trapper reset the trap saying that there is usually a family that stays together and prowls together. Sure enough another bandit was trapped and relocated. I think that trapper took them out to city property where there is a large lake. That was better than another one who released them on a man's farm where he trained coonhounds to hunt.

A few years after that, Husband/Best Friend/Chief Photographer and I were sitting at the kitchen table having a meal. I have been blessed with farsightedness all my life, so when something moved in the distance I beaded in on it. "I see a raccoon!" Husband: "Really, where?!" "Way out there on the bank coming out of a hole in a tree. It's walking down the slope of that fallen limb." Almost immediately, "I see another raccoon! There are two of them! No! there's another one, oh!, and another little one! It's a mother and three little ones!!!" Well, that was something we don't see every day!

I remember the first raccoon I ever saw. I was four years old and news went out through the neighborhood kids' grapevine that someone had a raccoon in a cage. I had never seen one. We kids went to see it, and there the poor thing was, in a cage on the ground, eating kitchen scraps someone had put in there with it. As I stood staring, its little hands picked up a lump of cornbread, dipped it into the water as some raccoons do all their food, and as I watched the cornbread melted and ran between its little fingers and disappeared into the pan of water. I felt so sorry for the critter, that I have never forgotten it.

There is no special ending to this story. I stood in my kitchen watching a medium sized raccoon gobbling up the black sunflower seeds. It was small compared to some I have seen. I estimated that it was one year old. I couldn't help but remember the one I hit while driving the car on a very busy interstate highway motorway. I was in the middle lane of three lanes all going the same direction. Suddenly, there was the largest raccoon I ever saw in my life; it looked as big as a Smoky Mountains black bear, I could not miss it for I was running alongside large, eighteen-wheeled trailer-trucks and running at their speed. I didn't dare swerve. I steeled myself, and hit the poor beast. How it lived to cross that far is a wonder, but its luck ran out, and softhearted me had to be the one to hit it. And, as you see, I never forgot that one, either.

So, I called another trapper. I seem to run through trappers as some women run through new shoes and nylon stockings. Every year or two, the previous ones have moved on and are no longer in the phone book, so I search around and find another one.

This new one arrived, I explained the problem, and mentioned that he might as well set the trap at the base of the bird feeder's post. He did just that, and the next morning there was Bandit inside the trap ready to go for a ride. He gave it some food and swung trap, Bandit, and all up into the bed of his pickup truck.

Remembering what I had been told about them moving about in families, I asked him to set another trap before he left. That one he set against the house farther down under the weeping crab apple tree.

That weeping crab apple tree grows not far from the head of my bed. Being a light sleeper, many, many times I have been awakened in the night by a loud thump on the roof close by. Sometimes I hear them running: thurlump, thurlump, thurlump.... and then sometimes, boi...iiing as they jump up on the chimney and hit that metal chimney cover high above the fireplace at the foot of my bed. They gather there especially in cold weather for it is warm at the flue from our furnace. Sometimes getting on or off the roof they hit the metal rain gutter on the edge of the roof with a loud boing.

Neighbors across the street had a family of raccoons living in their chimney; they liked to have never gotten them all out of there. I have heard of people who had a flea infestation in their house and found that they were coming from raccoons living in the chimney. Once they got rid of the raccoons and the fleas that were already in the house, the problem was gone.

Too bad the little things don't know how to be quiet, or how to shut the lid on a composter; I am sure there are other things out there in the night that I am never aware of because they are quiet. But, this trapper did as I asked and set the trap under that tree next to the wall of the house where they jump in and out of the tree. Next morning, I checked the trap yet again as I had many, many times over the years. And, guess what! Two tiny little faces looked back at me. Talk about cute! Oh, my! The larger one, probably a male, growled at us. Cute!

I called the trapper's office and left the message for him that he had caught two raccoons this time! He thought the one he caught a few days earlier was probably the mother of these two little ones. He said, "I will take them to the same place I took their mother. Maybe they will find each other."
I hope they did.


20 comments:

kd said...

They are annoying troublemakers but I have to confess I think they're fascinating to watch (and incredibly cute, of course).

/krys

mrtumnas said...

Haha! That is such a funny story.

Luckily I haven't had any trouble with these little critters myself. At the shop I work at, there's racoon we named Rocky who lives in the woods behind the workshop, and he'll come up to the back while we're eating lunch and beg for scraps. He almost as tame as a pet now, he'll come right up and take food out of your hand if you stay real still.

JenningsJunk said...

They are Fascinating troublemakers. I'm glad you got a picture. I would of begin so busy watching him, I'd forget to get a picture. Enjoyed your post very much.

JGH said...

So many interesting adventures - you're ALMOST making me WISH I had raccoons.

Barbee' said...

kd: Hi there, thank you for leaving a comment. I wanted to go to your blog, but when I clicked on your name it went to a dead end.

You probably already know that we can click on someone's name in the comments, and it will take us to their Profile Page if they have a Blogger.com blog.

When we get there, we can click on the name of their blog and it opens. But, the message I got said you had not set up a profile page. Profile pages can be filled out with as little or as much as you want to disclose.

Maybe you want it that way for a reason. But, it sorta' makes a dead end. Readers can't get to your blog.

If you want to change that, when you add your profile page, about the fourth line down is: 'Show my blogs'

Click on 'Select blogs to display' Put a check in the little square beside the name of your blog. Click on 'Save Settings' (be sure to do this step or it won't work). If you don't want it public, ignore all the above :)

Barbee' said...

mrtumnas (Louisiana, U.S.A.): Make sure that little beggar has had his rabies shots :)

jenningsjunk (Texas, U.S.A.): I usually forget, too. All I had to do was call out: "Honey, quick! Bring the camera!!" He usually knows where it is.

jgh (New York, U.S.A.): I see the operative word there is "ALMOST".

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

They really are very cute, especially the babies ones. It's not cute, though, when they get into trouble. I've had to have them trapped only once, when a pregnant one was making a nest in my attic. It had damaged a ventilation fan to get in. Now, I just hear them on the roof at night & sometimes I find muddy paw prints going up my downspout. Good thing raccoons don't like peppers!

Balisha said...

What a cute story. They are really interesting animals. We get them on our deck occasionally....looking for birdseed. Last summer one got in the garage and went up into the motor part of my hubby's riding lawnmower. He had to take it out...with a bamboo rake, and carry it across the road into a field.

Beth said...

I have no racoons to report - we do get woodchucks - which can be just as frustrating! Cute little buggers though ...

Mother Nature said...

Those dexterous little scamps can get into anything. We trap them and release them back in the woods. That seems to discourage them for a while.

Barbee' said...

Mr. McGregor's Daughter (Illinois, U.S.A.): Oh, my do you mean they can shimmy up my downspouts?!

Balisha (Illinois, U.S.A.): How in this world did he take it across the road?! They bite and scratch. They also get rabies, be careful!

Beth (North Dakota, U.S.A.): Be glad you do not have any, and just enjoy looking at other gardeners' photos. We have woodchucks/ground hogs, and I know what you mean... most frustrating! My husband counted over 20 holes in our yard on the bank when we moved here. I had no idea I was purchasing those problems.

Mother Nature (Tennessee, U.S.A.): I bet that keeps you busy trapping and tote'in. I have wished for a fenced in yard, but I guess they would just climb over the fence.

Steve said...

I think I told you about my client who had $10,000 worth of Koi gobbled up by his local raccoons, Barbee.

Out West we have our fair share of the very same dilemmas. Bears are the newest and most unpleasant arrivals in Lake Tahoe. Ground squirrels are also just an amazing nuisance for landscapers. Even Cougar Pee can't keep them away! I am convinced jack rabbits and ground squirrels adapt faster than cock roaches.

Fern said...

Awww...but he is so cute! I guess it's not as cute when he is messing up your yard though.

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

Barbee, they really are cute, especially when they are young. At the garden centre where I worked, they used to nest up in the attic. Mom would bring the babies down during the day, among all the customers, to eat the cat food. But they can be very, very smelly, the place stunk for months after they left.
Jen

Roses and stuff said...

We don't have racoons in Sweden, and I think they look cute! But I can very well understand how annoying it must be to have your garden being their 'playground' and 'restaurant'!
I keep complainting about the roe deer - they like my rose buds...!
/Katarina

Barbee' said...

Steve (Oregon, U.S.A.): $10,000!!! Oh, the poor client! Makes my problems pale by comparison. I surely would hate having to watch for bears! One of our sons and daughter-in-law lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a few years and bears were a danger there, too. They had to be careful when they let their little cocker spaniel out. I wouldn't know what to do about ground squirrels and jack rabbits, maybe get a dog... big dog. Sometimes I think those wild rascals are smarter than I am.

Fern (California, U.S.A.): You are correct on both points! :)

Muddy Boot Dreams (British Columbia, Canada): I can imagine! A few months ago my husband was on the roof with a roofer doing some work, and he told me there were droppings on the roof and in the gutter. I have found them in the yard; at the time I didn't know how dangerous they are. They tend to have a round worm intestinal parasite that is very dangerous for pets and people and can lead to death. The eggs can live for years. Here is a source of info about the problem: (Seattle Post Intelligencer) By ANN LOVEJOY a SPECIAL TO THE POST-INTELLIGENCER.

Roses and stuff (Sweden): ...'playground' and 'restaurant' and toilet!!! Sorry about the roe deer. It seems every area has its offenders. Oh, No! Not the roses!! So sorry! I wouldn't know what to do about those. And do they trample plants? Or lie down on them to sleep? I think a deer used to sleep in my day lilies.

Rowena said...

I was gone when you had posted this. How I'd like to say that I wish we had raccoons in our neighborhood but Italy unfortunately, has none. What an enjoyable post!

Barbee' said...

rowena (Italy): I would like to send you mine, but I wouldn't do that to a friend. Just enjoy looking at our pictures; reading our stories; and be glad you do not have the cute, but dirty, troublemakers. Oh, and welcome back!

Maria said...

What a wonderful story. I am smitten by the cuteness of raccoons too even though they are so baaaaaad. I had a very sweet one come visit over a period of a couple months a year or so ago. I named him Freddie because his visits were so frequent, he had to have a name! Freddie would lie patiently on the glider on the deck, a lot of times completely asleep, while he waited for me to notice him so he could load up on green grapes and catfood. He was darling. He eventually stopped coming and I've missed him ever since.

I just discovered your blog through a comment made by someone who commented on your blog at another blog.....not sure how to backtrack all of that to find the original source but I'm glad to have found your blog. :-)

Barbee' said...

Hello Maria, I loved reading about Freddie. Freddie must have been a male, because a female with babies would have brought them there for food. We have had little families of them here. Lately, something has been eating the last of the pumpkins that I saved and put out in late winter when the night prowlers were getting low on food supply. I am so happy you found your way over to my blog. Thank you for leaving a comment.