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.