One time, I made friends with a raccoon who hung around my old apartment. Not sure why I thought this was a good idea, but curiosity got the better of me one evening, so I crept up sideways and scattered some walnuts in front of her.
She was pretty suspicious. Also hungry though, so she carefully approached the walnuts and tried one, not taking her eyes off me for one second. She liked the walnut.
I started calling her “Bernice” and kept scattering walnut offerings until she trusted me enough to take them straight from my hands. She eventually started grabbing my hands and flipping them over, once they were empty, to make sure no nuts were clinging to the backsides.
One night, Bernice grabbed two raccoon-handfuls of nuts before plopping down behind me, quietly eating her walnuts as we sat back-to-back.
It was so cool. I’d made a raccoon friend.
And these warm memories of Bernice are probably all that’s kept me from grabbing my BB gun and devastating the local raccoon population, because:
Raccoons started eating all our cat food
One of our kitties, Zoë, is a complete doll, apart from one problematic quirk: she HATES boy cats.
She has long, silky black fur and mews at you in the sweetest, purring voice. She’s fine with our other girl cat, Violet, but instantly explodes into a spitting, scratching tornado of rage upon seeing any of our boy cats. Then, she craps in inappropriate places (like Brontë’s bed) to let us know how unacceptable it was for us to allow boy cats into her territory.
After one too many times of Brontë throwing back her covers and shrieking, “POOP!”, we reluctantly had to make Zoë an outside cat. Which meant providing an outside feeder.
Well, her feeder kept emptying at breakneck speed and she’s pretty petite. We were having to replace cat food left and right. Where was it all going??
Finally, one night, I caught sight of a raccoon gobbling up her food and slopping dirty water everywhere from washing its hands in her water bowl. Dirty little thieving bastard…
I mean, it’s probably just considered intelligent resource gathering in raccoon culture, but the little bandit masks they wear weren’t helping their case. So, I grabbed a flashlight and tore into the yard to scare him off.
The raccoon froze and we stared at each other. Then, three little BABY RACCOON HEADS popped over the porch.
Aww… it was a mommy raccoon just trying to feed her babies. I feed my babies. How am I supposed to handle that!?
Raccoons started hunting our chickens
We got nervous when we started noticing the chicken wire peeled back at the corners of our chicken coop. It prompted my husband to run out and buy a bunch more locks.
We’d raised our chickens, Rosie and Hester, since they were fuzzy little chicks. Our kids pet them daily and were incredibly excited when they grew up and laid their first eggs. These are tame chickens, people.
We’d gotten strangely attached, so the night I suddenly heard a bunch of squawking and ran into the yard to see scattered feathers everywhere, I was genuinely terrified.
We couldn’t find Hester anywhere. The entire yard was filled with loose black & white feathers and I had a lump in my throat. Raccoons WILL try to eat your chickens, even grabbing them through cage bars and breaking their necks against the walls.
The next morning, Hester flew down from a tree in our neighbor’s yard… whew. We don’t clip our chickens’ wings because they don’t try to escape, apart from flying into trees during storms. Now we definitely won’t be clipping them.
Still, I have a hard time blaming raccoons for trying to eat our chickens. I mean, we aren’t vegetarians either. It’s not the raccoons’ fault for not knowing these are special chickens.
Raccoons started yanking up our sod
Since we’ve been trying to sell our house for the past several months, we’ve been painting over the height charts penciled out on the wall, as well as our kids’ early artistic experiments, that time my husband measured wrong when installing a bunch of shelves and the time I tripped over Legos while holding a giant cup of strong coffee…
Basically, we’ve been scrambling to make it look like super-responsible people (perhaps with a touch of OCD) were living here for the past four years instead of us, with our two insane toddlers, five cats, and pair of chickens.
And that meant overhauling our yard. We water-blasted all the chalk drawings away, repainted the deck, filled the perimeters with bark, and invested in a bunch of sod to replace the barren moonscape our chickens created.
No one could touch it until the place was sold. The sod had to “take” and nothing could get messed up.
But corners of the sod kept lifting.
We kept tamping them back down.
Finally, whole rolls of sod were getting peeled back. How was this happening?? Were our kids sneaking out to unroll our lawn? Were the cats hooking a claw in the corner, then pulling?
Then one night, our cat Frodo starts jabbering on about something outside. I peeked out the sliding glass door and caught a raccoon peeling back layers of sod then maneuvering his fingers in the dirt like he was wadding up socks for his feet.
Then, he slurped a worm into his mouth like a strand of spaghetti.
Maddening, yet fiendishly clever. Some raccoon figured out we have an easily-peelable lawn that makes worm & insect hunting easy, like kids flipping big flat rocks. It’s like they found a safe shallow pond brimming with delicious fish, except the fish are worms, and told all their friends.
You can’t help but admire that kind of industry. It’s a nuisance, but what an impressive approach. Raccoons don’t really *get” ownership, after all, and I was having trouble punishing so much cleverness.
Frodo had no such qualms. He clearly wanted them dead.
And maybe that’s what’s tough about loving different parts of the food chain. Raccoons are just hungry, albeit in a very intrusive and irritating way.
If only Bernice could just tell them to cut it out.