A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Saturday, September 17, 2005

Raccoons Kept Me Awake

Are you looking for a good excuse next time you have a non-productive day... try telling your friends, co-workers or boss that "raccoons kept me awake". It was 3:38 A.M. when the whole thing started; I know, because I looked at the clock and couldn't figure out why I was awake right then.... I have been doing pretty well to avoid insomnia for several months now. Then, I heard the scuttling of light, little feet on the porch outside the french doors in our bedroom.

Now, for several days we have been trying to figure out who the night visitors are. First, something stole (actually, ate) our four goldfish, who were happily living in our half barrel water garden right outside the bedroom door. They were about 4-5 inches long apiece, so we ruled out the garter snake that had kept trying to annoy them by swimming through their space earlier this summer; couldn't get something that big in its mouth. Then, we noticed that the porcelain sphere that normally floats in the water was appearing out on the lawn... my co-worker C.C. suggested "first they snack, then they play" -whatever critter this was.

So, I crept out of bed, and tiptoed over to the door, peering out in hopes of catching a visitor... instead, there were THREE! There was a large object waddling along on the lawn, and it appeared that the other two were smaller. They weren't just sniffing around my inner yard, the fence of which is festooned with a 50-year old grape vine bearing fruit - they were cavorting! One was even standing up on hind legs, attempting to peer into our stone birdbath located in the middle of the yard.

I moved to another window in the kitchen, hoping to get a better view, but the moon was moving away from the yard and much of it was in dark shadows. I decided that this must be the fox mother and kits our local storekeeper had told me was denning up just at the bottom of the hill our tiny town rests upon, near the main highway. This mama has been pretty bold, even taking her kits by the store parking lot in daylight.

I tried to go back to sleep, but had a troublesome meeting to attend in the morning, and began worrying about different aspects. I was trying to put it out of my mind when I heard more scampering around on the porch boards about 45 minutes later. I popped out of bed once again, but couldn't see anything moving around in the inner yard, so moved to a window in the parlor, where I could see an animal up on its hind legs, trying to figure out if what it heard (me) was a threat. I moved to the kitchen once again, and looked out the kitchen door window that faces onto our drive, where I could see something walking towards the door. When I flicked on the porch light, it beat a hasty retreat, but not before positive identification as a bona fide "roundcoon", as my kids called them when they were little, could be made.

Dang! I would have felt a lot more tolerant about foxes, even though my Jack Russell terrier had gone through the window a few times trying to "defend" our house against an intruding, teasing fox that would sit at the edge of the yard or drive waving its tail at the poor dog. Raccoons are portrayed in anthropomorpic cartoons as cute and clever, I mean they have such darling tiny hands, and they even wash their food... The reality is that they can get quite nasty and aggressive, especially when hapless homeowners or campers begin putting out food regularly. They will actually growl at you and attack pets. Not something I want to encourage. My cat has taken to sleeping out in the barn, and now I know why... she is afraid to meet up with them on the porch, looking to find her food dish still full.

I returned to bed a second time, but now it was 5:00 AM, just a half hour before the alarm was set to ring, and I was worrying about how best to get rid of the raccoons before they became pests. I dragged myself out of bed several minutes after the alarm went off, wishing I didn't face an hour and a half drive to the early meeting, which would probably last all day and be unpleasant at that. As I was taking my pre-dawn walk, I kept an eye out for critters, but they had already headed to bed.

Turns out that this trio did much more partying that getting a cheap sugar high off my grapes... they had also entered our tenants' house across the drive through an open back door (it is still somewhat summery around here, though cooler at night), and feasted on close to 20 pounds of cat food! Can't you just see it... news going around the raccoon network about this great spa/vacation resort up on the hill with grapes to get drunk off of, and plenty of hor-d-ouvres... Now, I don't want to harm the raccoons, but we better come up with a plan to get them moving on... telling your boss that raccoons kept you awake is the kind of unbelieveable story that probably wouldn't even work the first time, so no more sleepless nights caused by frolicking raccoons can be allowed :)


Anonymous Colette said...

We have been very fortunate not to have racoon trouble in our immediate area. Coyotes and barred owls are enough for me.

Racoons can be difficult to get rid of especially if they have a feast waiting for them. They are creatures of habit and will return to the same area repeatedly if food is available and there isn't a deterrent to returning.

Good luck with your visitors. Here is hoping their stay is short and ininterrupted sleep returns to you.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

We have a racoon problem too. They STEAL my cat food bowls almost every night. We have resorted to tuperware because they are almost always gone in the morning...

7:10 AM  
Blogger Lynette said...

What a great story. You are right about racoons always being portrayed as cute but smart little animals. Isn't it interesting how we project what we want animals to be like based on their appearance? Certainly the possum doesn't get the same treatment.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Marguerite said...

A few years ago I caught a racoon drinking the sugar water in the hummingbird feeder.

He stood on his hind legs to reach it, grabbed it with both his little hands, tilted it up and drank it down.

Needless to say, we moved the feeder.

6:26 PM  

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