On the Raccoon’s Side

Yard sign outside Idyllwild home warning about squirrels, bunnies and deer.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The other night, I was awakened by a loud crinkling sound coming from my kitchen. All three cats in my room were not alarmed, so I knew that it wasn’t a human prowler. It had to be a raccoon.

Awhile back, I researched raccoon behavior, and knew they were cheeky enough to come inside your house in search of food. They have nimble fingers that can turn knobs, open doors, and basically make a hefty mess. But they also will be very aggressive if you box them in.

I calmly walked down the stairs, turning on lights, and making lots of noise. The perpetrator met me at the corner of the kitchen. He stood up on his hind legs to look bigger than he was. Still, he was only two feet high. I’ve seen him outside on my porch many times eating birdseed and bread crusts that I’ve left out for the birds.

He must’ve come in through the open window. Since I was standing in the pathway of his only exit, I quickly backed off, and went upstairs. I could hear him noisily crawl over the couch and out the window. After a few minutes, I closed it and inspected the damage.

This small raccoon had been reaching inside my large, 15-pound bag of cat food that was left on the floor. He didn’t use his claws or teeth to tear the bag, but calmly reached into the small opening to grab handfuls of kibble at a time. It was all pretty tidy, with none spilled on the floor. However, the banana muffin that was in a plastic baggie on the table was gone, with crumbs were spread across my laptop. I breathed a sigh of relief. No cupboards open or trash overturned.

The little guy was out on the porch now, looking for more food. So I scooped out a couple of cups of Friskies onto a plate. When I opened the door, he backed away onto a nearby tree. I sat down in the dark and watched him eat through the screen door. He never took his eyes off of me once. He would blindly reach sideways and grab the kibble off the plate and bring it to his mouth to eat.

Raccoons are nocturnal and live in oak and pine trees in Idyllwild.

I’m sure this was the son of the blind mother raccoon who had come into my kitchen before through an open door (See blog post, “Blind Mother Raccoon Thrives,” posted June 9, 2010). It was hard to imagine that anyone would want to kill or hurt him.

Yet, people actually hunt raccoons for sport. My mother said that my grandfather (whom I never met) “hunted ‘coons” in Ohio. He and his friends would shine bright lights into the trees at night, and then blast them with their guns. I’m sure the pelts weren’t worth anything with large bullet holes in them, and the meat couldn’t be tasty either. It all seemed pretty barbaric and senseless.

I had forgotten all about it until I read a story in Rolling Stone magazine about Steven Tyler, the charismatic frontman from Aerosmith who is creating a sensation on “American Idol” these days. I love Tyler’s music, and appreciated his heartfelt comments about the Season 10 contestants, especially our own Casey Abrams.

However, when I read that he wears several raccoon teeth on a chain around his neck, my blood went cold. The article didn’t go into detail about the incident, only that Tyler hunted raccoons as a kid, but still wears the necklace. Was it some right of passage? Kill a raccoon, skin it, knock out his teeth and make a necklace?

It’s not like teeth from a bear or a shark that would have given him a fair fight.  Raccoons are not carnivores, Steven, they’re pine cone eaters. They “coo” to each other like birds, but will snarl like dogs if they’re cornered and fighting for their lives. I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that sound.

I’ve let out a string of profanity minutes before I thought I was going to die in a car crash. I was never so scared in all my life. And I’d be just as nasty looking down the barrel of a shotgun. That raccoon that Tyler killed likely was standing up, snarling, and bearing his teeth. But, he was likely cornered with no way out. Otherwise, he’d be over the fence and up the nearest tree.

Raccoon teeth are nothing to brag about, Steven.  It wasn’t a fair fight. You shined a bright light into the “home” of a pine-cone eating tree hugger, cornered, shot him, and took his teeth. I’m sure you tell a good story. That coon was acting as vicious as he could be.  After all, he was fighting for his life, and you were a kid hunting for sport. But it’s time to put away childhood things.

Granted, I’m annoyed when raccoons knock over my water cans, leave paw prints on my rugs and even tear my clothes off the line. But I  just shrug my shoulders and repeat what many folks in Idyllwild would say, “Well, they were here first.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

the attachments to this post:

Raccoons tree scene

Raccoons Yield Sign

One Comment to “On the Raccoon’s Side”

  1. Mary says:

    Good for you Marcia. I dont get to hear about enough people who believe in animals. So hearing your story warmed my heart. Thank you. I live in a marina and we have plenty of ‘locals’ around here as well. Mallard ducks and a few other types of ducks that have been dropped off here at the marina by ppl who buy them as pets for thier children, before they lose interest or they get too large to handle. Even here, people are put out and nasty to the animals. They forget…. these animals were here first. They need the water and HAVE to live here. So just another quick thanks for your loving attitude towards the cute little fuzzies in our lives.