Posts Tagged ‘raccoons’

On the Raccoon’s Side

May 17, 2011

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.

Blind Mother Raccoon Thrives

June 9, 2010

The blind mother raccoon's daughter (now grown) heads for the cat kibble.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The first time that I saw her was at midnight in my kitchen. I had just returned from work and had forgotten to shut the back door. I have cats, and always leave kibble out for them. Apparently, the smell had attracted her.

I had written an article on raccoons before, so I knew to start making noise and turning on lights. They don’t like either one. She was headed for the back door, when she suddenly turned around. What was she doing? I got scared.

Then I could see the two little “kits” with her. They were the size of a baby cat, all cute and furry, but with that distinctive black band across their beady eyes. I went for the food drawer, and started getting out some kibble, and promised them more if they left.

I put it out in a pie tin and watched as each of them delicately lifted the food with their hands and ate it. All the while, they didn’t take their eyes off of me once, except for the mother.

I didn’t realize that something was wrong with her until several visits later when she came by herself. She was on the porch ledge eating the bread that I left out for the bluejays.

I put kibble out for her in the pan, and she didn’t step backwards, or run up the tree like her kittens did. In fact, when the food hit the pan, she came towards me immediately. I had no time to react, but kept my voice soft, “Here you go, honey, here’s some more food for you.”

She reached for the food, but missed the pan. She tried again and missed. The third time, she found the food and ate it. I could see in the porch light that her eyes weren’t quite right. Almost a little cross-eyed and tired. They didn’t shine like her kittens’ eyes.

“What are you doing?” my sister in Kansas asked me. “Did you know that they can reach up and open your screen door? If they come inside your kitchen, they can open up boxes and canisters. It would be a disaster!”

I didn’t tell her about the earlier visit.

“I heard that if raccoons, which are nocturnal, go out searching for food during the day, they can burn out their retinas,” some student told me.

“I’m not sure if that’s the case,” said the receptionist at the Idyllwild Ranger Station on upper Pine Crest. “She might have gotten into a fight with another raccoon. You know how sharp their claws are.”

“Isn’t there any raccoon glasses that we can give her?” I teased. I was concerned that if this mother raccoon couldn’t see me, then she couldn’t see any predators either.

(from R) The blind mother's daughter and grandson dine on my back porch.

“Coyotes may be able to sneak up on her if they can sense that she’s weak,” the receptionist said. “You really shouldn’t be feeding her. Like we always say, ‘A fed bear is a dead bear.'”

I knew what she meant. She wasn’t talking about bears, but the danger of feeding wild animals. Not only for us, but for them. We could get bitten, and they could become dependent, and let their natural defenses down. But what about the blind mother raccoon? Would it be better to let her forage for her own food? It seemed a little cruel.

“Well, she’s teaching her babies that they can dine at your place sometimes,” said my mother.

“Cat food is pretty rich for raccoons,” offered Janice, another receptionist the next day. “They really like dog kibble. Perhaps you could feed them that.”

I had heard of a “Raccoon Lady,” in Idyllwild, who nurses baby raccoons back to health. She’s also a pretty good hairstylist. I plan on talking to her soon. Perhaps she could advise me on what to do next.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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