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Raccoon wars

By on August 24, 2020 in Uncategorized with 1 Comment
“It’s hard out here for a scamp!”

Sure, they’re so cute, but pooping under the deck?

By Susan Sampson

My war with raccoons sounds like a tall tale that my Uncle Buck used to tell, so imagine I am telling you with a western twang in my voice.

It started with a sewage smell when we used our deck that surrounds the south and west sides of our house. Our septic tank is pumped; I assumed we had negligent neighbors. 

But then we caught sight of plump, fuzzy raccoons moving underneath the deck. The space beneath the deck wasn’t large enough for me to crawl in to inspect, so I sprawled on the ground, shined a powerful flashlight under the deck, and used my binoculars. 

I was horrified to see a huge pile of poop studded with cherry seeds. My husband installed a critter cam, and in short order, we saw that raccoons were using the space under our deck.

We did whatever any red-blooded American couple would do — we checked online to see if the government would help. 

Chelan County and local animal control were clear — they do not deal with wildlife, especially raccoons. 

They referred us the State Department of Fish and Wildlife. We did not call. We could imagine a State SWAT team coming in to trap our visitors and to eliminate them with “extreme prejudice” or to relocate them at taxpayer expense.

I don’t know about raccoons, but not all animals can be relocated. 

The wild animal that has been most successful in moving into cities, beside the raccoon, is the coyote, but it cannot be relocated. 

My friend Rick Kieffer, a retired chief of police, had to look into that for his city, the City of Normandy Park. The issue arose when coyotes started confronting pets on leashes while their owners walked little Fifi or Muffy. 

But if a coyote is relocated, it is placed into an area already marked by another coyote, and its chances of survival are poor. We decided to look into self help.

Now, a raccoon is just about the cutest animal you can imagine. 

It wears a black mask across its face, it has fluffy fur and a fluffy striped tail, it is smart, and it has exquisitely sensitive hands that it can use to open doors and bags of catfood. 

I’ve seen a mama raccoon holding back her babies like a human mother cautious about letting the babies rush the catfood dish. I’ve seen her so exhausted that she lay on top of the fence with her legs dangling on each side, just taking a nap. 

But there is no doubt that there is a wild and dangerous side to the raccoon.

Raccoons live in trees and engage in horrible fights with snapping and growling for hours on end at night. 

My friend Jerilynn, her husband Rusty, and their dog were camping out once when raccoons raided their food supplies and their dog tried to fight. Jerilynn dived into the fray to save her dog and got badly clawed. 

Later she was standing in line at a bank when she heard somebody in line ahead of her ask a friend, “Did you hear about that couple that got ate up by the raccoons up at the lake?”

“Hey, human, how about a little food out here for nature’s creatures?”

We try to get along with our natural neighbors, but I draw the line at any creature who might come inside or who might carry rabies: bats, foxes, skunks, rats, mice, ants and raccoons.

Our next step was to see what Google advised. Don’t feed them, it said. We don’t. We don’t keep pets so don’t have food sitting out. I have a compost pile for garden waste and vegetable matter from my kitchen, but raccoons don’t seem to like moldy green peppers any more than I do.

Google advised trying repellent: Irish Spring soap, peppermint, and coyote urine.

As it happened, I had two bars of Irish Spring soap in the bathroom cabinet, unused because my husband doesn’t like its odor. either. 

We placed the soap near the raccoons’ portal. We turned on the critter-cam. The raccoons sauntered past the soap like it wasn’t even there.

Trying peppermint was convenient. My garden includes bunches of mint: peppermint, spearmint, sweet mint, rank wild mint, horehound mint, catnip mint and chocolate mint. I wondered if mint wasn’t just an invitation to raccoons — it smells just like Girl Scout cookies. I pulled up an arm load of mint and placed it just where the raccoons crawled under the deck.

The critter cam showed raccoons ignoring the mint.

I went to the hardware store. “Do you sell coyote urine?”

Well, of course they did. The clerk sent me to a shelf full of animal repellents for mice, rats, moles, rabbits, deer, and yes, raccoons. 

I read the label on the package of coyote urine. It was good for domestic cats, not for raccoons. I chose a black pepper compound that was supposed to repel raccoons.

We watched on the critter cam. 

The raccoons didn’t even stop to sniff, let alone sneeze, at the black pepper barrier.

“We need the urine of a big, mean, aggressive animal,” my husband stated. A horse maybe? Our neighbors’ horses are pretty stinky, but I didn’t want our deck smelling like a horse. But he pointed to himself.

Imagine now a man of a certain age who sometimes has difficulty when he needs to go. He had the foresight to turn off the security cameras so there would be no movie of his effort. He stood there a while. And a while. But then he succeeded.

We check the security cameras the next day. The raccoons did not appear.

After we checked to make sure nobody was hiding under the deck, we sealed it off with one-quarter-inch galvanized mesh. 

We think we have won the raccoon wars.

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