After my post Thursday about a dead raccoon we found at the beach last weekend, Francessa, my friend who splits her time living in Austria and Germany, asked in her comments if raccoons are rare here. She said she'd only seen them in zoos. Assumptions are funny sometimes. Mine that raccoons are commonplace was crumbled with Francessa's info, and when my friend Sharry, who lives in Ashland, Oregon, was also intrigued by Francessa's comment I thought I must run this video for Francessa.
Here is mama raccoon in spring 2007 up in our Sequoia and eating Friskies in the little wildlife area we fenced off in our backyard. Each evening for ten years now I've set out dried cat food and raw eggs for the raccoons, skunks, and occasional opossums (haven't seen one for a few years), along with two bowls of water: one for drinking, one for washing food (raccoons do that). They've been treated to what remains from whole chickens after we're finished with them, and the salmon skin that we don't eat. In other words, life has been good for these guys.
I realize that the "experts" say we shouldn't feed wildlife, but as the rural land around us has been developed into subdivisions the animals have had to widen their hunting circles not only for food but for shelter.
Last summer mama raccoon had five babies. They'd roam the neighborhood at night in search of additional food and reports came in from people who were enjoying them in their yards....or not. But it didn't take us long to realize that most nights they came back to our yard and up into the giant Sequoia nearest to our house, where they camped out until dusk the next day. We couldn't see them up there, but they definitely were there. Tracks began showing up on the trunk of the tree. When the tracks became actual scores into the bark I called an arborist for a consult. He examined all three Sequoias, climbing high into the one here by the house, where he confirmed raccoon nests full of pooh. His appraisal of the situation was that he's seen the bark of some evergreens in the forest completely scratched apart by climbing animals and that the trees survive because the bark is so thick.
One midsummer night last year I was working on the computer in my home office that has two windows, one viewing the back yard. I had the window open for cool night air. Along came the five baby raccoons - now some months old - climbing up the trellis that leads to the back porch overhang. One by one, they got onto the roof nearest my open window and completely amused me by stretching their heads as far as they could safely reach to peer in at me. They were absolutely adorable!
When fall and winter came most moved on or found other food and shelter. This territory just isn't big enough for the lot of them. We have no idea how many stayed within close enough range that are now returning to our yard and all three Sequoias, most likely with their own young. They are back with a vengeance. The Sequoia nearest our house is taking the brunt of the nighttime activity, and chunks of the unusual red bark are scattered on the ground at the base of the tree.
I can't take it anymore. The trees are 80 years old and are hosts and home to dozens of different kinds of birds. They provide a massive amount of shade for us and three other homes, and they purify the air in our small part of the planet. As much as I care about and am entertained by the raccoons, the health of these trees must take precedence. Is there a way we can all live together? Maybe so, and with this in mind I've asked Mike to circle the trees with wire screening material this weekend to see if it will either send the raccoons in search of other places to camp or serve as climbing assistance to the higher branches.
If this plan doesn't succeed, and fairly quickly, then I guess we'll have to look into traps. That wouldn't be so horrible, trapping them and setting them free miles away up the creek canyon. Except remember I said that skunks are among the night feeders in our yard? Who wants to trap a skunk: not me! Besides, they aren't the culprits in the Sequoia pathmaking. Although I have no idea where they spend their days, any time after 10:00pm I must take the dogs out on leashes in the front yard because two playful skunks own the backyard in the dark.
So, no, Francessa, raccoons are not rare here. But not everyone in the U.S. has the opportunity to see them close up, hear their funny little gurgley growls, pick up scattered eggshell halves around the water bowl the day following a visit. Unfortunately, many people see them dead on the roads. Which is why we have a dilemma. We've loved providing raccoons with a safe place to live, but we purchased that back lot next to our backyard specifically to save the three Sequoias from removal for development.
I'll provide updates as the situation changes. If anyone has advice or similar stories to share, that would be most welcome.