They Were Here First

I’ve written before about the menagerie we feed and maintain. It is hard to keep track of the cats, possums, raccoons, stray dogs, blue jays, starlings, a host of winter birds, water buffalo, and the occasional East African elephant that show up at our feeding bowls and watering troughs. Oh, and that doesn’t count four grandchildren who get off the school bus at our house nine months a year.

The most troublesome are the raccoons because they are the smartest and most aggressive foragers. We were keeping large bags of cat food on our screen porch until the raccoons decided to bust through the screen and drag entire bags out the hole. We can’t leave our French doors open because the coons will sneak into the kitchen and steal whatever food they can get their agile and dexterous little hands on. My wife even caught a couple of raccoons pulling a bag of dog food out of a cupboard once. Mother nature knew what she was doing when she painted masks over the eyes of these
little thieves.

Well, the very first thing I observed this morning when entering the bathroom was the sight of a young raccoon calmly enjoying a free bowl of cat food on the deck outside the bathroom window. I tapped on the window and the coon barely took notice. Coons have become completely adapted to living with man and never pass up a chance to supplement their income at our expense. If you get a chance watch the PBS documentary, Raccoon Nation. It is an eye opener.

After fixing myself a cup of coffee I fired up the laptop and found an email from Sally Kennedy about a new post on her North Coast Muse blog. Visiting her blog I found a very timely piece about efforts in her area regarding raccoons, the threat of rabies, and the USDA’s attempts to vaccinate raccoons against the disease.

Over the years we’ve had to deal with problems that come from living in the country and especially in a forest. We’ve had birds, bees, and flying squirrels make their home inside the exterior walls of our house. Squirrels have gotten into our shed and devoured a season of dried black walnut and hickory nuts. We’ve found black snakes and garter snakes in our basement,  bats in our belfry, and ground hogs undermine an old barn. We have deer and rabbits that make a small garden impossible, screech owls that scare the bejesus out of you at night, and small nocturnal creatures that sound like East African elephants as they rustle through the dry leaves at night. I’ve read that we are never more than 18″ from a spider. Living in a woods that number may be closer to 8″.

We have friends and know others who simply could never contend with life in a jungle. We’ve also been advised we should take offensive measures to eradicate the local fauna. But, when we bought this property in 1976 and decided this was where we wanted to spend our lives we also quickly came to realize that it was us who were moving in with all the creatures, and not the reverse. We’re the new kids on the block so the onus for adjustment was our job. All these years later it’s been a pretty good arrangement.

PS: About those nearby spiders. They never get flushed or crushed. My wife affords each a gentle (wrapped in tissue), all expenses paid, trip to the great outdoors each time she sees one scurrying  across the carpet or hanging from the bedroom ceiling. After all, you never know which one knows how to spell using their web.

One thought on “They Were Here First”

  1. Surprised at the lack of comments, I thought I’d leave one:

    I remember when our family Momma cat, at a time when she currently had a litter, slapped a raccoon on the head when it came up on the porch to eat out of the food dish.

    I share this just because it was pretty funny to witness. It didn’t seem to faze the raccoon, however, who continued to eat from the food dish. But neither did it seem inclined to engage Momma cat in battle or even retaliate.

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