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Learning more about racoons

Like the displaced persons who have fled from war, floods, forest fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters, animals whose homes and food sources were devastated first seek food and shelter. Often they occupy temporary “refugee camps” and are usually driven out in short order by the established residents of the area. Most critters are territorial and tolerate only so much competition from others of their kind; unfortunately, in the animal world, compassion and generosity don’t exist very far beyond the boundaries of immediate families, and the instincts that accompany nesting and birth cause even more aggressive behavior in springtime. When there are no traditional “homesteads” available, animals improvise by adapting to some more unusual places to establish residence.
Among the dozens of different species of wildlife displaced during the past year by the rather dramatic changes in my nearby landscape, the raccoons have been the most evident. The few acres of timber and pond making up my back yard represent a nearly perfect habitat for raccoons. They like to live in dens high above ground, usually in trees or abandoned buildings. They are night-hunters and forage for poultry, bird eggs, fish, frogs, mice and other small critters, as well as insects, nuts and berries. Females produce up to six young each spring and the family lives and hunts together for about a year before the young strike out on their own. Females prefer to raise their young alone, but the males can usually be found living nearby.
The raccoons who fled to my backyard timber apparently discovered all the best home sites were taken, but there was ample food available, so in desperation they sought any unoccupied, fairly lofty, sheltered space not already taken. It took a bit of ingenuity and quite a bit of hard work to find entry to my unoccupied attic, but they finally managed to excavate a passage through one of the ventilators, after discovering the fireplace chimney did not lead to the attic. Had the flue been open, they might have achieved entry to my living room, as several chimney swifts and a lone wood duck have in past years.
Accustomed to squirrel traffic across my roof, the fluttering of birds nesting under the eaves, and nocturnal thumping of exploring raccoons and feral cats on my deck, I did not at first, pay attention to the rather unusual bumping and rustling above my head. When I spotted the vandalized ventilator, reality dawned on me. A man came and set a trap which caught a male raccoon within just a few hours. The trap was reset and I was advised, since the captured culprit was not a female, it was unlikely there would be a litter of young in my attic, as the females are not likely to settle in so close to where males reside. I guess the occupants were only bachelors, and apparently not very tidy housekkeepers as the odor indicates a regrettable lack of personal hygiene and sanitation facilities. I’ve been told we must get rid of all the insulation that absorbed the strong raccoon smells, but we have to get rid of all the raccoons first, and prevent more raccoons from moving in. The odor they leave actually attracts others.
I’ve learned some other interesting things about raccoons in the process. They are one of our more ancient animals, having existed during the Miocene Epoch, which spanned a period of time from 24 to 5 million years ago. That fact alone seems to testify to their adaptability and persistence. When it comes to temptation, raccoons are highly suspicious and cautious. So far, the traps have been baited with a variety of treats including sardines, marshmallows, dog food, sweet corn, and the shell of a lobster tail. I’ve been given a wide range of advice as to methods of driving them out of the attic and discouraging them from returning. These include mothballs, which I imagine would drive away most creatures, but judging from the smell the raccoons themselves lend to the space, I doubt they would even notice the relatively milder scent of mothballs.
Several of my farmer friends who have first-hand experience with unwanted raccoons in various places tell me to put a radio in the attic, and tune it in to a loud, round-the-clock rock station. The drawback is I would be subjected to the noise, as well. Having survived the musical tastes of four teenagers in past years, I expect I could cope. So if it works, I guess it would be worth the discomfort. Other suggestions included strobe lights or setting off a strong pesticide bomb. I’m willing to try just about anything short of blasting away at them with a shotgun.