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Posts Tagged ‘Raccoons’

Raccoons are so cute! and smart…and sneaky…and destructive…Well, we all have our dark side, don’t we? Here is an in-depth look at one of Big Bear’s most loved (and hated) critters.

The North American Raccoon gets its name from the Algonquin word arakun, which means ‘one who scratches with his hands’ and its scientific name is Procyon lotor, which means ‘washer dog’. They got this name because it was once thought that they washed their food before eating it -which, considering what they eat, is probably not a bad idea! Raccoons are omnivores – they can and will eat anything – plants, fruits, insects, rodents, garbage, roadkill, and the occasional bowl of dog kibble. They have very nimble fingers that they eat with and have no trouble opening trash cans, jars or doors and even have the ability to unlace a shoe. (So that is who keeps untying my shoes!)

These masked bandits are nocturnal (active at night) and are considered ‘generalists’, which means that they can adapt to nearly any environment and food source. Raccoons do not construct their own dens. They live in tree holes, abandoned dens, chimneys, attics and under the house or deck. They are squatters! During the autumn months, they pack on extra weight to get them through the winter. The largest animal on record weighed in at 60 pounds! They do not hibernate, but they sleep a lot during the cold winter months and do not want to go out in the harsh weather. (I know how they feel!)

Raccoons are good swimmers, can run up to 15 mph and they are great climbers – they are one of the few animals that can descend a tree head first. They can even drop from a height of 35 – 40 feet and be unharmed. They can make a wide range of sounds including purring, whistling, growling, hissing, screaming and even whinnying. (So if you hear a horse at your door, make sure you check the peephole,  it might just be a sneaky raccoon doing his Mr. Ed impersonation! )

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I am sure that most of you have a story or two about those masked marauders of trash cans and fish ponds that have adapted equally well to the city and the woods.  They are intelligent, curious and surprisingly fearless in most situations.  And I must admit I can’t help but admire those traits that have made them survivors.  They are also cute little pests who are known to carry rabies and roundworm.

RS VacationsWhen we decided to move our RS Vacations office last December, we loved the visibility, large parking lot, curb appeal, and space to plant flowers that 436 W. Big Bear Blvd. offered.  A spring project to beautify in the planning stage involved removing the large juniper bushes on either side of the office front doors and replace it with a deck.  The junipers were unsightly and  we also thought that feral cats had been marking the bushes creating a very pungent scent.   We soon discovered the source of that scent.  We were unpacking late into the night of our move-in as we heard Toby, our 15 lb. Boston Terrier, barking at the windows.    A mama raccoon and her two cubs were emerging from under the front wooden porch,  with one of the cubs coming nose to nose through the glass with Toby.   We hoped that this trio was just visiting and would take the hint that the humans had moved in.  Unfortunately, we discovered that they were long standing and very current basement tenants.  With their reputation for being nimble and fearless varmints already established, we now knew that we had a job before us.  Our mission was to humanely vacate the current basement tenants, thereby protecting our visitors and our pooch who would be no match for Mama raccoon.  This was December in the mountains so we also knew Mama was just trying to keep her cubs safe and warm.

Time to Google “How to humanely get rid of raccoons”.  Raccoons are nocturnal omnivores and will eat insects, mice, fish, eggs, trash etc. and their dexterous paws also allow them to pry open and hold on to anything.  Just ask Bob who had a large “must have been 50 lbs and 4 feet tall”  raccoon grab the broom he was nudging it out of the yard with a few years ago.  Bob decided the raccoon had won that round and backed off.  Or ask  our unfortunate friends  who were traumatized by the raccoon who had been nesting in the attic during their absence and decided to tear through the kitchen ceiling and rummage around in the upper kitchen cabinets the night they returned.

First we tried digging out under the porch to remind our tenants that WE, the humans had moved in.  Well Mama was not phased and proceeded to just cover up the work we had done.  Next we dug a bit further to unearth the entrance, blocking it with rocks and adding Toby’s “presents” to remind them that yes, a canine was also part of the human pack ( I was assured by some of our friends that raccoons hated dogs and would do anything to avoid them).  Who was I fooling?  Mama had seen our cat sized pooch and must have been laughing her raccoon head off as she once again cleared out her space and the rocks and continued her midnight scavenging with her cubs. We clearly had our job cut out before us and wanted to avoid trapping which presented several problems that we did not want to deal with.

A little more research and we found several “fool proof” trap doors that would let the raccoons out but not back in.   We needed the heavy duty version and Bob, Kenny and Fred soon came up with a plan to dig out the area under the porch yet again and install heavy wood planking and heavy wire barrier and then install the trap door.  We knew Mama would have to come out to scavenge for food and hoped she would find another safe and warm home for her family that did not involve basements or attics and cupboards in our neighborhood.

Well it you will be glad to know the plan has worked.  Mama and cubs left their basement den and have finally found a home elsewhere.  It doesn’t mean they didn’t try returning as we would occasionally see paw prints around their former entrance.   To our neighbors…..I hope that are former tenants haven’t taken up residence with you:-(……maybe, just maybe Mama has decided to return to the woods!

Do you have a raccoon or mountain animal story to share?  Would love to have you post it during “animal week”!

—–Suzanne

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