When we lived in LA the only wildlife we dealt with were the occasional police visits to our neighbors due to burglary or domestic violence calls. Oh, yeah, and there were drive-by shootings just to keep you on your toes. The burglaries and domestic violence calls by neighbors never required action on our parts, so these weren’t much of a nuisance. Our family arguments and dysfunctions haven’t yet required a police visit of our own. And nobody ever broke into our house, which we didn’t much worry about because our windows were barred and back then our largest (not flat) television screen was a mere 27”; in other words, we owned nothing worth stealing. The periodic drive-by shootings mostly took place southeast of our Beverly Hills location. However, if a beat-up Chevy Impala or Olds Cutlass began motoring slowly up the street with turned-up-way-too-loud bass blaring out of the open car windows, one just went back inside the house or took cover behind a parked car, smoothly avoiding a visit to the ER or county coroner.
So when we moved to a somewhat rural (at least by our standards) section of San Diego (from which we have since moved to a slightly more urban area), we had visits from various animals which we were not prepared to deal with being city slickers. There was the ant invasion of 1998, the time a rat got into the house during remodeling in 1999, the ant uprising of 2000, the bee insurgency down the chimney in or about 2001, the various baby rabbits and lizards who would meet their demise and have their corpses removed from our pool, and the coyotes that lived all around the neighborhood, which could be heard in packs at night and were occasionally spotted alone during jogging, all of which stories could (and someday may well be) posts of their own. There was also the formation of the bee ball in or about 2003, which story has already been posted. But today this post is about the raccoon incursion of 2000.
It was just after Laura was born that I kept noticing the outdoor crawlspace cover under the master bedroom window was down. Each morning, for several days, I’d go out and put it back on, only to find that it had been knocked down again during the night. Did I have a clue? Nope. My urban training did little to prepare me for this. It wasn’t until one evening that I saw a raccoon walk across the patio from the general direction of the master bedroom crawlspace that I realized it was probably the culprit knocking down the cover. Since we really didn’t want a raccoon going under our house, Tom found a high-tech solution: he stacked up several full paint cans in front of the crawlspace entrance. I feared that this solution would become a permanent one since neither one of us is very handy, but it was expedient, so I went along with the plan figuring I’d get the crawlspace cover secured in a more aesthetically pleasing manner later.
That very night, I was awakened by a terrible noise. There was scratching, and clawing, and banging. I sat up in bed. Tom didn’t move. Little baby Laura (lucky inheritor of Tom’s genes) also slept through the horrible racket. I realized that the noise was coming from right outside our bedroom window. I rummaged in my nightstand drawer for a flashlight (Tom and Laura were still sleeping). I opened the blinds (Tom and Laura were still sleeping). I shined the flashlight out the window (Tom and Laura were still sleeping). The beam of light shone right on a rather large raccoon standing up on its hind legs. I yelped (Tom and Laura were still sleeping). I realized that the raccoon was just trying to get back under the house, and so I nervously went back to bed, but couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay there listening to that raccoon continue making that terrible racket for what felt like forever (Tom and Laura were still sleeping). Then that raccoon and I had a mind meld, the kind of oneness that only two mothers of newborns could have when one of them needs help. I realized that Mama Raccoon was not going to give up because she had babies under the house! A wave of hormonal emotion washed over me. My milk let down. I got all weepy. I woke up Tom. “Tom, that raccoon is trying to get under the house and she’s not going to give up because she has babies under there.” Tom sleepily replied, “You don’t know that. You don’t even know if it’s a she. The raccoon will get tired of trying and go find someplace else to go. The paint-can plan is working.” Then I got as desperate as Mama Raccoon because she and I were on the same wavelength as I imagined how I’d feel if my baby weren’t sleeping peacefully next to me (which she still was), but rather I was barricaded from her by giant paint cans. Thinking of that big, angry raccoon up on her two hind legs clawing madly at the paint cans standing between her and her hungry babies, I said, “Tom, please go out there and move the paint cans. Let that mother get to her babies.” Yeah, right. No way was he getting out of bed, much less getting out of bed to get between a frantic mother raccoon and her hungry offspring. Tom repeated that he was sure there weren’t babies under the house and that the raccoon would soon go away. I fired my last shot. “Tom, if there are babies under the house, she’s going to get in one way or another and possibly damage the house doing it.” Tom replied, “That won’t happen.” He went back to sleep.
I lay there for what seemed like hours listening to the scratching and clawing under the window. I thought about going out and moving the paint cans myself, but reasoned that if I was permanently disabled in a raccoon attack then that would endanger my baby (whereas Tom, who was not responsible for breastfeeding, was the more disposable parent). Then the racket suddenly stopped. Then it started up again. But this time the racket was coming from a crawlspace under a different window. Clever girl! I listened for a long while as Mama Raccoon scratched and clawed. And then I heard a soft thud. That crawlspace cover had hit the ground. All was quiet and I knew that mother and children were reunited. I went back to sleep. The next morning I asked Tom to follow me outside, and, sure enough, there was that crawlspace cover lying in the dirt where it had been ripped right out of the stucco. I found a creative way to say I told you so: “We wouldn’t have to have someone re-stucco the house if you’d moved the paint cans.” Later that day, Augustine, a lovely gentleman who did odd jobs around our house, crawled under the house to see if in fact there were raccoon babies. He counted several pair of little beady eyes. What to do? After I called several pest control companies and various city, county, state, and federal agencies to check on how to legally and safely remove wild animals, I determined that the bottom line was that they probably couldn’t be moved without separating and thus endangering them. I was also told that as soon as the young ones were old enough to have foraging lessons, they’d all leave together. I told Tom that the raccoons were staying until they were ready to go. His newly minted paternal instincts kicked in and he agreed. The paint cans were removed so that ingress and egress without further damage to the house was effectuated. And so it was that several weeks later, Mama Raccoon and her babies left one evening to hunt for their food. Augustine went back under the house the next day to make sure that no raccoons were left behind, and to clean out the area. The crawlspaces were permanently and tastefully sealed with new screws, stucco, and paint. I later learned that mother raccoons typically have a second home site ready to go so that when their babies are old enough to forage, they can move them from the birthing den. And to their second home I believe they went, where Mama Raccoon and her young lived happily ever after.
1 year ago