circa 2008 The Light

We had friends in last night to devour lobsters and the other healthy ingredients that make up a memorable kick off dinner for the 2008 summer.

As usual little remains as evidence that the lobsters made their way from Barachois to the lobster pot near my BarBQ. All that does remain must be dealt with before the nocturnal visitors arrive to check out what is on their menu tonight.

I have been engaged in an epic struggle with raccoons for decades. As is my nature I am determined to emerge from this fight as the victor.

The nature of the conflict is simple enough. Raccoons lay claim to every organic morsel they can forage from trash cans to outhouses and everything in between.

There lies the challenge, not just mine but yours as well.

Every Tuesday morning my friends from the Brule Shore and I meet for coffee at the Bread Basket. The purpose of this weekly meeting is to discuss and invariably resolve most of the major political and social issues that challenge Canadians today.

Dealing with foreign debt commitments, Canadian / American trade disputes and other foreign policy issues are usually handled in the first ten minutes. It is then that we return to the subject that dominates most of our sessions. Raccoons, are they a nuisance or just victims of an intolerant society?

John from Brule Point still remembers his first encounter with a masked bandit. It was on the Walt Disney Hour one Sunday evening back in the fifties. The sweet, cuddly adorable critter was a friend of Bambi and together they frolicked in the woods gathering meadow flowers. Oh they were lovely days when we were younger.

Walt in his wisdom failed to tell us that raccoons have a bad habit of digging up vegetable beds, stripping the fruit off trees and the grapes from our vines. At the time none of us were made aware that raccoons knock down corn and break into bird feeders. If that wasn’t bad enough there were no warnings from Walt that raccoons regularly steal eggs and gulp down young poultry.

Do I need to emphasize my point. The raccoon is a bad varmint. Raccoons are omnivores, meaning they will eat a wide variety of foods, from fruit, vegetables, eggs and birds to insects, carrion, and fish and other aquatic animals, pet food and garbage, not the green bag, just the garbage inside. Oh and by the way they don’t clean up, they don’t wash dishes and they don’t wash their hands before or after dinner.

Those of you with raccoon problems are members of a very large club. There are chapters in every city and village from San Diego to Glace Bay and everywhere in between.

My friend John that is the other John from the Brule Road, not Brule Point, has a different approach to dealing with these nasty varmints. There are no memories of Walt Disney and cuddly sweet animals for this John,. There is just the stark reality of how does one rid oneself of a nuisance, a totally destructive pest. John was weaned on stories of survial in the wild by Ernest Hemingway and Jack London. There was no room for Bambi or Walt in John’s world. John reads Guns and Ammo not stories about Micky and Donald.

I respect everyone’s opinion on the subject and I am not condoning mass annihilation of a species. For want of a better expression I believe in “Managing the Problem”

Those that know more than I do will tell you that trapping raccoons is not an effective deterrent. It would be better if we discourage them from visiting our property at night. One should follow these simple suggestions for reducing temptations for raccoons in residential areas. Bring your pet food and water bowls inside at night.

Net all small fish ponds and have tight-fitting trashcan lids or wire the loose ones shut. Always harvest your garden produce as soon as it is ready and pick up wind-fall fruit promptly. You should block foundation vents and prevent entry into or under deck habitat with wooden latticework. If you can, trim tree branches back away from your house and your shed roofs.

If raccoons persist, live traps are available but then you are faced with the problem of how and where do you release the critters.

Not in my backyard, I beg you. In truth should we release them anywhere, if we do, then we are passing the buck on to another homeowner.

In some circles, people use coyote urine to repel them or they scare the varmints off with Christmas lights, smoke bombs, electrified fences and rubber reptiles.

I stayed up late one night last summer in order to do a night patrol. I took up my position on a deck chair, I had a clear view of the whole garden and by ten I dozed off . Needless to say I missed all the action that night.

Another friend, one who watches The Food Network far too much has advised me that a potion of garlic and water pureed in the blender and drizzled around the yard is a good deterrent. He also suggests that peanut butter bon bons stuffed with jalapeño peppers work perfectly as do mothballs and cayenne pepper.

Remember that raccoons are creatures of habit. Once they find your house, they will make it a regular part of their stomping grounds. Evidence of raccoon activity includes, most commonly, garbage cans tipped over and garbage scattered across the yard. Dead birds are also signs of a raccoon problem as are raccoon droppings. In some cases, raccoons can cause damage to attics or roofs. The other danger is that raccoons are wild animals, and can carry any number of diseases, including rabies. Never confront a raccoon who is wondering around during daylight hours, it is most likely sick.

If you want to see raccoons in action go in your garden or on your deck at 3 in the morning. If you want to see one at 3 in the afternoon, visit Mackenzie Feed & Petting Zoo, 8097 Hwy 311 at The Falls.

Quietly Retired on Waugh’s River

Edward Sampson

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