There is a family of raccoons in my yard that have become bolder as time has gone by. The patriarch, known as Stumpy for his grizzled tail. He's the brains of the operation and He appears to be a seasoned veteran of many run-ins with neighborhood coyotes and dogs. He supervises by sitingt in the crotch of a tree in the backyard and watching. Then he sends the wife and kids to do his dirty work. Mama raccoon is the plump chief scavenger and every once a while in the dead of night, alert me to her present with glowing yellow eyes and look at me boldly as if to say, "hey lady, make me a sandwich! Or else!"
Late one night, I took a break and went out to the kitchen when I heard a thump above me. As I turned around, Stumpy was hanging by his paws from the rain gutter and growling at me. Startled, I froze for a second before grabbing a pan and a spoon and yelling, "shoo, get out!" Considering what this household has done for the raccoon family, one would think they would be a bit more grateful.
Last summer while waddling on the roof near the chimney with its mother(they are well fed), baby raccoon fell down and got stuck somewhere in the flue. We had just nseen the baby emerge a few weeks ago scampering next to its mother. A heartbreaking series of cries started. It was clearly scared and possibly hurt. Every few seconds, a terrifying growl would roll down the chiminey and for a minute, we wondered if a larger and more dangerous animal was in there. I put a mirror under near the flue and could see the tiny baby raccoonThere was no way itcould not have climbed up on its own. It was stuck and no amount of noise making or careful and gentle prodding with a broom handle would work. Not knowing what to do, I called Animal Control first. The budget cuts for government systems seem to only affect the systems you need at the time. Their phone system was fascinating.
"If you are calling to report a vicious dog, please press one and leave a message, if you are reporting escaped livestock on the freeway press two and leave a message, for all other problems, press three." I pressed three.
"You have reached us after hours. We are open Monday through Friday from nine to four." I guess if there is a bull loose on the highway after four, you just have to avoid him or explain to the vicious dog that it'll just have to calm down until authorities can be reached. I'm sure that works all the time.
The Humane Society was more helpful and suggested that we put a rope or sheet down the chimney so the baby raccoon could climb out. As darkness fell, my 64 year old father climbed up on to the second roof of the two-story house to snake a thick rope down the chimney. Luckily he was sure footed and had no real fear of heights. For a good part of the night, we could hear the crying pitifully and the mother at the top growling and the chimney acted like an amplifier, so it was impossible to ignore because the family dog kept barking too. The baby's cries went on through the night as did the terrifying growls from above. Mama raccoon had somehow climbed down the chimney and brought her baby to safety. Sometime during the early hours of the morning the dog stopped and a few days later, baby and mama raccoon were seen in their usual perch in the backyard lurking and waiting for the day when the sliding glass door would finally open to a world of dog and cat food where they could live comfortably forever.