Saturday, May 8, 2010

Who was that masked animal?

I have always liked raccoons. I have fond memories of looking out of my bedroom window at my mother's house in Philadelphia on a cold winter night to find a raccoon snuggled up to the other side of the window, soaking up the heat. I also remember waking once in the middle of the night by the horrid noise of three raccoons fighting over some chicken bones out on the roof. My mother always put such things in a tightly sealed glass jar before she threw them away, but I suppose the neighbors weren't so careful.

Like many cute and appealing beings, raccoons are capable of causing great inconvenience to others. I've always known this. Besides raiding garbage cans, they are susceptible to a number of diseases -- although apparently, most of those diseases are rarely transmitted to humans. What I didn't know until just today -- when a friend was dealing with the aftermath of the situation -- is that raccoons are habitual attic invaders. According to
THE MAJORITY OF THE TIME, A RACCOON IN AN ATTIC IS A FEMALE WITH YOUNG – Yes, the majority of the time, about 80% of cases of any raccoon in an attic, there’s a litter of 3-5 baby raccoon pups. The most common reason for a raccoon to enter an attic and choose to live there is the case of a female who needs a safe place to give birth and raise its babies. The mother raccoon usually gives birth shortly after moving into the attic, within 1-2 weeks, and then spends about 10 weeks nursing the baby raccoons. She is very active during this time, often leaving the attic during the daytime to gather additional food. Then at 10 weeks, she starts to take the young out at night to forage.
Removing these animals can be difficult and complicated, even for a professional wildlife trapping specialist:
As stated, the vast majority of the time, the raccoon in the attic is a mother with babies. You don’t trap the mother and leave the babies up there to cry for two weeks, die, and cause a big odor. First, you go into the attic and find the babies! That’s right, you explore the whole attic and remove the young by hand. Be careful, there’s a protective and ferocious mother raccoon nearby! Actually, I’ve removed hundreds of raccoon litters in my lifetime, and I’ve never been attacked. But there have been some close calls, so do so at your own risk. It might be a good idea to wait until the mother isn’t nearby the litter before removing them. Of course, when in an attic, be mindful to walk only on the wooden beams, or you’ll fall through the ceiling. And be careful not to get insulation on your skin. I wear a HEPA filter mask to avoid breathing in airborne dust particles. And I wear thick gloves, particularly when handling wildlife, even baby raccoons, which are usually gentle, but can bite and claw. I put them in a pillowcase, and bring them out of the attic. They can often be very hard to find. The mother raccoon stashes them in a safe place, often down at the very tight edge of the attic, down in the soffit, or down a wall. I usually find myself climbing through very tight quarters to find the young. It can be hard to do, but a 75-year-old woman I know, a wildlife rehabber, has done it, so I guess it’s possible for anyone!
Interesting, isn't it, how this guy assumes that if a 75-year-old-woman can do it, anyone can do it. Other than that, he seems to know what he's talking about. (I'm assuming he's a guy, because his picture is on his home page, decked out in his respirator, with a big old raccoon in his grasp.) He notes, for instance that "Animals that live in houses also sometimes die in houses, and the odor of a dead raccoon is incredible." From my experience this afternoon, I can attest that he is absolutely right about that.

On the other hand, while human beings have great difficulty in keeping raccoons under control, there is at least one cat in the world who has no difficulty keeping the upper paw:

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