One of the critters you may run across in the Southwest USA is the raccoon. I'm not just talking about in rural areas. Like the Cooper's Hawk, these bold nocturnal creatures have no problems coexisting with humans in the suburbs. They are inquisitive, intelligent, and fearless. Be sure to lock down anything you don't want interfered with because they are almost as dexterous as a primate with their agile little paws. Imagine what mischief they could do with an opposable thumb!
[Photo of a raccoon kit obtained courtesy of Wikipedia, taken by D.Dima, and released into the public domain.]
Recently I became aware that my house in the suburbs has become an attractive target for raccoons. I was up late writing in the living room and I heard a weird bumping and banging sound outside between the wrought-iron bars and the sliding glass doors. It sounded like my outdoor cat signaling that he wanted to come in for a treat except that the banging was louder and seemed to come from more than one source. I moved the curtain and shone a flashlight through the glass to see a big mama raccoon that stood as tall (but not as burly) as a French bulldog. I was totally astonished. She, less impressed, gave me a look of surly indifference. With her were five juveniles, each the size of my cat.
And these juveniles were like drunken frat boys gone wild on spring break. While their mama kept a watch, the five of them ran roughshod over my back porch. Two of them mugged my tomato plant, knocking over its pot and tugging it halfway out of its soil. One wrestled with the doormat. Two more scaled the wrought-iron to the top and then perched there, unsure how to get back down. Meanwhile, the first two abandoned the poor tomato plant. One clambered into the cat's water dish and sat there bathing itself. The other discovered the bag of dried cat food I use to replenish the cat's outdoor dish, which they had already cleaned out. It crawled inside the bag and started pigging out. At this point, my cat showed up to defend his food even though he was outnumbered. I went outside to rescue him, and the raccoons scattered except for the two juveniles stuck atop the wrought iron. They stayed very still, eyeing me in the flashlight beam as if to say, "We're not here. Pay no attention to us." It was hilarious though the cat didn't think so as I dragged him inside.
All humor aside, it is not good to feed wild raccoons. They can pose a rabies danger to your dog or cat and they prey on poultry and turtles. I have to protect my cat and backyard turtles. Now, I bring the dried catfood inside each night. It would be even better if I could bring the cat inside, but he won't stand for that, so I leave the water out as well. I also bring my turtles inside so they can sleep safely in a pen in the garage before I return them to the backyard during the sunlit hours. Daytime is when raccoons sleep, probably in a tree or nearby drainage ditch. If you want to make sure that your house in the burbs is not targeted by raccoons, bring in all pet food and water at night. Secure your garbage cans with wire and sweep up all leftover birdseed. They will find somewhere else to look for goodies when nighttime comes around.
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