Sunday, November 11, 2007

The raccoons aren't the only problem

We have a few neighbors who feed raccoons -- intentionally, or through laziness about feeding their own pets outdoors -- and this summer we've battled a real bumper crop of raccoons: two moms, one with two babies and one with five. The babies have now grown into real bruisers, and I found one menacing our tabby Zoe outside the basement door a week ago. There was no food, or even water, at issue. I had to conclude the raccoon wanted access to the heated cat bed in that shelter area. The following day, we unplugged the heated pad, meaning that the cats won't have any warm place to hang out if we leave them outside for the day.

Some of the raccoons are living in the attic of the notorious ramshackled house across the alley. With the back yard overgrown, and the back porch roof and stairs collapsed, it looks abandoned. But an older woman, who works at a local bakery, lives there and is apparently unwilling to sell the valuable land. The speculation from people who have looked up city records on the property is that she doesn't want to sell because half of the proceeds would then go to her ex-husband.

Meanwhile, the raccoons have a base of operations from which to launch their nightly forays for fine dining.

We have a next door neighbor who has a cat door in the basement for his cat, but it's a cheap cat door and the raccoons get in the basement on a regular basis. They not only eat all the poor cat's food, but they tear the place apart. Two years ago, the neighbor had great success trapping the raccoons and relocating them. But this year the raccoons broke out of the borrowed cages, and he gave up the trapping effort.

(His cat uses its magnet to gain access to our house via our raccoon-proof cat door, and eats here. The neighbor has no intention of installing a raccoon-proof cat door because it costs $300. So, his cat has no food and his basement gets torn apart a couple of times a month. OK.)

The raccoon skirmishes got quite a bit weirder and more alarming Friday morning. I had let our deaf white cat Sheba outside, and was listening for trucks in case I needed to locate her and get her away from a FedEx or a contractor's vehicle. When I heard a truck in the alley, I dashed to the front porch and, to my horror, saw a large truck stopped with the engine running, and the driver out of the truck standing in the alley beside a white cat.

"What happened?" I yelled as I dashed down the porch steps.

"He's dead," said the driver, which struck me as odd because Sheba was standing up on all four feet. Her fur was puffed up as if she had been electrocuted, she was not moving, but she was definitely standing up.

And she and the driver were both staring at a gargantuan raccoon which was, clearly, dead and laying at the edge of the road. It didn't look squished, but neither did it look merely stunned. And, oddly, it had a streak of green glittery paint on its flank.

It required quite a bit of effort to haul Sheba away -- she kept going back to the raccoon -- and in the confusion I assumed that the truck had hit the raccoon while it was chasing Sheba (or vice versa) and Sheba had narrowly missed sharing its fate. This suspicion was reinforced when Sheba spent the rest of the morning sitting in the front window, staring at the raccoon carcass, visibly agitated.

I called animal control's number for disposing of dead animals, rejected their suggestion that I double-bag the 30-pound beast and put it in our trash can, and they came out and took the body away later in the afternoon.

The following day I saw our neighbor out in the yard and told him the story. He got an odd, sheepish grin on his face and said, "I killed it."

"You hit it with your car?" I asked.

No, he said, it had gotten in to their basement Thursday night, and he'd found it tearing the place up. It had even gotten into their five-year-old daughter's paint set (thus explaining the glittery green paint!) So he'd waded down into the basement, picked up a two-by-four, and clubbed it to death.

And then he'd dumped it in the alley in front of the abandoned house.

I don't often use the phrase "WTF?" but it came immediately to mind and wouldn't leave as I stood there and looked at him incredulously. He'd dumped a dead raccoon on a street where children and pets go back and forth every day? And he thought who was going to pick it up?

He doesn't take well to criticism, and, noting my expression, he shrugged and blustered "Yeah, and if another raccoon comes in, I'll do it again."

I had a friend with me, and Zorg was standing behind me on the steps, so I restrained my comments. But if he does it again, I think I will put on gloves and double-bag that raccoon. And stuff it in his trash can. Or maybe the front seat of his car.

1 comment:

  1. Un-freakin'-believable! What kind of person could club a raccoon to death? How sad.....