Raccoons will find a way to survive

The morning was passing slowly — very slowly. I was perched about 20 feet up a red oak, bow in hand, waiting for a deer to come by. I was hunting a new place I had recently bought and hadn't had much time to scout.

There was a little sign under the white oak in front of me, but frankly, I didn't have much confidence in the spot.

But — it was a pretty fall morning, and — well, it beat sitting at the office sorting through e-mails.

A movement in the big cedar in front of me caught my eye. I squinted to focus, and gradually the form of a three quarters grown raccoon took shape behind a cedar bough. Another movement about two feet below — another raccoon, obviously a sibling.

It was reaching toward the first one, which responded by pulling away.

I dug my binoculars out of the day pack. The raccoon on top was eating something that the other one wanted, but the first one didn't want to share. After a bout of tugging, the object fell to a lower limb, and I could see it was a squirrel hide!

Obviously, they had eaten most of the meat and were cleaning final shreds of meat from the hide.

A squirrel! How could a clumsy, slow-footed, three quarters grown raccoon catch a squirrel, the most agile of forest creatures? I could speculate all day, but nevertheless, it had. I have seen raccoons eat a lot of things, but never before a squirrel.

One time, while bow hunting near a persimmon tree, a big fat boar raccoon came waddling down the deer trail. As soon as he reached the persimmon tree, he ate every persimmon on the ground. Didn't smell first, just swaffed ‘em right down.

Then he climbed the tree, walked out a limb and began carefully sniffing each persimmon. When he found one that smelled right, he ate it.

He proceeded to do this for maybe seven or eight minutes. Once full, he sprawled out on the limb, feet dangling, chin resting on the limb and then went to sleep.

About 20 years ago, I went fishing for speckled trout, redfish and bluefish in the Gulf. I was flying with a friend out to an island about 25 miles off the Mississippi Coast.

The plan was to land on the beach and surf fish. On the way we flew over a small island full of raccoons — at least 20 miles from shore! No trees were evident, just very small shrubs.

I have never before, nor since, seen so many raccoons in one place (I would estimate at least 50 to 75 per acre.) They obviously were doing quite well feeding on shellfish, crabs, and the like.

I have long since wondered how they survived storms, since from the air it appeared there was nowhere to den.

Raccoons also seem quite at home living around people. They seem to thrive in subdivisions, frequenting tiny pockets of cover along streambanks and abandoned lots.

Over the years, I have received lots of calls from frustrated suburbanites whose garbage cans were being raided. They'd climb the cans, turn them over, rake through the garbage for tasty morsels, and strew the rest.

If their mess wasn't complete, neighborhood dogs would finish the job.

Raccoons create havoc with bird feeders, too, especially ones with suet. They raid gardens for several kinds of food — they really like corn and strawberries.

They often live in attics, apparently feeding on mice, birds, and other critters living there. Attics also serve as warm dens, home base for raccoons who find nearby human food morsels handy — the uneaten kind, as well as the garage kind.

At one time, we had a colony of raccoons living in a couple of the older buildings on campus. On one occasion, a big raccoon created quite a commotion in a biology class. Seems it removed a ceiling tile, looked down at the class as they and instructor watched in awe.

Then it turned around and urinated down into the classroom while students in the immediate vicinity scrambled to get out of the way. Goes to show what it thought of that class!

Not long after, a wildlife biology student was commissioned to remove some raccoons.

There are several ways to solve raccoon damage problems, but perhaps the most effective way is through their stomachs. They love sardines. A live-trap baited with an open can of sardines works every time.

Raccoons will be around for a long time. Even though they are clumsy and slow, they'll eat about anything organic, and don't seem to much care where they live.

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