If you have been following my family’s adventures here on Today’s Parent
for the past year, you’ll know that we are a house full of city slickers. Mr. P was born and raised in Winnipeg, as were our children. As for me, I was born and raised on a farm, but spent the better part of my life in cities. The wildlife we previously encountered was safely behind bars at a zoo (save for the one time we came across a bear when we were camping in Northern Ontario). During our year on the farm there was a large flock of wild turkeys that was intimidating, but that was it. Our cottage home is a different story.
If you were to picture a remote waterfront campsite, you would have the setting for our home. Set far back from the highway and surrounded by hundreds of acres of forest, we have a few neighbours that stay here year round, but for the most part, it is a very quiet community that we share with all kinds of animals. For instance, when we first moved in, we foolishly left a bag of garbage on our deck, only to have an adolescent bear climb up the stairs and nose around — with only our patio doors separating us from the bear. There are also moose and deer that routinely wander across our property. But as scary a bears are, the wildlife that bothers me the most are raccoons.
You see, it isn't the raccoons that are the problem, it's that we don't have garbage collection. One of the pay offs for low property taxes where we live is that there is no garbage collection so we are responsible for taking our own garbage to the dump, which is only open for a few hours, a few days a week. This also means we need to be very careful about when we do a fridge clean out — it needs to be timed with a day that the dump is open so that we don’t have to store our garbage in the house. But being forgetful, we will sometimes leave a bag outside...only to find it torn to shreds in the the morning by the neighbourhood raccoons.
Our raccoon turf war started late last summer. I had forgotten a bag of garbage outside and woke up to find chicken carcasses and apple peels all over our deck. The only thing that they didn’t eat was a dirty disposable diaper and a half-eaten package of past-date tofu. The next night after discovering that we didn’t leave a bag of garbage for them (we cleaned up and made our trip to the dump), the raccoons pooped all over our deck. The pooping on our deck went on for most of the early fall, until they found another family to pester (and realized that we actually don’t always leave garbage out).
After being sick most of last week, I didn’t make our usual dump run and had a good amount of garbage to get rid of. It was too stinky to leave inside, so Mr. P and I constructed what we hoped to be a critter proof garbage pile. We had logs, rocks, tarps, shovels and rakes piled on top of a few bags, hoping it would keep them out. (I’m sure anyone that knows raccoons is laughing at us now and can see where this story is going). And guess what — we woke up to garbage all over our yard. And the next day being yet another day that the dump was closed, we had to come up with yet another booby-trapped contraption to keep the raccoons out. And AGAIN, that night, the raccoons got into everything.
You would think that after all of that, we would remember to bring our garbage in at night. But no. Two nights ago we forgot it on our deck. You know Albert Einstein’s quote about the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again but expect different results? You could easily call us insane.
Up until now, we hadn’t actually seen the raccoons, but assumed that there was one messy little bandit face tearing up our yard. So when we saw two gigantic raccoons — we estimated them to be upwards of 40 pounds each — scavenging our garbage, we freaked out. How do we get them off our deck? I’m a little afraid of any wild animal because I know that they are smarter than me (this whole story about leaving our garbage out time after time proves that I’m not that bright). We knew that our dog, Murphy would take off after them and the incidence of rabies in raccoons is quite high and the last thing we need is a rabid dog. Mr. P, being braver than me ran after them with the most violent things we have in the house — a mini decorative gourd left over from Halloween and a can of compressed air. The raccoons took off all right, likely to tell all of their friends that the two city slickers in the cute cottage down the road are not only very generous with their garbage, and not much of a threat either — really, can a decorative mini gourd do that much damage to a 40-pound raccoon?
I’d like to tell you that this will be our last run-in with raccoons. But given that both my husband and I are very forgetful and that the dump is closed more days than it is open, be sure that there will be more wildlife stories before spring.Photo by ingridtaylar via Flickr