Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm Going to Install A Toll Booth

I know where I live is rural and we have lots of animals around.  Lots of birds, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, skunks and coyotes.  Thankfully, we don't have bears.  They would have to cross a canal to get here.  Or hitch a ride.  They haven't figured out how to do that yet.

In the summer, the rabbit population is mind blowing.  With the number of coyotes around, the population should be kept in check but it appears that rabbits aren't the plat du jour that the coyotes have in mind when they go hunting.  Maybe they are too easy?  No thrill in the hunt.  Maybe too bony?  They are wild rabbits but they look plump enough to me.  Maybe they taste gamey?  Household pets are much preferred by our local coyotes.

And the rabbits are way too big for any cats to chase, though the cats get all excited and try to go chasing after them.  Cats do succeed at catching baby rabbits, as evidenced by the day my cats brought in a baby bunny that ran behind the radiator.  I came downstairs to find two cats  fascinated by the radiator.  Poor bunny.

Since we've had the snow, the wildlife has become extremely visible lately.  The same insane squirrels that throw acorns at my mother all summer are now running amok looking for their hidden treasures.  And apparently the rabbits haven't been hibernating.  Can you see those tracks?  They have doubled since yesterday.  I don't see the rabbits, so I don't know when they're running around. But I'm putting in a toll booth.  I shoveled a path for humans the other day and the next morning, it was covered with little animal prints.

I am not a fan of squirrels because I think there are some living in my house, or at least climbing up the side of it at all hours.  And they usually ruin the pumpkin I put out in October. One year, I had grown some cute miniature pumpkins and put them out and the little shits picked them and ran off with them.  I watched one do it!  They usually gnaw into the big ones.   And they throw acorns at my mother on her deck all summer and make a mess.  She really hates that.  And in their Florida house, squirrels were in the attic doing some damage.  So, we aren't the biggest fans.  But, this one was cute this morning.  I threw out a banana peel the other day and it was hanging in a tree and then fell.  The squirrel found it and dragged it up onto the outdoor shower fence and was just tickled to be eating it.  I wonder why squirrels around here would eat a banana peel.  We are nowhere near tropical in these parts, so how would its discerning palette have any idea?  Look how fat he is!!!  He saw me take a picture of his profile and turned this way so I could get a better look.

Wildlife is way too crafty for its own good.  Sometimes that makes them cute.  Like the time that we had raccoons on the roof.  For as long as I can remember, we've had mice in the walls.  The house is 200+ years old, give it a break.  We rarely see them, and Gwenstopher usually catches them if we do, and there are no signs of droppings anywhere and they don't eat our food.  Occasionally, I'll get a guy in here to put poison cubes around and they eat them and then die in the walls and stink up the joint.  Anyone who lives in an old house knows this drill, I am sure.  So, scritching and scratching in the ceiling was nothing new.

One night, I heard what I was pretty sure was someone bowling on the roof.  I laid there for a few minutes, listening to the regular sound of what could only be something pushed down the roof and little feet scampering back up.  This was like 2am.  I finally woke up k-ster and he heard it too, so the investigation began.

First, we went upstairs to see if it was just the cat.  Yes, from 2 floors away, I could hear this roof nonsense!  The cats were nowhere to be found, but k-ster noticed that the noise seemed to be coming from a closet.  So we prepared.  He whipped open the closet- NOTHING.  But we kept hearing it.  So, I decided to go outside with a flashlight.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear?  A cute raccoon, frozen in space as I shined the light on it.  And shingles all over the ground!  As I stood there, he thought he could just sort of sneak away and slowly snuck to the other side of the house.  At this point, k-ster was outside too, so now we were each on a side of the house, him with the hose.  We were gonna get this little bugger!  It was 2:30am and we were determined.  Spraying the hose, trying not to make too much noise to wake the neighbors...

Somehow, he completely vanished.  Until we shined the flashlight at the chimney and saw his beady little eyes peeking out over the top.  Eventually, he ran off, or something, and we lost him.  But now there were shingles just ripped off the roof, laying all over the front lawn.  And he'd created a hole and pulled out insulation.  Can't you just picture it?  Sticking his little hand in there, rooting around, pulling out some good nesting material?

For reasons I still can't explain, k-ster went up on the roof and stuck a baseball bat in the hole.  I know, how bizarre!  In the morning, we were able to survey the damage in daylight and it was something!  It, or they, had peeled the flashing back from the chimney, peeling it like a banana.  And ripped off many shingles and parts of shingles and just cast them onto the ground.  The noise I heard that sounded like bowling must have been the shingled sliding down the roof.  And I think there must have been several raccoons.

It was raining by morning, and I was worried that rain would come in, so I called my father to come look at it.  He didn't believe me when I told him it was raccoons.  Then he came and looked, and stood there, speechless, with water streaming off his baseball hat.  Incredulous that raccoons did this damage.  Did he think k-ster and I had done this????  I think the baseball bat sticking out of the roof made it that much more bizarre.

We eventually had to reroof the house and took down any trees that were right beside the house and the problem stopped.  And they moved across the street to a house that was being sold and was unoccupied.  They systematically ripped off shingles on that house and made many holes in the roof.  When the new owners came I told them what had happened to us and they said someone told them that's what happened there.  And a neighbor behind them had scratches down the side of the corner posts where it looked like they had scratched it as they slid down his.

The maniac raccoons either gave up when the new shingles were too tough to rip off, or they kept moving on down the road.  I love wildlife but I am not a fan of wildlife that interferes with my life!!


  1. I love wildlife too as long as it's not in my house. Oh, and our squirrels eat our pumpkins EVERY YEAR! So frustrating!

    I love seeing their tracks in the snow. But sometimes we get so much, I'm not sure how they manage in several inches worth!

  2. Racoons, while adorable, are tricky little buggers, aren't they?

    It's the hands. :-) Their tiny, funny little hands...


  3. Raccoons are just the a**holes of the animal world is what they are. They also cause all kinds of mischief around my house, but never to that extent. I mean ripping shingles off the roof, that is just plain mean!

    Here in Florida, we've got all kinds of wildlife, too. Mostly squirrels and gators and possums and armadillo and they're all just a pain in the bottom.

    The other day my neighbor managed to take a picture of a bobcat that's been lingering in our woods. Sadly it had a baby bunny in its mouth. Why it had to pick that instead of the awful possums is beyond me.

  4. I'm totally with Joann about the raccoons and I also will throw squirrels into the fray. Hate. Squirrels. They're rats with furry tails.

    And I would have wanted to go Bill Murray ala "Caddyshake" on that raccoon's @ss.

    Congratulations on bested that mofo but I'm sorry to hear you had to go to such great lengths to do it.

    And if I was the new owner and came home to that mess I would be furious! Sweep the Leg, talk about buyer's remorse. Oy.


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