We had a surprise visitor this weekend. While readying our dachshund Bella for her final walk Friday at 10 p.m., Tim opened the side door of the house to find a raccoon on the stoop. With his quick, Cherokee-like reflexes, Tim avoided disaster by jerking Bella into the house while the raccoon bowed up for a fight. Then, as Tim watched out the door window, our visitor ambled down the steps and into the dark night.
The wayward waccoon didn’t go far, however. At morning light, it was discovered asleep in a bed of fresh hardwood mulch under a camellia in the side garden, a short distance from the bird feeders. After an hour or two of wondering why the raccoon had made its bed in the open (could it be sick or injured?), Tim decided to see if he could rouse it by throwing some ice cubes out the window.
The answer was yes, he could rouse it. The raccoon woke groggily, devoured an ice cube snack, groomed itself lazily while ignoring us and the birds swooping in and out from the feeders, then curled up and went back to sleep.
As Saturday dusk slipped into night, Tim and I watched at the window to see what would happen next. The raccoon woke and became quickly alert (almost as if a switch was flipped) and then gobbled down all the dropped seed under the feeders. It made great effort to get up the pole, even jumping and sliding down once, before abandoning the effort.
Tim saw the raccoon once more, hours later, making his way along the retaining wall in the backyard. Captured in the beam of the flashlight, the raccoon made a dash for the river and parts unknown.
Postscript: During the day Saturday, I posted photos and notes about the visiting raccoon on Facebook and many suggested we contact animal control. Since Tim and I never saw signs of disease or injury in the animal, and kept our distance by watching and photographing it from the kitchen window, we opted to wait. I did, however, talk to friend and wildlife expert Dennis Chastain. Because of our location on the river and the weekend’s wind and extreme cold (with night temperatures in the teens), Dennis thought perhaps the animal was only seeking warm shelter and easy food. We hope warmer conditions will return the raccoon to his usual habitat. Thankfully, we did not see it yesterday. I would hate to remove the feeders from the garden when the birds need them most.