Jon de Vos: World’s largest raccoon sighted in Fraser
August 8, 2008
Did you know that raccoons are native Americans? It’s true. Raccoons have roamed America for over six million years. Um, that would be since about 1938 if you’re a Creationist. Christopher Columbus amazed Europe with his descriptions of the raccoon, one of the many oddities he found in his travels to the New World. Although preferring the forest, raccoons have made themselves at home throughout the continent, from the swamps of Louisiana to the Canadian wilderness. I need to explain that raccoons are not Americans like you and I are Americans, because raccoons have sticky, grasping paws and folks often mistake them for ring-tailed polecats. I guess that makes them more like Congressmen than actual Americans.
Raccoons are mostly territorial and wildlife biologists say they don’t range far. I started having trouble with them decades ago. They burst upon the scene the very night I hung up our first bird feeder. We’d been hoping to attract a little color into the backyard by luring some mountain birds with a the purchase of a feeder and a fifty pound bag of birdseed. Little did I know that with the purchase, I had enjoyed my last full night of sleep. Every night, like zombies from the crypt, raccoons poured forth out of the forest, determined to steal my sleep and my sunflower seeds.
Despite their corpulent shape, these raccoons were climbing halfway up the tree then leaping onto the feeder with a resounding crash and riding it to the ground where they burst asunder (the feeders, not the raccoons). Racoons have a litter of about four annually, so figuring I started with two raccoons twenty-five years ago, that pair had four offspring who in turn had eight, then the next generation had sixteen, today I’m left with a vague feeling that a huge opportunity in the Coonskin Hat Export trade to China has passed me by.
The problem is not the considerable noise the raccoons make while shredding a sheet metal feeder outside our bedroom window at 3 a.m., no. Our dogs think that if we don’t stop the raccoons in the backyard, they’ll gobble all the dog food in the front yard. They howl and jump on my head so the raccoons will surely see them and tremble at their ferocious snarls. The raccoons ignore them continuing to munch blithely away. Soon every dog for a nine block radius is shouting at the top of their lungs and all the neighbors begin barking, too. Mayhem. Doors slam. The phone starts ringing, lights come on all over the neighborhood and the cops pull in the drive and jump out with guns drawn. That’s the problem.
But avid readers (thanks, Mom) will recall that, with the help of about 20 feet of galvanized stovepipe, earlier this summer I built an anti-raccoon contraption that made the neighbors nervous, but succeeded in driving the furry pack of midnight marauders off to greener backyards. Peace reigned throughout the land. That is, until last night. Last night it started all over. About 3 a.m. the screech of rending sheet metal reverberated through the neighborhood and the dogs erupted. I flipped on the lights.
I’m sure my eyes bugged at the scene. The Incredible Hulk of all raccoons was standing there on two legs, casually munching on my feeder like a Baby Ruth bar. By this time my wife was perched next to me, peering over the windowsill at the scene below. “Good God,” I gasped, “that’s the biggest raccoon I’ve ever seen.”
My wife whirled and looked at me in amazement, “That would be because it’s a bear.
Don’t you ever watch Animal Planet?”
I’m going to need some really big stovepipe.
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