The Latin name for the raccoon is Procyon Lotor. Procyon, for the star, because raccoons are nocturnal (allegedly), and Lotor, for “washing,” because they wash their food in water.
In the warm months I leave the kitchen door open so the dog and cat can go in and out at their leisure.
The other day I heard a noise in the kitchen. I went to see, and a raccoon was standing on its hind feet at the threshold of the open kitchen door.
The raccoon was about the size of a toddler and because it was standing up on its hind legs looking adorable it was difficult not to anthropomorphize it. Huge “aw” factor.
People have two different takes on raccoons. One group thinks they are so cute, and they put out food and baby talk to raccoons.
The other group thinks raccoons are indeed cute; and, vicious, destructive, disease-carrying, trash pandas.
I belong to the latter group.
Back at the kitchen: the toddler-raccoon did not stand down until I stepped forward. Then it got on all fours and ambled off the porch.
It stood up on its hind legs again in front of the porch, turned and looked back to see if I was still there. I reached for one of the ski poles I keep in an old trash can on the porch (I use them as walking sticks) and that’s when the raccoon rambled away, to the ravine, I thought, but more likely under the back porch.
The dog and cat food bags are just inside the kitchen door. Raccoon must have thought she hit the jackpot until I ruined it all.
The next day my housemate was sitting out on the kitchen porch when she spotted the raccoon heading her way. Mayhem ensued. She yelled and threw things at the raccoon. It took the hint and headed back the way it came. It went under the back porch. Rats.
Well, not rats. We got the exterminator to get rid of the rats ten years ago. My housemate chucked some rocks through the openings between the stairs of the back stoop to discourage the raccoon further.
Next afternoon, one of the many times my cat wanted in and I opened the door, I looked outside, and saw the raccoon trundling up the hill.
By now I was speculating that someone was feeding this pest. It seemed so bold and unafraid.
The next day was a warm sunny day, and I went up to town in the afternoon and drove home with the window of the car open. When I got home, I forgot to roll up the window.
Cue the music from Jaws: da-DOM.
The next day when I went to run errands, I noticed that one of my shopping bags was on the front seat. Hm, I thought. Cat?
Shows you how naïve I am.
I headed to town, and I was almost there before I saw the raccoon prints on my windshield.
When I parked, I looked at the shopping bag and found that it was torn to shreds. The paper bag I’d been using for garbage for a couple of weeks had been gone through and its contents distributed.
We were not amused.
Did a little research. Washington state has a law: RCW 77.15.790: “Negligently feeding, attempting to feed, or attracting large wild carnivores to land or a building—Infraction.
“(1) A person may not negligently feed or attempt to feed large wild carnivores or negligently attract large wild carnivores to land or a building.”
Raccoons qualify as large wild carnivores – or large enough. They are wild, they spread parasites (roundworm) and disease (rabies), and they will attack your animals and you. I don’t know what the penalty is for this infraction, but I wish it was enforced.
Feeding raccoons makes them unafraid of us, makes their population grow, and keeps them from foraging, which is how they are supposed to survive.
Vashon is lousy with raccoons. I cannot remember a time when it wasn’t. Don’t feed them. Yes, they are cute, but they are hell spawn.
I’m closing my car windows and the kitchen door now. The Procyon Lotor is the worst kind of guest: uninvited, dangerous, destructive, disease-bearing.
Out in the yard a few minutes ago I was enjoying the bucolic serenity of late afternoon. The flowers, the greenery, the birds, the raccoon emerging from between the porch steps.
I came toward it yelling and it went back under the porch. I threw a fir cone at it under the porch, and it walked over to sniff it. Argh. It was expecting food. I kept yelling, and it didn’t move.
Finally, I began barking like a dog. That made it leave.
Whatever works. Please don’t feed raccoons.