The hanging flower baskets on the deck outside our bedroom looked like they had been attacked, insulted and then run over.
What could have done such a thing?
It was a mystery we intended to solve. We decided to re-hang what was left of the bedraggled plants and sleep with the curtains open to keep an eye on things.
After just one night we knew that our baskets were victims of raccoons. Our deck was their playground and the hanging plants were the swings. Our next-door-neighbour’s deck was their toilet so we were luckier than they were but it was annoying and noisy.
We tried to make the baskets less entertaining by tying them to their hooks with wires (to keep them hanging no matter what) and even oiled the plastic rods and pots to make them impossible to grip but it seemed like that just made it more fun. The whoops and thumps of raccoon joy continued.
I thought we should give up on the baskets – take them down and move on. My husband, Michael, was not pleased with this strategy but agreed.
The raccoons may have been bored without their swing but they continued to enjoy our deck.
At first we thought they were wrestling which was kind of cute. But it wasn’t just wrestling and it wasn’t cute at all. They were having obnoxiously loud raccoon sex*. On our chaises.
We joked that we’d somehow built a raccoon ‘Lido Deck’ but it wasn’t that funny. That deck was supposed to be for our enjoyment not hard-core rodent raunch.
“Seriously. It’s our deck,” Michael told me with a crazed glint in his eye after a particularly bad night.
I had no answer. They were getting to us both.
“They hate fresh mint,” my mother told me. “And mothballs. You should cover your deck in mint and mothballs.”
Despite the mediocre results of my last attempt at pest control with seasoning, I was willing to try the mint. But not the mothballs. I didn’t want a deck that smelled like an old person’s closet. I went out early in the day and jammed mint sprigs into all the cracks.
It didn’t work.
I came home late one evening to a silent house. I called out but there was no answer even though Michael’s shoes were at the door.
On the second floor the blue light of the television flickered and glowed on mute but he wasn’t there. I called out again. I was getting a little worried.
I went up to the third floor and there he was, my husband, crouched low to the ground with his face pressed to the screen door, a garden hose in one hand poking out between the doors. He turned to me and mouthed ‘Hi!’ He blew me half-assed kiss then did the finger to the lip motion, and turned back to the deck.
“How long have you been like that?” I asked, trying not to sound alarmed.
“I don’t know but I’ve given them some major soakers,” he whisper-giggled, staring into the night. A wet raccoon glared back from just out of range. Michael tugged at the hose but it only reached the door and the raccoon knew it.
Michael shook his head and pushed himself off the floor. He handed me the hose and walked to the bathroom. “They’re smart! I’ll give them that.”
He was back a moment later with a tall glass of water. He pulled the screen doors apart very slowly. The raccoon on the railing tensed but didn’t move. Suddenly, Michael lunged and emptied the glass at the raccoon then jumped back in and slammed the doors together, laughing like a madman.
I was married to Elmer Fudd!
“We need to call someone,” I told him. “This has to stop.”
“Why?” he asked, still watching the deck.
“Well, because this just isn’t normal. This isn’t good, you know? Lying here in the dark. With the hose and everything. It’s weird. I think we need professional help.”
A great pest control professional isn’t cheap but they are worth it.** Our professional help (aka our hero) told us that the raccoons were living under the deck in the space between the wood slats and the roof. If we closed that off, there would be no problem. We were in. He cleared them out and chicken-wired the gap between the deck and the roof. When he was done, I went out and stuffed mint into every crevice for good measure.
The raccoons were outraged at first but after a few nights, they gave up and an uneasy truce developed. They didn’t go far – we would see them scurrying along our fence, or watching from the tree while Michael barbequed, and occasionally they would walk right up to the back door and bang on the glass in a menacing way – but the deck was ours again.
We were sure that our little man versus nature scuffles were behind us and that we had won. We were blissfully unaware that there was more nature lurking nearby – a creature so hideous that it would scare its own mother. But that is a story for another day.
* I do not know what ‘normal’ sounds like when it comes to raccoon sex but the volume seemed a bit over the top, like they were trying to make a point.
** This post (and Part I) was inspired by a post by Ethan Yarbrough that reminded me of how grateful we were (and still are!) to the ‘raccoon relocation experts’ we hired. http://ethanyarbroughwrites.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/truths/
Photo credit for ‘Isaac/Love Boat’ picture: Shavar Ross / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)