Friday, July 07, 2006

Raccoon Rage

You'd never know it looking at these bucolic surroundings, but my neighbourhood is sizzling with tension. The reason: raccoons.

I'm an animal-lover, but I'm also a realist. Raccoons are wild -- when you start treating them like pets, you're not doing them any favours. First, they lose their fear of humans ("fear" meaning instinct of self-preservation, not "Omigod I'm scared shitless"). When that happens they sometimes end up in bad places, like rooting in someone's garbage or tearing their apple trees to shreds. So the general consensus around here is to enjoy the wildlife, get lots of pics, but leave it alone. They don't need us, not in an area like this that's so rich in their natural food supply. (If anything, they need us to back off and give them a little more wild space.) Raccoons can also be carriers of distemper and rabies, which concerns me as a dog owner. My dog is the kind of bimbo that would try to attack a raccoon just in play, and end up at least getting her ass kicked, and possibly rabid. So on hot nights when she wants to stay outside, I worry a bit. Because thanks to a well-meaning but misdirected neighbour, we have raccoons coming out of the yin-yang around here.

One of my neighbours, we'll call her Ms. R, is a lady who hasn't lived out in the country long enough to develop a sense of realism about wildlife. A couple of years ago she started putting out bowls of dog food for the raccoons she spotted in her yard -- I thought "Haha, fine, they won't be over here" (yes I'm selfish that way). Now I'm informed by my other neighbours that the original pack of about 5 has become a virtual population explosion of over 40 raccoons. Knowing that I'm friendly with Ms. R, the neighbours started complaining to me when they came into the store. I was shocked to find out there were so many of the little buggers, and the destruction they'd wrought. One guy had started humanely trapping them and releasing them into the wild. Another guy threatened to start releasing them, but not into the wild. However, when I gently suggested to Ms. R that this might be a good time to wean the raccoons off dog food and back onto their natural diet, she wasn't having any of it.

Then a couple of days ago I was out in the back 40 (working on the farking riding lawn mower), when I heard the unmistakable ka-BOOM of a shotgun. Then again. And again. Last night Ms. R's husband came into the store and told me that Ken, the neighbour behind them, was shooting raccoons as they were hunkered down in one of his apple trees, to the sound of cheers from the neighbour on the other side of Raccoon Land. Ms. R is ballistic, threatening to call the SPCA, cops, coast guard, anyone, everyone. Ken is reloading. And I'm loving wildlife, but leaving it alone.