It’s an urban horror story. In the middle of the night it starts, incessant chewing above your head. Then you realize it’s probably on your roof and something is trying to get it. At first, you can only hope it’s a wild critter. Maybe the fact that your house is being consumed particleboard by particleboard is part of a bad dream. Then there’s silence, but not for long. Scampering begins and your worst nightmare has come true. The raccoon has entered the building.
The gnawing now changes to the sound of little paws racing back and forth as if some kind of critter Olympics are underway. Low moans and a couple weeks later, soft chirping sounds. Yep. Betty Bandit Eyes has given birth, right there in your attic.
Who do you call? The first name that comes up on Google is “The Raccoon Guys”. Now honestly, can we do any better than that? Raccoon Guy (there seems to be just one) shows up almost as enthusiastically as the famous Larry, his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl. (For those who need an explanation, view the episode when Bob Newhart needed someone to dig up a witch in the basement.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yyB06HvAjI
Equipped with nothing but a short stick with a loop on the end, he asks me to contribute a box and a leaf bag. My first mistake was handing him a box and a plastic bag. “Whoa”, he recoils in disgust, “I said, a paper leaf bag. We don’t want them to suffocate.”
Of course not, silly me.
Phase one of Raccoon Guy versus momma involves climbing into our attic from the closet (he leaves the stick with me). Each baby (the size of a large hamster) must be picked up gently by hand and placed in the box. The transfer is tricky because momma stubbornly insists on retrieving the babes from the box each time her adversary reaches for another. She has no fear but then, either does Raccoon Guy. There’s no hissing on either side, but eventually our man emerges with the box overflowing with fluffy pick material.
Couldn’t get them?” I enquired. “Sure did,” he says proudly, “I’ve just covered them up with some insulation I removed from the ceiling so they’ll keep warm. You’ve got lots up there.”
I’m glad for the little guys. Although, it’s not exactly how I thought the process worked. I pull back the insulation and take a few photos (bonding has begun). Raccoon Guy places the box by the heat register while he moves onto Phase two. The problem, he explains, is momma won’t budge for perhaps the next 24 hours—convinced that the babies will be returned. So when she does decide it’s time to leave our attic, our responsibility is to make sure that her babies are in excellent health. She’s very young, he adds, and very brave.
Okay, so I’m now responsible not just for one raccoon, but an entire family headed up by a single mother. Make sure you’re careful with them, I remind him.
A two-way door is installed in our attic so when momma checks out she can’t check back in. Then the babies are moved once more, this time into the paper leaf bag. It’s rolled up and placed on our roof, leaning against the chimney in the sunshine.
“She’ll chew threw the bag and take them away to another of her dens”, Raccoon Guy assures me. “Everyone will be fine, don’t you worry.”
So glad about that.
Two days pass and two long nights. There’s movement in the attic and more whimpering on the roof. Day three, no noise at all. My daughter opens the side door—and screams. There beside the garbage cans is the leaf bag, still rolled up and lying on the ground.
We all bow our head in respect and my husband places the bag behind the garage cans. We’re in the process of deciding what story to tell Raccoon Guy when he shows up at our door for a progress report.
“Yes,” we say, sadly and someone ashamed, “It was quite awful and we feel awful, and is there anything we can do?”
Raccoon Guy is quiet but resolute. He makes his way to the side of the house and retrieves the bag.
“Whooooop!” he yells back, “Great news.” He points to a small hole in the empty bag. “She did come out for them, rescued them one by one, and now is settled into a new home.”
We gingerly enquired about the possibility that she might come back. “No way,” he says, “Your house is now considered a dangerous place for her. “
We write the cheque but in the back of our minds, dangerous doesn’t really come to mind. I think our raccoon momma proved our home was one of the safest places she could have possibly been.
Her brave battle for her babies, her insistence on waiting for their return and an obviously dramatic rescue and reunion at the top of the roof– it kind of makes one proud.
And in spite of the cost, the feces and half of a dead squirrel we believe she attacked when defending her nest, we’re hoping things are working out for our intrepid momma (somewhere other than our attic).