Raccoons unmasked

Kevin Cowherd

October 26, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

I was thumbing through one of those outdoorsy magazines for tree huggers recently when I came upon this gooey piece about raccoons.

Apparently, the person who wrote it had just had part of his brain removed. Because in the article, raccoons were described as gentle, friendly and inquisitive -- and probably brave, trustworthy and good to their mothers, too, if I'd gone deeper into the text.

All in all, it was enough to make you throw up, which I couldn't do because we were sitting in the orthodontist's office at the time. And I was afraid they'd tack the cost of cleaning the carpet onto the bill for my son's braces, which was already staggering enough to make me think about buying a gun and a ski mask and bursting into a bank.

The problem there is, OK, you pull the bank job and pray that nobody gets hurt. Then you pay off the orthodontist with a couple of stacks of hundred dollar bills. But now you have to go on the lam, drifting from one cheap motel to the next until the heat's off.

Of course, unbeknown to you, the FBI is studying this grainy back-and-white photo made by one of the bank's surveillance cameras, which shows you momentarily lifting the ski mask to eat one of the jelly doughnuts the tellers had ordered in from Dunkin' Donuts.

And then one day, while you're holed up at the Coral Reef in Daytona Beach, Fla., there's a knock at the door. And peeking out from behind the drapes, you see a heavily armed team of federal marshals, who then burst in the door and take you away in handcuffs. So I don't know. Maybe it's not worth it.

Getting back to raccoons, though, anyone who's ever been around them will tell you they're the Hell's Angels of the animal world, four-legged thugs who live for nothing more than to make life miserable for decent, God-fearing citizens.

I have the misfortune of living in a house that backs up to the woods, where about 20,000 of the little monsters live.

Several nights a week there's a commotion out by the garbage cans.

And as soon as I snap on the side lights, I see one of these raccoon hooligans -- and sometimes two of them -- picking through chicken bones and coffee grinds.

There was a time in this country when a raccoon would scamper away nervously if you snapped on the lights and caught him savaging your garbage.

But apparently those days are over. Now these raccoons are brazen as hell. I don't know whether it's something in the water -- maybe all the pesticides in the ground water have turned them into the animal equivalent of swollen steroid freaks, incapable of fear.

Whatever the reason, these raccoons barely even blink when you turn on a light anymore. The ones in my neighborhood are so tough they're practically lighting Marlboros and cracking beers.

Maybe the following story will give you some idea of what I'm up against.

It's about 11 o'clock the other night when I hear this banging at the sliding glass door in the back of the house.

Well, I know it can't be a burglar. Because there's absolutely nothing in my house anyone would want to steal. You sure as hell won't find any money. About all a burglar could get out of my house is a couple hundred bucks worth of Fisher Price and Mattel toys, which probably won't help feed that crack habit.

I just don't see anyone giving up a few vials for a Malibu Barbie or the New Mr. Potato Head.

Anyway, I go back to the sliding glass door to check out the noise. And there's this raccoon standing on his hind legs, staring in at me.

Two things strike me immediately about this raccoon.

First of all, he's huge, built along the lines of a middle linebacker. I don't know what this raccoon has been eating. But whatever it is, the Green Bay Packers ought to think about putting it on their training table.

Secondly, this raccoon seems completely unperturbed by my presence. Even as I'm walking toward him, he seems to be thinking: "Whatcha got there, chief?"

So now me and this probably rabid raccoon are staring at each other on opposite sides of the glass door.

Finally, I banged on the glass a few times, which didn't scare him at all, but seemed to annoy the hell out of him. Slowly he lumbered away.

The look on his face said: "OK, I'm leaving. But I'll be back. And you . . . you're a dead man."

You chase them away from your garbage, you chase them away from your back door . . . it all adds up in their book.

It wouldn't surprise me at all to see an angry mob of these raccoons storming out of the woods with flaming torches.

It's probably just a matter of time.

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