Saturday, July 3, 2010

Baby Coons

We have a relationship with the raccoons around our house.  Some may disagree with this relationship. 

The deal is - we take care of them, they don't destroy our trash or kill the chickens. 

When we first moved into this house, which is nestled in the midst of over 250 acres, we thought we could just ignore the coons and they would go away.  Well, I guess with this much property, there will be raccoons and all sorts of other wild animals around, no matter what.  So we ignored the coons, and they continually ate our trash out of our trash cans every night.  The trash cans have to be outside, there's just no other place for them.  We don't have a lot of storage with this old historic house.  They didn't think of storage back in the 1800s. 

I don't believe in killing animals for no reason, just because they are there.  We moved here, are we supposed to kill all the animals around us just to make our stay here more comfortable to us?  There will be animals that we don't like in the woods, there's lots of woods around here.  I just couldn't do it.  My husband, who's from the country, who loves hunting (for food), would have had no problem, but he knows how I feel about this issue.  

Quick background - several years ago and far, far away, we had tame raccoons.  We tamed a wild mother coon, and she brought her babies to us, and we could hold them and cuddle them, and they were the most adorable things.  They lived outside, but visited us every eve.  We befriended generations of coons during our stay in that home.  We de-flead and de-ticked them all with the stuff you put on the back of their necks.  They were friendly to the 2 outside cats we had there - and we learned alot about coons back then.  Many people automatically say "coons carry rabies", but so do wild cats, foxes, any animal that's outside can get rabies.  And we never had any problem with rabies.  The worst problem with our coons was the fleas, which we took care of!

Back to the present day - we were trying to ignore the coon problem, trying to trap and relocate the coons, but others kept coming.  After all, we moved into their area, they were here first.  After a few weeks of annoying morning trash cleanup, we gave in and started providing 2 cups of dog food to the coons in the evenings.  And immediately they left our trash alone.  Our only coon problem is that they eat the outside cat food which annoys Jerry, the outside cat.  Jerry then must sit on the front porch chairs and wait for us to bring him more food while he watches the coons 2 feet away from him eat his food.  But they don't physically hurt Jerry or chase him.  We have not befriended these coons, they keep their distance from us, and run when we are around. 

So that has been the deal.  Since then we've gotten chickens, and we've decided the coons now really must go, although they never have bothered the chickens or guineas.  Except that one female guinea disappeared, but we can't blame that on the coons, we have seen many foxes and owls and hawks around.  So we considering what to do with the coons, thinking of a major trapping and relocation project.  It will be a daily thing -trapping and moving coons- and we will have to dedicate time to this project if we really want to remove the coons and keep them away.  But we know we cannot trap and relocate a mama coon who has babies back in the woods, that wouldn't be fair to the babies.  And we can tell by looking at the coons' tummies that some of them are mamas. 

And so, the coons are trying to persuade us to let them stay.  They are tugging at our heartstrings, pulling out all the tactics.  It seems they know we have a soft spot in our hearts for baby coons... 

This week a new mama coon brought her 3 new babies up to our back door for the first time.  The mama coon is very small herself - we believe she is a first time mama.

Note - the pictures aren't really all that clear because I was shooting through 200-year old windows.  These windows are on the back door, and are original to our house.  The glass is sort-of foggy from age, and it actually has some historic etching in parts of it.  But this is a story for another post.  So I was shooting through this glass which made my pictures not nearly as sharp as they could have been and I apologize for the non-clarity of these pictures.

Back to the story...

"Come on up, little ones!  This is where the food is!" 
We scatter the food around on the back porch to keep the coons from fighting each other.  We used to put it in a bowl, but that led to coon fights over the bowl.

2 little ones make their way onto the porch with wobbly legs.  Look at that, is that food on the ground?  Everyone takes a sniff first.

Whoops, here comes #3!  "Wait for me!"

The babies had a hard time chewing the dog food.  It kept falling out of their mouths as they chewed on it.  They ate one piece at a time, and took a very long time to chew it with their baby teeth.

This baby had a hard time standing for a long time.  He kept falling back and sitting on his butt while he ate.

They were all feet.  They were learning how to manipulate their long fingers to hold the dog food.

Look at the one baby walking - both his left legs are in motion as he wobbles along.

The mama didn't keep her babies on the back porch long.  She quickly hurried away across the back yard to the protection of the woods, expecting the babies to follow.  But only 1 followed, 2 were left behind.  The 2 were terrified to be away from their mama.  They hid behind the AC unit which is to the left of the back porch.  I couldn't get any good pics of them because they were hidden.  They cried little baby coon noises.  Then mama's head appear in the woods.  She started making mama coon noises VERY LOUDLY.  The 2 babies starting running across the backyard towards her, but became afraid and stopped in the middle of the yard, fell all over each other, then finally turned and ran back to the AC unit to hide.  Mama again came out of the woods, called them very loudly, and then they ran as fast as their wobbly, uncoordinated legs would allow.  This time they made it to the woods and disappeared.  I wish I had gotten pics of this, but I was too fascinated to move and get the camera.  I didn't want to miss anything!

I will post in the future about the coon relocation project.


Toni aka irishlas said...

First off, I have to say, I can't imagine how wonderful it is to be in the middle of 250 acres! Wow! And an old farmhouse to boot!

I'm like you - we are in their home and I don't believe in killing an animal just because it's around my premises. Relocation is the best thing, if possible.

The coon pics are cute! Good luck with the relocation.

AJ-OAKS said...

You have the same thoughts as I do when it comes to us ( people) moving into the country where the wildlife was first. Like you, I co- habitate with the wildlife. Feed the coons, they leave everything else alone. No muss, no fuss.
Those pics were fabulous.

Farm Girl said...

I have always loved coons. I raised one when I was a girl and she was the best animal I ever owned bar none.
I always wondered if you took care of them if they would leave your stuff alone. I will be interested to see how this story unfolds. Seeing them on your back porch eating dog food brings back all kinds of memories and how much I loved that raccoon.
She lived in our house and she was a great pet, though I never did find my shiny earrings.
Great pictures by the way.

Genny said...

If these aren't the most adorable things, I don't know what is. I think you have figured out a way to live within nature and all of its gifts. I didn't realize you had 250 ACRES!! How wonderful. I know someone else who has chickens and has lost some to coons. They trap and kill the coons caught in their traps, which I would never be able to do. I agree with you when you say you can't kill every wild animal that comes close to our homes. It's their home too, and we've intruded into their space. These babies are so precious.

Razzberry Corner said...

Toni aka irishlas - Yes, this is our dream property. We are very blessed to gave been able to buy this property. Now we just have to fix up the old farmhouse! And that is a continual project!

Cindy - Isn't it neat how the animals respect us when we respect them? At least so far for us!

Farm Girl - Did you train your coon to use the litter box? I can only imagine she got into EVERYTHING in the house. Coons are very touchy with those long fingers. They like to touch everything! I remember feeding the coons at my prior house peanut butter - I offered them peanut butter on a spoon as they sat in my lap on the porch. They liked the shiny spoon and snatched it and ran away across the yard with my spoon! I had to give the the entire peanut butter jar to get my good spoon back! Then they couldn't open their mouth when they put it in the jar, and hence could really eat the peanut butter from the jar themselves. They had to resort to putting their long fingers into the jar, and made a sticky peanut-buttery mess all over themselves! I always laughed so much over those silly coons. I'm sure you have soooo many coon stories!


Razzberry Corner said...

Genny, my neighbor from VA - Most people don't know there is so much woodland so close to Wash DC (we live exactly 20 miles from downtown). So far we don't think the coons have gotten a taste for raw chicken or fresh blood. Our coons like dog food more than anything. Which is good for us!


Farm Girl said...

Yes, She did use a litter box. When I got her she was still on a baby bottle and she ate baby formula.
Since she was always in the house with me she never really bothered anything she wasn't supposed to, except biting my Dad's ear when he read the newspaper. :) I kept her in my room, but in a cage at night. She always wanted to pat my face at night and I couldn't sleep. She even rode on my back when I swam in the pool. I am so glad your raccoons like dog food. :)

Knatolee said...

They are HUGELY adorable!!!!

The raccoon family in our barn seems to have moved on. I could never hurt them. I think we're the only farm-dwellers on our road who don't own a .22! I'm glad you've found a way to co-exist peacefully. Baby raccoons are utterly enchanting.

Razzberry Corner said...

Farm Girl - Your raccoon sounds so neat! I know they love to touch everything - I laughed when you said she patted your face!!! And a coon swimming with you in a pool sounds so very cute!!

Knatolee - Awww, you had a coon family in your barn! I didn't realize there are coons in Australia! What area do you live in? I recently met some people from the Melbourne area, one of them said he lived on a 200-acre farm. I thought that was a more urban area. But then, I live near Washington DC - who would know there's lots of land around here?!


Carolynn said...

I've heard stories about raccoons seriously harming domestic animals, however, none of it has been from first hand knowledge.

I'm like you. I figure I'm the one encroaching on their territory. Animals put up with so much from us humans, it's a real credit to their species that they don't all band together and make short work of us all.

I think that if you can find a way to co-exist with your little mask wearing visitors, you could have a great relationship. There's no reason why, given mutual respect, that we can't share this great big planet with our furry friends. They have much to teach us, I believe.

P.S. Those little guys are so adorable and I'll be they're a riot to watch tottering around.


Nancy K. said...

Oh, how I loved your photos! I once raised a baby coon (named her "Kit") from infancy into adulthood. They are the most AMAZING creatures! Speaking of 'touching' everything ~ I didn't have any dust or clutter under my couch cushions, refrigerator, dishwasher or any piece of furniture! Those little paws found everything and swept it out into the middle of the room for all to see. ;-) We also couldn't leave glasses with ice cubes in them lying around as she loved to reach in and play with the ice!

Kit was so smart and trainable that I've always wondered why it is that raccoons were never domesticated. Kit didn't strike me as being any more wild than most house cats that I've had.

She loved to play with my dogs and followed me around as I did my chores. Which was ultimately, why I decided that she had to move on. I was worried about my dogs thinking that a coon walking up to them was normal. The same with my horses, who thought nothing of Kit walking into their stalls. I was worried about rabies. So, after a year and a half, we took Kit (who had never been kept in a cage and came & went as she pleased from our home) far, far out into the woods ~ miles from our home. We left her in a sheltered area with a 25 pound bag of dog food. I hope that she had a good life.

She was a beautiful, awesome animal...

Thank you, for stirring up those memories

Knatolee said...

Lynn, I'm the Canuck, not the Australian. Lots of raccoons here! :)))

Razzberry Corner said...

Carolyn - You made me laugh, thinking of all the animals banding together to fight the humans!! That would make a good children's story!

Nancy K - I loved your story about Kit. It is so endearing! I wonder why coons were never domesticated like cats and dogs? You really made me laugh, thinking of all the dust and things pulled out in plain sight! :D

Knatolee - I'm sorry for not paying attention! I have been really stressed with my job and haven't been focusing on my blogging friends! I promise to do better!


Gregg Wetterman said...

I am not sure how I found you blog, but I am glad I did. I wish we could get our coons to come to the house. Ou dogs will not let them. We do have a opossum that they seem to think is a cat that lives under the house with the outdoor cats.

When I was a teenager I raised a coon that we found next to his dead mom in the street. He was the coolest pet ever. after about 18 months he started leaving his pen for longer periods of time and after a few months we never saw him again.