I hate cats. It’s well documented in these pages. It’s not up for debate.
Running an incredibly close second to Felis catus on my list of animals that evolution forgot to get rid of when last skimming the pool to get rid of dodgy genes, is Procyon lotor, or as I like to call it: “bastard raccoon”.
Let me explain… oh please do!
As regular readers may recall… I like things just a bit unusual. It therefore seemed totally natural that when seeking a new pet a few years ago that I should decide on a brace of Pekin ducks. They held the promise of daily duck eggs – which I have yet to taste for reasons you’ll learn – and if all else failed, a cheaper Christmas dinner than usual.
No matter that the local city bylaws deemed them to be farm animals and requiring “acreage”. Au contraire, it is well known that they eat many garden pests (slugs etc.) and though do admittedly have a tendency to eat prize begonias with as much relish as weeds, on the whole are good at keeping the lawn trim and the garden pest free. Their poo is basically semi-digested grass, not at all smelly, and easy to wash off should they disgrace themselves in public. My couple were Sebastian and Viola, in deference to my favourite Shakespearian comedy (a bag of Smarties to the first smart-arse to name it).
As in many species, the female makes all the noise (just sayin’…), and though technically possible, Pekin ducks show little if any tendency to fly, and so avoid the distasteful decision around wing clipping. They’re pretty much impervious to disease and parasites, and apart from the need for housing (a re-purposed dog kennel with some hay in it, and a door for night-time security of their well-being), they’re pretty low maintenance.
The chicks grow very quickly, and spent only the first few weeks in a shoe-box indoors, and learning to swim in the laundry sink. After that, they quite literally strutted their stuff in the garden on their slug-seeking mission.
And so we come to the demonic raccoons…
We live in suburban White Rock, and there are extensive wooded areas just a block away. Raccoons are a common sight at dusk, crossing the residential streets, or doing unspeakable things in garden trees. I was once startled by a sound which made me look up at my neighbour’s roof. There I saw the piggy little faces of an entire raccoon family – a couple of full grown ones and 3-4 kits. They were lined up along the ridge of the roof and were quite literally tearing the elderly cedar shingles from the roof, munching something (presumably beetles or other grubs) and discarding the shingles like Henry VIII discarding meat bones. They were eating his house!
At one point we had them nesting under the wooden deck, and on another occasion we had them actually nesting in the loft, having gained access through a poorly secured roof vent. Resolving these issues cost us many hundreds of dollars. Now, I’m a practical kind of solution seeker. Some may say it’s the engineer in me. I went as far as to investigate the price of air rifles and the legalities (just so I KNEW if I was breaking a law, not to actually prevent me) of shooting raccoons. At this point I learned a little more history from my new adopted homeland ofCanada. Because of our birth as a nation built around the fur trade, there is to this day a royalty to be paid on pelts of certain animals. Specifically: 39c is to be paid on each raccoon pelt. Don’t believe me?
SCHEDULE OF ROYALTIES
|Beaver . . . . . $ .78||Muskrat . . . .$0.12|
|Black Bear . . $2.52||Otter . . . . . .$1.33|
|Bobcat . . . . . $6.46||Racoon. . . . . $ .39|
|Coyote . . . . . $ .99||Skunk . . . . . $ .23|
|Fisher . . . . . . $2.55||Squirrel . . . . $ .04|
|Fox. . . . . . . . $ .82||Weasel . . . . . $ .21|
|Lynx . . . . . . . $5.03||Wolf . . . . . . .$3.12|
|Marten . . . . . $2.04||Wolverine. . .$7.53|
|Mink. . . . . . . $ .52|
The whole regulation is here if you really doubt me! Bobcats and Lynx seem to be particularly prized. Anyway, all this was at the back of my mind when I got an early evening phone call from my middle child to tell me that Viola (the noisy one) was going mental and quacking in the garden, Sebastian was nowhere to be found, and there was a pool of dark arterial blood on the deck. It was still daylight, and though raccoons are almost never seen in residential areas before dusk, my fears were later confirmed when I found the limp headless carcass of Sebastian under a bush later that evening.
I then learned a couple of new facts about raccoons. Firstly, though they don’t technically have opposable thumbs, they can grip things. Though they could presumably therefore hold a pen, and there was no letter of apology left at the scene, I was pretty sure one of the little f’kers had done in Sebastian. This grip allows them to deftly open dustbin lids and help themselves to any food scraps (particularly meaty ones) you may have deposited there. They’re not opposed to tipping over the bin to make ingress easier for the younger family members, often resulting in rubbish being strewn down the street. The more worldly wise residents use bungee cords to secure the lids, or even keep their bins in wooden cages to prevent the little buggers.
Secondly I learned that despite their preference for meat in your dustbin, when it comes to birds, their MO is to kill the bird by ripping out its throat (not eating your breakfast, are you, dear reader?), but then eating the seeds or other contents of its crop, rather than the meat of the bird itself. This had been poor Sebastian’s fate. Killed for the bird seed (and potentially the odd slug) in his crop.
Talking of slugs (I remembered a third fact I’d earlier learned)… slugs have a mild anaesthetic in their slime. Here in BC, “banana slugs” are the local species, with the piebald version actually being a cross-breed with the imported European black slugs now also reasonably common.
Canadian kids, I’m told, dare each other to lick the slugs and then get a numb tongue for some time. Raccoons, sneaky little buggers that they are, roll the slugs in dust or soil first, to bind the slime like Shake’nbake (yet ANOTHER Kraft product), so they can eat the juicy morsel with impunity.
So, to avoid poor Viola pining away, we had to give her up for adoption, so she could live out her egg-bearing days with other ducks. I don’t think she wears black though…