Sunday, February 19, 2012

Raccoons and what you need to know.

I have not posted for about 9 months and I apologize for not having done this sooner.  I had a run in with a raccoon that left my family, my garden and my close friends in a stressful situation that should have never happened.  I did not want to write about it while I was still emotional and so I decided to wait until I was comfortable sharing this information with the gardening community.  Please do not proceed with reading this if you are squeamish.   There.  That was my warning.

In late October I was canning grape juice with a brand new steam juicer that I had purchased to enhance my food storage ability.  My friend Jeremy had been over and we had shared a few beers and stories.  I like to keep my windows open to the back porch while canning and juicing because of all of the steam and the heat.   Jeremy had left and I was actually logging into my account to write an article about the steam juicer and preserving juices. (I will write an article about steam juicing and how wonderful it is later as this is just incidental to the events that transpired that chilly evening.)

I had my dog at my feet and was listening to the rattle of the pressure cooker with quarts of green pork chili rattle and hiss, the sound of the bubbling in the steam juicer and the water bath canner all doing their  thing when I heard an unexpected sound rustling through the grape vines on my deck behind me.  Since my dog was at my feet, and this animal was to big to be a bird, I was startled.  I went to the door and turned on the porch light.  I opened the door to see a very, very large raccoon.  I unfortunately did not see it before my dog had already leapt out onto the porch.  This raccoon was neither shy or easily startled.  I brazenly went right for my dog making sounds that I had never heard from an animal of this size since a run in with a porcupine when growing up in the mountains as a teen.  I was able to pull my dog off of the raccoon and get her back into the house.  I shut the door, and watched as this unwelcome visitor now paced in front of my door and windows back and forth looking for a way into my house.

I poked my head out and tried to scare it away and it just squared off in front of me.  I went to get my wife. I showed her the creature and told her that it had attacked April and that it would not leave.  I made a decision that it could be rabid due to it's boldness and aggressiveness, and decided that it needed to be sent in for testing.  I went down stairs and grabbed my compound bow and a few arrows. I did not have time nor did I even think about putting broad heads onto the arrows so I was armed with field tips and knew that I would have to be very accurate.  I went out the side door and approached the animal still waiting outside my door.  I knocked the arrow, drew and snuck up to about ten feet away.  It was about 1 a.m. at this point and it was pitch black.  The raccoon was now on the banister next to my door just within the edge of the light being cast by the dim compact fluorescent bulb and so the best target was it's glowing eyes.  I released and hit the animal right through the right eye.  I relaxed perhaps a little to soon as the raccoon now with an arrow completely through it's head ran straight at me screaming in anger or pain I don't know which.  I quickly knocked another arrow drew and shot hastily landing this one through its neck and chest stopping it and killing it almost instantly.

I was really shaken up.  I had no intention of having my peaceful evening interrupted by what turned out to be a thirty five pound raccoon and it's intentions toward my grapes, my dog and then me.  I bagged up the animal and called animal control the next morning.  The officer came out and I told her what had happened and she thanked me and told me they would call with the test results.  She said it would cost me an extra $100 to test for worms and distemper.  I agreed to pay the extra amount and hoped for the best as she drove off.

I received a call that following Monday from the veterinary clinic with some really chilling news.  The raccoon had tested positive for a round worm called Baylisascaris procyonis or the raccoon roundworm.  

I am simply going to give a couple of links now.  READ THESE IF YOU GARDEN NEAR RACCOON POPULATIONS!,4570,7-153-10370_12150_12220-27261--,00.html

The real problem is, that I had been eating produce from my garden after spraying off unknown (later turned out to be raccoon feces from my flatwork.  This potentially contaminated my garden, soil and vegetables.  It is therefore crucial that you maintain a vigil for raccoons and make sure to use good counter measures such as coyote urine to deter raccoons from your property and to look out for raccoon latrines.  If you should find a raccoon dropping, make sure to treat the area with fire or boiling water in order to kill any eggs that could be in that area.  Only handle the droppings with disposable gloves and treat them as if they were toxic waste. 

Every person who ate produce from my garden needed to go onto a regimen of albendezol.  This dosage cost my family about $2300 and was very unpleasant presenting digestive issues and dizziness for about a month. 

Every person needs to be aware of this threat and should consider raccoons to be a biohazard.  Please take my advice during this next gardening season and be aware of this little known threat.