Readers’ wildlife photos

We continue the saga of reader Diane G.’s orphaned raccoons (see here and here for Parts I and II). Her notes are indented:

Coonlets in Sunshine

I’m really not trying to spam WEIT with these young’uns–honest! But Thursday I finally got some daylight pics, so thought I’d send those along before I quit.  These were taken less than five minutes after I’d put the bird feeders back out.  As you can see, they’re getting quite brazen!  They took an initial run to the top of the pole (well, all but the one–Louis II?), but soon remembered I posed little threat and scurried back down to where I’d just spread some peanuts for the ground birds.
I also wanted to answer some of the questions/concerns raised in Thursday’s post which I didn’t have time to get to then.
I love what it says about people that we care so much about little critters like these. Sadly, orphan raccoons are not all that rare; just think about the adult roadkill you see if you live in raccoon country.  One of the most heartbreaking sights I’ve seen was when I was driving home from an airport north of here, in the middle of the night, and came across a fresh adult roadkill with two very young babies milling around it, looking totally lost and as if they were desperately trying to wake Mom up…There was little I could do at that hour in those circumstances, and by the time I returned, the babies were gone.
This time of year the countryside is full of clumsy, ingenuous–and invariably adorable–offspring. All around our field various species of birds are feeding their fledglings–Field Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Orioles, Cardinals, Chickadees, Crows, Robins, and more;  it’s also the season of the tiny, spotted fawns. Rehabilitators tend to be inundated now.  The last time I was concerned about orphan raccoons, I was told that if they were on their own and seemed to be foraging successfully, the best thing to do is just let them be. Bringing them in would only further acclimate them to humans, which is decidedly not in their ultimate best interest. (Especially in farm country, where they’re frequently regarded as varmints.)
This is also the 6th day I’ve seen them, an encouraging fact in itself, especially since there’s been no attrition.  Actually, probably the best thing I could do would be to turn the hose on them; try to awaken what should be a natural fear of humans and encourage them to stick to the fencerows and forests where the foraging is more natural. Of course I’m not going to do that. But neither do I want to be the one who acclimates them to humans so much that they grow up (we hope they grow up!) to be regarded as pests and face a very real threat to their existence from our species. I think I’ll start by withholding the ground peanuts (there’s still a tube feeder of peanuts on a squirrel-baffled pole the kits can’t access), keep bringing the feeders in at night, and hope for the best. (I may ultimately have to quit putting the feeders out altogether for a while–but then I’ll worry about all my bird families!)
Aside from humans (and not just humans-with-guns, but also humans-with-cars), probably their next worst enemies are coyotes. Fortunately the coyotes haven’t put in much of a presence lately. There’s no predicting how long that will last, but human-acclimated coon kits would be in greater danger from them than properly wild kits.
I suspect some of you will disagree with my reasoning here, and I would be glad to consider your input as well. Thanks very much for reading.

29 Comments

  1. Craw
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I would consider a humane capture and release service. Your city might have such a thing, or county. Or your landlord if you rent.

  2. rickflick
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I agree with your assessment.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 10, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      Me too.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        Thank you both. I thought it was the right move at the time and it meant a lot to get some support.

        Alas, the situation’s changed as you’ll see in future comments.

  3. Randy schenck
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I cannot pretend to have an answer to your problem. However, if the raccoons continue to come back daily and you continue to put out food for them it would probably be a good idea to start withdrawing the food. The hope would be that they begin going out into their environment to feed. I suspect there is always the danger of attracting others, such as the coyotes and that would not be good.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted June 10, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      I should also say that once you have an established feeding area for birds, as I had where I lived before, the adult raccoons and possums will stop by on their nightly or even daily tours. I always had to bring in the suet at night, otherwise the raccoons would destroy them or carry them off.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

        Oh, yeah, don’t I know! 😀 The night-time pics I sent in to WEIT were taken on one of those nights when I’d just not remembered in time. And as you say, even daily. I’ve chased a few adults of both species off in the day-time; also turkeys.

  4. tubby
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Yesterday I saw the unfortunate end and recycling of a young squirrel. Sad, but a pair of fairly people acclimated black vultures allowed me to approach surprisingly close as they nommed.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      You are a kindred spirit. A couple of years ago I found myself telling the kids that the young possum we’d been watching for several weeks had been hit by a car; then mentioning that, however, I did get great looks at some vultures. (Turkey vultures, up here.)

  5. Merilee
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Such wonderful pictures and somewhat heart-rending decision-making, Diane. What would happen if you unleashed Louis I and Junie on them? Would they not possibly move farther afield?

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

      That had crossed my mind. But I don’t want the dogs to think I condone their chasing of wildlife. (I’ve kept after Louis and he’s very good at letting me call him off. (Not that he’s much of a threat anymore, at his age.) But Junie still needs to learn. Plus, the little coons are too slow to run very fast, and in addition usually always close to the dang 4 x 4, which they can scale immediately.

  6. W.Benson
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Have you considered feeding the cubs leftovers placed in bushes as far from houses as possible and putting up barriers to keep them out of the bird-feeders? If the little fellers are kept fed and out of trouble, they should disperse on their own in late summer.

    • Posted June 10, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      The problem is coons and most wildlife will live in urban areas…easier food sources and better shelter…us city slickers can not effectively rescue these critters…we’re to easily smitten by their cute youngsters…just read the comments and review the pics…coons don’t need us to rescue their young!!! Sure, it’s sad when momma gets killed…but it’s also sad when coons attack our youngsters and damage our homes gaining access…catch and release…MILES from the urban area…they will survive or die…it’s a harsh attitude but it’s also real

      • Randy schenck
        Posted June 10, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        Sounds like you are really concerned with this issue. In my experience the past 67 years or so I have never seen house damage or children attacked. I have lived the “city slicker” life as you say and also many years in the country. At least 99% of the raccoons I have seen are in the country.

        • Posted June 10, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

          I saw 3 cross the street that were bigger than Yorkies…and you’ve been blessed…

          • Randy schenck
            Posted June 10, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

            And had they been destroying houses and children as well?

            • Posted June 10, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

              Not then but the potential exists…I posted some pics

            • Diane G.
              Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

              Randy, jdawgswords is correct. Raccoons have successfully colonized many urban environments and have been known vectors of disease and parasites. In addition, when they lose their fear of people they can be aggressive. (You can google for examples–but you may not want to!)

              Of course they can also be tamed, and too many people do so…

              BTW, I live on 20 acres out in the country.

              • Diane G.
                Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

                That last sentence was meant for jdaugs..

  7. Nick
    Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    They look very small. They may still need their mother’s milk. I hope they will be Ok.

    • Posted June 10, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes, the nocturnal photos showed best the heads that are relatively big and I thought these youngsters are in the equivalent of late teens. I see now that they are babies. Diane, I think that if your gut feeling is to feed them, you’d better continue for now and then un-attach them from humans as Joy Adamson did. I cannot imagine them as successful predators with this fluffy fur and head almost half of the body. Of course, I may be wrong and their looks may be misleading.

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

        Maya, that pretty much describes my thought process of yesterday afternoon through today. They do not seem to be growing, and today one was missing!

        So I have reversed course and put out the cat-food and water (very well received) and have been trying to find a rehabilitater. I’ve left 3 or 4 phone messages but no call back yet. (It’s telling that in one list of rehabs, one of the listees specified “no raccoons.”)

  8. Posted June 10, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    They are so cute aren’t they? Until one manages to get into a chicken coop. They will kill every single chicken in the coop. The label of varmint comes with good reason. If they only took one I’d be fine with that, I consider a lost chicken here or there a wildlife tax, but to kill every single chicken in there kind of shocked me really. That particular coon was still in the coop, he will raid no more.

    I said it killed every chicken, but there was one little banty rooster still left alive. Both eyes gouged out, and blood streaking down his neck. He would bristle up and prepare to fight at every sound. I was pretty proud of that little guy, standing up to the onslaught of multiple attacks through the night and surviving. I hope he went to chicken Valhalla.
    (no I don’t really believe in chicken Valhalla or heavens in clouds for that matter)

    Raccoons look so snuggly and lovable too don’t they?. Adult raccoons are terribly ferocious when they feel the need to be. One can hold its own against a number of threats. You do not want to be on the business end of a ticked off coon. Many a hound dog wear the scars of trying to catch a coon.

    Now my personal experience doesn’t make me a coon hater, I am just aware of the reality behind their adorish looks. Their true nature belies the cuteness.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

      I’ve experienced this, too. I once left three chickens–my kids’ pets!–in an outside run after dark, and by the time I remembered them they’d all been attacked; one died and we rushed the other two to an emergency vet who was in fact able to sew up the gashes and save their lives.

      I have a lot of respect for raccoons, but I was furious at that one. (Though the oversight was all my fault, of course.)

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

        Which is not to say that they’re not fiendishly able to breach many pens and chicken houses that we’d think would be suitably fortified. I didn’t meant to imply that your loss was your fault!

  9. Posted June 10, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    If I had a big property like yours, I’d build 2 simple platforms waaaay at the back perimeter where the baby raccoons can shelter from predators like coyotes. They’ll learn to forage elsewhere if you take in the birdfeeders. I’m a sucker and might cave and feed them the odd scrap and then regret it! Right now, I feed the feral cats, and so the odd raccoon and skunk come by for dinner, but I don’t see the possums anymore). I’ve had to shut down my bird bistro, as the voles were getting massive and digging trenches in the garden.

    • Diane G.
      Posted June 10, 2017 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      Even if I knew how to build something–my husband could build but he’s passed away–I’m sure that by the time I succeeded the situation already would have resolved itself, one way or another. 😉 What a nice idea, though, for someone who could manage it.

      You sound very much like me–trying to walk that line between appreciating wildlife, wanting to help those in need, but not always bringing myself to follow best practices per the DNR, or let nature take its course. Usually I can, but dang, these charismatic babies…!

      And, yes, the voles under the feeders! I had them like crazy this winter. Happily they seem to have moved on now. (Instead I have chipmunks, squirrels, and most recently turkeys–boy do they gobble up what’s meant for the breeding birds!

      • Posted June 12, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Bless your heart, Diane! I must say I don’t think the birds are happy with my miserly bent last winter and this year. They keep coming by and I’m very grateful for their visits, but I can almost hear them, “WTF?! This place sucks in hospitality!”. It was a thrill though to observe a huge flock of starlings in the dead of winter, feasting on the bounty of sour cherries on my weeping cherry tree. In the autumn and winter, I do leave all the seedheads on the perennial flowers for desperate foragers.

  10. somer
    Posted June 11, 2017 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I can only wish the kits good luck including to Louis II


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