Raccoon reign of terror

We have lived in Canada for 8 years now and we are quite familiar with local wildlife. Such as? Mainly raccoons. Bold and smart creatures with dexterous ‘hands’ that can open practically anything. When you see them in action, you can just see the brain cells work. They are good at solving problems and they don’t give up easily. We have studied them in the forested backyard of our previous house in Pennsylvania and have come to the conclusion that, barring more ferocious creatures like coyotes, wolfs and bears, they hold a high rank in nature’s hierarchy. They are fierce and undeterred and not many products will withstand their problem solving skills.

When we start to put out food for Mitsy, raccoons are not really on our minds. We have occasionally thought about aiming some of our security cameras on the backyard, just our of curiosity, but never did it. We live in suburbia at this moment in time and the boring fenced-in yards in this overpopulated area don’t feel very inviting to critters. Thanks to our surveillance efforts of Mitsy, we find out that a range of animals actually visits our yard, especially now that the fence door is ajar so that Mitsy can slip in easily. Other critters catch on quickly….

Raccoons or ‘wash bears’

In my language of origin, raccoons are called ‘wash bears’. This refers to their habit to wash their food before eating it or, as you can see at the start of the video below, washing their hands before looking for food. It reminds me of how you sometimes see people enter a catholic church and touch the holy water. Not that I want to compare catholic people in any way to raccoons… 🙂

We capture dancing rain worms, spiders checking their webs, waggling possums, nosing for ticks and other insects, skunk families, dancing bunnies and yes: raccoons. Lots of them – male, female, young and old. We think we can outsmart them all. We invest in two highly recommended automated feeding machines. One with two food dishes runs on a timer, the other rotates at regular intervals, opening one disk at a time. And then there is a kibble machine that needs to be plugged in, with a remote control.

We find out that the machine we trusted most is no challenge for the raccoons. It is a double dish that springs open at a set time. We have filled it with wet food for Mitsy, who often comes around midnight. At this time we do not have a solid feeding schedule and we feel bad when she misses a meal…

One raccoon instantly smells the food. And there is no deterring it. It studies the machine and pretty quickly manages to flip it upside down. Then it fiddles around with its little fingers until the whole thing snaps open and the feast can begin! It takes him all but 2 minutes as you can see in the videos below. Once he is successful, he leaves for a few minutes and comes back with a friend… He does not even eat all of it: when Mitsy does come around towards morning, there are still some snacks left for her! She is not choosy and eats from it.

We try two other machines. One that we have had in the house for quite a number of years. We used it to distribute treats to our cats. It is a revolving system with 5 dishes, one of which is always open. It did not get the same attention from the raccoons, possibly because we put kibble in it, not wet food. And then we finally try with the wired kibble dispenser that can be operated with our phones. We can make it spit out a portion of kibble without having to step outside. We place it under a chair when the weather is nasty and wet. Or on the back steps and Mitsy quickly understands how it works.

And one night we forget about it. The raccoon does not. Here too you can see its brain working to figure out how to get to the reservoir of kibble. It does not take long. The raccoon simply turns the machine open, fiddles with the cover and manages to pry it loose. The ‘eat as much as you like’ buffet is now officially opened!

We now know not to put out food during the night. Mitsy learns quickly not to come over anymore at night. She switches to a different schedule. We see her appear in the early morning hours and she patiently sits in front of the sliding doors waiting for us to wake up and bring out breakfast…

As long as we keep our fence-door ajar for Mitsy, the raccoons keep patrolling our backyard, as to the skunks, bunnies and possums, but they no longer find manufactured food… We have wisened up…