Friday, May 28, 2010

Starving Raccoons

It was just another night, down in the park, drinking with friends. It’s a nice feature of Toronto that there are so many forested areas within the city. We always preferred to have a few beers in the company of nature rather than the awful bar scene.

On the way from the Beer Store, driving by a pet shop, I had noticed a free sample bag of dog food. I thought it might make a nice treat for my old terrier, so I put one in my knapsack.

I drove down the forested path into the valley, the beers clinking in my knapsack. As I descended the air got cooler and the light was fading. I was looking forward to having a few cold beers with some good friends.

We ended up sitting around a picnic table in the gloom at the valley bottom. We were sitting in a clearing surrounded by trees, quietly enjoying conversation. The silence of the valley was suddenly interrupted by terrible screeching and aggressive snarling.

The horrid noise was coming from a pack of raccoons. They were moving through a clearing from one grove of trees to another. I could see them nipping at each other and it instantly came to my mind that they were hungry.

Remembering the dog food, I stood up and brought it out of my bag. Somehow the raccoons were aware of my intentions, and immediately ceased their terrible racket. They approached our group quickly but cautiously, creeping along through the grass in that weird light the moon gives off deep in the forest.

I stood up and started throwing out handfuls of dog food pellets. The raccoons surrounded me, snuffling in the deep grass and making satisfied crunching noises. One of my friends took a handful, knelt down and held out his hand. A raccoon approached slowly, and finally placed a paw on his open hand. With the other paw, he took pellets, one by one, and ate in a dignified manner.

Eventually, my dog food bag was empty, and the crunching ceased. The raccoons started to peacefully disperse, and I turned toward my beer. After a sip or two, I suddenly felt something behind me. It was a sudden, sure feeling and I turned around without thinking.

Behind me was one of the larger raccoons, and for some reason I knew it was the matriarch. She sat alone on the grass, her companions having retreated into the forest. Our eyes met for a long moment and again a strange knowing came over me and it was if I could hear a clear “Thank You” from her. She then turned away and retreated back into the woods.

A few weeks later, we were in the same place on a similar night. I felt the same feeling from behind, and turned again. There in the grass was the same big female raccoon, looking up at me with those expressive eyes of hers. I had brought nothing but beer this time, and I felt badly about it.

“I’m sorry” I said, making an empty hand gesture.

She walked off alone into the woods. I never saw her again.


  1. Thank you for your kindness to these creatures. I wish there were many more people like you.

    Last year a small juvenile raccoon, aproximately nine months of age, gave birth to five cubs/kits under our deck. When she first appeared, she was warming herself on the deck - I could see she was nursing. She was eating seed fallen from our bird feeders so I made sure to put more seed right on the deck for her to eat every day.
    She looked OK whenever she appeared and she presented the babies - all looked healthy to me - in May.

    It then occurred to me that maybe she needed more that birdseed - took me awhile, didn't it! Only two babies survived. But once they had been eating a proper diet for a few weeks, two more mamas and six cubs/kits appeared and were willing, after some give and take, to eat on the deck together. Three very large males appeared late in the season and I was then feeding 14!!! raccoons. My husband was furious about it. Each night was a feast and I was able to walk among them and be sure the babies weren't pushed aside and injured. I am not crazy - truly not - but I was ANGRY that the only help I could get from any agency was the recommendation to call an exterminator. The harder I tried, the angrier I became - and the more determined I was that all the raccoons would be fed. Some nights I stayed up until nearly 6 AM to supervise.

    I determined I would never start feeding them again until tonight when a very small raccoon appeared - another female - in what I think is probably a late stage of starvation. I was searching for help in feeding a starving raccoon and came across this blog and had to say THANK YOU. A free sample bag of dog or cat food is a great thing to keep in your pack. There are many animals and some birds you can help feed with dog/cat kibble.

    I KNOW another raccoon will find and trust you so when you go into the woods OR out on your deck - bring the kibble with you!

    Be well always!

  2. We awakened to a terrible racket. Ran into the kitchen, where we discovered a baby raccoon had fallen through the skylight.

    The skylight was 3ft square, and open several inches, covered by a screen. Our roof was flat, and tarred, above. Directly below the skylight was our kitchen island, approx 4ft square.

    The skylight was open just enough, and the baby raccoon, checking for bugs on the roof with his family - had crawled out onto the screen, beneath the opened skylight. But when he reached the middle, his weight was too much for the screen, and he fell through - onto the island, and then onto the floor, and thence - under the kitchen table, in the breakfast nook.

    He was scared! So this is what we awoke to, in the dead of night. We were both stark naked, of course, and totally unprepared to battle critters.

    Husband said to guard the doorway, and he'd try to shoo him out the sliding door. But baby raccoon didn't head for the door - he ran straight at me! Well, what's a girl to do?!?!?

    I jumped aside, and let him pass. He ran through the living room, into the bedroom, and straight up a pillar, screeching baby raccoon noises all the way...

    Husband put me on the sliding door, and went into the bedroom, and chased him out, with some effort. I held the door, baby raccoon ran out onto the back deck - just as mama raccoon came down the redwood tree, from the roof - followed by two other cubs.

    We only opened our skylight a couple inches, after that. Not enough for a raccoon to crawl out onto the screen.

    Eventually, they found their way in through the pet door, but that's another story. ;)