A welcome guest – for now

I wrote on Monday that when I had fed up at the ram shelter the other morning, I had heard some chittering and hissing whenever I came near the back wall of the shelter. I included a photo of the masked intruder who was the source of the ruckus, knowing nothing more at that point that you did: two beady eyes were staring out from between the boards at the rear of the building, and anytime I got close, it would begin with the threatening noises. I left well enough alone and continued on my way feeding my sheep.

The view within the wall where the raccoon has made her home.

Yet, when I came back to the shelter on Tuesday, the raccoon was still there – in exactly the same spot. Now, this presented a whole different issue. I didn’t mind this raccoon making itself comfortable within the walls of the shelter, but I didn’t want it dying there. Did it not leave because it was injured? Because it couldn’t get out? Or simply because it liked the environment and had decided to move in? Not knowing terribly much about raccoons, I had no idea – all I knew was that it was still there, hissing and chittering at me on Tuesday morning – so I called Animal Control.

Now, even though I live in a relatively rural section of Iowa, it turns out that we don’t really have an Animal Control department. My call was transferred to the local Humane Society, who immediately referred me to the County Sheriff’s Department. The dispatcher at the sheriff’s referred me on to a private wildlife rehabilitator. By that time, I was seriously wondering whether this was all worth it – but I didn’t want the raccoon to suffer, so I continued on with my search.

A better view of our newest guest where she has decided to raise her family

Before I called the wildlife rehabilitator, I started to realize that unless he came all the way out to our farm, he would have no clue what I was trying to describe, so I psyched myself up, got out my camera, and went back up to the shelter to get some better pictures. I knew that the top of the wall was open, and if I could climb across on the boards on the wall, I could get the camera high enough to get a shot inside the wall behind the boards that you saw in Monday’s blog. My thinking was that this view would give him a better idea of what this was all about. I knew the raccoon would be mad, but I really didn’t know any other way to get the info. After all, a picture – or at least a good one – is worth a thousand words!

I did get the pictures, and by the time I called the rehabilitator, I was able to email him both the photo from Monday’s blog and those that I’ve included here today. From these few photos, he was able to assure me that the raccoon was likely not injured – it looked to be a female, and his guess was that she was pregnant and looking for a place to have her kits! She likely found the shelter that kept her out of the rain, and was protected from other intruders by nearly a dozen big rams. This location was close to many food sources (including my creep feed in the lambing barn!), and so worked nicely for a new home.

After this picture, she had had enough; she jumped at me to encourage me to leave – and she didn’t have to ask twice!

His bottom line was that moving her now would likely stress her out – particularly since it was possible that she could begin delivering her babes at any time. The more humane thing to do would be to let her deliver her young and then wait until they were old enough before relocating the entire family. I honestly am not quite sure how I feel about that, but I am too much of an animal lover to stress a new mom – even if it is a raccoon.

Several years ago, we had a big momma raccoon move into our barn, and then within a week, she ate all of our chickens and many of our barn cats. We happened to be on vacation when this happened, but found pieces of our chickens and cats lying around the acreage for weeks afterwards. It was all terribly sad and depressing. I eventually moved her and all of her young out to a wildlife area north of our farm, but it took us a long time to replace the chickens and the cats. I was always afraid of having the same thing happen again, so it took me a while to be willing to replace what we lost.

Yet, this little raccoon knows none of that history. She has somehow stumbled across our farm and its several shelters, and chosen the most out of the way spot for a new home: at the back of the ram shelter. She has helped herself to some of our lamb’s creep feed, but honestly, not so much that I must cut her off. And although she is not at all happy about my appearances each day, we have called a truce between us: I am steering clear of her section of the back wall while she hunkers down and ignores me while I do what I have to do. Unless she begins to make more trouble for us, I suppose she is welcome to that small section of wall and whatever grain she can find. The accomadations aren’t grand, but I suppose to a raccoon, this new home has its charming features!

I have no idea how this is going to turn out, but I guess that, for now, we are hosting a masked guest. As long as she doesn’t begin to take that mask seriously and turn into some type of nighttime marauder, injuring others of our farm’s residents, I am happy to let her stay. I guess we’ll just take this one day at a time.

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  • Elaine Chicago says:

    Scary stuff, especially after the incidents with the other raccoon. Tell the cats and chickens to be aware!

    • Dee says:

      Yes, I totally agree. The chickens should be fine, since we’ve added two electrified wires at the top of their fence to prevent the raccoons from climbing over and getting into their space. The cats, on the other hand, will need to be careful. Thankfully, this raccoon is only half the size or less of the other momma who ate our previous barn cats. I think my cats could hold their own with this young gal.

  • Janice says:

    I never had raccoons eating adult cats, but they do get the babies!

    • Dee says:

      The raccoon that ate our adult cats was a huge momma raccoon that weighed in the neighborhood of forty pounds or more – and my cats had no chance against her. We had many cats in our barn at the time, and they were either run off or killed while we were gone – and those that simply left never came back. We found a lot of cat remains, however, along with the chicken remains scattered throughout the barn and lawn around it. It is a scene I hope I never experience again.

  • Janice says:

    I started waiting with the shovel when I was met at the door by a raccoon mother and six babies as I went out to feed the cats one evening!

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