I’m willing to bet I’ve seen a raccoon closer in person than you have. It’s a weird boast, I know.
Let me explain. My senior year of college I lived in a big (somewhat decrepit) house with three friends. I would guess it was built sometime in the early 1900’s.
It had some great features (an elegant spiral staircase, a big porch) and some not-so-great features (no air conditioning on the second floor). However, its shortcomings were mostly bearable…until the second semester of school.
One week, my roommates and I heard scratching sounds coming from parts of the wall and ceiling. They were never prolonged, but each of us heard them at some point. I thought that squirrels might have found their way into the roof from one of the adjacent trees–at least, that’s what I hoped. But, as long as it was only scratching, we didn’t think too much about it. There was copious amounts of cheap beer to drink after all.
Like a bad by-the-numbers horror movie, the situation escalated incrementally. A week or so after we heard the scratching, we found a bag of bread and a bag of hamburger buns pulled from the counter. Both bags had been chewed through, their contents gnawed on slightly.
I deluded myself into thinking it could still be squirrels. But my roommate Chris, who is an Eagle Scout and thus more schooled about wildlife, thought it was doubtful. He suggested putting out mouse/rat bait. We left a bowl of it out in the open room just off the kitchen, which once served as a dining room in a different era.
I think we also put out a dish of water with soap or some other chemical in it designed to poison our intruder. After we put out the bait, all we could do was wait. And we did, yet the bowls remained full.
Then one night, I was in the house alone (still paralleling predictable horror movies) because my roommates were at an intramural soccer game. I was sitting on the couch watching TV and heard a scratching sound coming from the dining room. Even to my untrained ear, it sounded like nails on the tile floor.
I was a bit hesitant–being the only in the house–to investigate, but I knew I had to look. I got up and slowly made my way around the corner. I looked down at the floor, guessing it was the source of the scraping noise. But, to my surprise, I saw nothing.
I refocused my attention as I felt something watching me. I looked up and to the left and stared right into the beady eyes of a raccoon. The beast was hugging the woodwork dividing the two windows in the dining room. We must have stared at each other for 20 seconds–both of us frozen.
I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I wasn’t going to attempt to grab him, so I did the only thing I could think of. I yelled in his stupid robber-masked face. “HEY! HEY GODDAMMIT!” With the confidence of an animal 10 times his size, he broke my gaze and lazily shuffled his way to the ceiling and hauled himself through a hole in the corner of a ceiling tile.
When my roommates got back, I reported my encounter. The obvious solution was to wait until the next morning and tell our (worthless) landlord we needed an exterminator. I think emotion got the best of us, though, and we decided to take on the raccoon ourselves.
We promptly tucked out pants into our socks, put on jackets and gloves and grabbed brooms and mops. It was like the bat scene from the The Great Outdoors only with more jackassery. We blocked off the path to the front door and used boxes and other items to create a lane to the back door. The plan was to rouse the raccoon and get him to come down then run him out the back door.
We started jabbing at the ceiling tiles, which, in retrospect, was a terrible idea. The chances of the raccoon leaving his ceiling fortress because of a few morons with brooms was pretty slim. Even if we did get him to come down, he was going pissed off–exactly what you don’t want a walking rabies factory to be.
Admitting defeat, we put down our brooms and moved the broken ceiling tile (i.e. his only entrance point). Some of you have already gathered what happens next, but, at the time, we just wanted to stop the raccoon from having free rein on the bottom floor of our house while we slept or left for class.
In the following days, we heard some scratching but ever so gradually it stopped. We went about our business for a week or two and stopped thinking about the raccoon. Then the smell started. It was an old house with four dudes living in it, so it didn’t smell great to begin with. But even we knew a house shouldn’t have smelled like that.
We couldn’t figure what the hell it was. At first, we thought it might be the kitchen or the garbage. We scrubbed the kitchen and threw out the trash, including an entire garbage can of beer bottles and cans. The smell still persisted, though.
Finally, Chris figured out what it was. It was the raccoon. He must have become trapped, unable to get out however he got in, and starved. I know it’s not the outcome most people would prefer. I read the Calvin and Hobbes strip about the sick raccoon, too. But I’ll take that over rabies any day of the week.
So, in a move that should have been made originally, we called our landlord who had someone come over and remove it. And that’s the story of the raccoon and 404 N. College Ave.
Bonus Raccoon Story
I went to get my mail last month and heard rustling coming from my apartment complex’s dumpster. I figured it was probably a raccoon as the dumpster borders a wooded area. Sure enough, it was a raccoon that climbed out of the dumpster.
However, he had an empty family sized jar of peanut butter on his head. I watched as he climbed out of the dumpster and over the fence and walked back toward the trees. But before he got all the way to the woods, he turned around and looked at me like “I know even for a raccoon this isn’t dignified. Don’t judge me bro.”