When my daughter and her husband returned home from a trip, they discovered they had lodgers. A mother raccoon had relocated her family into their chimney. Since they hadn’t planned on renting out their chimney any time soon, or ever really, they realized they were facing one of those fun little challenges that comes with home ownership. My husband and I, who generally have ample advice to ladle out, had none to offer. The closest we’d ever come to a similar problem was when some kind of giant mole dug so many holes in our side yard, it resembled Swiss cheese. Because that incident occurred so long ago that it seems like it was in a former life, neither of us had any recollection of what we did to get rid of the intruder. Luckily, our kids were smart enough to contact animal control, and here are the two suggestions an employee there gave them that I never, even in my wildest imagination, could have thought up.
Step one: Place a radio or TV on high volume, tuned to a talk show channel, as close to where the raccoons are hanging out as possible and leave it on for hours at a stretch. Okay, I can see that. Republican or Democrat, some of those bombastic hosts are hard to take for even more thirty seconds. I’m guessing, however, it isn’t their political views, but just the sounds of human voices in such close proximity that raccoons find disturbing—just like we humans generally don’t enjoy living next to noisy animals of another species: say barking dogs.
Step two: Spray ammonia into the area where the raccoons are claiming squatters’ rights. Ammonia, explained the employee, smells a lot like urine, and because raccoons are notoriously OCD about cleanliness, they pretty much freak out about having home sweet home smelling like an open sewer.
To make a long story short, these two steps worked. As is often the case, however, it can be much easier to give instructions than carry them out. Here are some problems my daughter and SIL ran into:
Problem Number one: The raccoons were not the only ones who had to listen to the talk shows on high volume for hours at a stretch.
Problem Number two: Since raccoons do not drive small vehicles and therefore do not have little carports, it was hard to tell whether they were at home. No matter who we are dealing with, possibly the worst time to spray something stinky into a residence is when the residents are inside. Even when the residents are not inside, my son-in-law discovered, one of them can pop up in the vicinity and catch you. Yes, my son-in-law had climbed to the roof and was happily spraying ammonia down into the chimney, when the mother raccoon’s head popped up over the rain gutter. Adult raccoons are not the cute cuddly creatures they appear to be in picture books such as The Kissing Hand. They grow to be HUGE with razor-sharp teeth and talon-like claws, and this mama did not seem to be to happy about what my son-in-law was doing.
My non-wimpy, former fire fighter and wrestling champ son-in-law deduced quickly that in this particular instance, it might be wise to back slowly toward his ladder. Then he practically slid down the thing in his effort to get away from Angry Masked Mama.
Finding someone spraying stinky stuff into her home, was apparently the last straw for this raccoon, and to my daughter and SIL’s relief, she packed her bags, gathered her children, and evacuated the premises. When I wondered aloud whether she would relocate to someone else’s chimney and become someone else’s problem, my daughter and son-in-law readily admitted that that was a distinct possibility that they didn’t plan to worry about. And no, I don’t imagine there would have been any way to pin a little note even to even the smallest of the raccoons with instructions that read: “If I move into your chimney, have me listen to talk shows nonstop and spray my home with ammonia.” Unless my daughter and her husband get a summons to appear on Raccoon Court, they have “washed their hands” so to speak (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) from this particular home ownership challenge. If they’re like the rest of us, however, they can rest assured something else will probably pop up (or pop in) soon. I’m just glad none of us live in Florida.