Rochester Hills PCT Bicycle Club

Raccoon Story
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This story is a little off topic from the bike club, but I thought some of the bike club fans would find it interesting.  Before I get into the details of catching the raccoons and other animals I think it would be appropriate to give a little background information. 

On my house we have a brick chimney with two openings coming out the top.  Since we have lived in this house we have had Chimney Swifts living down inside the chimney.  Chimney Swifts are these really cool small birds that are constantly in flight and when they go into the chimney they barely slow down as they dart inside.  Diane and I did a little research on these birds and we found out they spend almost their entire life flying.  These birds do not perch, the only time they arenít flying is when they are hanging from the side of a vertical tunnel like a chimney, while they sleep.  Originally these birds lived inside hollow tree trucks, but with the advancement of humans and the loss of hollow trees they have adapted to chimneys over the years.   

When we saw the birds going into our chimney we thought maybe we should put a cap on the top to keep them out.  But after checking into these birds we thought it was nice we could provide a place for them to live and they were fun to watch as well.  The first couple years when I mowed the back lawn I thought these birds were attacking me.  Apparently as I moved the lawn mower across the grass I was stirring up small bugs which the Chimney Swifts like to eat.  They werenít attacking me, they were just flying very close to eat the bugs.  Anyhow, this is the reason we did not have a cap installed on our chimney. 

Last year we started hearing scratching noises in the ceiling of our family room.  The noises werenít very loud, but it seemed obvious to us that some sort of animal was up there.  Diane called an animal control company and they sent someone to check out the situation.  The animal control guy looked around and set a few small traps in the attic above the garage.  Part of this problem is there isnít any attic space above the high ceiling in the family room.  There is only the small space between the dry wall and the roof, so there isnít any way for a person to get up in there to look around.  The animal control guy didnít catch anything and he told us he thought it was just bats.  Time went by and we would occasionally hear a noise but not too bad and thinking it was bats we didnít do anything. 

Near the end of last year, 2004, the noises starting getting louder and more frequent.  We were now starting to believe that maybe squirrels were living up there since we had spotted a couple jumping onto the roof from the pine tree in the front yard.  I set up a small trap for catching squirrels.  I did catch a few and I relocated them.  The noises stopped for a while, I actually thought we may have caught the critters that were living in the ceiling.  

Early this year, 2005, the noises came back louder than ever.  This time it sounded like either really big squirrels or a bigger animal.  On Memorial Day we just happened to notice a raccoon climbing straight up the outside of the brick chimney.  This raccoon scaled the brick like Spiderman, no problem at all.  Then we happened to see another, or maybe the same raccoon just sitting on the top of the chimney looking around.  Now we knew we had a big problem that needed to be addressed and resolved before we ended up these animals falling through the ceiling into the house.  

I went to the local Home Depot looking for a larger live trap, they didnít have any.  Next I went to Lowes and found exactly what I was looking for, a nice large trap suitable for raccoons.  The trap cost $39.00 which turned out to be money well spent.  I put the trap on the ground right next to the corner of the chimney where we saw the one climbing.  Diane did some research on the internet and found out what kind of food to use as bait in the trap.  The first night I put in three items, a quarter of a raw corn on the cob, a large strawberry and lastly a Ritz cracker with peanut butter on top.  The next morning the trap was sprung with the food missing, but no animal.  I was beginning to think it might be difficult to catch these animals.  I put in fresh bait and reset the trap.  Diane was working late that day and didnít get home until around 11:30 pm.  Just before she got home I heard a noise and went and checked the trap, what do you know a raccoon.  The first of what I didnít know at the time would be many raccoons.  We decided to relocate the raccoon and we didnít want to leave it sitting there all night, so around midnight we loaded it up in the back of the van.  We got an old large towel rag and cut a slit in the middle.  We put the rag on top of the cage with the wire handle sticking through the slit in the towel.  Diane is naturally better with animals than me and sense I was a little hesitant going too close to the cage she got on a double layer of layer of leather work gloves and picked up the trap and carried it to the garage.  After retuning from letting this one go I reset the trap and we went to bed. 

The next morning another raccoon was already in the trap.  Now I was beginning to think that catching raccoons wasnít going to be that hard after all.  I was now starting to wonder how many we might need to catch to solve the problem.  I forgot to take pictures of a few of the raccoons we caught, but I did take pictures of a majority of what we caught.  See the link at the end of the story for the pictures and a couple videos. 

To make a long story short, we ended up catching a total of eleven raccoons, 5 full grown, 3 teenagers and 3 babies.  We also caught one opossum, one ground hog and believe it or not one penguin, more on the penguin later.   

The teenage raccoons appeared to be full size but they were quite a bit lighter than the full grown ones, they were also cleaner and didnít smell as bad.  The adult and teenage raccoons were caught in the trap.  After we caught the last full grown raccoon a baby showed up on the bottom deck.  It was just wandering around looking confused.  I convinced this first baby to go into the trap and we relocated it to the same spot as the adults.  Once the mother was relocated the babies must have decided to explore on their own.  After we got the first baby we started hearing noises inside the chimney right on top of the flue that you normally open to let out the smoke when you have a fire in the fireplace.  I figured a baby had fallen down the chimney shaft and didnít know how to get out.  This started another whole new adventure.  

We couldnít just leave what ever was in the fireplace, so we decided to try and get it out.  Again, I volunteered to reach inside and pull out the animal, but Diane and Jonathan wanted to do it on their own.  They were quite a sight, they had put on long pants, long sleeve shirts and heavy duty gloves.  Diane had a large empty plastic container wedged into the fireplace in hopes they could place the animal into the container and then quickly put on the lid.  Since they wouldnít let me help I got out the video camera and filmed this attempted rescue.  I used our old video camera, so I donít have digital video and canít post it on the web site.  If you are really bored next time you visit us I can show you this video on TV.  Diane opened the flue, but nothing came out.  Jonathan decided to make a hissing noise toward the opening.  The animal obviously didnít like Jonathan hissing and it hissed right back.  This made both Jonathan and Diane jump back.  They claimed it sounded like a mountain lion, I thought it sounded like a baby raccoon.  Needless to say this was the end of our attempt to remove the animal.   

The next day Diane called the animal control company and they sent out a guy familiar with raccoons.  I was at work so I can only report what I was told about this event.  This guy opened the flue and used a small mirror to look up into the chimney where he saw two baby raccoons.  Once he saw they were just babies he reached right up in with his bare hands and pulled them out.  Diane did take a picture of the guy holding the raccoons out on the front porch before he left.  With these two babies now gone we waited a couple days and we didnít here any noises so we called the brick repair guy to come out and fix the chimney and install caps on the top.  The chimney is now repaired and covered and hopefully this ends any future animals in our family room ceiling.    

Of all the animals we caught, the penguin was the most surprising, more on the penguin in a minute.  The baby raccoons were the cutest.  The opossum was mean with big teeth.  The ground hog was kind of cute as well, it had big curved buck teeth on the top and bottom.  The trap was empty for a couple days and I was going to put it away when we caught the penguin.  Max was sure no one would believe we caught a penguin even with pictures, so he suggested I take a video of the penguin.  See this link for pictures of all the animals (except the first raccoon) and the couple videos we took of raccoons and penguin.  If you ever have the need for a relatively large live animal trap, I have one you can barrow.  But, you will have to return it because the next time I see another wild penguin in the back yard I will need it again.
David Lindquist 

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