Wild, night time adventure

Even though I’ve lived in Kansas for nearly a decade now, the closest I’ve ever really been to raccoons has been driving passed unfortunate roadkill. Living in town, there wasn’t much to draw them in, considering the abundant surrounding fields and windbreaks that offered everything they needed. Who would have guessed my first up-close encounter would occur at home, here in Great Bend.

At about 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night, I was sitting on the front porch swing, enjoying the quiet and the view of an almost full moon shrouded in light clouds, discussing the high points of the day with my husband on the cell phone. Suddenly, I heard the loud chatter of a squirrel at the top of the maple tree in the front parkway. Dear Husband warned me to stay away from that tree. He’s lived in the country a good number of years, and had never heard a squirrel making a ruckus at night. There had to be something wrong with it.

All became quiet, and I started talking about what the kids were up to, then I heard the sounds of claws on tree bark, and paused again. Was it a cat? Had Smokey crawled up in the tree hunting squirrel? No, that couldn’t be it. He’s a daring cat, but he’s more interested in watching and sneaking up on unsuspecting birds.

Soon, I saw the culprit emerge from behind the tree. At first I thought it was a cat. A really big cat. It was walking funny though. Then it hit me, it was a racoon. It slowly started making its way across the newly planted lawn, and silly me, my curiosity got the better of me. With cell phone in hand, I started sneaking over to get a better look. The racoon came out of the shadows the moonlight defining its features better. I was fascinated by the way it walked. Headed toward my driveway, it once again went into the shadows.

A few days before, I met one of our neighbors across the street, who after introducing himself warned us to make sure we take our dog in at night because there were raccoons living in the (abandoned?) house at the corner, and they were active at night. His words came back to me, and having not taken the dog in yet, I went around the house to gather up faithful Boy-boy and make sure he was out of harms way. I’d never heard of a raccoon attacking a little dog, but as I said, I’m no raccoon expert.

After he was safely inside, the sensor light by the garage was tripped, so I went to investigate. The racoon stood only about 20 feet away on the other side of the chain link fence between mine and my neighbors house. I started advancing slowly, sure any second I’d scare the animal off and see if he went into the suspected house. Amazingly, he wasn’t fazed at all by my presence. In fact, he started coming closer to me, which I found a little intimidating. I stood still, watching, describing his movements to Dear Husband, as it went up first on the neighbor’s front porch, then the back porch. At one point, it was within 10 feet looking straight at me. Not finding anything, he continued on through the yard, through a gap in the fence, and into the next yard.

On Sept. 27, Wichita Eagle blogger Michael Pearson posted When Raccoons Invade, describing a friend’s encounter with raccoons entering their garage through a pet door to steal cat food. The friend suspected the ongoing drought had displaced many raccoons from their natural habitat at the nearby Cheyenne Bottoms. The question is, when the drought is over, will they be happy to move on back, or will they have become accustomed to the rich and varied diet available in our garbage and pet bowls? As for me, doggy isn’t going to be fed outside anymore, and trash will now have a locking lid.


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