We used to live in a cozy old house in Westchester County, New York that suffered from a bit of landlord neglect. By the spring of 2006, we began to have visitors — the furry kind! A mommy raccoon decided to nest in a crawl space on the roof of our brick building and had babies.
One evening around 9:00 PM, as I was washing up in the bathroom, I heard what sounded like snorting or heavy breathing on the fire escape. I closed the window quickly and pulled up the shade, and there they were. Two baby raccoons! I called my son and pointing an accusing finger, showed him the two masked critters in the window. I named them Moe and Larry.
Remember the old shows on TV that used to end with “same time, same place?” I guess I was the entertainment for the little darlings. After the second week, there were three — making the stooges complete. Curly showed up, but was very shy. He used to hide off in the corner and peek out every now and then. By the fourth week, it was happening like clock work. Always at night, as a light would go on, the descent would begin.
The stooges used to hang upside down and swat one another, or just go up and down the ladder. When they were on the roof, I could hear what sounded like a stick drop, and thought they must be playing catch. When I would pull up the shade they’d peek in closer and act as if they wanted me to join them, especially Moe.
I was beginning to feel like we belonged on an episode of National Geographic or Wild Kingdom. I finally called a trapper. His name was John. Trapper John said, “We need to catch them quickly. They’ll eat right through the wood. They’re dangerous.” Through Trapper John’s assistant, I discovered that male raccoons were “Living the life of Riley.” They function primarily as spermanators. After the deed is done and the female gives birth, she beats the crap out of the male, and throws him out of the family. That explains the smack down we heard on the roof at three in the morning.
I learned more about raccoons as things progressed. After a couple of months, Trapper John revealed that “the house was marked.” While I imagined a big red X on our door, he explained that raccoons rub their bodies on the openings to mark the entrance to the house. It was like having a neon sign on top of the roof that said “Eat at Joe’s.”
The funniest incident took place a couple of months after Moe and company left. A big chubby raccoon must have heard that there was a lot of action at the house and decided to check it out. It climbed up the fire escape and once on the roof, I could hear it running from one end to the other. Finally, after finding no one, it left.
After the first raccoon family moved out, we became raccoon central — a cheap motel for furry visitors. When I called the Health Department, they said their job was to make sure that Trapper John removed the raccoons and told me to call the Environmental people. The Environmental people told me to call the Wildlife People. I personally felt like calling the SWAT team, the FBI, the CIA, and the Men in Black, not for the raccoons — but for the careless property owners. Instead, I called a realtor. It was time to move!