In my opinion, there is nothing cute about the family of raccoons who have moved into the trees above my aviary. The flock is nervous and Norman, the Flock Manager, is on constant patrol duty.
Not the biggest raccoon I have seen, but it was alone so I figured a rogue male, striking out on his own. Big enough to be a threat to my birds and while my aviary is based upon Fort Knox design specifications, only constant vigilance ensures that there will be no surprise breaches.
I finally noticed the favored raccoon perch was atop the truncated tree trunk that had been cut to prevent the spread of a disease affecting all the birch in the neighborhood. Still, the entire top of the aviary is covered with wire, and unless a piece rusts, or something chews off a zip tie, or trees grow and burst open a seam, or a squirrel goes in and out so often that the wire deflects around the Squirrel-way, or a branch blows down in a wind storm and pierces its way through, or a major snowfall takes out the entire thing, my birds are safe.
Many distracting events occurred between May and July, including the arrival of Wee Charlotte. Sometimes the treetop was fuzzy, most times not. To discourage the carnivorous napper, I occasionally aimed a spray from the hose up there, drenching us both, scattering the hens, exciting the drakes. “Big rain!” Ducks are Seattle’s poster child.
Suddenly, I see the fuzzball up there, but it’s bigger, if not better. The raccoon is smaller, but her kids make up for that. They are teeny tiny, nursing still. They are only a couple weeks old. I had a pet raccoon when I was 20. (Is anyone surprised?) It’s a long story for another day, but I know the age of those tykes and admire the mother her daunting task. Still, I can’t allow a raccoon family to establish residence here.
My sprawling and prolific fig tree is a major draw for hungry animals. Unfortunately they are too hungry and take tentative bites out of countless unripe figs and drop them below. I used to breakfast on figs as I worked but this year they are rotting on the ground, creating a summer slipping hazard. Hardly any survive to ripen on the tree. Charlotte noses around the fallen fruit, searching for fresh ones, not yet rotten, not yet covered in mud and duck butter.
Raquel often leaves them stashed in a tree while she eats figs. Nursing mothers need lots of food and water. Figs are a nearly ideal food for her, sweet and juicy. Not as sweet as they would be if she let them ripen, though.
I wonder how many times I have walked past without seeing them. I know to look for them now. They all go cuckoo in the fig tree at night. Once they woke up the household with a horror movie quality growl, stuff of nightmares. Not so cute at 1am.
I haven’t seen them for a couple of days, but they will return. They are barely a month old, still nursing, and not wary enough to be on their own. Mama Raquel is very protective but I wish she would see me as a frightening predator. Check out this video:
They used to skedaddle along the fence top until they reached the wetland behind me. There they would scramble down into the brush, chattering quietly during their escape. After a couple serious squirts from the hose last week, now I only have to turn on the hose to get them moving. Unfortunately, now they only go as far as the hawthorn tree above the juniper and turn straight up, climbing like they are competing in the Lumberjack Show at the fair.