Sometime in mid-winter (or most likely before that), at least one raccoon moved into our attic, as evidenced by scratching noises emanating from the living room and bedroom ceilings. The upper reaches of the living room were the preferred hangout for cocktail hour, while the sector of the attic over the bedroom was typically active at (appropriately) bed time, and also around four in the morning, otherwise known as the cat-witching-hour when outside cats want in and inside cats want out, and by extrapolation, also when racoons want out. The cats also noticed the infestation. Dennis would sit on the couch and gaze up to the ceiling whenever the scrabble and thumps reached peak crescendo. One night it sounded like the racoon had a broom and was sweeping the floor. On another, I could swear furniture was being repositioned to hold a floor hockey tournament. Although I was encouraged by the squatter’s apparent pride of ownership, I was very dismayed at the implication of a plan for permanent residency. And also, having experienced racoons using the roof of my urban garage as an outhouse, I was somewhat grossed-out by what might be actually going on upstairs.
Once the snow melted and the roof became more accessible, I located a racoon exterminator. Do not think this was a light and lively task. Apparently, exterminators are niche professionals. I imagine in their final year of study they need to choose a specialty. Mice. Bats. Squirrels. Skunks. Porcupines. Groundhogs. Hedgehogs. Hogs of any kind. Racoons seem to be the least popular métier. I assumed that was for a good reason.
Mike, the animal-removal guy was reassuring. Sort of. “If the racoon has had babies, we let her go back in and retrieve them. Otherwise you will have an entirely different set of problems.” First, Mike secured most of the roof vents with some kind of anti-animal wire, slightly smaller than chicken wire, which I am guessing will also make us safe from a poultry infestation. On the remaining vent, he put a one way exit cage that would prevent the racoon from going back in once it had left the building. He assured us it would exit eventually, because it is spring and they like to go out on the town once the weather gets good. He said he would check back in a week or so to see if the exit indicator had been tripped. Two weeks went by without any visible sign of racoon exit, although then I remembered that, since the day before Mike showed up, we had not heard any overhead activity. Apparently, Mr. or Mrs. Racoon (or possibly both) had already moved on. Mike retrieved his cage, dropped off an invoice for $1,000, and whistled as he drove away. Perhaps his business model is to put the word out to the racoons in advance, warning them of impending eviction, then swooping in to solve a problem that no longer exists.
But then there are the skunks. My neighbour saw Mike’s truck in our driveway and said “Oh. You are finally getting rid of those skunks. They smell terrible.” She thinks they live under our garden shed, which is about eight feet away from her backyard pool, which hugs up against the lot line. (Come to think of it, is that even allowed?) Anyhow, she reiterated her strong suggestion to get rid of the skunks. I have several problems with this, besides needing to fork another $1,000 over to Mike.
First, how can she be sure our shed is harbouring the skunks? They can roam around the neighbourhood at will and could be living anywhere. Second, why is she discriminating against skunks when there are many more bunnies hopping around eating the perennials. Granted, bunnies are probably less stinky (although I admit I have never smelled one up close), and, it could be argued, cuter. Third, are we not living on the skunks’ ancestral land? Shouldn’t Mike be evicting us instead? So, dear neighbour, even though you have a scary Rottweiler that wears a spiked collar and sports aggressively docked ears and nub of a tail, I respectfully decline your request, even if it means that from now on I will only be able to go outside under cover of darkness. Just like a skunk.