The first time we saw the raccoons on our side deck was this summer: a night cool enough that the air conditioning was off and the windows were open. In the space between waking and sleep, I heard a steady pattern of noise: metal on metal. It was coming from outside.
I sat up. Tobin was sleeping beside me.
I pulled the blind on the window behind our headboard, looked out. I could see a dark mass moving along the railing of the side deck, and something in the air above it swinging, glittering.
Tobin woke up. “What is it?” he asked.
“On the deck,” I said.
After a minute, the mass resolved into a raccoon. It climbed up to the top corner of the deck post and reached out for the bird feeder, which was swinging repeatedly into the downspout running along the deck post.
It was the metal perches of the feeder against the downspout that had made the noise; the plastic tube of the feeder that had glittered in the light from the nearby street lamp.
We watched as the raccoon tried different approaches. The bird feeder hangs from the end of a long metal arm and has spring-loaded perches. The raccoon tried extending its body along the metal arm, tried reaching for the feeder from the deck railing, tried reaching for it half-way up the post.
“Is that another one on the deck?” Tobin asked.
I looked. It was. “Maybe it’s the mother raccoon and one of her babies that we saw in the trees this summer.”
We decided, with no evidence, that it was.
After several tries, the raccoon hooked a spring-loaded perch with one paw and pulled the feeder toward her. Then, standing upright on the deck railing, she began eating out of the feeder.
“Wow,” I said.
“I’m going to go scare her away,” Tobin said. “She’s eating all the bird food.”
He got up and the dog went with him. The raccoon looked large in the street light, maybe 30 pounds, the size of a small child.
After a minute, light flooded onto the raccoons from inside the house and from the overhead light on the deck. The raccoon on the deck skittered away and disappeared in the space between the bottom of the railing and the deck.
The raccoon standing on top of the railing turned to look at the house where she saw perhaps my husband or perhaps just a reflection in the glass. She did not move. I could see the dark mask across her face, her ringed tail, her clever dark paw on the feeder. Read more