The Mast-Head: Here’s the Blame

Raccoons have been on my mind lately

Tuesday morning awoke with a snarl. Two raccoons had gotten into the chicken run and were squabbling over something or other, making an indescribable clamor, kind of a blend of exercised chatter, hisses, and a predator’s growl. That roused the dogs, which roused me, and together we ran out to see what was going on.

As it was not quite 5 a.m., and there was only a hint of glow in the sky to the east, I could not observe what happened. I heard Weasel, the biggest of our dogs, making attack sounds and a raccoon screeching its answer. Then nothing.

I grabbed a flashlight. In its beam, there were two sets of eyes, coming from inside the wire mesh of the chicken run. Getting closer, I watched as a raccoon, with the shape of a slightly deflated balloon, rushed back and forth on the chicken coop roof before finding a hole in the mesh and squeezing to freedom. Its compatriot, with whom it had been wrangling just moments earlier, clung to a post about six feet off ground, not eager to descend. 

Thinking I might dislodge it somehow and shoo it through an open gate, I went inside to poke at it with an old clam rake that had been hanging around nearby. Mr. Raccoon was having none of it. I poked him a few times with the handle end of the rake; it snapped and carried on and refused to get down. After a bit more of this, it climbed on the mesh, upside down, and found a spot on the coop roof from which to glare at me.

I made sure that the chickens were securely locked inside the coop and left, keeping the gate open in case the raccoon eventually wised up and lit out for the woods and its now-gone rival. By that point Weasel, the dog, had gone to our house and was eager, I could tell from the way she was scratching at the porch door, to get inside and forget the entire thing.

Raccoons have been on my mind lately. I wage a never-ending battle with them over possession of the household garbage. But ever since a report that dog or dog-related waste was to blame in periodic bacteria spikes at Georgica Pond, I have wondered if raccoons might be to blame. A friend who grows grapes outside his bedroom window swears that there are more raccoons than people here, at least around harvest time, when they lodge on his arbor to gorge.

At Georgica, suspicion has been directed hypothetically toward people walking their dogs in a roadside pull-off just east of Wainscott Stone Road. No one I have talked to has said they have ever seen dogs doing their business in there. The bacteria could come from the prodigious droppings of raccoons instead, but that would not explain why the bacteria are so much higher in the pond than in other locations sampled by Concerned Citizens of Montauk and the Surfrider Blue Water Task Force, given that raccoons are everywhere there is something to feed on.

The bright side of Tuesday morning’s excitement is that I now know where to close up the wire mesh. The bad news is that the raccoons will sooner or later find another way in. They always do.