Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

May 15, 2008

Why I Hate Raccoons

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 8:28 pm

 

 While I really really dislike cats, I don’t hate them.  I understand that cats could care less that I dislike them – which is one of the reasons I dislike them. I do hate raccoons, however. O.K, hate is such a strong word, but let’s just say that I really really really dislike them.  I do not deliberately swerve to hit them while driving or attempt to re-run them over after they are already dead, but I have thought about it.

  Perhaps the best way to explain “why” I feel negative about raccoons is to say that I’ve seen how destructive these bandits can be to their fellow earth mates. Allow me to present you with an example.

  Take a look at the picture above.  This is a cluster of eggs from a mallard duck nest – a regular discovery this time of year. This nest was worthy of closer investigation because this particular hen decided to lay her eggs in an eagle nest (see here). The nest is actually a demonstration nest that we built at the Lake Erie Marshlands Museum so that kids could climb into it. It has the size and grandeur of a Bald Eagle Aerie without the tremendous height (and insurance needs).

  About a week ago, a curious visitor stopped by to ask whether those eggs in the eagle nest were real. We said “what eggs?” and immediately assumed someone had tossed in some of the plastic Easter variety. Imagine our surprise upon discovering that the eggs were real and that they were Mallard Duck eggs. About the size of small chicken eggs, Mallard eggs are light buffy green and relatively oval in outline. The hen was nowhere to be seen, but there was no doubt about it.

  Ducks are not fancy nest makers. They usually scrape a shallow depression into the ground, but occasionally find a place high off the ground such as a rooftop or the top of a broken tree trunk. This female had neatly arranged a few plumes of Phragmite Reed (another thing I hate) and some bark chips to create her nest within a nest.

  I decided to track her progress and found that she had added an egg a day for the next two days. The female would be on the nest every morning but leave it by mid-day. Mallard females don’t start the incubation process until the entire clutch is laid, so they leave them exposed during this time.  Our female started to incubate her eggs the day before yesterday after laying 5 eggs.

  I think you know the rest of this story.  Here’s what the nest looked like today (see here). The hen was gone. A raider had paid the nest a destructive overnight visit and destroyed all the eggs. Four of the eggs were obliterated outright, but one remained whole. This one was punctured at one end with a half moon pattern of tooth marks that matched those of a raccoon – the yolk had drained out and soaked the bottom of the nest depression.

  Need I say more? This incident is not unique. Raccoons have become the second most destructive agent of duck nests in the country. Although Mallards are holding their own, many other ground nesting duck species are suffering due to the effects of bandit raiding. In some years, a local population is unable to successfully produce any ducklings due to the overpopulation of raccoons. Turtle nests suffer the same fate at the paws of these nest robbers. This is why I hate raccoons.

  Should I happen upon this eagle nest robber when I’m behind the wheel next time I will swerve toward it.  I will not carry it further than that because I can’t blame the raccoon. I can hate ‘em, but I can’t blame ‘em. People, you see, are the single most destructive agent when it comes to duck nest destruction. We have destroyed so much native nesting habitat over the decades that it makes the exploits of one raccoon pale in significance. 

  I would be running over myself if I carried out that vehicular varmiticide. How about that for self psycho analysis!

5 Comments »

  1. I don’t like them either after one killed my cat. I’ll admit that I do swerve for them. 4 kills and counting. THUMP THUMP.

    Comment by Jessica — January 14, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

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