Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

March 14, 2010

Bandits in the Can

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 9:31 pm

There are, according to one source, three ways to keep raccoons out of your garbage. It is difficult to narrow down the bountiful advice field in this category, but this three part plan seems to sum them all up pretty well. The first technique is to make your garbage inaccessible. The second involves making your garbage less smelly and the third is to install a latch or some sort of locking lid device on your container. That’s all there is to it.

In other words, there are ways to thwart ‘coons at their game. Suspend your trash can from a rope attached to a high limb, in the manner of keeping your goods safe when camping in bear country, and you can outwit even the wiliest of raccoons.  Use steel cable at all times. Keep your trash clean by washing every item that goes into the bag – there is nothing worse than trashy trash that smells. Don’t throw away any food, ever. Eat everything right down to the bread crust and those hardened crusty edges on baked lasagna. Lick the yogurt lids and mail all unwanted food scraps to France (simply address package to “Parlay Voo, France” and mail from a neighboring city). Just to be safe, throw a bucket of mothballs and hot pepper sauce into the trash can each week. You’ll need to be careful, however, that the can doesn’t accidentally tip and dump this hazardous mixture into your eyes as you are hoisting it into the air with your improvised pulley system.

If you use a padlock to secure your lid, make sure it is one of those explosive kinds that detonate when being picked. Finally, weld the lid of your trash container shut and move to Antarctica. If you do all of these things, you will likely win the Raccoon wars. You can, of course, just admit that raccoons are unbeatable when alive. I repeat: when alive. Country people don’t seem to have the same garbage problem that suburban folk do because they acknowledge the simple truth contained in this last phrase.  Most country people do not lick their yogurt lids and that is a fact.

In the end, Raccoons overcome all efforts to stop them – including the country method – because they are just too good at what they do. They are resourceful omnivores. This means that there are few things they won’t eat. Animal or vegetable, fresh or rotten, live or dead, it doesn’t matter.  In a natural setting this means a diet of fruits, berries, rotten fruits, bird eggs, baby birds, turtle eggs, baby mice, baby rabbits, dead baby mice, dead baby rabbits, live crayfish and even dead ones.  In un-natural settings, around human neighborhoods, this menu translates into dead Baby Ruth bars and those crusty baked lasagna edge pieces.

Raccoons are not especially intelligent, it’s just that they are naturally equipped to find food wherever it exists. These large members of the weasel family are endowed with an incredible sense of smell combined with a pair of marvelously dexterous “hands.”  In old French -Parlay Voo French -they were called “Raton Laveurs” which meant “users of little hands” (at least that’s what some country people told me).  With these hands they can pop open the tightest lids, dig into the toughest insulation, and reach into the narrowest crack to pull out whatever may lie deep within.  I recently watched a raccoon smell about a garbage bag until reaching a particular point. He bit into that one spot to tear a small hole in the plastic and then reached in with his hands to pull out a single cookie. He held that cookie and manipulated it with both hands before transferring it to his mouth and running off. He excised that prize like a surgeon removes a gall bladder.

Let’s hope and pray that raccoons don’t develop opposable thumbs. If they do, they will no longer require us to overcook their lasagna because they will do it themselves. We’ll find them breaking into our homes and, using our microwaves, preparing entire meals on their own.  They will steal our T.V. remotes and drive us mad as they click through the channels from their safe perch on the rooftop. Soon they will learn to fly small aircraft to France to get their desserts. We will soon be receiving crudely addressed packages plastered with foreign stamps. The packages will contain un-licked yogurt lids.


  1. Gerry, you are more fun than a barrel of ‘coons! This post was just a scream. And your photos — who could stay made at such adorably cute critters?

    Comment by Jackie Donnelly — March 15, 2010 @ 11:32 am

  2. Oh my, those pictures are impossibly cute, and your proposed means of thwarting the raccoons are hilarious! They are so darn mischievous and resourceful. A former teacher of mine used to rehabilitate raccoons, and it was incredible what they could get into, and how smart they are. They’d out-think my Basset hounds in a heartbeat, so long as there was food involved.

    Comment by Holly — March 16, 2010 @ 9:57 am

  3. I can say no more than my pal Jackie above (she always gets to posts before I do!). I laughed and laughed. And one has to laugh, for these guys are just too cute to be angry at them for too long.

    Let me know when you write a book – I’ll be first in line to purchase it and will send it to you for an autograph!

    Comment by Ellen — March 16, 2010 @ 10:58 am

  4. PS – when did raccoons join the weasel family?

    Comment by Ellen — March 16, 2010 @ 11:18 am

  5. Cute little fella…..strange as it is, i’ve never seen raccoons here in suburban northern Fairfield County, CT in all of my 15 years here.

    Comment by fern — March 20, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

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