As of yesterday, it was four raccoons and counting.
I confess, however, that tally is a little misleading. The pest-control people managed to capture three raccoons in a trap baited with sticky buns just outside the hole where they were entering and exiting our attic.
The fourth raccoon fell for the sticky buns, too. But once in the trap, it somehow managed to maneuver it off the roof and, when the trap fell to the ground, it popped open and the raccoon escaped.
Time for a new trap and more sticky buns.
We can’t be sure how long this will go on. For all we know, whole other families, aunts and uncles, first and second cousins, some once removed could have set up housekeeping in our attic, nesting comfortably in the insulation. While they apparently sleep most of the day, they get frisky at night. We hear them dancing up there.
Having wild critters in the attic, or anywhere in the house for that matter, is disconcerting. At first, we tried to ignore it: “Maybe they’ll just leave and go live in someone else’s house.”
But after surveying the mess in the attic – and the numerous raccoon droppings – we decided to call the experts. They will capture the raccoons and set them loose miles from here in the woods. Then they’ll seal the attic against future intruders.
One silver lining is that the lingering raccoon scent will repel squirrels, according to the pest-control guys. That makes me almost grateful for the raccoons. Emphasis on almost.
I also can’t help but be attracted to the raccoons we caught. They are such naturally charming animals.
Viewing them in the traps, the same animals that had wreaked havoc in my attic, I couldn’t help falling for the bushy ringed tail, the black mask, the perky ears.
That’s unrealistic, I know. Raccoons can be handsome but they also can be vicious.
I have read the stories about how a cornered raccoon can drown a 60-pound dog if they are fighting in a stream. And I know first-hand how destructive they can be.
But I, along with millions of other children, read the book “Rascal” when I was a kid. It’s the tale of a boy who domesticated an orphaned baby raccoon and the adventures they had together.
I have little doubt that nearly every kid who read that book wished he or she could have a baby raccoon as a pet. I, however, took that inspiration a step further.
My friend Mike and I found an advertisement at the back of a comic book for mail-order wild animals. Yes, you could buy wild animals, just about any animal, through the mail in those days.
The baby raccoons were more expensive than the fully grown ones, so Mike and I ordered adult raccoons – preferably one being a mother with kits, we specified. A week or so later, my dad, who had no idea of our plot, answered the phone and was told that his raccoons had arrived.
Our order was COD and, as my mom has frequently reminded me recently, she and my dad paid an enormous amount of money for a crate containing the same animals I am paying an enormous amount to extract from my attic.
As requested, one of the raccoons was a mother who had given birth on the way to our house. But that didn’t end well. She ate most of the babies, and we were unable to keep the two we rescued alive.
Mike and I had built cages for the raccoons. We tried feeding them grapes and other treats in hopes of taming them. But they were more interested in fingers or any other body part that came near the cages.
One raccoon eventually managed to chew through its cage. The other escaped and ran up the nearest tree when I opened the door to put food in the cage.
No Rascal for us.
I am through with any fantasies about having a raccoon as a pet. I’ll stick to dogs.
Still, you have to admit, raccoons have it all over possums.
James Werrell is Herald opinion page editor.