Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Evidence of Things Unseen June 17, 2009

Filed under: fauna,my garden — greenwalks @ 10:54 am
Tags: , , , ,

I will probably look back fondly on the days that the squirrels were my most formidable garden adversary. It seems the raccoon population of Seattle has rebounded from what may have been a temporary period of virus-related low population numbers (unverified rumor, so don’t quote me) and it seems that some of them have been up to a few tricks lately around my garden. Nothing too devastating yet, but they’re putting me on notice for when the raspberries and blueberries get closer to ripening.

First, I noticed a large piece of tree bark abandoned in a shady spot, on a clump of poppies. No trees with this kind of bark in my garden or even nearby that I can see. Where did it come from? Who left it there? What are they up to??

Strange bark piece left in garden

Just a few feet down the path, my potted ‘Heritage’ rose, the only rose I have ever seen, smelled, tracked down and bought on my own, had its single currently blooming stem broken off almost all the way, it was dangling by a thread but still flowering. Hm.

Heritage rose broken stem

Other people could suspect their dogs, or maybe their kids, but we don’t have any pets and my daughter is actually pretty careful in the garden, at least in this part of it.

The next clue that the masked bandits may have been responsible was the stones that had obviously been rearranged in our rockery. It’s a mess at the moment, I’m ripping out weeds and plants and haven’t got around to fixing up the defunct mini-pond yet, but they obviously needed to have a look-see for potential fishy snacks (sorry, guys, no help there) or maybe wanted to dip in some tasty morsel from our city food scrap/yard waste bin on trash night.

Rockery rearranged by raccoons?

Last clue – my faux Craftsman plastic solar light by the rockery was temporarily decapitated. Huh? When I mentioned my puzzlement to my mom, she said “Well, they like to be busy.” I guess I can admire their curiosity, as long as it doesn’t turn too destructive.


My parents had to give up on their Italian plum tree, it was just stripped every year by the raccoons before my folks could get even a single ripe plum. They also got most of my parents’ corn last year, and I do think I need to study up on possible (benign) berry-defense methods.

Some people think these critters are too cute for words; others consider them a menace and a nuisance. Really, they’re just part of the natural world and, like crows, rats and a few other species, have proven remarkably adaptable to urban environments (possible viruses notwithstanding). I think that if they are here, I will just have to learn to deal with them. Their ancestors were certainly here before mine were, so they kind of have dibs on the land if they want it. I might not be so sanguine, however, if they take every last one of my berries this year! Do you have any raccoon stories to share?


Raccoon image by Liza31337, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons. To see more images by this photographer, please click here.

Just as I was about to publish this post, I read a sort of frightening article by garden writer Ann Lovejoy about potential health hazards from raccoon droppings. Eek. I guess I need to keep my gloves on when I’m working in the yard, and make sure my kid doesn’t come into contact with any critter poop!

(I stole the title of this post from a record I used to listen to a lot, by avant-jazz pianist Don Pullen – brilliant genius, spiky music, died too young, common sad story in the music world). It’s also the name of a Marianne Wiggins novel – does anyone read her anymore, or was she an 80s phenom and more famous for being Salman Rushdie’s wife? That sounds really sexist, I don’t mean it that way. If you’re a fan, speak forth!)


12 Responses to “Evidence of Things Unseen”

  1. Seriously? They moved your rocks? Wow. Our only visual of the raccoons that spend time in our back yard was a couple summers ago when their chatter woke up my husband. Two young ones were having a wrestling match in the grass. They were adorable. Soon the much larger mom appeared and scolded them for lagging behind. Thank you for the link to the article. I’ve picked up these droppings more times than I care to think about not knowing the dangers (I was wearing gloves or using a scoop), the scary thing is that Lila adores these “snacks” left around the yard for her (gross).

    • lilabyrd Says:

      Well now! I don’t recall being in your backyard havin’ any snacks! ….lol…. but I do have many raccoons, opossums and rabbits at night and tons of birds, hawks and more squirrels with attitudes than I can count…… squirrels are the ones that love roses….. mine are all gone now, but they don’t eat English Ivy and my bamboo plants grow so fast they can eat all they want and can’t put a dent in ’em….. really I have a small urban wildlife habitat….. keep an eye out to see how my experiment goes with me trying to have some fresh veggies by using the Topsy Turvy with tree stand and hanging strawberry planter…. my family and friends think I have really lost it this time….. but I can bring these in at night! Wish me luck and I’ll say a good garden prayer for all who are tempting fate with mother nature…lol….. it’s OK we humans have to eat too …. :} … LILA
      PS I’ve just moved here from Yahoo 360 My Page that is shutting down. Feel free to come by and visit my critter tales now here at wordpress …. they like it when I tell on them…… :}

  2. Michelle Says:

    I’ve heard of using mini electrified wire barriers to keep raccoons from digging up lawns in their search for grubs. It doesn’t harm the critters, just gives them a shock. Perhaps it would work to protect your berries?

  3. Catherine Says:

    I’m probably going to jinx myself, but I haven’t noticed any raccoon activity here for awhile. Every morning I check the pond to see if they’ve torn it apart, which they have done many times.
    Maybe they all decided to move to the city to see if you have better food.
    I wonder if they were eating bugs off the bark? Once I found raccoon droppings in our yard, YUCK!

  4. Chiot's Run Says:

    We had a rabid raccoon once that was propping itself up behind one of our rain gutters. It just kept hissing at us, kind of scary actually. We eventually called the sheriff because he wouldn’t leave. He took care of it for us.

    Be thankful you don’t have groundhogs!!! They’ll mow over your entire garden in a night. We have a big live trap for those critters that we only use when they discover our edibles. We also have an overpopulation of chipmunks this year. We used to have owls but they moved out. I need to do something about them because they’re digging around our foundation and our basement is starting to get a little moisture in it from them. So I will have to be proactive about dealing with those little guys (I wish they weren’t so cute).

  5. Megan Says:

    I used to have raccoons regularly walking across the roof, you’d hear their little feet, and then they’d walk by the bedroom window and the dogs would go crazy. They seem to have disappeared since I cut down the apple tree that was growing right up next to the house. I know they’re still out there. Here’s a tip. When you hear just terrible awful animal screaming noises at 4 in the morning and you’re sure there’s something really bad happening in the street… yeah, that’s mating.

  6. easygardener Says:

    It’s that black bandit mask that makes them look like trouble 🙂 I’ll just stick with my squirrels – this years young ones are checking out the garden at the moment. Dangerous times. One of my cats dragged one into the house while I was away on holiday, and ate it (judging by the remaining fur!) Yuk.

  7. Alice Joyce Says:

    Friends nearby have removed water features, bird baths, any thing wet…. The raccoons simply wreak havoc on them, and dig out/grub around plants in the vicinity.

  8. Jane Says:

    Like your parents, we had our prune plum tree regularly raided by a family of raccoons for multiple years. We don’t have any fruit right now so I guess we’re safe for this year. Thanks for the link to the AL article: I’ve always suspected raccoon scat was nastier than average wildlife leavings.
    I hope you’re successful at keeping them from your goodies!

  9. My hubby actually caught one trying to drag one of our young chickens over the fence of the chicken yard one night…We haven’t seen one since…now rabbits are driving my crazy though! Kim

  10. Matron Says:

    I have a racoon story! I was working one Summer as a Girl Scout camp counsellor near Bakersfield, CA. I was sleeping out doors one night and could hear a racoon very close to my bed. I tried to shoo it away with my hand, voice, feet, just stared at me beligerantly. I came up with an idea which worked a treat… my bra was underneath my pillow, so I stretched it out like a catapult .. and pinged the racoon on the nose! It ran away screeching and was never seen again!

  11. Racquel Says:

    Ugh! Squirrels are bad enough without having to deal with these little rascals. Goodluck!

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