Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

What do you do when a raccoon is on your roof?

A raccoon seems to have taken up residence around our house. A couple days ago we spotted him (pronoun is arbitrary: obviously I have no idea if it’s male or female) on the fence.

via flickr

Last night my wife and daughter saw him climbing a tree outside our bedroom. He/she then settled in on the roof, much to the agitation of a couple birds nearby.

via flickr

I’m not sure what to do when confronted with one of these. On one hand, it’s got claws and can open garbage cans; on the other hand, so far it’s stayed away from us. Do raccoons have wild mood swings? Do they climb through windows and chew on power cables? I just don’t know.

[To the tune of Carly Simon, “You’re So Vain,” from the album “Carly Simon: Clouds in My Coffee 1965-1995”.]

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  1. I know they are cute but you do not want them as house guests. They will come inside if they can get in through a window or door and with two kids you never know if something might be left ajar. I have never had one inside but have seen pictures of the destruction they can cause. I lived in Palo Alto for many years- Bryant between Poe and Hawthorne- near the creek- home to many furry creatures. My obese, aging cocker spaniel chased a possum into my house the night of my rehearsal dinner ( my caterer almost walked off the job) but that was not as difficult to handle as my ordeal with raccoons. I had five raccoons make a nest under my house at different times. One tore disconnected the heating vent and tore out insulation. My downstairs was freezing because the critter had made himself a cozy nest. Then- a couple of years later I noticed a horrible smell. I was the only one who detected it at first so I let it go. A few days later I returned home to find my nanny wearing a kerchief over her mouth and nose. The good news was that my sensitive nose was vindicated. The bad news was that the smell was so bad we had to check into a hotel until the varmint hunters could crawl under the house and retrieve two dead raccoons. That was 14 years ago and it cost over $500. Eight years ago two more perished beneath the house. Each weighed over 40 pounds and the smell was really horrible. That time it cost over $700. When I winced at the cost the critter catcher said, “Fine lady. I’ll leave and you can take care of it.” Of course I whipped out the checkbook immediately. So be as inhospitable as you can be now–before it is too late. I think the county may have a catch and release plan.

  2. S. Christian Watkins

    October 21, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    There’s a lot of misinformation about raccoons. They spend a lot of time sleeping and a lot of time looking for food. They may eat pet food that’s left outside. If you stumble upon them eating pet food, they’ll likely flee. They are cautious around people, but not as frightened as a rabbit or even a feral cat.

    If one enters a house through an open door, the best response is to sit still until the raccoon leaves – and then get a screen door. One in my Menlo Park neighborhood has entered the ground floor apartment trying, evidently, to find a shortcut to the front of the building. The raccoon walked around (studiously avoiding the room with the owner), found no other exit, retraced its steps and left.

    Enjoy nature.

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