Have I ever told you about Mavis? No? Well, grab a coffee and have a read:
Two years ago, in June, I finally had an opportunity to see one of my favorite musicians in concert – Sade. John Legend was opening for her. Two very sexy singers, so Huzbo and I decided to book a hotel room in the city and spend the night there after the concert.
It was one of the most memorable dates Huzbo and I have been on ever, even including our courtship. We woke up at an hour that was not obscene and figured we would check in with my parents, who were caring for our kids at our house.
Stepson picked up the phone on the first ring, and the excitement in his voice was carnival-quality:
“WE HAVE A RACCOON WITH BABIES ON OUR BALCONY!!!” he practically sprang through the phone.
What. The. Hell.
The aftermath glow from our dream date the night before quickly slithered out the door as my parents confirmed that yes, a neighbour had rang our bell that morning and advised my parents that she had watched a raccoon crawl up our drainpipe and scuttle into the small, half-wall-enclosed balcony at the front of our house, accessible from our guest bedroom. My parents also confirmed that from what they could see through the window, the raccoon did indeed appear to have some babies sleeping with her.
Huzbo, being in the home reno business, was beside himself. He had been contracted many times to repair damage done by raccoons entering houses for winter hideaways, some residing there long enough to make serious damage repairs necessary.
We rushed home and peered out the window overlooking the balcony. There, snuggled tight to the wall beneath us, were the mother raccoon and her four babies. Very, very new babies; they had no fur and no open eyes. Babies so new that they only nursed and slept and did not move.
We had no idea what to do.
For the next few days, the raccoon family become our main focus. The kids wanted to look at them all the time. I was researching ways to relocate them in a humane way, while simultaneously falling in love with how cute they all were, even when the mama growled and hissed at me the few times I cracked open the door to quickly stick my phone out and snap pictures of her. Suffice to say our cats became borderline obsessive about sitting on the inside of the window, keeping a territorial watch on this invasive critter.Our local wildlife control agencies were of no use. They wouldn’t move a mom with babies, and even if she was childless, they would only move the animal to the nearest natural habitat, which happened to be only 500 meters down the street, as we live near a ravine with a creek and wooded area. The raccoon would surely find her way back without asking for directions.
I contacted several wildlife authorities, asked for suggestions on Facebook (with far too many of them promoting harm to the creatures) and even considered a friend’s offer to borrow a cage and cart them two hours away for relocation myself.
But we couldn’t do it. Four innocent babies and their mama, who thought she was doing the right thing by finding such a great, safe shelter to birth her babies and care for them, needed a place to stay.
So they stayed, at least for a while. Raccoons are nocturnal, especially nursing mothers, so we would watch them snooze the day away, and then watch as mama waited for darkness to fall and climb down the drainpipe to forage for food to eat and keep her milk flowing for the hungry babies. News spread of our visitors and neighbours began to stop by to be led upstairs to have a peek out the window at our new residents.
The kids were thrilled, of course, and kept asking to name the mother. My brother suggested Mavis, and somehow it stuck. Mavis began to know me, as I was home the most and therefore my face was the one appearing most often at her window into human life. She would sometimes sit on the outside ledge of the window while I observed her. Once she even raised her paw and pressed it to the glass when I did the same with my hand. We were becoming friends, and my husband began to panic that the next phase of our relationship would involve me feeding her.
Huzbo had no interest in friendship with Mavis. He had already seen the pieces of weather stripping she had torn from the outside of the balcony door. He warned me daily to not feed her – oh how well he knows me!
He began to really push for relocation and as much as I was growing fond of Mavis and her little crew, I knew they couldn’t stay. One day, I came across a site in the US that advertised a sure-fire way to get rid of raccoons. Especially female raccoons. With babies.
They were selling male raccoon pee.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Turns out that male raccoons are actually predators of baby raccoons, so the mamas will run a mile to avoid those males, once she bears the fruit of their loins. Also turns out that mama raccoons rarely give birth without having a local back-up den, in the event that their birthing hideaway is invaded. Invaded by humans with $80/ounce of male raccoon wiz, that is.
The package arrived a couple days later, a small plastic bottle about the size of a travel shampoo container. But the stench of it was much bigger. Huzbo opened it in the garage with gloves on, and I could still smell it in our house. Personally, I don’t think the females are afraid of the males themselves – I think they just can’t bear the stink of them!
That night, Huzbo soaked a tennis ball with the junk and had to walk it through the house in a bucket to get it to the balcony. He didn’t want to take the risk of attempting to throw the ball up to the second-storey balcony and miss its mark, leaving the ball to ricochet and spray the stench everywhere.
We knew Mavis had left for grocery shopping, so Huzbo quickly tossed the pee-soaked ball out the balcony door and closed the door. We waited. And waited. She didn’t come back for hours and we finally went to bed. In the morning we rushed to the window to see if they had packed their bags and vacated.
There were Mavis and her little family curled up snoring with the tennis ball sitting six inches away from them.Huzbo tried again that night, with two tennis balls, more heavily saturated with that disgusting odour than the night before.
Mavis and family were still there when we awoke.
However, Mavis was wide awake. This was new — normally she was fast asleep in the morning after a busy night of scavenging for food. She also seemed agitated and was pacing a little, no doubt from the hairs inside her nose slowly burning off from the pungency of the tennis balls.
Clearly she was reconsidering this particular labour and delivery ward, so to further convince her of its inappropriateness, I grabbed a radio and plugged it in right beside the door to the balcony, turned on a rap/hip-hop station and cranked the volume to max. Raccoons loathe rap and hip-hop, you see. Actually, they loathe any type of loud noise.
Within an hour, Mavis had grabbed one of her babies in her mouth and had scurried down the drain and through our backyard, under the fence. No doubt heading to the green space nearby and the quiet, odourless sanctuary of her back-up den.
Except she didn’t return for her other three helpless orphans. All day.
By late afternoon, I was frantic. I began researching how to feed and raise baby raccoons, while Huzbo began to research how to institutionalize his wife. I was committed to attending a party that night, but went with a heavy heart and my phone in hand, waiting for Huzbo to text me the minute Mavis returned to collect her treasures.
Thankfully, she finally did.
We’ve never seen her since, and I think Huzbo deliberately left those tennis balls that are still sitting out there to this day as a warning to her or any other raccoons looking for a warm, safe shelter.
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