Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The new kind of marauder

Last week, a visitor to my garden left a calling card of sorts.  On an early morning swing by the fountain the back area, I saw this:



I haven't seen a raccoon in months and there's been none of the usual signs of their activity.  No plants have been pulled out of the ground or left shredded in pieces.  No trenches have been dug through my planting beds.  No soil has been strewn about.  But birds and squirrels aren't known to rearrange the shells in our fountain.  Conceivably, it could have been a skunk but I've never seen them rummage in the fountain either and there were no tell-tale olfactory clues.  However, thanks to a new security system, we now have a video record of intruders.  Footage of the back garden showed the culprit in the act.  I pulled a series of screen shots.








He spent a little over 7 minutes in and around the fountain.  Other than dropping a few shells on the ground and breaking a few more, he caused no damage.  Have the raccoons of old been replaced by more gentle marauders?  Or is he still learning his tradecraft?   Only time will tell I suppose.


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

38 comments:

  1. What is it? I can't tell from the photos.

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    1. It's a raccoon. If you click on and enlarge the 4th photo (i.e. the one snapped at 03:24:49) and look for the glowing eyes, I think you can make him out.

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  2. This one's an artiste. Or maybe he was carefully examining each shell for a snack.

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    1. Looking for a snack was exactly what he was doing, Alison. The video shows him dropping shells to the ground after he examines them but I couldn't capture that with the still shots. What's odd is that I doubt they've ever found anything edible in that fountain, yet they feel compelled to rummage through it on every visit. An earlier raccoon visitor also used to pull out the dry shells I used to mulch some succulent pots and strew those about too.

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  3. These photos are a hoot! Glad that the damage is lessening -- he was just thirsty!

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    1. They're almost hypnotically drawn to water I think, Denise. He may have taken a drink or 2 but his goal seemed to be finding something edible in those shells, which I can't imagine he did. They've even examined dry shells I used to top-dress pots so maybe they have vestigial memories of harvesting shellfish.

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    1. They're interesting creatures and very curious. Of course, when I see one in real time, I usually chase him (or her) off as they can be quite destructive.

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  5. What fun being able to keep track of your night visitors.

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    1. When we got the system my husband joked that I'd end up using it to track wildlife visitors. It was surprisingly easy to locate the raccoon on the video, but then this particular intruder does leave evidence of crimes behind to give one a place to start.

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  6. First: my sympathies at having those marauders, but hoping the kindler, gentler marauding is all you experience. Those trash pandas do love water. That's why I removed my little waterlily tub.
    But really, it's like an episode of Wild Kingdom, with your stealth camera catching the villain in the act! Thanks for the chuckle.

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    1. What I keep wondering, Tim, is what the raccoons expect to find in that fountain? And why do they keep coming back to it when they don't find anything edible? But perhaps I underestimate their interest in making mischief. A couple of years back, a raccoon managed to steal the tubular filter from the fountain and carried it off - it took me days to find it in the shrubbery yards away.

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  7. Wow - sneaky you are forgetting a critter cam! Good for you! I do hope he remains the kinder, gentler kind. :)

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    1. Well, we didn't envision the camera system as a critter detector but, as intruders go, I vastly prefer "trash pandas," as Tim described them above, to the 2-legged invaders that have become a community scourge.

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  8. Those raccoons are quite clever and you caught him in the act of redecorating your fountain. Hopefully he will be camera shy the next time around! Glad there was no damage.

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    1. I'm just glad he kept his activities fixated on the fountain, Lee! His predecessors ranged further and were much more destructive.

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  9. He's obviously a collector and was picking out just the right one to take home for his collection.

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    1. That could be it, Loree! Although, he must have found all the shells wanting in some respect, as I saw no sign he carried any off. However, his predecessors have carried shells some distance in the past - as well as garden gloves, the fountain filter mentioned above, and other stuff I can't recall off-hand...

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  10. Some raccoons once pulled lily pads out of my pond to get the snails that were stuck on the undersides. They also pulled the discharge hose of the pump out of the pond, emptying it by about a third. They love water, that is for sure.

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    1. In my opinion, Rachel, the raccoons' skill as snail/slug hunters are their one redeeming quality. Their delicacy of removing snails from their shells, often without damaging the shells, is impressive.

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  11. At least it's only the shells in the fountain that have been getting rearranged. Raccoons are smart, but maybe not smart enough to realize that it's an artificial water feature with nothing but empty shells, instead of a natural one where new food might show up. I think they also just like playing in water and with anything in water.

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    1. They do seem almost magnetically drawn to water, Evan.

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  12. So glad no plants were harmed in the making of this story... ;-) I do hope he stays out of real mischief! With the high temperatures I think gardens present an irresistible attraction to wildlife, but it is curious that your raccoons fixate on the shells... Must be a very strong instinct!

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    1. I was out of town until late yesterday but immediately saw signs that the raccoon has been back, once again rummaging through the fountain. The seashells were scattered more widely but I've found no signs of digging in this morning's cursory exam of the garden.

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  13. Fascinating racoon behaviour. Maybe he (she?) has an obsessive fixation on shells? Or maybe it's an attempt to communicate with you? What a wonderful device to enable you to see nocturnal visitors.

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    1. The cameras were installed for home security reasons but they do offer an opportunity to examine what our local wildlife visitors are up to after hours. However, only the raccoons leave obvious clues - unless you count the olfactory evidence sometimes left following a visit by the local skunks. I'm curious if the coyotes have paid us any visits but, thankfully, I've not found any evidence of the kind they usually leave.

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  14. Trash pandas: good name. I need one of those cameras to figure out what is getting into my screened kennel and eating my tomatoes. Grrrrrr!!!!!

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    1. The cameras are fairly reasonable in price - it's their installation that's a pain in the neck.

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  15. Thank goodness he just rearranged the shells a bit (except for the ones he broke.) Perhaps he fancies himself a decorator and disagreed with your placement.

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    1. With that mask, he looks more like a thief, Peter!

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  16. How interesting! I know raccoons are intelligent and curious creatures. Maybe the shells were new to him, and he was checking them out, trying to determine if they were edible or whatever. Glad he did not cause more mischief, yet!

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    1. Well, it appears he was back again checking the shells over while I was out of town, Deb. He made a bigger mess this time - but he still hasn't dug up my plants and I remain grateful for that.

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  17. I love your surveillance photos!

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    1. When we got the cameras, my husband joked that we'd probably only use them to spy on wildlife, Emily. I hope that prediction remains true!

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  18. Haha, love the footprints! He/she must have been pleased with the handy sink for washing up. ;)

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    1. Although he spent most of his time rummaging through the shells in the upper level of the fountain, he did trawl through the lower sections filled with water too. Looking for fish perhaps? Raccoons are notorious for cleaning koi out of ponds in this area.

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  19. Ha ha ha, Kris, love the footprints. I've had raccoons wash their food in the cat waterbowl but never the fountain. Hope you made it home safe and sound. It was great to meet you at Fling!

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    1. The raccoon seems compelled to examine each seashell in the upper tier of the fountain and, inevitably finding each wanting, drops it to the ground or the lower fountain basins. It was great to meet you in person too, Sue! I hope to see you at another Fling but, if travels bring you to SoCal, you're also welcome to stop here any time.

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