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Terrorized By A Rude Raccoon
- by Hank Pellissier,, special to SF Gate
Monday, June 23, 2003

Click to View Belinda A. presumed her home, three blocks from the intersection of Haight and Ashbury, was situated in a civilized metropolitan area. Well, surprise! She was shocked when her sophisticated city existence began to get disrupted by a wild critter, the slickest urban animal of them all: a masked, fearless, prowling night bandit -- the raccoon.

So you've been traumatized lately. All shook up, eh? Tell me how it started. When did you first encounter the troublemaker?

It all started one night in mid-May. I was sitting at home in the only place I have that gets cell reception -- my backyard. I was speaking sweet nothings into the phone to my sweetie in Marin, when suddenly I heard a clicking sound. Click-click-click. Click-click-click. I asked my honey, "Do cats make a clicking noise?" He said no. He told me it sounded like I was imitating a raccoon. He told me I should get inside. I said, "That's ridiculous! This is Ashbury Heights, not Marin!" But my sweetie insisted; he said, "Get in the house."

Our debate was interrupted when I saw two eyes shining at me in the darkness. A big raccoon suddenly climbed out of our fig tree into the light, where I could see him. He walked right at me -- he was totally unafraid. He was big, at least 20 pounds. Much, much bigger than a big cat. I decided to be prudent, so I stood up to show him how much larger I was. I thought that would scare the rodent away, but --

Raccoons aren't rodents. They belong to the family Procyonidae. Their closest relatives are coatis, coatimundis, ringtails, olingos, kinkajous --

Okay, whatever. The raccoon scampered fast down the fig tree right at me so I yelped! I ran in the house! I closed the sliding-glass door behind me, and then I turned around to see what he'd do. Ick! The little creep started taunting me! He snickered, staring right at me with full eye contact, I swear! Then he actually charged at the door, stopping about three feet away. That really alarmed me. Then the bully got very mean. He pulled one of my pretty art-fair lawn ornaments -- a copper butterfly with iridescent marble -- he pulled this out of my lawn and he slowly ripped its wings off, all the while holding my eye contact. He's like a Disney character gone bad.

Why do you say "he"?

I'm just assuming. All that anger, that destruction -- his aggression.

So he's sadistically tearing up your lawn sculpture. What happened next?

My male flatmate was in the dining room with his computer, so I asked him to help. He walked to the sliding-glass door, he opened it and he said, "Hey, raccoon -- f**k off. Yeah, you, raccoon -- f**k off." The raccoon disappeared. I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn't.

The next night, I returned to my cell-phone position outside. I decided the pesky critter was just passing through the neighborhood, that he wasn't a permanent resident. But I was wrong. A rustling in the fig tree informed me that I was, once again, not alone. The raccoon toyed with me once again. He sauntered out on a branch, he settled himself into a Cheshire-cat position and -- I kid you not -- he began to lazily swing his little humanoid hand back and forth while glaring at me. Full eye contact. Creepy.

I went immediately into the house for a while, but then I returned -- I have to talk to my sweetie! The raccoon returned, too. This time, he sat on the back fence, and again he did the intimidating swinging of his clawed little fist. But then he did that yoga stretch where your backside raises and everything else stays on the floor --

"Downward Dog?"

Yeah, he did that yoga stretch while staring right at me, and then he suddenly leaped forward at least six feet into a giant redwood in the neighbor's yard. I decided again after that horrible demonstration of his leaping ability that I was much, much safer inside the house.

Why is this raccoon in your yard, instead of someone else's? Is there food in your yard?

Yes. He was digging up our ground cover, our baby-tears clover, and eating big fat earthworms and insects there. I fixed that problem, though. A gardener in Palo Alto gave me a big bag of fertilizer called sulfate of ammonia, and I sprinkled it on the lawn. This lushes up everything in the garden, but it tastes terrible -- it's salty and stinky. After tasting it, the raccoon -- that grub-digging invader -- he got real mad, even nastier.

What did he do? Has he damaged anything, other than the butterfly sculpture?

Yes. I have a three-foot-tall potted rose bush. He watched me water it once, and ever since then, he's been launching guerrilla attacks on it, real nasty. He knocks over this rose bush every other day. He also attacked another lawn ornament of mine, completely destroying it. I found parts strewn all over the yard.

But the creepiest thing is, last week my flatmate discovered one of my flip-flops in the corner of the yard with the entire toe area completely chewed up. Sharp little tooth marks all around it. Eewww! I believe that was a warning to me.

I'm sorry that I sound like a paranoid stoner, but really, I don't do drugs, and I hold a good job down the Peninsula.

Have you called San Francisco Animal Care & Control? I think they assist people in getting rid of raccoons.

No, they don't. I looked on their Web site, and it says they offer no help for raccoons.

Have you contacted exterminators?

I don't want him dead. That's not humane. I think furry, wild animals should to be taken to a nice wooded area far away from my house. I don't want him killed, even if he is rude and pushy! What if he's actually a mother with a horde of little babies somewhere? I can't have him exterminated. I just want him to go away so I can talk on my cell phone.

The idea of him surviving in a city is cool, of course, but not in my backyard. And, sure, there's something romantic about having him around, but not if he has rabies.

Have you gotten any advice at all?

I read about raccoon control on some Web sites. They gave me good tips. I hung up loud wind chimes in the fig tree, for example, because raccoons can't stand the noise.

Did you get any advice from local sources?

A friend of mine says there are two guys in the East Bay who will find your raccoon for you, but then they will eat it! That is the worst thing I have ever heard. I mean, I'm not from the South.

Where are you from?

Manhattan Beach, near Los Angeles. We don't have any wild animals there, except surfers from USC.

Do you like animals?

Sure. In the past, I have had pet dogs, birds and fish. I actually have a soft heart for animals, but I don't like feeling like I am in danger. When a wild animal is coming at me, I have to run away.

It seems like you and this raccoon are having a territorial dispute.

I have lived here for over a year, so, in my opinion, the raccoon is the interloper. Actually, I don't mind sharing, but I don't like feeling bullied and intimidated.

There are many raccoons all over San Francisco. They used to come in my house in the Mission through the cat door and eat the cat food. They weren't afraid of me, either. I've heard that they can kill cats and disembowel dogs with their fangs and claws -- very messy.

Maybe your raccoon is living under your house in a big pile of poop and garbage. Have you thought of that? You might want to tell your landlord.

I did. We looked for the rascal everywhere in our yard and on the sides of the house, but we found no nest here, thank God! There are many old Victorians in this neighborhood with big gardens and compost piles and garbage cans, so I'm sure he's living near, inside one of those.

You know this raccoon rather well by now. Do you have any nicknames for him?

Yes, several. "Trouble" is one nickname for the little snot. There are plenty of other names, too, but those can't be printed.


Hank Pellissier -- a.k.a. Hank Hyena -- has been a columnist for Salon.com ("Naked World"), SFGate ("Odd Barkings"), the S.F. Metropolitan ("Frisco Utopia") and the New Mission News ("Civic Stench"). He's also executive director of the Hyena Comedy Institute and co-director of a preschool called The Children's Lab.


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