Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 26, 2013

Tim Preston: Waking up to a kitchen cabinet full of raccoon: 11/27/13

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — A few weeks have passed since the now-famous incident involving a wayward raccoon that came crashing through our bedroom ceiling.

In the days following that most-unwelcome wakeup, I’ve researched raccoons quite thoroughly and heard a few nightmarish tales from others who’ve managed to survive a raccoon invasion. Somewhere along the way you’d think that I would’ve picked up a clue or two about catching, or killing, the bandit-faced creature. The truth, however, has no reflection of that.

If you missed the story, the first raccoon encounter happened while we slept. A big raccoon (estimated conservatively at 20 pounds) sent a couple of ceiling tiles crashing to the floor and he was dangling from the hole while clinging to a pair of electrical wires. It all happened so fast that we didn’t even have a chance to truly panic until after the animal managed to get a rear leg back up into the hole and climb out of our bedroom.

Using a combination of techniques (advanced methods such as banging on the ceiling), we managed to run the raccoon away. Or, at least, so we had thought.

The first rule of raccoon elimination is finding and blocking their access point, which is typically found along rooflines where they take advantage of the not-so-sturdy soffit. After numerous investigations by myself and a few neighbors with raccoon-related experience, that hole remains a mystery. My theory is that we have a piece of siding which the animal is pulling back to get in, although I can’t find a loose piece anywhere.

Even knowing such an entry point still exists, I was happy to not be hearing “Ol’ Blue” the raccoon rambling around up there, or threatening to fall through above the bed as we slept. I also placed traps (the kind which don’t hurt the animal) in strategic locations, only to find each with trapdoor tripped and robbed of its bait the next morning.

It was a truce we could live with, and the bedroom-crashing incident had become more of a funny conversation starter than a real nightmare.

All of that changed Saturday evening, however, when my wife stepped into the kitchen and made a hasty backwards retreat to report we had “a big mouse or something in there.” In true manly-man fashion (translate: like an idiot) I discovered the two corner cabinets with their handles wedged together, locking both. I closed one in order to open the other and found myself looking directly into the eyes of the enemy. The enemy looked me back in the eye and remained motionless, as if to say, “You don’t see me,” just as I slammed the door and made a sound normally only made by little girls who’ve had the boogers scared out of them.

Despite my initial stupidity (hey, it was 4 a.m. and I had been soundly asleep), I had been waiting for something like this to happen and grabbed the trusty Ruger to deal with the situation. Armed, I went back into the kitchen and tried to formulate a plan. At this point, I have to confess, it takes an incredible amount of willpower, blind faith and a strong case of masculine rationale to open a cabinet that you know contains a wild animal that might leap out all-teeth-and-claws at ready. My kitchen is relatively small, and there would be no good means of escape if the raccoon did go into “cornered animal” attack mode.

I actually used the sight on the end of the gun barrel to open the first cabinet (revealing the raccoon’s rear end), as well as the neighboring cabinet door.

There he sat inside on his ample butt, working on a box of Great Value brand pasta shells, blinking at the light and again acting as if nothing unusual was happening. If he had hissed or bared a fang, I’m certain I would have started shooting and not stopped until the gun went “click.” Instead, I had another moment to notice the animal is absolutely beautiful, with a shiny coat rivaling most house pets. The thing that kept me from firing, however, was the lack of knowledge about what was behind the cabinet and the potential for making a biohazard with rabies-infused raccoon juices.

Faced with my own rising panic, my brain took over and told my hand to shut the cabinet door. I then pounded on the cabinet doors and prompted our visitor to go back out the way he came in. I worked up my nerve and checked the cabinet space the next morning, only to find the mess the raccoon had made in there but no actual raccoon.

I sent a message to my buddy and overly-enthusiastic raccoon stalker Steven Miller, who seems to know no fear when it comes to raccoons despite my, and his own father’s, warnings based on real-life experiences.

Protected by little more than a double set of heavy leather gloves, a few layers of full-length clothing and a couple of bandanas to cover the mouth, nose and forehead, Miller pulled himself up  into the attic space through the first hole the raccoon had made in the bedroom. He then set out to make a scientific investigation of the situation and reported little to no damage other than directly above the kitchen cabinet, with no signs of nesting or toileting. And, even from the inside, there was nothing to indicate how the animal is getting in and out.

Miller’s plan, and I promise I couldn’t talk him into anything else, was to grab the raccoon and either punch it to death or break its neck. I told him I could not allow that, but he just laughed at me and agreed to carry a clawhammer to bash its brains in with. The raccoon itself was long gone by the time he got up there, so we baited a trap with bacon grease and peanut butter and set it in a spot up there which might be tough to retrieve with a mad raccoon inside. We also made a plate of bait (peanut butter with leftovers from my dinner that night) and placed it in the kitchen cabinet. I had removed everything else, and been informed there are heavy block walls on the back side of the cabinetry, making the space a kill box if the raccoon returned.

All was quiet (except in my imagination) the next night. I’m already aware that many people can’t condone the killing of an animal for anything other than food, but I promise — give me another shot at this guy and he’ll get two into the head followed by two to the chest. I even have permission to shoot through the cabinet doors if that is what it takes to get him.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.