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Raccoons, pigeons and squirrels: Our home for the usually scorned

Jun 16 2017 -
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This is just a little post about the raccoons we are happy to now have visiting us every night. Many of you that follow along on my blog here know that I have a full and complete “do no harm and leave no foot prints behind” policy. I am notorious for informing anyone on our property that if they kill it here I will MAKE them eat it. I don’t have any problem with hunting, raising or harvesting our/your own food and that is whether it is us (or the wild animals we share our farm with) as long is it is taken in necessity, quickly and with the least amount of waste possible.

Night time visitors, feeding the raccoons, the squirrels and the pigeons, all are welcome on our farm
Night time visitors, feeding the raccoons, the squirrels and the pigeons, all are welcome on our farm

Which is why when we started being visited by raccoons the first thing I said to Joe was, “Don’t hurt them!” Or when our bird feeders got taken over by gray squirrels I made no attempt to “squirrel-proof” anything instead I went out and purchased food just for them. When I mention our night time visitors (and the squirrels too!) the first inquires I get are, “Aren’t you going to shoot them?” Yeah umm, NO. For one thing: as long as there is food here the raccoons are going to keep coming and, for another raccoons are no where near as dangerous as they have been made out to be.

Night time visitors, feeding the raccoons, the squirrels and the pigeons, all are welcome on our farm

Will they get into any food and/or trash you leave outside? Of course they will – they’re hungry. Do they carry diseases? Yes, some of them do, just like every other creature on this planet. Will I be going out on our deck for a cuddle and a hug? Surely not – I wouldn’t try to do that with our squirrels either lol I also wouldn’t walk into a horse or cow pasture and expect any creatures it contains to welcome me with open arms either. The fact of the matter is I’m not going to stop feeding my birds or my squirrels and bigger critters will simply keep coming around too.

Night time visitors, feeding the raccoons, the squirrels and the pigeons, all are welcome on our farm

I may call this “our farm” but we share it with many and I feel that with every step outside here I am inviting myself to another creature’s living room WITHOUT an invitation. I am a guest. WE are guests here. They belong here just as much as we do (or more so…) and you won’t find me doing anything to disturb that unless I absolutely have to. (Seriously though we really do live in wild kingdom up here, we don’t live in “the suburbs” or even what you could call “rural” we really do live WAY out in the sticks – wild animals will always be very close at hand and there really isn’t anything we can do about it. In fact, we love it and that’s why we live here, why we feed the deer, why we throw back a hundred times more fish then we keep etc.)

Night time visitors, feeding the raccoons, the squirrels and the pigeons, all are welcome on our farm

First thing I’m going to say before I mention the next thing about raccoons is that I LIKE cats, though I will admit I am more of a “dog person”, I really am just an ANIMAL PERSON. However, we have pigeons and we love our pigeons – at one point we counted a flock of over fifty doing their wonderful little purring and clucking on the top of our barn one night. (Another scorned animal that we are happy to have and house, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard pigeon’s called “sky rats”) Remember how I mentioned how I can’t abide with waste? Well, here’s the truth about our cute little domesticated cat pets:

“A 2012 study by the University of Georgia and National Geographic found that U.S. cats could kill as many as 4 billion birds and small mammals a year, and in 2013, similar research by the Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded the real numbers were even higher.
The majority of these animal deaths were attributed to feral cats or stray cats, but the 2013 study notes that domestic cats allowed to roam outdoors “still cause substantial wildlife mortality.”
Conservation groups like the National Audubon Society encourage cat owners to keep their pets indoors for the protection of wildlife. And animal welfare agencies, including the Humane Society and the American Veterinary Medical Association, have echoed this sentiment, pointing out that indoor cats also live substantially longer than outdoor ones because they’re not exposed to traffic, disease and other animals.”
(Reference link here)

We have lost more then one pigeon to cats and I can tell you that it breaks my heart every damn time. Not because a pigeon’s death is necessarily a big deal but because every time a cat goes after a pigeon in our barn it doesn’t always kill it, it never eats it and there is always some very serious suffering for the poor pigeon. At one point we had a pigeon that a cat attacked and broke BOTH of its wings. We tried keeping it here so that it might heal but it found a way out to walk a half a mile, in the ditch, up the road, trying to get to its flock which had flown over to our neighbors’ barn. Just the image of that little bird walking all that way down our country road (with blood all over its wings and back) was enough to make me lose my cool entirely.

Night time visitors, feeding the raccoons, the squirrels and the pigeons, all are welcome on our farm

Which brings me back to our raccoon situation because I realized something last night: the raccoons have been visiting us for nearly three months and, in that time, the cats have all but vanished. We have also had a pack of coyotes get real close over this spring as well and I think between them and the raccoons the cats either simply haven’t survived or have learned to stay away. So that put our little raccoon visitors in a whole new happy place in my heart. Besides that everyone (and I mean EVERYONE up here in northern MN) had a tremendous mouse problem last year (something about the acorns not coming in…) it was so bad that cat adoption was up 20%! Well, I am also pleased to report that our little mouse problem has vanished entirely as well.

Night time visitors, feeding the raccoons, the squirrels and the pigeons, all are welcome on our farm

Now we are breaking the rule everyone says when they talk about how horrible raccoons are (and SO dangerous and SO disease-filled) we are now putting out food for them too. And, just like with the squirrels, they are now leaving our bird feeders alone and we also get a little night time show as well 🙂 Really it was either that or we would have had to have stopped feeding everything – we may as well enjoy our little visitors.

Night time visitors, feeding the raccoons, the squirrels and the pigeons, all are welcome on our farm

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8 Comments

  1. June 16, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I love your thought process, I feel the same way! I don’t know what it is about getting older but I seem to be getting more and more sensitive to animals, I hate to see or even think of an animal suffering. Sometimes I can’t get the images I’ve seen out of my head, it makes me feel like I’m going crazy sometimes! I hate it! But stories like yours make it better :o)

    Tania

    • June 16, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Its good to hear I’m not the only one Tania! It took me a little bit but now my husband is becoming just like me! He even has a “pet” toad that lives under our porch that comes out now and they sit together every night lol

  2. June 18, 2017 at 4:26 am

    I have to tell you I really agree with you! I really appreciate all kinds of Wildlife and if it’s doing a service by killing other small pests that carry a lot more diseases all the better too. I saw the same thing as you with one of our neighbors cats not trying to eat a bird, but maim it enough that it wasn’t able to fly right away. I was able to get it away from the cat, let it recover and then it was okay. Another neighbors cat that is out all the time is really scarred up and pretty beat up living from a rough life outside. Our last indoor house kitty livedvto be about seventeen and she was really really healthy. Good for you feeding the critters! Nancy

    • June 19, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      That’s so good to hear Nancy! I’ve already fielded a comment that I almost deleted because that commenter said they just kill anything like raccoons or squirrels because of the damage they “could” do. But I thought I needed to suggest for them (and on the blog) that to consider being reasonable and not doing anything of the kind until the critters actually do become a problem. I think that’s pretty fair! For Goodness Sake! Anyway, its so good to hear I’m not the only one!

  3. Toni
    June 18, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Oh yeah, the furry little guys are so cute – until they get into your house/garage/barn/shed. Ripped out wiring, shredded materials, stashed-for-later decomposing stuff, and piles of animal poop feeding flies and festering disease……………. No thanks. I do my best to catch them and kill them, and no I would not eat them. We can easily feed the birds without allowing squirrels and raccoons access. You mentioned that pigeons are called sky rats. Here, we call squirrels tree rats. Just wondering – Do you feel the same way about possums, mice and rats? Would you feed/encourage those too? Thanks so much!

    • June 19, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      Hey Toni, I would normally just delete your comment as I have no interest in replying or condoning your type of “casual” killing. However I also know a lot of people feel as you do – kill first because humans are more important than anything else etc. Possums are INCREDIBLY beneficial to the environment – I would love to have Possums in my yard as they are some of the very best predators against ticks but, sadly, we don’t have them in our part of the state. I absolutely encourage and would feed any creature that belongs in my yard and on our acreage naturally, they were here first and every single one of them serves a purpose to the ecology of our state and our planet. You suggest because what a creature can do to your home (cause damage etc) then it should just be killed automatically, what a ridiculous and terrible way of thinking and exactly why our planet is in the state that it is in. I suggest we wait until that creature becomes a danger or a problem before doing anything but I also suggest that killing should be a last resort – seems pretty reasonable to me.

  4. June 18, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    I live on the farm, so I can relate, great life.

    • June 19, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      For sure! Thanks for coming by Cynthia!

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