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The Kirby File: They’re cute with their ‘Lone Ranger’ mask, but they can be destructive

'See the paw prints?' Brian Landahl, director of the Terminix Wildlife Division, said, and he didn’t hesitate. 'It’s a raccoon. You’ve got a raccoon.'


You may remember my creepy crawler story about the mischievous critter up there in my attic.

He or she would get started somewhere around 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. You could hear the scratching and the rumbling from one end of the attic to the other.

My first thought was a squirrel. Or perhaps even a rat. My hope was it wasn’t a raccoon, because two were over in the old vacant Bill Shaw home across the street, where the Terminix folks owned and used it for storage and whatnot. And where two raccoons found refuge in that attic via a hole in the roof.

I contacted Jim Haugh, the retired president and chief executive officer for the locally owned Terminix.

“Jim, just an alert that we have a raccoon issue,” I wrote an email to Haugh on Nov. 6. “You have two raccoons residing in the attic rooftop at the home across from mine. I saw them recently in the front yard, and then yesterday evening when they were on the roof and went inside the hole in the roof just before dark. At least one has crossed my yard about 10 p.m. one evening, and the same or another has been at my home climbing on the front porch bird feeder. Think I have some critter up in my attic, too, and I’m hoping it’s just a squirrel. You are in the business of dealing with these things. Just alerting you to the issue.” 

It didn’t take long for the business to trap the raccoons with folks from their wildlife division. But, I said, send your wildlife folks my way … just to make sure the raccoons don’t have a cousin in my attic.

“Yep,” Brian Landahl, manager of the Wildlife Division for Terminix, headed up the fold-out stairway, “it’s a raccoon.”

You haven’t, I said, even searched around up there.

No need, he said.

“See the paw prints?” Landahl said, pointing to the interior of the dropdown stairway. “It’s a raccoon. You’ve got a raccoon.”

Landahl placed a camera on the roof chimney pointing toward an attic ventilator dome in what Landahl suspected was the raccoon’s point of entry. Days went by. No sighting of a raccoon. Three days later, and the raccoon was caught in the act, not long before just midnight on Nov. 10 and at 5:50 a.m. on Nov. 11.

Give a listen, Kemosabe

Oh, they’re cute little critters with their Lone Ranger masks across their faces. But let me tell you something, Kemosabe, raccoons can be destructive. And they’re intelligent creatures. They have alternate routes of escape, and my raccoon tore out the soffit vent, as well, on the front of my home. When I say torn out the soffit vent, I mean ripped it completely out of the wooden eave with those forepaws.

Something else you may want to know about raccoons.

They’re suckers for cat food.

William Dooley placed a metal trap by the attic ventilator dome, with a can of cat food in the cage, and a morning or two later, and Landahl and his wildlife crew had their prey, aka my attic predator, that had its way in the attic for the better part of three months.

Something else you may want to know about those metal cage traps. The Great Harry Houdini couldn’t finagle his way out of one those contraptions once a varmint takes the bait.

Dooley placed a metal protective cage over the attic ventilator dome to prevent any further point of raccoon entry.

Something else you may want to know about a raccoon in your attic. A raccoon is costly to catch and costly to clean up after, too.

“We deal with raccoons in attics fairly regularly throughout the year,” Landahl says. “However, springtime is the most common when the females are having young. Some of the perils I have seen over the years include vast accumulation of feces, damaged insulation, and duct work in the attics. On the roof, they can also do a lot of damage to attic fans, soffits, ridge vents, shingles, roof decks and gable vents. I have had a few instances where they have fallen through a ceiling into the living space, and several issues with fleas from them.”

Something else you may want to know about the damage a raccoon can do in your attic. No need to call your insurance folks for homeowner’s financial assistance. When it’s a predator like a raccoon, you are on your own.

Catching a raccoon in your attic is just part of what we’ll call my Great Raccoon Adventure. You must sanitize the attic and where a raccoon has taken up his dastardly deeds, which brings me to Tyler Miller, a willowy, young fellow who showed up on a rainy morning on Nov. 21 and decked out in what appeared to be Hazmat gear from head to toe, and a respirator mask across his face.

And a disinfectant called Benefect brought along from Chris Andress, branch manager for the exterminator business.

I insisted that Brian Landahl come and inspect the attic just to be assured the raccoon adventure was at an end.

“Yep,” Landahl said, “he did a really good job.”


All is well on my side of the street.

Terminix didn’t fare as well with the home, circa 1958, of the late Bill and Joyce Shaw the business used for storage. Apparently, the two raccoons did so much damage to the red brick dwelling that it was demolished on the picturesque landscape in mid-December.

I spent a lot of time at that house as a youngster. Bill Shaw was the chief photographer for The Fayetteville Observer in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, I remember when he had the carport installed and when the den was built in the back and how he liked sitting back there in his easy chair. I still can see Joyce Shaw, Lois Condlin and the late Dot Tingen having their morning coffee on the front porch and watching the neighborhood kids play.

You hated to see the old home come down, but those raccoons did a number on Bill and Joyce Shaw’s old homeplace owned by Terminix.

“The most revelatory thing I can say about the raccoons in our building,” Jim Haugh says, “is that the damage they caused was one of the factors in our decision to tear down the structure.”

They’re cute little critters with their “Lone Ranger” masks across their faces. But raccoons can be destructive and create havoc. And you surely don’t want a raccoon sneaking into your attic while you’re sleeping in the night.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.


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