Raccoon Files: NextGen 1

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

This thread marks the beginning of a new chapter in a series which began in summer of 2006 with "Raccoons Getting A Little Too Friendly For Comfort" and later morphed into the Heidi Chronicles. The Heidi Chronicles ran from 2006 through 2013 ending with the death of its central character Heidi which marked the beginning of this, the Next Generation chapter in the ongoing series.

This is the story of the raccoons and other animals which come to eat and play at my backyard buffet. I hope you will join us as we discuss the goings on at the buffet.

Prior series (start of our story) begins here: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/603944/
Last thread (and end of prior series) is here: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1294059/

The photo below is of Desi, born the summer that Heidi died, and, at least for now, our new central character as we begin this the new post-Heidi chapter in our raccoon saga. She is seen looking in through my back patio door while waiting anxiously for dinner to be served. (Uh-uh-uh, no tampering with the pictures, PersonWhoKnowsWhoSheIs! No trying to lighten and enhance the image to bring out more of the mess on the patio, em, I mean detail in the pic. I know this pic is perfect for your talents, but remember, boundaries. I'm trying to keep my dirt/mess private.) ;-)

If you look really close in the pic, you can just make out 4 of her teats, 2 just over 1/2 way up her body and 2 near the bottom of the pic. They are thin, elongated conical masses not unlike Madonna's cone-shaped bodice from the Vogue era. It was upon seeing these that I knew she had kits somewhere.

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Oops! I didn't see or realize that we were in the middle of a conversation until after I had posted the The End sign on the previous thread. Oddly enough, I didn't get one of those bold, red warning indicating that someone had posted either. Is that maybe not working now, since they started the site renovations. Now that I think about it, I don't recall seeing that lately, but I haven't really paid much attention - until now.

Sorry. Very, sorry, but we can still continue the conversation about Amanda's iguana Rita over here. No biggie. I'm not sure if I would have held off on closing that other thread even if I had known we were mid conversation, because I was in the middle of the open/close project and needed to get it finished. I actually opened the new thread last night. Also last night, I had already typed the closing post on the prior thread and was just about to hit 'Send' when the power/lights went out. We were in the middle of one of our daily storms, except that this one took the power with it.

This morning when I saw that I had connectivity once more, I was eager to complete the thread transition. We can just continue the conversation on this thread if that's ok with everyone. I don't like to have posts added below the The End post, because once the The End post gets buried in the middle of other posts, people don't see it anymore and the thread continues to grow, with some people posting on the new thread and others continuing on the old thread. Then I have to copy the The End post and paste it to the new End. Argh! Headaches.

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

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This message was edited Aug 22, 2013 11:19 AM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Note: The following is part of a conversation from the end of the prior thread.

Amanda,

That's pretty cool that Rita lay against your leg under the cover and even more so that she reached for you when the vet tech was carrying her away. That would have gotten to me, too. That is really quite amazing, since everything I've ever read has indicated that reptiles don't experience emotion like we (mammals) do and thus don't show affection. Wait, where have I heard words like that before - oh, yes, animals.

Until very recently scientist were adamant that animals, even the mammal types did not have feelings or show emotions or affection. They said those of us who insisted to the contrary were just seeing what we wanted to see, and yet now that scientists are finally willing to consider the idea, research is proving that we were right all along. So, who knows, maybe you are seeing something in Rita that scientists a hundred years or so in the future will finally realize. :-)

About the word 'fragile', and like I said before, I was only using that word out of laziness, because I could not find the right word to express what I meant - anyhow, I don't really think of iguanas as fragile. No, that would be ridiculous. I only think of them as fragile in the limited context of those kept in the home.

When kept in pots on window sills, African Violets are fragile as are orchids, but in truth neither of these plants is actually fragile at all, not in its proper environment. Humans are fragile in outer space, while here on earth, or natural environment, some have been known to survive falling from an airplane w/o a parachute.

Bottom line, all organisms, iguanas, African Violets, orchids, and humans included, have a set of requirements for their health and will appear fragile if those requirements are not met. In plants, the ones we think of as hardy are the ones whose requirements match those available in our homes. The fragile plants, the ones that are difficult to grow, are the ones whose natural environment is substantially different from that in our homes, and thus, their needs not met, these plants often die despite our best efforts to keep them alive. So we say they are fragile, when what we really mean is that in relocating them to our homes, we have deprived them of the very things they need to survive, and so it is with iguanas and other animals which tend not to thrive in captivity. This is what I actually meant by 'fragile' - not fragile at all, merely displaced.

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

Oops, I feel like I intruded on a conversation. So sorry. I'll delete my above post.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Cville_gardener,

Welcome. Nice to have you with us. I, too, am glad that I finally found the time and energy to start the new thread and the new series. I must admit, however, that some of the very best of the raccoon stories are to be found in the prior (Heidi) series around the 2007/2008 time frame. That part of the story was particularly interesting and can never really be repeated, because it's the story of how I 1st met and grew comfortable with the raccoons and they with me. It's the story of the toys, the wading pool, the 'sand' box, and all kinds of other fun stuff. It's the story of how Heidi and the other Moms learned to bring their young toddlers here to play (with the toys, pool, etc) so they could eat peacefully w/o having 3-4 screaming kids at their feet - much like the early McDonalds theme with the kiddie playroom attached.

I would recommend that everyone skim through those early years both for their enjoyment and to better understand how it all began. You will know you are in the right place (in the old pages), when you are reading about Fraidy, Sissy, and Dennis The Menace. Those were some of the best days for me, too, and some of my very best memories of the gang. I recall a day when my little dog was chasing after Dennis (actually a female, but I didn't know it early on). Dennis escaped behind some shrubs.

The scene ended with the dog cautiously sniffing around behind the shrubs, looking for Dennis but 1/2 afraid he (dog) might actually find her (Dennis). At the very same time, Dennis had sneaked around the shrubs and was standing directly behind the totally unsuspecting dog, just standing there so close that she (Dennis) could have touched the dog had she wanted to do so, standing there even as the dog continued looking for her (Dennis). Imagine the moment when the dog finally realized someone was behind him, when he finally turned around to find the raccoon just standing there watching him. It was like those old Road Runner cartoons come to life. Those really were the days. To fail to read those stories is to rob oneself of the best of the raccoon tales.

I got closer to Dennis than to any of the others. Dennis was something of a bad girl. She never tried to hurt me or the dog, of course, but she tried to get away with things. She used to grab the bottom of the bag of grapes (that I took out for treats in those days) and try to run away with them. In the ensuing tug-of-war the bag would break spilling grapes everywhere. So I learned to pop Dennis gently on the top of the head when she was misbehaving. Can you imagine me reaching out in the darkness to pop a wild raccoon on the head? But I did, and it actually worked. Dennis never tried to strike back, but it would illicit her cooperation and best behavior, at least for the moment. (This was somewhat analogous to popping the back of a child's hand; I never did it hard enough to hurt her, just to get her attention.)

Dennis used to come early in the afternoon sometimes and would follow me around the garden when I was working, but I had to be careful not to leave anything outside (like my over shirt, for instance), even if Dennis wasn't around at the time, because I would come back out after my break to find it gone.

Dennis loved to play with my little dog, but not in a way that was necessarily fun for the dog. One day when the dog was chasing her, Dennis suddenly dropped back so that she was beside the dog and then as they neared the little wading pool, Dennis body slammed the dog sending him tumbling into the dirty water. The dog was a Maltese, and they just hate to get their long hair wet. The dog stood up in the pool, water running down his head, just looking so pathetic and hilarious. Dennis stood at the side of the pool giving him her very best, "What on earth are you doing in the pool?" look.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Oh, no, Cville!

That wasn't necessary, at all. On the raccoon threads, we just talk in a very relaxed manner. My plan was to post responses to you and to Amanda and also to tell about some recent raccoon events. To me, that's the way normal conversations run, with people talking about this and that all at once. I had already typed part of that post to Amanda last night when the power was off (using my laptop battery), so it was ready to 'Send' as soon as I got the thread transition completed. Then while you were deleting your post, I was typing my response to you. :-)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I have some things to do right now, but I will be back soon to respond to Amanda's newer posts, the ones I only saw this morning after I had completed the thread transition. Then I will tell you some more raccoon tails.

Amanda, hope you are coming over to join us on this thread. I really didn't see your newer posts until after I had already completed the thread transition. I started the transition last night. That is when I posted the new thread. Then the storm cut my power. Since I was on a laptop, I continued setting up the transition, typing the The End post, etc last night while sitting around in the dark waiting for the power to come back. This morning, as soon as I realized the power was back and I had connectivity, I hit 'Send'.

I was eager to complete the transition, so I wouldn't have some people on one thread and some on the other. Even then, as I was 'Sending' the final post on the old thread I had no idea that you had added more posts, and for some reason the system failed to warn me as it normally does or used to do. The transition to the new thread was NOT in any way meant to curtail the conversation about Rita! As I said in the final post, we can just continue our conversations over here. If you look back at other thread transitions, you will see that is what we have always done.

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

Hilarious. Thanks for that. No, I didn't go back that far but I will try to look at some of the Chronicles from years past. I always enjoy reading about critters.

I have one raccoon that visits me here. I am assuming it's a male since I've never seen signs of any kits. Well, I hadn't seen him either since we moved here in '09 - until earlier this year. I had just seen evidence of the nocturnal visits. Then one day I looked out the window and was startled to see the raccoon digging for and eating birdseed that had dropped out of one of the feeders. I've seen him once or twice during the day since then, but the sightings are infrequent.

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

I think we're cross-posting. lol. Anyway, that way people can read right through at the top. All I said was the usual "hello" stuff. :) I'm picking up from here.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Cville,

Your raccoon visitors is almost certainly a female, even though you have never seen kits. I called Heidi 'he' for the 1st few months, before the animal rehabber I consulted at the time informed me that 'he' was surely a female looking for food to keep the milk flowing for her kits. The rehabber turned out to be right.

Since then I've only seen one male who wasn't born here. HRH his royal highness was the Baby Daddy in the early days. He was a huge fella with a lovely, golden coat, such that he looked like a miniature mountain lion when standing atop the fence in the moonlight. He was an older male, a gentle giant who reminded me of Winnie the Pooh in some of the pics when he was sitting down. HRH was allowed to interact with the kits, something which males are virtually never allowed to do. Apparently, Heidi realized that he was harmless. After a few years, HRH disappeared. We like to think that he found another home somewhere else in the forest, although we realize that is not the most likely scenario.

Here is how it works with raccoons. The males typically live and remain deep in the forest where they are rarely seen by humans. The females, on the other hand, come to homes in search of food mostly in spring and fall when they are raising their young. During this time and especially when they are nursing, the female's need for food is off the charts. When nursing, they almost can't eat enough food to ever be full. I've seen lactating females eat a belly full and then rest under a nearby shrub for a while before getting up to eat another meal. Males need substantially less food and thus are quite able to find enough food to meet there needs in the forest. Females, on the other hand, have to walk some 5miles a night to gather enough food to sustain lactation.

Except for HRH, no other males have ever come to my backyard buffet with the singular exception of Trouble a male who grew up here and refused to leave - until the females ran him off once he reached puberty. With the group that lived and ate here in my backyard, only females were welcomed by the group once they reached adulthood. Each year the females would have kits. Because they were comfortable around me, they would bring their kits here to eat, but the following year when those kits were young adults, only the females would return.

Your raccoon is almost certainly a female. She may not be comfortable bringing her young kits so close to your house. When they are old enough, they may be with her even though you don't see them. She may leave them in a tree or hidden in some shrubs when she comes to your house. Just as we are careful not to put our children in danger, so it is with good raccoon moms. They know that while they themselves can asses and run from danger like dogs, cats, humans, and such, their kits may not be able to do so. Thus they are careful not to take the kits into dangerous situations.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Since I tend to write such lengthy posts, I often cross post with others. I'm used to it. Others will also understand when they read it back.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Ok, I'm going away to do some stuff now for real but will return later to reply to Amanda's posts and to tell you my raccoon news - and I do have some raccoon news.

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

Interesting. We back up to woods so there are all sorts of places for raccoons back there. I've always thought I should see more than one but never have. Although I couldn't say that for certain since they come at night.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Cville,

Raccoons are believed to be solitary animals which as adults do not interact with other raccoons except briefly for mating purposes; however, my observations of the raccoons in my backyard have shown something different. I found that groups of related females will live and interact in an area IF the available resources will support it. In other words, it looks to me as though a female will live alone, driving others out of her area if the resource in that area are only sufficient to provide for her and her young.

If the resources in a given area increase to a qty that will sustain more raccoons, the female who 'owns' that land will allow one or more of her adult daughters to remain with her in the area, allowing the group of females to grow but only until they reach the limits of the resources.

in 2006, I started with the one raccoon female Heidi and her kits for that year. I was hoping it would remain just Heidi and her kits, but the following year when the yearlings from the prior year showed up, I fed them, too. Thus, having no shortage of food, Heidi allowed them to stay - but only the females, no males. Over the years, as the group continued to grow, I continued to increase the food to accommodate them until finally I found myself sitting in my backyard in the dark on a tiny, garden buddy seat while quite literally surrounded by some 20+ wild raccoons all of which were milling about in competition for the treats, cookies and such, which I held. Suddenly, I realized how incredulous this scene would surely be to any onlookers, especially since most people think raccoons are aggressive.

By that time, I had some 20+ females each with 1 to 4 kits showing up nightly at my buffet. I had a back injury, and just carrying all those bags of cat food home from the store was a challenge for me. At the store, cashiers would look at me and ask, "How many cats do you HAVE?" Although I do have 2 cats now, at that time I had none, just oodles and oodles of raccoons.

Once I realized that my 'herd' of raccoons was going to continue to grow exponentially large, I became concerned. At 20+ adults all with kits, the group had become so large that it just wasn't fun anymore even to hang out with them, and once all those kits came back the following year, oh my, the group would be way to large. I decided I had to do something. I wasn't sure what to do to try to make the group smaller. I decided to cut down on the food and let them figure it out. It was hard to do, but w/in about a week something miraculous happened. The size of the group shrank to fit the food supply. Heidi ran the older adults, who could care for themselves, off. It was then that I realized the food was the key.

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

Yes, they are most often said to be solitary and territorial. That would certainly result if they lack food, I would think.

Greensboro, NC(Zone 7b)

Hello ladies. :)

I followed you to this post earlier in the day, Cheryl. Apparently I got distracted while I was reading your first post on the Kindle. I have no memory of it except that when I turned on the Kindle just now it opened right up where I left off. Good thing only one of us has memory problems.

When I found the Heidi Chronicles was the period when I had hurt my wrist at work ( 5/26/2011) and was out per doctor's orders for almost a year. I did go back and read thru the entire series. Wow! I could hardly believe you had been seeing Heidi since 2006 or earlier. Soon I as able to figure out TH inside jokes (about Debbie (I think?) ) editing your photogrAphs. And I was riveted because when you care for wildlife, particularly at the extremes (e.g. raccoons), it's hard to find many to empathize, but here you were, and I felt very much at home. :)

I'm not at all perturbed about jumping threads. Haha- I told you before when you were apologizing for your april fools HOAX I have a dry used to be sarcastic wit, and I am pretty laid back. I appreciate you encouraging chat about Rita as we don't have a thread about green iguanas (yet!). I did post the handful of photos of her that we love, which reflect some cognition in her expression. Like pictures of a still life or bumble bee on the hyssop moving in a breeze, you have to take a lot of bad pictures to get a good one. One of my dogs is like that, Snoopy, has been so hard to photograph because TH way the light plays on her black and white border collie markings doesn't allow you to see into her deep brown eyes.

I love the picture of Rita looking over the counter at my heart shaped Valentine cookie cutters. It actually was Valentine's day during breeding season (winter!) while she was engaged in her daily "stomp around the house and knock crap off the book shelves" routine in search of the perfect place to lay a clutch full of eggs.

When we moved to this house I hoped to deny her access to kitchen counters. I mentioned before that Igs don't bounce, and I watched once helplessly as she took a nose dive sliding off a counter at my old condo. That's when you find out whether your Ig Is fragile! If they have that metabolic bone disorder, they lack enough calcium and their bones are easily broken. Her tail slappd down hard on the linoleum (concrete slab underneath) and it caused the tip of her tail to bleed. When I found her, she showed signs of prior tail injury (Igs can release part of their tail to escape from predators and stupid humans) so i guess that aggravated the old injury, but she as fine otherwise. Scared the hell out of me though. As she is free range, I followed her nervously, anxiously throughout the house... GAH!!! I'm such a freak.

Anyway, that Valentine's day pic is her climbing up an overstuffed chair pushed up against the back side of the counter/island to see what I was doing. LOVE!

Of the pic of Court holding her tightly against him, a fellow Ig owner asked "is she really that big?" To which Court replied, "she's as big as she looks."

The eggs were squishy leathery things, and she was very protective of them. She amazed me then, as she always has. But there I was during that time wracked with fear about all the stories I'd heard about captive Igs suffering dire complications.

So while she is the most effort I think in some raw way I get the most enjoyment from our relationship ((since my Lhasa died anyway) as I could stare at her all day. She always wins because I blink. It's like gazing at a portrait, a fish tank, a blade of grass. :)

I'd love (?) To pick her up more and let her ride on my shoulders like some more tame Igs I'm familiar with via online listservs, but she's got these incredibly sharp claws which she doesn't like me to trim, and besides, she's a wild animal!!!

Now that I know how to handle her and perhaps as she ages and gets bigger she is less prone to execute "alligator rolls" to escape me. And as we continue to get to know each other, Court likes to remind me, when her face is close to mine, that I am uninsured. Funny guy.

Thanks for your interest. Do please let us know if/when you make any progress towards painting her likeness. That's great!

Getting tired here but have many miles to go before I sleep. Night, night.

A.





Hamilton, OH(Zone 6a)

Amanda, I wouldn't put you in the group of people I was talking about. You may bring home animals before you know their needs. You differ from the people I was talking about because you learn about their needs and how to care for them. You seem like a animal lover with a big heart to me.

Cheryl, Can't wait to get the raccoon update! Hope it's about Desi and some kits!

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

Ditto on the raccoon update. I'm ready. :)

Dover AFB, DE(Zone 7a)

Waves HI! ^_^ I've made the thread jump, too!

It is interesting to hear about your iguana! My only experience with them was one that ran away from home and lived on my compost heap one winter in Louisiana. It ate all of the flowers in my garden and all of the fruits and some of the veggies that I put out for it. In late January a couple of boys came by asking if they could adopt it and I quizzed their parents to be sure that they could care for it....and it was gone...

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

I saw a lot of iguanas in So. Cal. Of course, not so much here. I'm sure people do keep them as pets but you just don't see them very often except maybe in the larger pet stores. Now raccoons are another thing. Yep, we got 'em around here. :)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Amanda,

I am super happy to see that you are here. I just suddenly, right in the middle of the thread changeover, became concerned that it may have appeared as though I was abandoning you & Rita. I totally wasn't, but I could see how one might have taken it that way, and so I worried. We really needed a new thread - had needed one for a very long time. The reason why I made the change when I did will be evident in time - soon, actually.

At this point, I'm going to proceed with the raccoon story just to get recent events on 'paper' before I forget the details. After that, I'll return to the iguana story. I still need to look at the photos up close and with a critical eye to determine if I will be able to work from them. It's a matter of things which relate to what does and doesn't work in paintings and has nothing at all to do with how good they are as photographs. I will let you know when I've had a chance to do that. I'm hoping they will have the desired properties, as I've been wanting to paint an iguana for some time now. Either way, I greatly appreciate that you took the time to post them.

I'm going to check for raccoons and will be back soon to write the raccoons stuff.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I did manage to wrangle up one raccoon earlier tonight, but I don't think it was Desi. I'm pretty sure it was Commander. I haven't spent enough time around these two to be able to recognize them readily as I did some of the characters from the earlier days. It doesn't help that they are very similar in color and size. Both are quite small for adults, something that makes me wonder if the growing kits of that year (last summer) may have suffered malnutrition during a critical developmental stage, possibly as a result of loosing access to the buffet and of loosing Heidi's leadership abilities and her skill at locating food.

Taking a step back in time now to the period just after my last raccoon specific post, back to the time when Desi had shown up again after a brief hiatus and was showing up fairly regularly in daylight in the last few hours just prior to sundown...

I lost tough with her again shortly after that last post. Several things happened around that time which I suspect played a part in our getting out of sync. As I mentioned on another thread, at that time I suffered the sudden onset of very severe back/hip pain spanning a period of about 2wks (give or take). I have no idea what precipitated the pain, only that it quite severe and debilitating, the worst pain I had experienced in over two years. It was as though the universe just needed to assert its dominance and remind me of my injury.

The pain originated in a form such that I was barely able to walk at all and then only in a hugely contorted posture and later culminated in a particularly dreadful weekend during which I thrashed about in an endless and futile search for some position in which the pain was at least bearable. The 1st few evenings during this period, I hobbled to the back door once, maybe twice, to check for Desi but was unable to summon either the discipline or desire to make the additional checks necessary to meet up with her. On subsequent nights as the pain grew worse still, I regret to admit that I failed to get up to check on her at all.

As if this were not enough to get us completely out of sync, on the very 1st night after the pain had subsided enough to allow me to resume my early evening trips to the patio to look for Desi, suddenly my next door neighbor held a series of daily/nightly parties in his backyard complete with lots of people, loud music, revelry. In fact, the 1st of these parties was an afternoon kids' party that continued until slightly past sundown and included one of those bouncy castle things set up adjacent to my backyard fence. This being Desi's 1st year coming to the patio to eat, I was not at all shocked when she failed to show up with so much commotion going on just over the fence.

Even when all of these issues subsided, when I was finally able to get to the back door to check for her and it was also quiet and calm outside with no indication of other people nearby, there was still no sign of Desi. At 1st I though maybe she had given up during that time when I wasn't able to feed her and had merely stopped coming around at all, but when a number of days went by w/o any sign of her, I started to realize that something else must be going on. It just seemed unlikely that she would so easily stop coming here in search of food. Once raccoons find food in a particular location even once, they usually continue to check that location for years afterward just in case.

When Desi failed to show up at all during the week or so after the revelry next door had ended, I began to suspect that all this had something to do with the kits, more specifically with her finally beginning to take them out with her in search of food. I figured her failure to show up on the patio when called, likely meant that she either had changed her schedule to avoid the risk of bringing the kits out in daylight or was simply unwilling to bring them to the patio at all, at least not with me there.

I had known for some time that Desi had kits out there in the forest somewhere. I could tell from her swollen teats that she was lactating during the weeks leading up to this time when she once again stopped showing up. It was already well past the time when Heidi and the others would have been bringing their kits to the buffet. I figured Desi just wasn't comfortable bringing her young kits to the patio yet. This wasn't all that unexpected considering that our relationship was so new and she did not have the comfort of coming here with the larger family group as had the raccoons of former years.

None the less, even when I had long since given up on actually seeing her out there, I continued each night making trips to the patio to call Desi and to check for her. Then one night at dusk I turned on the outside light to find not only Desi on the patio but also her 3 kits. The kits, while still quite small, were clearly a few weeks older than the ones Heidi used to bring here. Still and as always, the kits just melted my heart the moment I laid eye on them.

To Be Continued...

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

That 1st night, the kits ran away to find cover in nearby shrubs as soon as I stepped out onto the patio. The furry little guys were SO adorable - real live 'teddy bears', they were - and I was heartbroken to see them all run off and hind that way. Without the support system we enjoyed all those years with Heidi and the gang, I now wondered if the kits would ever be comfortable around me, this year at least.

That night I did take the last one of those practice golf balls out with the food. Even though the kits had vanished, I set the little, plastic ball down beside Desi's plate in hopes the kits would come out from cover as soon as I left and would find it there. As soon as I put it down, Desi reached for it. She quickly set it down again upon realizing what it was not. She had obviously mistaken it initially for an egg as it was white and very close in size and shape. Seeing the enthusiasm with which she had grabbed it and the disappointment with which she had put it down again, I quickly ran back inside to get her a real egg.

The 2nd night, I switched on the patio light to find Desi out there waiting for me, her kits happily swimming in my wheel barrow which had filled to the very top with rain water. They even had one of the old toys, a brightly colored, plush animal, in the makeshift pool with them. Again they were adorable beyond words.

That 2nd night, I guess it is safe to say that I went a bit berserk. Even though the youngsters hid from me, I made a at least 3 trips out there to take treats and toys. They hid from me, but this time they stood around under my feet for a few minutes while I was serving up food before deciding to hide. Plus two of them hid in the secluded area behind the patio potted plants; only one felt the need to go back to the shrubs to hide out.

Encouraged by this change in behavior, I ran back inside in search of sweets & toys for the kids. I returned with 2 toys (enough to make a total of 3 when added to the one already outside, enough so that each kit could have one), a 4in long plush turtle designed for 'toy' dogs and one of those brightly colored, PetStages puppy toys made up of multiple, small balls strung together on tough, fabric 'rope'. The latter was a toy designed to appeal to and stimulate the puppy's many senses with its numerous, bold colors plus the tactile feel of 'ropes', fabric tubes actually, each made of fabric with a different texture and of plastic balls, some smooth and others with raised 'dots'. Some of the fabric 'ropes' were silent, while others made a crinkly sound when touched.

The only thing sweet I could find in the house was a slightly stale packet of Little Debbie choc peanut butter bars, so I took those out, as well. Since the kits had already gone off to hide, I set the 2 toys down near Desi in the area where I had seen the kits eat the night before (after I left). I broke the choc peanut butter bars into small, 1in pieces and strategically tossed a few in the areas where the kits had hidden, tossing some near the patio pots and 1 over by the shrubs. In a minute or so, I began to see little hands reach out to grab the ones by the patio pots, and the kit over in the shrubs walked out from its hiding place to pick up the piece I had tossed over there and taste it before carrying it back into hiding.

To be continued...

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I don't know if it was the treats and toys that did it or what, but on the 3rd night the kits did not bother to hide at all. In fact, they were under my feet for a bit before going over to eat beside their mother. I made a 2nd trip out to take them more bits of choc peanut butter bar, and all but the most timid one remained in place by their mother eating as I walked over to them, bent down, and set the treats down in front of them.

On this night I sat down near them for a short while before going back inside. I was very excited by the progress we had made in such a very short time. Unfortunately, I've not seen them or their mother since that night - at least, I don't think i've seen their mother. The last 2 nights when I went to the back door and called out to Desi after dark, a raccoon about her size quickly came to the door but w/o any kits. Although I, of course, fed the raccoon that showed up, I'm fairly sure both from behavior and appearance that it was not Desi but rather Commander.

Since Desi started bringing the kits she has been arriving after dark as I had suspected she would. This has opened the door for Commander who, if you recall, hadn't been around as long as Desi was coming here in daylight. I'm not sure why I haven't seen Desi & the kits lately. We may just be showing up at different times. Desi is new at this and doesn't tend to wait nearly as long for me as Heidi and the others did. I guess Desi isn't that confident yet that I will show up if she waits. Thus it is hit or miss, and I often have to make numerous trips to check on her.

I actually don't think Commander is the problem. Now that Desi is arriving with kits in tow, Commander is willing to relinquish the food to them even if they show up after she has begun to eat. I witnessed this most unexpected course of events one night earlier. Although it surprised me, it is in keeping with the 'societal' behaviors I saw in the Heidi gang. Females with kits rank higher in pecking order, eat 1st, and generally get preferential treatment. I don't know, btw, if Commander has kits, only that she doesn't bring them to the patio with her. Commander is less comfortable around me than Desi is. She only comes to the patio and such, because she learned these behaviors from Desi.

I haven't seen those adorable kits for a couple of days. I miss them already. I expect - and hope - that Desi will show up with them again one day very soon.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

One thing which had to have a positive effect on the kits was watching their Mom rush right up to the door to meet me even as I was stepping out onto the patio. I noticed her doing this the 1st few nights as the kits were hanging back at the edge of the patio trying to decide if they should run and hide. Seeing their Mom come rushing right up to my feet with enthusiasm, follow me across the patio, and then stand calmly as I put food in front of her would have to send the signal that this is not someone to fear. At any rate, they have quickly gone from hiding to staying out in the open when I'm there.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Amanda,

I'm starting to look over the pics more critically and in greater detail now. There are several that ignite my creative juices. A couple of the things I'll be looking for include whether there is: (1) enough detail available and (2) a good play of light vs dark (or values). A good balance of light/dark is important both to get a 3D effect and also for good composition. Detail is especially important to me, because I tend to do very detailed work, especially in this type of painting which is basically a portrait of an animal. Since I have little or no knowledge of iguanas, I can't fill in missing information.

I've been writing for a while. I'm going to take a break now, before I come back to study the photos. I will keep you apprised of my progress and decisions. Again, I cannot overstate my appreciation for this! :-)

Edited to add: I let my finger hover too close to the keys and 'Sent' by mistake. I wanted to add that I have seen positively awesome, professional photos, often of landscapes, that take my breath away and of which I am initially inspired to paint, only to find upon more critical evaluation that despite their beauty as photos, they would not make good painting references at all - even if I were able to obtain the photographer's permission for a derivative work. I'm NOT saying your photos won't work. I'm excited about a few of them. I'm just trying to explain something which seems almost nonsensical, that a good photo may not always make a good painting. There are both similarities and differences in what we look for in a photo vs a painting. Unless one has studied painting/art, this is neither obvious nor easy to explain.

This message was edited Aug 31, 2013 3:43 AM

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Thanks so much for updating us about the raccoons! It's thrilling that Desi's comfort level around you translated so easily to the kits. I'm so sorry that your back was bad for an extended period of time. Hope the pain doesn't recur...

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

Happy Birthday, DreamOfSpring. Any many more. ^_^

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thanks, Liz,

Even human children learn a lot from their parents' body language and behavior around various people and in different situations. These are often the kinds of things parents 'teach' unintentionally. I guess it's only natural that the kits would realize that a creature Mom approaches eagerly can't very well be dangerous. Watching Mom put her face inches from the human's hand to begin eating would also have to send a powerful message to hungry kits watching nearby. Plus, like Santa I like to believe the delivery of all those toys and treats must have earned me a little good will with the little ones - at least that's how it works in the fantasy land in my mind.

As for me, I'm doing fine now. Thanks.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Cville!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Amanda,

By any chance do you have higher resolution versions of any of those pics available? After looking them over, I've found several that I really like for the painting, but it would help a LOT if I could get more detail (around the face, eyes, and such).

I like 'vet school 2012'. It's not the exact pose I was looking for, but it's close, and I do like it a lot. This one has the best facial detail of any of them. I could probably work from it as is, but I could do an even better job from a higher res version, if such is available. Rita has a very lovely face which does very much excite the artist in me. This pic also has some of the 'value' information of which I spoke earlier. That is also important for a successful outcome.

A few others that I like (for a painting reference) are: 'breakfast smile' along with the 1st & 4th from the 2nd group you posted. In the 1st she appears to be climbing up onto something close to a bright light which I presume to be her 'warming' lamp. In the 4th, there are heart shaped cookie cutters in the foreground of the pic. All of these show her face, neck, and shoulders from a similar angle, and all are close to the pose I was seeking. These, however, have less available detail such that I would need a bit higher resolution to work from them. Even when I attempt to zoom in for higher detail on these, the information around the eyes, for instance, blurs. Need more pixels. :-(

The one where the guy (Mr Amanda, maybe?) is holding her might even be the best yet, except that is lower res and thus has lower detail than any of them - lower detail for Rita, that is. The guy seems to be depicted in fabulous detail. ;-)

The one where she is on the girl's back (your daughter?) might also be good for what I want to do, but I would need a much higher res pic in order to zoom in close on Rita's front 1/2 and still have good detail.

The one with the sharpie was close (to getting on my list), but when I zoomed in - and I did this several times, because I kept wanting to include it - my gut feeling is that it's not right, at least not for what I want to do. I think the 'problem' is that the focus on that one will always be on the neck area and those big 'spot' things (sorry, I lack proper terminology here), whereas I really want the focus in my painting to be on the face. The size, position, and prominence of the neck (and spots) in that photo will invariably take center stage making that the focal point. Although that's not what I want for this painting, I think that one might make a good painting on its own terms, so long as the artist sets out to dramatize the neck area as the center of focus - thus playing to the strength of that pose.

So, any higher res pics available for the one's mentioned? You could send them to me via dmail or post on another site and dmail me links if you prefer. Some photo sites allow you to designate an album as private and then give an individual access through a link or otherwise, if you don't want to make the high res versions available to the net in general. I promise to use them only for the stated purpose (as a reference for a painting) and to keep you apprised of progress.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

I lost you somehow!! Happy birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday Dear Cheryl,
Happy Birthday to you!!! I hope you get a Desi & kits birthday visit!

Birthday hugs,
Sheri

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi Sheri,

Good to see you. Thank you very much for the birthday song, wish, and hug. Haven't seen Desi and the kids for a few days, so a birthday visit would be nice in deed.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Although I haven't managed to meet up with Desi and the kits for a few days, I have seen evidence that they are still around. One day I awoke to find that a small, leafless, multi-limbed branch had been added to the wheel barrow 'pool'. It was only about 10-12in long and was clearly a kit toy, something they had been playing with in the 'pool'. They left it sitting upright in one corner of the wheel barrow.

The purple plush animal, the one they brought to the pool from elsewhere in the yard, has now been tossed out of the pool. The plush turtle I gave them the other night disappeared that same night. No idea what they did with that one. It will probably turn up somewhere in the yard eventually. The LifeStages puppy toy seems to get lots of play time. It get moved all about the patio from day to day and left in all manner of positions. Clearly, there is playing going on out there, even if I've not been there to see it. :-)

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

That's so great to hear, and I am so happy that Heidi's legend continues. I love that pic of her waiting at your back door window for you. Desi's kits trusting you so quickly is so cool Maybe you could add a tree house addition onto your house and the next generation can just move right in.. I can see desi's 3 rushing in now. they will have to form a line for shoe windsurfing. Oh how Iove this thread and your writing talent!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Sheri!

Btw, that is DESI in the cover photo - the raccoon at the back door looking in. If you look close you can see that she is standing up on her hind legs. Heidi usually stayed on all 4's at the door, but Desi likes to stand up tall like that. Desi comes up to the door and stands up like that after I call her, and she comes to the door and sees me standing there. I tell her I'll be right back, and she stays there watching me as I turn to collect the food before going out.

LOL. I love the idea of the tree house. It made me laugh and smile. Oh, and btw, you got your wish. I went to the door shortly after dark and called Desi. I didn't really expect her to be out there, because my neighbor next door had a couple of loud kids (little kids) just over the fence and some music playing in the backyard, all of which I figured would scare them away, but I called just in case. Imagine my surprise when Desi came up to the door - and by the time I returned with food, the kits were there with her. (Thanks for wishing me that birthday gift!)

More below...

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I already had the food in hand when I returned to the door to see the kits at Desi's side. It was then that I recalled the cheap bag of vanilla s/w cookies I had purchased at the market a few days ago. I ran back across the kitchen for the cookies.

This time when I got back to the door, two of the kits were right up against the door, closer even than their mom. One little fella (or young lady) was standing up with its hands against the glass. I didn't want to scare them or cause them to run away. I don't know what came over me, but I quickly broke a cookie, gently opened the door just enough to reach my hand through it and offered the cookie to the kit that was standing against the door. It was a chancy move. I don't know these kits yet, nor they me. I might have scared them away, or worse been bitten, but, thankfully, it turned out to be the right move, after all.

Some raccoons reach out with their two hands to grasp the cookie. Others take the cookie in their mouths. This kit used both, a most rare method. She reached out to grasp the cookie with her mouth, and at the very same time gently clasped her little hands around mine. I imagine she did the hand thing to steady mine or perhaps to better insure she would get the cookie, but it reminded me very much of that very gracious thing some people do when they clasp your hand in one of theirs as if to shake it and then use their other hand to cover it so that your hand ends up gently clasped between their two hands. It is always a more personal and very comforting thing to do, and so it felt when the kit did it - as though she were clasping her hand in her tiny hands just for a moment to say, "thank you, kind lady."

By that time the most unusual thing had happened. All 3 of the kits and Desi were crowding around the door in search of a cookie. I opened the door to try to offer one to another kit, 1/2 expecting that she would run away as soon as she saw my hand coming at her, but she did not. She reached up and took the cookie using the very same method as her sister, perhaps because she had seen that method work so well for her sister. She took the cookie in her mouth while simultaneously clasping her tiny hands around mine ever so gently.

I hurriedly tossed a cookie (piece) to Desi and then reached to offer one to the 3rd and most shy of all of the kits. She, too, was up near the door but by this time had moved back a bit into a sheltered corner partially behind the outside baker's rack. Her being so shy, I wasn't at all sure she would take a cookie from me, but I gave it a try, and most incredibly she reached up and took it in her little hands.

So, tonight I was able to hand feed all 3 of the kits! This being only about the 4th time I've seen them, I would say that's pretty incredible. They really like the cookies, btw! And so does Desi. After that I stepped out onto the patio where I was able to walk among them as though they were a litter of kittens raised in a box in my house. I put the food down for them and broke up the few cookies I had left, giving each a piece. The shy one had moved back behind the others, so I tossed her a cookie shard, too.

I talked to them quietly for a few minutes before coming back inside. The neighbor's grand kids were still talking, laughing, playing loudly and the music was still a bit loud, too. I was pleasantly surprised that Desi and the kits were not frightened by the sounds.

All in all, it was a very nice birthday present. :-)

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Some of you may recall that while Heidi was an excellent mother, we also had some raccoon moms such as Diva who largely ignored their kits. Desi, while not as practiced and accomplished as Heidi (at least not yet), is a very good raccoon mom who pays close attention to her kits.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Thank You Lord for bringing Desi to Cheryl and for the special birthday 'clasps' of those tiny kit hands. I would have felt very close to heaven during that interaction.

Oh I am so happy about the Desi chapter. It is wonderful that she is an attentive mom also.

I wish someone would send you an outdoor motion camera to capture all of this wonder as it happens.

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