Monday, January 24, 2011

Don’t Feed the Animals!

WA@2.4K’ welcomes journalism major and guest blogger Desiree Clark!

Don't Feed the Animals!

By Desiree Clark

Raccoon sightings are common in my Cheney, Wash. neighborhood. I have seen a raccoon at least a half a dozen times and others have seen paw prints and small raccoons. My neighbors nearby seem to shrug off any warning I give that they have moved in.

My neighbor, who lives below me, and I have started to refer to our friendly neighborhood raccoon as “Al.” According to Pelotes Island Nature Preserve, the name “raccoon” may have come from the Algonquin Indian word “arukun” meaning “he who scratches with his hands.” We figured Al was easier to pronounce. I am a night owl and apparently Al is the same.

My apartment has a laundry area in the basement of the house. Unfortunately, I am the attic apartment and have to go outside around the back of the house and down a cement stairwell to access it. While coming up from the laundry around 8 p.m. a few nights ago, I rounded the corner of the house and came face-to-face with Al.

Apparently I startled him, as he sure as heck startled me. He reared up on his hind legs and stood as tall as my chest. This is not saying much as I am only five feet tall. However, for someone my size to be reared on by a wild animal that is about the same size, I was freaked out with no escape nonetheless.

Turning around meant getting trapped in the cement stairwell and he was blocking my path around the house. Doing the only thing I could, I ran for the stairwell and pounded on my neighbors’ window. Al followed of course, and doing this catlike stalking move, he crept towards to stairs. I pounded harder.

By this point I was shaking uncontrollably and my neighbor was not answering. Al slowly moved forward and the front door of my neighbor’s house finally opened up. Man to the rescue. When the door opened up and my neighbor who is twice my size came out, Al ran over our fence and off to torment someone else.

I shook for about 30 minutes before shooting off an email to my landlord about Al. Knowing I needed more information about the animal, I looked further. I found out some interesting information about the wild animal population around Cheney.

A few days after the “incident” with Al, I approached the Eastern Washington University campus police for information. Officer Tom Barber, a 6-year veteran of the EWU police said there are many different wild animals around town including “owls, raccoons, cats (larger than a house pet), coyotes, deer and fox.”

Up until this point I was unaware how humorous my terrifying experience was for those that heard the story. Kudos to Barber for his almost poker face. All I was looking for was a way to get Al to move on. “We invaded their territory,” Barber said and he added that the best way to keep them away is to clean up your yard and keep garbage cans secure.

Still not folding to everyone’s chuckles, I googled it. You would be amazed (or maybe not) at the amount of information that came up. The best site was They have a cartoon video to basically tell “us dummies” how to get rid of raccoons.

There are many ways to keep animals out of your neighborhood. The obvious one has been mentioned, cleaning up your yard of garbage and keeping it secure. Taking in pet food at night and cleaning up debris will also help. Purchasing metal garbage cans with secure lids, placing weights on your garbage can lid, and washing your garbage can out are also ways of keeping the animals away.

My landlord was great about looking into the situation as well. She also said many people laughed while giving her information but was told to call Fish and Wildlife if the “problem” continued.

Since this terrifying experience, Al has thankfully disappeared. I have not placed rocks on my garbage or double bagged, but I carry a Maglite to do the laundry now. One of those big four- or five- battery Maglites. I really hope that Al lives a long life in someone else’s garage or wood pile or whatever. But I promise this, he will not be missed.

Have pictures of wildlife in your yard? Send them to, and we'll post them!

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