Embracing the “Pests” in Your Life.

Via Lynn Hasselberger
on Jul 10, 2012
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Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
~ Albert Einstein

People have looked at me askance when I’ve disclosed my relationship to what they consider pests.

Except for a mosquito in mid bite upon my skin or a centipede scurrying across the floor in our house, you won’t find me killing or ridding my home—or its surroundings—of any creature. Well, I do ask my husband to place intruding spiders outdoors. If it’s small enough I can take matters into my own hands, so to speak, with a leaf or sheet of paper. I’ve also been known to assign my husband to mouse catch and release duty. But, in theory, the mice return. One time, feeling sorry for a mouse that fell into our window well, I fed it cheese. Then helped it escape by placing a stick in there, which it climbed up. It came back the next day (after I’d removed said stick), presumably for more cheese.

Then there’s the story of the mama racoon.

She showed up standing upon her hind legs in front of our grill one early evening, attracted to the scent of salmon. One paw was lame, her jaw was messed up and she was emaciated. We shooed her away.

Later on, while my husband, son and I dined outdoors, a baby raccoon—sooo tiny and wobbly—cried incessantly from the far end of our deck. Eventually, the mama raccoon peeked up from the side of the deck, took a quick look our way, then reached out with her one able paw to scoop the baby off the deck and down below to the place we soon discovered they called home. Beneath our deck.

Another night while we were eating al fresco, the mama and five little babies bravely approached us and we couldn’t help but toss food their way. While the mama hung back, the babies—f**kin’ adorable, let me tell you—got within a couple feet of us. We would never have considered feeding them had it not been for the poor state of the mama. How could she possibly care for her brood without our help?

And so it was. They came looking for food on a regular basis. We made sure not to overfeed them (not that we knew how much it would take to overfeed a raccoon family)—just a few morsels here and there—so they would still learn to find their own food. Mostly we fed the mama.

We learned that the mama could chew only soft food. She favored salmon and strawberries and turned her nose up at halibut. Drawn to the mama’s plight, neighbors dropped off their scraps—one couple even gave us a large package of outdated fish.

We witnessed the babies’ growth in girth while they dwindled in quantity, picked off by predators or a drive by. Eventually the survivors went off to college. The mama, back to health despite her mangled paw and chewing issues—returned with new kits every year.

At times, we’d sit on the other side of the sliding door window face-to-face with her and her babies. Transfixed by their playfulness as they wrestled and chased each other in circles. Our own nature show.

Yes, most people thought we were nuts.

They didn’t have to say it out loud. We just knew. I’d tell stories about the raccoons at parties which would be followed by an awkward silence, a lecture about how the raccoon carries germs or could pose a danger. Once in while someone would expose their own wild animal story, so thrilled to be free to reveal it to another like-minded individual. Once, my son’s friend was over and wouldn’t venture out into the woods behind our house (in broad daylight and the woods are pretty tame) because his mom had told him not to. Why? Because of “our” raccoon. Ah, well.

Okay, so there is a danger of catching rabies or roundworm and racoons can be ferocious if provoked. But racoons eat insects, mice and other pests (and just about anything else available). And they’re part of our world. I believe we should learn to co-exist with them and other forms of wildlife.

What gives us the right to exterminate the things that “whomever” has deemed a nuisance or potentially dangerous?

If we lived in or near a jungle, would we then kill lions and other innocent wild life because they could devour us? I think not. We’d respect their space, right?

Humans encroach upon wildlife’s natural habitat every day. We moved to this wooded community that’s full of deer, fox, coyote, birds… and that was our choice. This is an ecosystem and now we’re a part of it. It’s, well, natural. It’s meant to be left alone. Intact.

Let’s embrace it! Want to live in a place without critters? Move to the city.

Side note: I love that my dad (77) catches raccoons in a live trap, drives the critter far away (is it far enough?) from their farm property to who-knows-where then opens the cage in the hopes it runs in the other direction. So far, so good.

We haven’t seen “our” mama raccoon in a couple of years and wonder what became of her.

This year, it’s skunks under our deck. But that’s another story.

Adapted from my blog, Putting It Out There.


Bonus: Funny raccoon videos!

Wish I could say I took these myself, but never seemed to have a camera at the ready when the babies showed up. Enjoy!

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About Lynn Hasselberger

Lynn Hasselberger is co-founder of GDGD Radio; The Green Divas Managing Editor; and Producer of The Green Divas Radio Show. She's also a mom, writer and award-winning cat-herder who lives in Chicagoland. Sunrises, running, yoga, lead-free chocolate and comedy are just a few of her fave things. In her rare moments of spare time, she blogs at myEARTH360.com and LynnHasselberger.com. A treehugger and social media addict, you'll most likely find Lynn on twitter (@LynnHasselbrgr @GreenDivaLynn & @myEARTH360), instagram and facebook. She hopes to make the world a better place, have more fun, re-develop her math skills and overcome her fear of public speaking. Like her writing? Subscribe to her posts.


20 Responses to “Embracing the “Pests” in Your Life.”

  1. michellegilstrap says:

    Loved the post and the videos, made me smile today, thank you.

  2. Glad to hear it, Michelle! Thanks for checking it out and taking the time to comment. Have a great day!

  3. Excellent, Lynn. Thanks for this.

    Posted to elephant enlightened society and animal rights.


  4. Katie says:

    Well, let's see. When raccoons shit their scat has a parasite that's toxic to humans; they eat cats; and generally are not particularly friendly to other animals. I realize I'm encroaching on their territory but I also realize we've obliterated all if not most of raccoons' natural predators. So you tell me how to solve this one.

  5. Katie says:

    If you said "eliminate the human" I'd agree with you, but the problem is that I'm the mother of three cats now. So you can't eliminate me without orphaning three other animals whose natural habitat and instinctive path has also been overtaken by humans. Ah, the tree of life…it seems to me that if we want to live in peace with other critters, we're going to have to take a much deeper look at what we've done to mess up the natural order of things. In the natural order of things, it seems to me that I would be eating raccons and avoiding cats, unless I wanted their fur for warmth, in which case I would eat them, too, just to use the meat wisely. Or perhaps in celebraton of their hunting skills, I would build masks in their likeness which I'd wear when I went out to kill my own food. Did Native Americans have "pets?"

  6. Katie says:

    As a matter of first order, I'm thinking if we got rid of about 3 billion people, we might right the world a bit towards its proper balance and our relationships with other species might take on less proprietary and/or nihilistic taints. If I had enough room to move around, and my cats did also, none of us would even need to live indoors much, racoons would likely not show up maimed at back doors, and in fact, they could be anywhere their instincts wanted to take them.

    As, perhaps, could I.

  7. Ha! Yes, our natural order is quite out of whack, isn't it?! In some parts, I think they do eat raccoon so this is a possibility for the non-vegetarians. I know the scat is not something to mess with (either is our, uh, many forms of waste) and speaking of parasites, humans do fall into that category in some circles. I will continue to keep my own little ecosystem intact and hope that the larger world problems will one day be solved so that we may all live in peace. Appreciate your thoughtful comments, Katie! Thanks for reading 🙂

  8. Keith says:

    My next door neighbor has been feeding a family of racoons for years. They play on her front porch. She has a groundhog living under her porch. Four years ago a hungry kitten showed up and lived out there with the other critters for several days until I caved and allowed him to adopt me and my other two cats.

  9. How cute! Thanks for the comment, Keith!

  10. Katie says:

    And for yours as well, Lynn. I shudder to think what human scat contains, as far away as we are now from eating anything like real food. Bless your ecosystem and may it thrive.

  11. Bonnie says:

    I don't think you're crazy at all. Then again, I like animals better than most people. We have deer, foxes, and rabbits all over the neighborhood. There's a turtle that comes and hangs out in the yard every summer and I leave fruits and veggies out for it. Sometimes I buy deer corn to put out into the yard too. The deer love me. Bats hang out in our attic every year too. Which isn't so cool because it's bad for the house and they poop right out onto our driveway. I really need to buy or build some bat houses, lol. we have dirt snakes and lizards all over the place too.

    Random Fact: Did you know that opossums are non-aggressive and they're one of the few mammals that don't carry rabies? Their temperature is too low. In defense they hiss or pass out. The foamy mouth is basically just a by-product of them freaking out.

    So if you see an opossum in the yard, no need to worry. I say let it chill. Maybe give it a cool name that it won't answer to.

  12. Thanks, Bonnie. Glad you don't think I'm crazy! Wish we had a turtle… I know they're around since there's a small lake and ponds (which are now drying up thanks to drought conditions). Interesting factoid about the opossum. Appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment. Have a great day!

  13. Thanks Greg. And your comment made me laugh! Love your animal photography, especially the cute babies. Cheers!

  14. […] this mere fact of life and death, we share a kinship with every other species on earth. Killing off our “pests” to make way for our “convenience” isn’t going to change the fact that we […]

  15. James Edwards says:

    It's not easy to do if the pests are very destructive. I guess that's why the building inspector in melbourne is very particular about any foreign creature in a structure.

  16. […] inspire you to touch nature today. It won’t bite (well, I guess it could if you plan on cornering a racoon). It will most likely nourish. Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of […]

  17. Tara says:

    Great article– I feed wildlife on the property here as well. Our favorites are the groundhogs. I find them absolutely adorable!