Archive for the ‘Work Misadventures’ Category

A Raccoon Story.

May 23, 2010

Bettina Bergh                                                                             760 words

2140 Battle Row

Augusta, Georgia 30904-3502

Phone and Fax: (706) 733-4012

A Raccoon Story


Bettina Bergh

When I was a zookeeper back in the early seventies, I had the pleasure of dealing with a fairly tame raccoon who lived in an outside cage. I thoroughly enjoyed the times when I could take her out on a leash and use her in animal demonstrations or just let her explore the museum grounds. Raccoons are very intelligent and insatiably curious about anything and everything around them. Every object that they get their hands on, they dunk in water if it’s nearby. Within minutes of feeding them, their rations are dissolved in water as they explore the more solid chunks of food. Raccoons are messy because of this habit, but one forgives them for they are so enjoyable to watch.

One day I took the female out of her cage, and took her up to the main building where food was prepared. In the food room we had quite a few cages of animals on shelves along the walls. Before I knew it, she slid out of her collar and scampered onto one set of shelves where we had 20 mouse cages. She began dumping them on the floor. Suddenly, there was one raccoon and 30 mice running around the room.

When handling an excited raccoon, it’s a wise precaution to have heavy linesman’s gloves on. I had left mine out near her cage, so I had to run back down the stairs and get them- all of the while hearing CRASH, CRASH, as she dumped more cages on the floor.

In spite of valiant efforts on her part to escape my grasp, I managed to get the raccoon back into her cage. She was not happy and let me know by chirring and squealing all of the way there.

I dashed back upstairs, and started chasing down what seemed to be over a hundred mice running around the room. Several small hawks and owls were hooting and calling as they watched this maelstrom of hawk and owl hor d’oeuvres running around the room.

I grabbed and grabbed mice and dumped them into cages. I moved garbage cans and the refrigerator, and grabbed at least 15 more. I ran a broom behind the shelves, and more mice scurried out. Just when I thought I had them all, I heard more squeaking coming from the cabinets under the counter where we mixed the food. This meant I now had to empty the cabinets and lift up their bottom shelves giving the mice plenty of time to scurry off in yet another direction. Naturally, there were no mice under the sink where I could easily check for them. I had to leave for about an hour because it was time to feed and clean-up after some other animals.  When I returned, it was obvious from the occasional squeak, that there still were escapees loose in the room.

I spoke to my supervisor about the mice still at large. We decided it would be in our best interest to set out mouse traps. We managed to trap four more mice in the next few days. In a few days I thought I smelled something funny. I looked and looked but didn’t find anything suspicious. It was soon obvious that we had a dead mouse in the room- and pinpointed the smell coming from the cabinets. I was the only one small enough who could fit in the space. I crawled into the cabinet and found a very ripe mouse stuck in one of the traps. I grabbed the trap, got up, and dashed outside to the dumpster and threw in the trap and the contents.

Several days later, I again brought the raccoon inside on a leash for another animal demonstration. This time I was smart and carried my linesman’s gloves with me. I checked to make sure that she couldn’t slide the leash backwards over her head. As I brought her up the stairs, she tugged at the leash as we headed down the hallway, for she wanted to get to the mouse cages again, since raccoons have excellent memories. I pulled out a piece of apple from my pocket and to my relief, she continued along the hallway and ate her treat. I had to repeat this several times to refocus her attention before she stopped trying to get to the mice again. And fortunately, she never got off of her leash again when I had her out of the cage.