Cambrian: Opinion

Nocturnal moocher helps himself

A raccoon helps himself to a bowl of dog food.
A raccoon helps himself to a bowl of dog food. Special to The Cambrian

At least it wasn’t a bear.

Living in the Santa Lucia Mountains in Cambria’s backcountry, we are fortunate to see all manner of wildlife, including bears. We don’t, however, anticipate seeing anything but birds, bats and butterflies inside the secure fencing we erected to protect our dogs.

We are almost always up before first light, no matter what time of year it is. When we turn on the porch light to let the dogs out at 4:30 or 5 a.m., we don’t expect to see paws in our outdoor dog-food bowl. Even though we live in the middle of nowhere and shouldn’t be surprised to see raccoons here, we were when a raccoon rascal decided to pay us a nighttime visit.

My husband, John, once spotted a raccoon off the road below our place, but that’s been our only sighting until now. Having a raccoon sitting down to a meal of dog food in our enclosed yard was a new experience.

I’ve heard that raccoons are pretty common in Cambria and always wondered why we didn’t see them up here. It seems a little backward to me — town raccoons instead of country raccoons. We shooed away the cute critter and life went back to the more mundane rhythm we consider normal in these parts.

Raccoons are truly charming looking little animals. After our encounter, however, people started telling me that raccoons have been known to kill cats and small dogs. That put our raccoon visit in a much different light.

Although we vowed to ALWAYS bring in the dog food at night to discourage the raccoon from returning, we haven’t. Who knows why. I assume we’ll call it stupidity if the raccoon shows up again. In the meantime, we don’t ever let the dogs into the yard at night or early in the morning without first checking to be sure our raccoon friend isn’t lurking in the shadows.

Wild animals don’t seem to get the concept that fences mean, “Please respect our space.” I guess they must think that since we’ve moved into their neighborhood, we should be considerate of their lifestyle of taking whatever food they can find, wherever they find it. Survival for them is everything, especially now, without the winter rain that normally provides the much-needed food and water that support the raccoons and all of their woodland friends.

We humans will always find ways to deal with the drought, but I’m concerned that many of our four-legged neighbors will not make it through this winter if Mother Nature doesn’t help.

It’s time for everyone in Cambria and across the Central Coast to consider stepping up their rain dancing efforts.