Photoillustration based on image by California Department of Water Resources, via Wikimedia Commons

Stared down, under siege

When the raccoons grow in numbers and form a gang of marauders, they become a formidable force. And an arrogant one.

BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro, Vermont is a quiet town, for the most part. Sure, we have our share of some of the world's worst problems, but we handle them well, and the quality of life for most residents is something to be envied.

But I never thought I would be terrorized by a gang of roving masked thugs in my safe little town.

On July 24, as I sat in my hot tub, as I do most nights, a pair of beady eyes framed by a facial mask stared at me over the tub's shell.

At first I thought I might be having some sort of hot-water-related hallucination but, sure enough, a raccoon had climbed the steps to the tub and decided to stare me down.

* * *

I yelled at the raccoon, and he was unfazed. I threw water at him and he did not move until I sent more water his way. I did not get the sense that he was rabid but that he just had an arrogant attitude toward humans.

As I got out of the hot tub another racoon ran by me, and I began to realize that I was witnessing something I had never seen before.

I went into the house and then went to my kitchen door, where the scene unfolded.

Five racoons were chomping on fallen bird seed below a feeder. I suspect they have been there many nights, but my timing had never allowed me to witness the scene.

I yelled at them and opened the door - and none of them moved. They just ignored me.

I decided to leave them alone to avoid being a victim of their gang mentality.

* * *

This scene helped me to finally know how my composted-trash barrel had been ripped open so many times after I took great pains to secure it, a siege that started about a month before. I would wake up in the morning and see my composted trash scattered all over.

My first effort had me spraying the contents of the barrel and the outside with a bleach solution.

The next day was no different from the day before, and I had to use more compost bags to gather up my waste once again. The next day, I took two bungee cords and tried to tighten the barrel. That effort was just as successful as the bleach spray.

A day later, I took a long piece of rope and tied it around the barrel a number of times and secured a few knots. I was sure this would work. The first night the trash was untouched, but on the second night it was the same old scene again.

I started looking for recommendations online but I had tried all the suggested methods.

Then I had a new idea.

I forced the barrel at an odd angle under the steps near our door, and it took a great deal of force to release the barrel. I was sure this was going to work and, for a few nights, it did.

I figured it must have been a racoon pilfering my waste, and I was almost convinced I had beat him at this crazy game. But after securing the barrel on day three, I awoke to find the trash all over the place.

How could a racoon be so strong to be able to move that barrel? Could a bear be visiting my trash? Was a human playing out some sort of weird vendetta?

I finally had to give up and do what I had been putting off. I now keep my compost barrel in the cellar behind a bulkhead door.

* * *

It is clear to me now that the racoon gang, and not one lone racoon, has been vandalizing my trash. They have been a formidable force.

I still don't have a solution for securing the barrel I have to leave curbside the night before pickup.

I never thought that such a gang would be terrorizing me in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Richard Davis , a retired registered nurse and tireless advocate for access to health care, is a former Brattleboro Reformer columnist. He continues to post his writing weekly on his Facebook profile (

This Voices Dispatch by Richard Davis was written for The Commons.

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