Confessions: Raccoons Scare me to Death

by Heligirl on May 18, 2011

in Confessions

I’m one of those moms I said I’d never be – seeing or reading something that scares me to death and then reacting.

I saw an Animal Planet program last year about a toddler who ingested raccoon roundworm eggs at a playground and almost died as the larva went into his brain, ate through his optical nerves and messed up his development. Then I read this article.

I. Freaked. Out.

We have raccoons running through the backyard all the time. Some of the neighbors feed these vermin so they’ve become rather unafraid of humans.

In this part of the world, close to 100% of all raccoons have roundworms (different from the kind your pets get). A gram of raccoon poo can have 20,000 or more roundworm eggs. If they are accidentally ingested by person or pet, the eggs hatch in the gut, the larvae eat through the intestine, go into the bloodstream and, more often than not, end up in the brain and/or spinal column eating optical nerves (blindness), brain and spinal nerves. The eggs are microscopic, can get airborne, and are extremely hard to kill.

I stopped letting the kids out back, to the playground and the forest. They had to wash their hands even if they had a dirty thought.

I took all the pets to the vet to be dewormed as they can carry the larvae. There is a pill you can give pets just in case.

I also got a slingshot and a BB gun and started shooting at raccoons every time they came into the yard. Sadly, this wasn’t working. They laughed at my aim and the light sting of the ammo. My intention was to protect my kids and animals and discourage the filthy vermin from making my yard a home or latrine.

You see, raccoons make latrines. They poo in the same spot over and over, making a huge pile of stinky, toxic poo with billions and billions of those deadly eggs that can live for years and years and can’t be killed by bleach, pesticides or any other man made substance.

My vet and pediatrician assured me it was very rare to actually ingest these eggs, but I was doing the right thing by making my backyard a hostile environment. There have only been a handful deaths from this parasite since 2003 (all young children, however.) Just keep a lookout for any latrines and everything should be fine. It really was safe to let the kids go outside, they said.

I relented.

Then, last Saturday, during my son’s second birthday party, as no less than seven children and 11 adults wondered around my back yard in the sun, my dad came up to me and casually asked about that pile of elephant poo in my raised vegetable bed (which I’d not planted this year so it was full of weeds).

My heart missed a couple of beats. I asked him to show me.

Sure enough, in the lower area of my yard, right there in the raised bed, a large pile of raccoon poo. I’d just done a sweep of my yard the week before as I was weeding. This was all only a week of poo, but they’d been busy.

Trying to hid my complete and total panic I asked all the parents there to keep the kids out of the lower part of the yard (down a few stairs from the lawn). Dad and Hubby went to work with a plastic bag and shovel. They scooped up all the poo and the dirt under it, put it in a bag and tossed it.

That night I freaked out. What if the raccoon tracked it on the patio? The kids were on their hands and knees with the sidewalk chalk. They were eating snacks outside. One egg on the hand, onto the fish cracker, into the mouth, baby goes to the hospital blind. I was beside myself.

I read up on how to clean up this mess. I learned the only way to kill the blasted eggs was fire. FIRE!

The next day I bought a propane blowtorch.

I also bought 3.5 mm thick black plastic. I discovered the evil animal had returned and pooed again that night in the same spot.

In the pouring rain we went out and bagged up as much surrounding soil as we could. Then I torched the remaining soil, turned it over, torched it again, then did it again. The rain kept me from burning my backyard to hell.

Then I torched the shovel.

There is something very satisfying about fire, I tell you what.

After all that, we covered the two raised beds with the plastic, stapling the plastic to the wood frame. I’ve no plans to plant them this year, so I felt it was best to barrier them completely. It will kill the weeds too. But you can be sure I’ll torch that soil again when the plastic comes off!

Then I torched the shovel again. For good measure. Seriously.

A part of me wants to torch the shed since dad put the shovel in there after scooping up the first large pile. I restrained myself. It wasn’t the plague, after all.

So, yes, I can be one of those moms. It’s a little embarrassing, and Hubby is giving me a lot of crap for it. But I’m feeling a little better now.

I’ve also noticed the raccoons no longer stop to look me over. They take one look and run like mad, probably yelling in raccoon to each other, “Run for your life George, it’s the crazy torch lady!!”



Twitter: audcole
May 18, 2011 at 7:02 am

Oh my goodness! I’m varying between horrified at how gross raccoons are and then laughing. A lot. (With you, not at you, of course!) Blowtorch? Priceless! For me, it’s goats. I hate them. Abhor them!! (I was attacked by them as a child. And also dedicated an entire blog post to it!) But, *shiver* at least goats don’t give you brain larvae. Your fear might be more rational than mine. 🙂
Audreya recently posted: No wonder shipping to Alaska and Hawaii costs more

Twitter: Heligirl
May 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Thanks Audreya, I think. 🙂 I had the heebe-jeebies so bad I just had to share this story. I’ve told pals in my preschool too. I’m surprised how little folks on a whole don’t know about the parasites these creatures carry. Very, very scary stuff.

And sorry about the goat thing…

Cochon DeLait May 18, 2011 at 8:42 am

having insomnia and working 2nd shift in a Restaurant on Cap. Hill..I offten Spin Poi into the wee hours of the morn on 35th…Last summer/fall and already again..I have been chased into the house running for the door just to make it in time to hear 3 HELLA large raccoons clawing on my front door..Last night I heard A neighbors dog being attack and killed by the raccoons ..I moved here from New Orleans where we had a problem with Nutria where it became so severe that in 2005, a bounty program was setup to kill them on the spot..The Raccoons here have me running from the bus to my door everynight now..they freak me out…

Twitter: Heligirl
May 18, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Wow, those are some aggressive creatures. Maybe you can carry a blowtorch? Save me from frying their poo by you just frying them first? 🙂

Liz May 18, 2011 at 9:26 am

AAACK. Come do my yard? There was one big guy out in daylight (DAYLIGHT) a few weeks back, and it was freaking all of us out. I haven’t seen any big piles of “elephant” poo, though….

Twitter: Heligirl
May 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm

It’s super creepy. I personally don’t think it looked like elephant poo, but I think it was more the size of the pile my dad was commenting on. I can’t imagine how I would have contaminated myself and put my family at risk had I not known what it was. Very scary stuff.

Rebecca May 18, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Raccoons were in our house the basement celling they were making terrible sounds we could not get anyone to come so husband cut celling hole and shot them what do we do about the the contaminated blood and there might be poo up there. What sould we do with the dead Raccoons? I am freak out now about what I read I did not know they could kill with the parsites they carry Rebecca

Twitter: Heligirl
May 18, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Yikes! I recommend you call your local animal control to get advice on how to clean up. Most pest control places will also clean up the mess too.

Susan May 18, 2011 at 9:55 pm

I feel for you. Out here, we just shoot them – I have no idea if it’s legal, so don’t tell anyone where I live ;-). Good job on the clean up.
Susan recently posted: Healing is Happening- An Akashic Record Healing Update

Previous post:

Next post: