Masked Bandits Invade Morro Bay


MORRO BAY “Oh, my gawd!” the exclamation came from Marian at the ladies’ weekly luncheon gathering where members swap stories about their recent adventures. Marian had a good one to share so everyone leaned in to hear.

“We thought we were being invaded,” she continued, “or burgled or something. We had just gone to bed when Pete mumbled to me, ‘what was that?’ It sounded like the dog had gotten into something in the kitchen,” she went on. “Then everything was crashing. We jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. What do you think we saw when we turned on the light?” she asked us her eyes twinkling.

Everyone shook their heads.

“It was raccoons,” she cried, “two of ‘em. And they were just having a ball raiding our pantry.”

Seems Marian and Pete had forgotten to close the dog door before retiring for the night.

This wasn’t the first-time stories about the little-masked bandits were told. Most recently in Morro Bay friends on Next Door.com posted incidents. One post told the following tale. The person posting said they kept hearing strange noises that seemed to come from their walls. It went on for days until one afternoon the little visitor crawled out into the laundry room right at the owner’s feet heading for a bowl of cat food. Turns out it was a youngster who had come in from the cold one evening when they had forgotten to close the garage door. Finding warmth and food, it had decided to settle down between the wallboard and the outside frame of the house.

Raccoons are opportunistic feeders and while they may seem cute and cuddly, they are not to be fooled with but taken seriously. These are wild animals. They reach weights of 35 pounds and can stand on their own in fights with large dogs.

Raccoons are mostly active at night and usually inhabit wooded areas along streams and ponds, but many have adapted to life in towns.

Another person told about setting out a food bowl along with fresh water near their garage for a couple of stray kitties. Every morning the food bowl was empty, and the water bowl always had bits of food in it. The rim was dirty, and there were muddy prints all around.

One night an awful racket of snarling and grunting came from the direction of their garage. They grabbed their flashlight and ventured out figuring to break up a cat fight when to their surprise two masked faces appeared in the beam of the light. Then the muddy mess near the food bowls made sense to them.

Raccoons like to wash their food. The washing enhances their sense of touch in their toes which helps the animal discern non-edible matter.

Another story told of people feeding a cat that lived down the street from them but ate at their house and came around up to 10 p.m. to have his late-night snack. So, they left a bowl outside on the front porch.

One night their cat woke from his siesta and leaped to the front-door screen, tail bushy, eager to take on whatever was out there. A soft munching sound was heard amidst his meows. They crept to the door and peeked out expecting to see the neighbor’s cat. Instead, they came face to face with “Pogo the Possum” having a feast at their expense.

Opossums are also nocturnal creatures. The possum is the size of a house cat with a triangular shaped head and pointed nose. They are the only pouched mammal in the United States. Because of their hairless tails, some people think of them as rats. The phrase “playing possum” came from the fact that they feign death when threatened or cornered.

Cats and possums get along well often sharing the food bowl together, but it is still not a good idea to encourage the feeding of wildlife.

The opossum is one of the Earth’s most successful mammals. It’s been around for more than 70 million years. While it resembles a rat, it is more closely related to the kangaroo or koala, all marsupials; animals with a pouch where the underdeveloped newborns mature.

Possums and raccoons are just two of nature’s creatures that share city life with humans. It pays to be more vigilant about not leaving pet food outside and easily available and to make sure the pet door is closed at night – unless one wants to wake up to the kitchen mess that Marian and Pete found.

“We had an awful time getting those raccoons out of the house,” she said. “And then we had to clean up the mess in the kitchen. I don’t think we got back to bed until 2 a.m.”

Raccoons were discussed recently on Next Door.com and they visit regularly in the neighborhood of Anchor Street and Piney Way. Beware!


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