Emily Rice

Emily Rice is the Lifestyles Editor of The Bluefield Daily Telegraph and the Associate Editor of Prerogative Magazine.

How do you get a raccoon to leave your chimney? This is the question that has plagued mine and my landlord’s minds for a week.

Today is Friday and I am writing to you with only two hours of fitful sleep. On Monday I discovered a raccoon was living in my fireplace. I never knew that I was afraid of raccoons until he stuck his paw (hand?) through the vent, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I was relaxing on the couch Monday evening when my dog, Zooey became absolutely inconsolable. I walked her, fed her, tried to play with her and pet her, but she could not stop crying and pacing. In a silent moment, I heard scratching noises coming from the fireplace, then a “chatter” of sorts. With dread coursing through my veins, I got a flashlight and shined it into the fireplace. The noises stopped, but I could see fur sticking out through the vent. Soon, the animal became agitated and stuck his nose and paw out the vent. The tell-tale paw of a raccoon.

I am embarrassed to say that I squealed. My hands shook as I took a video on my phone to send my landlord. My landlord tried to get ahold of the handyman, but couldn’t give me any recommendations in the meantime. My mother came up with the idea of calling the fire department. Maybe they could help get a possibly rabid creature out of my house? I was re-routed to the police, who dispatched animal control to my home. I did not mean to make this seem like an emergency, but it was a problem. They responded quickly, but the officer shone the flashlight in the fireplace, saw the raccoon and informed me that they only deal with domesticated animals.

I was left alone again with Zooey and our new unwanted roommate. I took to social media for help, posting videos of the animal and asking for advice. Soon, someone sent me an article that suggested playing loud music to make him leave. Well, this raccoon, whom I had named Chad by this point, just happened to lodge himself in the chimney of someone in possession of a large stereo system turntable from the 1980s that my mother had given me. I turned the speakers into the fireplace and picked a rock vinyl album. I let the album play for a few songs, feeling very sorry for my neighbors and then checked the chimney again. No luck, Chad didn’t seem to mind the music. He was making himself comfortable. I switched to a different genre, Taylor Swift’s album, 1989. Within two songs, I checked the chimney and saw no signs of Chad. Soon, the handyman arrived and showed him where the animal had been but we were convinced that he had left. I do not know what that says about Taylor Swift, but I went to bed that night thanking my lucky stars for owning that album on vinyl.

I called my landlord and asked for a cap to be placed on my chimney to avoid another visit from Chad. I should mention at this point that I have a gas fireplace that I do not use. I am not completely sure if it is a functioning fireplace and I cannot afford to buy propane for it.

After a long night of covering the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote on the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump on Wednesday night, last night after work I was ready to check out of reality for a bit. I was playing video games on my computer when Zooey once again became inconsolable. She is a large dog, about 85 pounds of muscle (and love) and she was so upset that she climbed on my lap in my desk chair. I had a bad feeling but tried to avoid looking at the fireplace. Maybe she just got spooked by something else, I told myself. When playing with her favorite toy didn’t work, I shone the flashlight into the chimney again and there he was, fur poking out from the vents. I’d made a joke of the situation earlier in the week, but by this point, I was exhausted from work and from dealing with rodents. I cranked the music back up, starting with the same Taylor Swift album and texted my landlord, asking for a cap to be placed on the chimney after I ran him out this time. She replied that the cap had been placed on the chimney earlier in the day. A slow realization washed over me...Chad the raccoon was trapped in the chimney. I broke into a bit of hysterical laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation and quickly turned the music off and locked Zooey in the bedroom to keep her away from the chaos that was about to ensue. I called the handyman, Luke, and he arrived within the hour with a ladder, rope, firecrackers, bottle rockets, a cage and a BB gun. Just like Chad the raccoon’s backside would soon be, my relaxing evening was shot.

Luke and I worked together for hours to lure and startle Chad out of the chimney. We started by removing the cap and lowering the rope down the chimney with knots tied in it periodically with hopes that the raccoon would be able to climb out this way. By this point, we had come to the conclusion that he had never left the chimney on Monday and I’d been living with a quiet rodent for a week. With the rope lowered, it came time to annoy Chad the raccoon into leaving. We tried noises, banging, slamming, yelling and poking to no avail.

Luke asked me to stand outside and watch the chimney while he lit small firecrackers in the vent. With every pop of a firecracker, I prayed under my breath for the raccoon to emerge. When the firecrackers did not work, we escalated to bottle rockets. To clarify, these were being lit from the inside, not dropped down on the raccoon’s head. I am not sure if that makes this any better but I had to let the people who own the house I rent make the decisions. After an hour of pops, cracks and the scent of gunpowder filling the house, Chad had still not left. Luke made a “Joe Dirt” reference as he went to fetch his BB gun from his truck. Luke then climbed into the chimney with the raccoon and hit it in the backside with about five BB’s. Like an overall-clad and tired Santa, Luke emerged from the chimney, covered in soot and commenting on the shocking size of this raccoon.

It was about 11 p.m. at this point and Chad seemed determined to stay. Luke left to get some rodent repellent while I called my landlord to update her on the situation. As Luke returned with the rodent repellent, I locked Zooey away again to loud cries and barks from her. Her main objective is to protect me and the situation had certainly arisen. Luke peered up the chimney and said he did not see the raccoon, I got my hopes a little bit up. After the chimney was sprayed, Luke returned to the roof and hollered down with victory, “He got the eviction notice!”

With relief and exhaustion, I thanked Luke for all his hard work, cleaned up and went to bed. As I drifted off to sleep, I heard scratches and chattering coming from my attic. Chad had returned, this time to make noise right above mine and Zooey’s heads as we tried to sleep. Zooey, thinking we were under attack, freaked out. I spent last night comforting her and getting spurts of sleep in between thumps and clattering from above. Today, I am coordinating a time for an exterminator to come to my home. I want this to end peacefully for Chad and hope they will just trap him and rodent-proof my house, despite the stress he has caused me and my dog.

I know this is a long story, and I apologize if it was not as entertaining as it has been to experience. This all occurred in the week before Christmas so in my group of friends, Chad the raccoon is synonymous with Santa Claus with his determination to come down my chimney. So just remember next holiday season, that if a clatter arises on your roof and you spring from your bed to see what is the matter, you might not find a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, but instead a very large raccoon.

— Contact Emily Rice at erice@bdtonline.com and follow her on Twitter @BDTrice

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