News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 4, 2013

RONN MOTT: Things that go bump in the night

Ronn Mott
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — I live in a very old house. There are all kinds of noises that occur, especially at night, or so it seems. Aside from the various creaks and pops from old wooden floors and walls when the furnace heats up and sends warm air into the rooms, we, my wife and I, have heard other noises.  

Three years ago we lived in an old house on College Avenue. We heard things from early evening to early morning. One morning about 6 it sounded as if someone was bowling in our attic. Discussing the situation with a neighbor we were told he watched a family of raccoons scramble up a tree beside the house onto the roof and into the top of the chimney nearly every morning.

We spent hundreds of dollars getting a wire screen secured on the top of the chimney and quite a few traps set on the ground with cookies inside to tempt the animals. We caught squirrels, opossum and several raccoons. The animals were very costly to another family in the neighborhood. The raccoons had chewed through their roof and it took weeks to get them out and repair the damage.  

When we moved to Collett Park, we did so knowing the raccoon population wasn’t much different than in the south end of town. At the end of their nightly scavenging, they usually head for the sewer drains at the corner of the streets, or to homes where they can get into chimneys, attics and roofs of porches. They are cute little critters but dangerous on several counts. Not only are they very destructive, they carry rabies and, we’re told, a virus in their feces that becomes airborne and can be deadly to small children if exposed. They also have very little fear of humans.

One early morning about a year ago, we heard scratching sounds in our fireplace. Our cats immediately went to the side where it was heard and began “searching” for the origin of the noise. Sure enough, another raccoon had invaded our home. Again, it took several hundred dollars to assess the problem and have dual flue covers put on our chimney. One small raccoon recently managed to wedge himself in and out of the new cover, but has since disappeared. I’m sure another will take his place.

This past year, one of our neighbors spent a lot of money trapping raccoons and repairing their home. Compared to these people, our encounters with the animals have been minor.

We asked a city official what, if anything, could be done. We were told it is illegal to kill them.

Does it boil down to needing a hunting license? I doubt it. And I’m sure new homes aren’t exempt from the problem … it’s just a little unsettling to live in an old house and hear “things that go bump in the night.”

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.