Make like a raccoon

Raccoon, courtesy of ODFW.

Wash your hands. Wear your mask.
Be a bit mischievous and very curious.
Try to avoid being a nuisance and trickster, and
Culture a woeful “I really am cute” look.

You may have had one of these critters in your back deck, looking for treats. We had a family of five. Cute, but not cute enough to feed.

Raccoons can be large with a length up to 28-inches and weigh nearly 60 lbs. The most distinctive features are the ringed tail, facial mask, and front paws.

A dense underfur protects the raccoon against cold weather. The hind legs are longer than the front, giving the animal a high rump walking gait.


Raccoons look for permanent water resources and large trees and can live almost anywhere in Oregon where those two elements are found. Some of your neighbors may claim that there are more Raccoons in the neighborhood than human residents.

They will often den in a hollowed-out tree. But they will also den in storage buildings, basements, attics, chimneys, and more.

Needless to say, they have adapted well to human settlements and are known for creating a fair amount of damage. Around 1,500 raccoons were imported as pets each year in Japan after the wild success of “Rascal the Raccoon” in 1977. It is estimated that these ‘pets’ caused over 30 million yen of agricultural damage on Hokkaido alone.

Raccoon in bird feeder (royalty free Unsplash)


Raccoons have extremely dexterous front paws and long fingers that help them unscrew jars, uncork bottles, open door latches and knobs, and even complex locks.

These furry mammals forage night—it makes it easier to get into a garbage can unseen. They will also raid bird feeders, eat seemingly abandoned pet food, downed fruit and veggies, and more.

Aquatic foods are, however, their favorite. They prefer to eat invertebrates, but will eat plants, vertebrates, and stale dog food any day.

When foraging in streams, they will pick up a potential food item, examine it, and rub off unwanted parts in the water. It looks like they are washing their food (they are not).

But they are cute

Raccoons are generally not pets. With good reason. They can and frequently will create a great deal of problems if one starts feeding or housing them.

They are moody, carry a grudge, and remember details. Their emotional outbursts can lead to aggressive behavior towards pets and human owners (even if they were not involved). Their mischievous behavior often results in extensive property damage.  

Raccoon under dog bowl sleeping (royalty free Unsplash)

Pet or Pest?

It is legal in some states to keep a raccoon as a pet. This practice is not recommended by most for a number of reasons. Human-created foods, such as canned pet food, can be very harmful to a raccoon (obesity and gout), and cow’s milk will harm the kits.

As adults, raccoons can show aggressive behavior when their mobility is impaired, when they feel threatened, or when they are moody. They are unpredictable and resist learning commands used with more common pets.

There are exceptions however. US President Calvin Coolidge had a pet raccoon named ‘Rebecca.’ Rebecca had been sent to the White House from Mississippi for their 1926 Thanksgiving dinner. Instead she became the “White House Raccoon” that was known to unscrew lightbulbs, open cabinets, unpot houseplants, and walk outside on a leash.


There are other reasons to not keep raccoons as pets. Raccoons make up nearly 30 percent of all rabies cases in the United States and can carry zoonic parasites and infectious diseases that can spread to humans and pets.

Did I mention that they bite?

These guys are smart and their bites seem to be targeted to cause the greatest pain over the longest time. One scuffle with our pet dog resulted in over 40 bites to her front leg and paw joints. Brutal and never forgotten by the dog or my pocket book.  

–Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife, Common raccoon ( and Living With Raccoons  (
–Critter Control, Why raccoons are considered pets and not Racoons (
–Wikipedia, Raccoons ( and Rebecca (raccoon) (…wiki/Rebecca_(raccoon)).

Many plants sharing our gardens are not natives but imports from other lands. At the time, introducing the species probably seemed like a good idea, that is until it turns invasive and deadly.

Scotch broom (Courtesy of King County)

Scotch Broom is a perennial shrub with lovely yellow pea-like flowers, dark green stems, and evil on its mind. OK I made up the evil part, but the more you know about Scotch Broom the more you might agree.


Scotch Broom was introduced in the US in the early 1800s.

History indicates that broom was imported as domestic sheep fodder. But, broom may have been imported for its wide variety of medical and utility functions.

Medical ailments treated included (Note: This weed is poisonous. Modern medicines provide safer alternatives):   

Heart problemsHemophiliaRheumatismGout
JaundiceKidney stonesRespiratory conditionsSnake Bite
Sore musclesInfectionsPurgativeEmetic

Utility functions included hair rinse, leather tanning, sweeping brooms, thatched roofs, rope, beer flavoring, yellow dye, and a substitute for hops, capers, and coffee. In addition, Scotch Broom roots host nitrogen-fixing bacteria which help the plant colonize nutrient-poor soils.

It is native to much of Europe and Africa where natural predators for the plant evolved.

In the early 1900’s, broom was planted to prevent soil erosion along Pacific Coast highways. It probably seemed like a great idea at the time.

It didn’t take very long for Scotch broom to become an international superstar pest. Today, broom is considered a pest throughout most of its range.

More than just one

Does it seem like the Scotch broom blooms more than once a year? Well, it does, kinda. There is more than one type of broom and more than one type lives on the Oregon Coast.  

The ranges for Scotch, Spanish, French, and Portuguese broom overlap. You may notice different bloom seasons, lighter color flowers, height differences, and more.  All have a nice yellowish bloom similar to a pea.

Scotch broom and Gorse are sometimes confused (Gorse is very stickery). They both grows in similar conditions, and cause similar problems, but are different species.  

Pest Status

This plant has earned its weed status well by aggressively invading many areas. Once in place it is very difficult to get rid of and control. What makes it so bad?

Broom regenerates quickly, forming dense stands. These stands are unpalatable and somewhat poisonous to wildlife. They will become so dense that even quail cannot live there.  

These thick dense stands will also prevent normal reforestation and regeneration processes and drive many native species out by shading, increasing soil acidity, and toxicity.  

Broom increases fire hazard frequency and intensity. It is one of the most flammable plants there is and poses enormous threat to communities.

It creates a high fire hazard frequency and intensity. Even green, the shrubs will cause a fire to erupt. The broom is one of the most flammable plants there is and poses an enormous threat to our community’s fire safety. 


The plant is a prolific seeder and can release 20,000 or more seeds per plant every year. Seeds stock pile over time until destroyed or germinated. Seed remain viable in the soil for decades and any disturbance can cause the seed to germinate.

Seeds will germinate after a ‘cooler’ fire (depending on the temperature of the fire). Hot fires can destroy the seeds.

It is hard to get rid of….

The only way to control this plant is through repetitive and ongoing treatments. Treatments include manual removal, chemicals, burning (hot), shading through planting, and some biological options (Bruhidius villosus, exapion fascirostre, and Leucoptera spartifoliella).

Once established, the plant is very drought tolerant. This tolerance makes herbicides less effective during certain times of the year.

So Expensive

Scotch Broom causes substantial timber revenue losses and costs a lot to control – somewhere over $40 million a year in Oregon alone.

–OSU Extension Service (
–WebMD (
–King County, Scotch Broom (
–Scotch Broom (
–The News Review, Ask a Master Gardener… (
–USDA Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) (
–Wikipedia, Cytisus scoparius (
–Weeds, Working Lands (