Roach: Stranger in the night

A raccoon invaded the attic of John Roach's home
Roach: Stranger in the night

I head back from the north woods a few days before anyone else, sliding into town due to work commitments.

I’m home alone, which is a rare pleasure. I watch some TV, read a little and then head up to the bed that I haven’t slept in for over a week.

It’s always a welcoming thing to crawl into your own familiar bed, with your own roof over your head and your own coffee waiting for you in the morning. If that’s not the definition of cozy, well, as the old timers would say, “I just don’t know.”

So, it was with that sense of comfort that I drifted asleep in the home we have inhabited for nearly 30 years.

Then, at 3 a.m., when sleep is the deepest … BOOM! THUD! MOVEMENT! THUD! BIG SCURRYING! All occurring just on the other side of the bedroom wall next to my pillow.

This was not some mouse scooting across a rafter. This was like a drunken frat party on Langdon Street. Or a bachelor’s party at some Airbnb in Fort Lauderdale. It was the decibel of a 20-man construction site.

There was something alive. An intruder. In our house!

I immediately went full territorial imperative. I got up and banged the wall at the head of our bed, and then pounded my fist all along the wall yelling, “Get the **** out of my house!” Yup. I employed the ultimate expletive on the intruder.

I didn’t fall back asleep. At 4 a.m. I was Googling animal control. Got them on the phone at 7:30 a.m. They told me they would send a man named Rich.

Rich pulls into the driveway late morning. He has a cool truck with “AAAnimal Control” written on the side, no doubt employing the letter A as the most fundamental of search optimization tools.

Rich is a friendly, competent man. He’s been trapping critters for a while. He asks me to describe the sounds I heard. The time of night. Then he clambers onto the roof. Three minutes later, he looks down on me and pronounces, “Raccoon. Got in by tearing off your soffit vent at the juncture of those two roof lines and making a big hole. Hope it’s just one.”

Yeah. Me too. Earlier, Google told me that the raccoon – scientific name “Procyon lotor” – is listed on the Animal IQ scale just below monkeys. We’ll never catch this guy.

Then, to confirm it’s a raccoon, Rich crawls into the dark attic with a flashlight to look for trails and scat. To wander around a dark confined space knowing there is a mean, smart raccoon with sharp claws and teeth wandering in the same space as you is the definition of suburban courage. There should be a medal for it.

Rich emerges from the attic. “Yup. Raccoon.”

He sets a humane trap on the roof and baits it with dog food. “I like to add a little fish oil to the kibble. They can’t resist.”

I support humane treatment of animals, but I tell Rich that if I found that critter in the yard, I’d go after it with my nine iron. Rich laughs, “Yeah. And if you broke into his home, he’d go after you, too.”

I ask Rich why, after all these years sans large mammal in our attic, we were invaded. “Probably an adolescent looking for a home. Plus, you were away for a while.” I tell Rich we were gone for only a week. I asked him what happens if a home is vacant for a year. Rich smiles and says, “Well, there was a home near Edgerton that was vacant for a year. We took 60 of these guys outta there. Still trappin’ ’em.” He chuckles and shakes his head.

Two nights later, there is a resounding thump on the roof. I climb to eye the trap and there is a large, irate raccoon inside of it. He bangs around in the cage all night to let us know how inconvenient he finds the trap to be.

That night, we ponder if we need to spend hundreds of dollars to clean up the party the raccoon had in our attic. It’s not covered by insurance. Duh.

The next day, Rich carts away the raccoon.

Hopefully to North Dakota.

Next night? The ultimate revenge.

We slept better than the raccoon.

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at