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  • Writer's pictureKeeper

Unwelcome Guests

Over the 11 years I’ve owned the lighthouse, I’ve had thousands of guests – most invited -- some not invited, but given a looksee, nonetheless. The worst guests of all are the unwelcome guests.

In May 2022, I received a phone call from the US Coast Guard Station Buffalo. They’re the Aid to Navigation Team that keeps the light shining on the top of the lighthouse. I have a contractual relationship with the Coast Guard to have access to the lighthouse when they need to check the functioning of the beacon. Coast Guard personnel generally come out once a year to inspect the mechanics and ensure everything is working properly.

So, when I answered the phone, I expected the officer to let me know they were coming to do an inspection. Instead, the officer said, “Ms. Consaul?” “Yes,” I said. “This is Coast Guard Station Buffalo and we were just at the lighthouse for an inspection.”

“Okay,” I said.

“You have racoons,” he said.

I was speechless. Yes, I’ve had a few critters over the years, mainly bugs, spiders, flies, an occasional mouse, and a misdirected bird or two, but never anything as brazen and destructive as racoons. Frankly, I can’t remember exactly what I said to the officer after that – perhaps some swear words – but I thanked him for letting me know. He said they would be back sometime after the racoons were gone.

In a bit of a panic since I wasn’t scheduled to open the lighthouse for another few weeks, I called my trusty handyman and all-around great guy, Phil. I asked him to check it out and see if he had any referrals for services that can successfully evict said racoons.

As usual, he was on it immediately and got a referral to a “critter catcher” that had experience with racoons. Phil accompanied the “eviction” team and, indeed, the racoons had had a party at the lighthouse. Among other evidence, the pantry door was wide open and whatever they could find edible (a few errant granola bars, stale candy and tea bags) was gone. Likewise, the paper plates and cups stored there were strewn about the kitchen.

Throughout the lighthouse, there was evidence they had napped on the beds, snuggled on the sofa, and generally made themselves at home. Fortunately, the critter catcher, Christopher Foglio of NEO Wildlife Removal, was a true professional and swung into action.

The first order of business was to catch and “relocate” the intruders. Within just a few days, two raccoons were humanely trapped and removed. However, just a few days later, two more were found and detained. However, after that, Chris felt confident that were no more perpetrators.

However, removing the animals was just the beginning of the clean up process. Raccoons carry a range of diseases, some of which are quite harmful to humans. So, in order to ensure everyone’s safety, the entire lighthouse, top to bottom had to be sterilized. Chris and his team spent days scrubbing and cleaning from top to bottom all while dressed in hazmat suits and taking the ultimate precautions. Likewise, every soft surface – blankets, towels, bedding, pillow covers and the like – had to be washed and dried on the hottest of settings to kill any remaining germs.

While Chris handled the cleaning, I spent weeks hauling the carefully bagged sheets, towels, and pillows back and forth to a laundromat all while wearing protective gloves and a facemask. Sadly, some small area rugs and decorative stuffed animals that the raccoons had clearly become fond of, had to be thrown away.

While raccoon infestations at anyone’s home is terrible to deal with, the remote nature of the lighthouse made it even that much worse.

So where did they get in? Good question. At the end of each season, I diligently close the lighthouse tightly. All the windows are shut, the exterior cast iron shutters are secured, and interior storm windows are installed to ward off winter. The interior and exterior doors are locked.

But raccoons are clever and persistent. From what Chris could discern, they accessed the lighthouse by peeling back the screen covering one of the vent windows in the basement, pushed the vent open, and squeezed in. Who knows how long they were there, but they certainly had a good time and made a mess; I could picture a rowdy group of teenagers.

Fortunately, with professional and experienced critter catchers and many trips to the laundromat, we successfully removed the raccoons and returned the lighthouse to its shining beauty. Please find somewhere else to party next time.

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