Who doesn't love a raccoon? They've got those little masks and those little hand-like paws... and those little sharp teeth and an uncanny ability to organize into packs. Just ask an elderly Floridian woman:
I've had my own run-ins with raccoons, too. When I was living in Austin, I kept a dish of cat food on the outside landing of my second-floor apartment for the two strays I dubbed "The General" and "Little Red." (I had hoped to befriend, trap, neuter and find homes for them, but they never even got close enough for phase 1 of that plan.)
Of course, a dish of cat food is like a flare in the sky to a raccoon, and one night I opened my door to find not a rusty tortoiseshell nor a bedraggled Russian Blue but a big, round raccoon nibbling at the Iams. It and I were both startled, and it wobbled off down the stairs.
However, when I looked down to the first floor, I saw the critter walking past the ground floor apartments toward the other stairs, and I realized that it was just going to make an approach from another direction. The little bastard. I had to be more intimidating. But how?
At this moment, a conversation that I'd had with a downstairs neighbor came into my head; she'd talked about her concern over our local pack of raccoons, noting "One of them chased my husband!" I promised myself that I wouldn't run from a mammal that didn't even come up to my knee (reptiles, as always, are another matter altogether).
I also recollected snippets of information from my best friend, who'd taken a class on camping to satisfy a phys-ed credit requirement. According to her professor, the best way to scare away a bear was to raise your hands above your head, make yourself as big as possible and intone in a booming voice: "Get away, bear!" (Someday, I hope to try this out on annoying co-workers to see if it works in an office setting.)
So as the raccoon bumbled up the stairs, I walked towards it, stood on the landing and spread my limbs out (in what I believe is known as the Voltron position). Rather than using words, I decided to use that weird space alien noise Mojo makes when he's had about all he can take. It's like an agitated meow with some throaty noises and some high-pitched spikes in it, and it is freaky.
There I stood, limbs splayed (with a spatula in one hand, if I recall correctly) and howling like a demented tabby. The raccoon paused, looked past me to the cat food, looked up at me (I had redoubled the yowling) and decided that even premium cat food wasn't worth messing with the crazy spatula-bearing giant housecat. It shot me one last look of pure resentment, then went back down the stairs, and never came near the dish again.
Then my neighbor Camille flung open her door and asked "What the hell was that?!"
Overall, we got off very easy in that apartment building: one chased husband, one temporarily freaked-out neighbor and one moment of utter absurdity. Of course, we only had the one raccoon to deal with. If they'd been in a pack, I'm sure I'd have fared no better than that poor woman in Florida.
Let's talk raccoons. Tell me your tales of masked woodland creatures in the comments. (Seriously, if you ever want to get creeped out, check out an apartment dumpster the night after Thanksgiving. Just don't get too close.)