"Coon" is certainly a four-letter word to Medford's Al Pratt, who is waging a war against a pack of urban raccoons that turn his backyard into a frat house.
They've torn up the garden, broken Pratt's water fountain, eaten his goldfish and otherwise had their way — until he bought a water cannon with a motion-sensor trigger to fight back.
"They trip the switch, the sprinkler kicks on and has the little suckers scared like hell," Pratt laughs. "They sure scurried out of there."
Pratt 1, raccoons 0.
But it's a rare win these days. Packs of city raccoons are running roughshod in Southern Oregon neighborhoods.
Raccoons top the list of wildlife complaints received at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Central Point office, where Rosemary Stussy offers tips year-round on how to evict raccoons squatting under houses, stealing cat food from garages and swiping fish from backyard ponds.
Early fall brings one of the more bizarre types of damage — the kind that strikes at the heart of what many urban residents take pride in — their landscaping.
From Ashland to Medford to Grants Pass, raccoons are roaming around at night digging up lawns and gardens in search of earthworms and grubs.
"Get a couple of those 11/2-inch grubs and they have a meal," Stussy says.
The most likely targets tend to be gardens and lawns that are especially well-tended, Stussy says.
It's not because raccoons are waging a class war, Stussy says. It's a reaction to the times. People who don't care about their lawns haven't watered as meticulously through the summer and early fall, so their ground is harder, less grub-friendly and tougher to dig up.
The lawn-o-philes with intricate irrigation systems and the water bills to prove it are getting raked because their lawns are buffet tables of worms and grubs.
"It's always a fall thing, and it's always the neighborhoods with good green lawns," Stussy says.
Landowners can make their lawns less appealing to raccoons by watering in the mornings instead of evenings, Stussy says. That way, the grubs and worms that surface after watering don't come out at night — the patrol time preferred by these masked marauders.
Another solution is to chemically treat your lawn to get rid of the grubs raccoons seek.
Short of that, Stussy will issue landowners free permits to trap and kill the offending raccoons.
They cannot legally be trapped, hauled away and released because of diseases and other issues, Stussy says.
"I wish I had a better nonlethal solution to the lawn troubles," Stussy says.
Pratt tried to trap the raccoons, but that didn't work for him. For now, Pratt says he's happy with the protection a few salvos from his water cannon provides.
"I still got the license to kill them," Pratt says of his permit. "But they're pretty hard to catch."
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.