The raccoons who let themselves in for a nightly dinner

A family's plan to use food to keep raccoons away from their garbage ended up becoming a nightly dining arrangement.

A plan to keep critters out of the garbage turned into a daily ritual

Geri Clever fed raccoons to keep them away from her garbage, which led to them regularly hanging around her home. 0:59
Geri Clever had a plan that would get the raccoons to stop rummaging through the garbage at her Toronto home.

But she ended up creating a ritual where she and her family fed them — on purpose, every day.

"We thought we would distract them by feeding them," said Clever, telling the story to CBC's Midday in September of 1990.

"And that turned out to keep them away from the garbage and because my son so enjoyed it at that time, we made a nightly ritual out of it."

Clever said the raccoons came to her back door seeking a handout.

'That got to be a bit of a problem'

Having raccoons feeding at her back door gave her a chance to observe these creatures up close — too close, at times.
In 1990, Geri Clever tells Midday about feeding raccoons at her back door. 0:34

"Originally, we used to have a door handle on the patio door and each succeeding generation of raccoons was taught by its mother how to turn the handle on the door," Clever said, who also told Midday she had, at that point, been feeding the creatures for 24 years.

"That got to be a bit of a problem, because once they learned how to do that, they could walk right in and they would do that often and head for the kitchen and the cat's food."

Installing a sliding door stopped "that sort of nonsense," Clever said.

They take the winters off, apparently

Surprisingly, Clever said the raccoons didn't come to her door year-round.

Geri Clever explains to Midday that the raccoons don't hang around all the way through the year. 0:59

"They come out, usually in March of each year and then the babies appear around the third week of June," she said, noting that they tended to stay until the start of December or so.

A few made enough of an impression to get a name.

"We've only named a couple, those were really prizes — one was called Tickle-Tummy and he was really a beaut and he came back for several years," said Clever.

"And there was another one — Barney — and he was also very beautiful. In fact, nature photographers have come down to take photographs of him because he was quite special.

"But after a while, they disappear."

These days, the City of Toronto website advises residents not to feed wild animals.