Jun 17, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears... oh my!

I live in the suburbs, no doubt about it. Although there were thousands fewer houses in my area when we moved here 20+ years ago, the population of our town has grown up to around 90,000 (from 36,000 when we moved here). Obviously when houses go UP, trees come down. When trees come down, wild life looks for new digs.

My backyard is woods with a creek running through it. In an area where houses back up to each others' yards, it's unusual to have the pretty, natural view that we have. It's why we chose our house all those years ago. Every store and facility you can imagine is within a four mile radius of my house - three grocery stores, a beautiful library, a new movie theatre, shopping of all kinds, the post office, book store, IKEA, etc. (The only thing missing is a fabric store, which is probably just as well. I have to drive 30 miles to get decent quilt fabric, so I don't do it on a whim.)

All this building has been in the past 10 years. Houses, shops, theaters. And all that building has unsettled the wild life in our area. On a regular basis, I see possums, rabbits, deer (including a 4 point buck right now), fox, an occasional coyote, ground hogs.... and raccoons.

Generally, these animals live out in the woods behind our house. The groundhog has taken up digs near my vegetable garden -- he thinks it's a convenience store, apparently. The deer stroll through the yard without hesitation, munching on the willow trees, stripping the loganberry trees. The coyote is always in a hurry, just running through.

Ah, but the raccoons. This year the raccoons are "movin' on up...". They (Mama and babies) have taken up residence underneath the cement slab of my front porch. It's long been a temporary hidey-hole for rabbits, but we (my husband) simply block the opening they've created with a large rock, and they seem to go away for awhile. But the raccoons simply pushed the rock out of the way and moved on in like they own the place. My husband seems to think a new, bigger rock is in order. I think we need to re-cement under the front porch.

I bought a "live trap", thinking this was the safest, most humane way to rid the front porch of it's newest inhabitants. Mr. B. and I set up the trap to the side of the front porch, and stocked it with a kiwi, some lettuce, and half a cucumber. That was three days ago.

Yesterday morning, I opened up the front windows, and heard RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE and knew right away what it was. I looked out the window, and sure enough, there's a little raccoon in the cage trap. I went around to the front door to look, and he started screaming. Who knew raccoons can scream?!?

My husband hadn't yet left for work, so I told him about the raccoon in the trap. Funny thing, my husband decided THAT was the day he needed to be to work on time....  He said, "If you need me, call me at work and I'll come home and deal with it." Ha. We both knew what that meant. It was my big idea to put the cage out there, so I needed to deal with the raccoon on my own.

I took matters into my own hands. I called our local Animal Control. Their response? We don't deal with wildlife. What?!? We pay taxes for an Animal Control Department and they only deal with cats and dogs?! Harumph....

I then called a wildlife-catcher listed on the Internet. I thought, since the raccoon was already caught, they could just stop by and pick him up and take him away. They could, for $50... $89 if I wanted my cage back! That's a lot of money, but I thought maybe for just a little more they would come get ALL the raccoons from under my porch. The price? $139 just to come tell me how much they would charge me to get rid of the raccoons! Lordy.

Alrighty. I am my father's daughter. I can do this. So I grab a pair of thick work gloves, and head out the front door..... to be greeted by Mama Raccoon, hovering over the cage of her screaming baby, hissing at me and showing her (sharp sharp sharp) teeth. I shut the door. Quickly.

Breathe. I can do this. I go to the window and watch and wait. Mama digs around the edges of the trap trying to get her baby out. (Sad, I know.) After awhile, she apparently got tired and headed back to her condo under my porch. I grabbed my gloves again, and this time went out through the garage so I could walk WAY around the front porch, all the time watching for Mama. UNfortunately, I'd set the trap back behind the shrubs at the front of the house, and had no idea if Mama was hiding in the shrubs that I had to walk through to get to the trap. Scarey. Scarey. Visions of headlines "Woman attacked by pissed off Mother Raccoon" dancing in my head. (I have a Headline Phobia. Some day I'll tell you the story of the day I DID make the headlines... Headlines are not easy to live down.)

I noticed my neighbor out raking his lawn (probably watching me -- I'm sure he was able to hear the raccoon screaming), so I figured if the Mama Raccoon jumped on me, he would come rescue me. I put my Big Girl Panties on and went in for the trap. No Mama came after me. Whew. Breathe. I grabbed the trap, pulled it out, and headed back to the garage, all the while scared to death the trap's door, held closed only by a straight piece of thick wire, was going to pop open and I'd have a baby raccoon clinging to my leg. I popped open my trunk, laid a blanket down, and put the trap in. I did it! Yay!

Now it's time to drive about 6 miles away to a wooded public area where I planned on letting the raccoon out. It has woods, a creek running through it, and lots of picnic lunches and full trash cans. Perfect. But on the way, I start to worry that the raccoon may have gotten OUT of the trap, and when I open up the trunk... well, you get the picture. Again, headlines.

When we (the raccoon and I) arrive at the park, I pop the button INSIDE my car to open up the trunk, and I wait... one. two. three... fifteen. If he was loose in my trunk, I figured he'd had time to get out and make a run for it. I would if it was me. I got out and cautiously walked around to my trunk (fellow park goers must have wondered if I had a dead body in my trunk), and lifted it enough to see in. The poor little guy was still there and, thankfully, still in the trap. Back on go the gloves, and I pick up the trap and off we go (the raccoon and I) to the edge of the woods and set the trap down, door facing the wooded area (away from me, of course). I'd brought a piece of rope to tie onto the pull-wire, but when I again saw how small this little guy was, I just reached down and popped out the wire -- and off he went.

I did it. My father would be proud of me. He, of course, would have just picked the raccoon up by the scruff of the neck with his bare hands and tossed it into the woods, but hey... I got the raccoon where I needed it to go, and didn't make the headlines. That, my friends, is a success story in my book.

Now the trap is re-set and I'm waiting to hear that RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE..... SCCREEEEAAAAM.. again. This time I know it's not quite as scary as I thought and one by one, my little raccoon family will soon be reunited and live happily ever after. And next I will learn how to mix cement and fill the hole under the porch.

In case you ever need one, these really do work well!


Verna G said...

I have a concern. Who is looking after this baby now that you have taken it fro its Mother?

Verna G said...

I have a cocern. Who is caring for the baby raccoon now that you have taken it away fro its Mother?

Karen said...

Oh Joan....I know that was a traumatic experience for you, but seriously.....that was hilarious. Hope Mama didn't have too many babies!

Joan J said...

Verna, I very much understand your concern. The "baby" was not an infant by any means. He was about 9 inches long and I have to assume he's at an age to move away from his mother. He was, after all, out finding food for himself when he went into the trap, and the area he was placed should have an abundance of food available. I did think that one through, I promise.