25 September, 2014
I used to think raccoons were cute... Until the little bastards moved into my backyard!
In Fall 2012 we lost our 14 y/o lab. While she was alive we didn't have any problems with stray animals, wildlife, or people in wander into our back yard. Last summer, at O'Dark-thirty, a neighborhood cat was at our back screen growling and hissing at Tigger, who was growing and hissing back. That was just the beginning. Tigger is our 15 year old cat, ever since he came to our home as a kitten he has been an indoor cat and allowed in supervised visits in our fenced in backyard only. One evening last June, around dusk, he ran in the house so fast he bumped the screen, he hopped up on the sofa, his tail fluffed up like a raccoon, looked around the room with wide eyes, ran over to me, stuck one paw in my lap, and softly said one "meow" like it was a question. That is strange behavior, even for Tigger. I got up and looked into the back yard and didn't see anything. I closed the door for the evening,remembering the time a magpie chased him up a tree, I thought it was probably a big scary bird. In hindsight I think one single soft meow must be cat for "WTF".
Every summer I decorate my back deck with potted flowers and other decorations so it is a nice relaxing place to have an after work cocktail and inviting for friends. I usually have a bird feeder for Tigger's entertainment, this year I added a larger one, which the birds were eating quickly. I'd wake up in the morning ant the feeder would be half empty with feed scattered everywhere. A few nights after Tigger's odd behavior my husband said the birds were making a lot of noise eating the seed at 2am. 2am??? Still, I didn't connect the dots.
A week or so later we had a big lightning storm blowing in, about 11pm I turned on the back deck light to see if it was raining yet, I saw something under our patio table moving, it turned its head to me and the unmistakable face of a raccoon was looking back at me! Holy cow! Raccoons?! This is a first for my part of town. Cute little bugger in a destructive sort of way. Thinking about it, we have an empty dog house, a bowl of water, bird feeders, and potted vegetables in our back yard. Everything a homeless raccoon family needs to set up house.
The next day I went directly to the Game and Fish to borrow a trap. They only had one size but it looked plenty big for a raccoon. It was heavy with a seemingly foolproof trap door with solid walls. Several people visiting the office at the time had opinions on bait, cat food, leftovers, and marshmallows were all recommended. That night I set the trap, bated it with cat food and bird seed hoping to catch a raccoon, not a neighborhood cat. The next morning I looked out the back door, like a child looking to see if the Easter Bunny came, but the trap was untouched. This went on for a couple weeks, he didn't even come back for the seed from the feeders. I think I must have scared him (or her). Our neighbor said their dogs killed a small one and they have seen the big one. Another neighbor said they trapped one also. By now I had switched the bait to PB&Js and marshmallows, and just when I start thinking the raccoons were are all gone I woke to see a closed door on the trap. YAY! I went outside to proudly look at my catch only to see an empty trap with no bait.
I named it 'Lil Bastard' ...
Apparently I was NOT a Wyoming Mountain Man Trapper in my previous life. The trap I borrowed from game and fish was too small (failed to trap lil bastard) so I dropped $80 on a coon-trap from the local ranch store (should have purchased on Amazon.Com). This one was a large cage with a trap door. I put it in the grass and baited it with a PB&J. The next morning the trap had not been snapped but the PB&J was gone. Lil Bastard reached through the bars and pulled it out that way, my bird feeders were also emptied. The next night I used marshmallows and made sure they were in the middle of the cage, in the morning the bait was gone and the trap still didn't snap. I have only succeeded in keeping Lil Bastard well fed with PB&Js, marshmallows, humming bird food, and bird seed. I even provided Lil Bastard with a drink of water. Lil Bastard probably walks away from my yard, tummy full, sayin' "Suc-kaaa!!!"
I looked at the failed trap and decided that putting the trap in the grass was the reason the trap was not snapping. It looked tike the weight of the animal was pressing the trap into the ground and blocking the mechanism that releases the trap door. So that night I put the trap on the sidewalk leading to my back deck, which happened to be under our bedroom window and the guestroom window where my mom and her dogs were sleeping. Just after 4 am the trap snapped and we had one very pissed off raccoon, what a racket! Lil Bastard woke the entire family trying to escape from his cage. After a while it was clear he wasn't going to give up on escaping so my husband went outside to move the cage to the other side of the house. I looked out the window and watched him pick up the cage, Lil Bastard lunged and growled at him, feisty little bugger.
The next morning I went to examine the fruits of my hard work. I felt a little bad for Lil Bastard, he looked frightened and tired from fighting the cage. That morning my husband took him for a ride to the forest, near a creek and away from people, and let him go. I caught Lil' Bastard's cousin several weeks later. Since then we have not seen any more evidence of raccoons. Hopefully that will be the last of them.