Tuesday, October 20, 2015

raccoon day

You know how sometimes you do things without really thinking through what you are going to do if it actually works?  Well.  This happens to me a good deal.  We have been having some "predator issues" here in the backyard.  Hawks have been circling, skunks have been spraying, feral cats have been prowling and streaking out from small places in the dark when you least expect it, and something has been stalking the chicken coop.  And sadly, very sadly for Elliott especially, they eventually figured out a way in.  And did some very bad things to our hens.  Suffice to say, they did not play nicely. 

And so, despite all the shoring up and reinforcements and gentle encouraging of these hungry but unwelcome creatures to head back into the woods or at least to someone else's compost pile, I needed to take the next step of intervention.  So I retrieved the groundhog trap from the garden shed, researched attractive bait for raccoons, and set it up.  

Despite what you may hear on the interweb? Raccoons prefer the uneaten macaroni and cheese from your children's school lunch box to anything else you might offer.  I kid you not.  Just in case you need to know this.

I was dutifully setting the trap in the evening, leaving the dogs down there as dusk settled in, visiting the coop often after dark while singing college a cappella songs and clapping and doing my best to remember the accompanying choreography that went along with these songs, loudly, facing into the the woods.  I scared quite a few raccoons up into trees, where they climbed high and then watched me, their eyes glinting in the dark.  One cannot say I did not do my best to warn them.  I am not really sure why I was surprised when I walked down there in the morning.  And found this.

Now, mind you.  This creature behaved very badly.  Very, very badly.  But it only took me about four seconds, maybe seven, to look into his eyes.  And sigh.

Who, me?

I needed to do some research.  About whether I should just release him and ask him nicely not to come back.  Or whether I should call animal control (but I feared I knew what would become of him then).  Or whether he was mature enough to live alone (he was, he had the markings of a full grown raccoon.  Oh, the powers of Google).  And while I was agonizing, we found him a safe place, as Elliott, who was so devastated about the loss of his favorite chicken, was also quite concerned about Ricky the Raccoon being out in the rain.  And so, he was moved temporarily.  To the garden shed.

And keeping a good and safe distance of course, Elliott cared for this creature, a creature who now was the one who needed caring for.

Elliott foraged in the frost bitten garden for food.  Chicken scratch, rotten tomatoes, and kale were offered.  I am teaching him to be a vegetarian, Elliott explained.

He really liked the kale.

I became fully terrified by things I had read, much like those feelings after Googling every weird symptom I had while pregnant (did you make that mistake, too?) or like the horrors I uncover when one of our children is sick late at night. Yet despite my fear, it appeared I had my solution.  Which was based on Maine laws and regulations and people more knowledgeable than I.  But it was humane.  And Ricky is back in the woods.  Where we hope he maintains his new vegetarian lifestyle.

Problem was, I forgot to tell Jonathan that we were not going to set the trap anymore.  And instead that he should join me in my moonlit treetop serenades.

Next morning?  It's like Groundhog Day here.  But more fuzzy and masked and definitely more potentially vicious.  Our new friend was a different one.  But strangely, we were still somehow completely surprised.

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