A little one and more about the one before

When I set the live trap on Wednesday evening, I knew that the raccoon I was after was young. The scat was smaller than what I had seen with the other raccoons, but there was more. This raccoon struck me as being young and playful. I honestly had mixed feelings about trapping the poor creature in my trap — only the thought of my vulnerable chicks in the chicken yard kept me on task.

That morning, I had walked into the barn to find quite a mess — my first sign that a raccoon had visited during the night. Our barn cats sometimes knock boxes off shelves or make a nest in the hay, but this was different: my workbench had been virtually emptied of its many objects. There was raccoon scat on its surface, and most of my tools were on the floor.

I saw something else, however, that made me think that the perpetrator was young. I usually keep a box of nitrile gloves hanging on the pegboard over the workbench. The raccoon had discovered the box of gloves — but instead of simply throwing the box to the floor, he discovered it had entertainment value. Sitting on one of the 55-gallon drums in which we sometimes store grain, he must have held the box firmly in his lap or at his side. He had then begun to pull the gloves out, one by one. Every removed glove brought a bit of the next glove out of the box, and every piece of glove that emerged created the urge to pull yet again.

One after another, the black gloves were dropped to the ground in a circle around the cardboard drum, obviously quite entertaining to this young raccoon. With 100 gloves in the box, and the box being newly opened on Monday, there was plenty of entertainment to be had inside this “magic box.” It must have been similar to our children’s fascination with the clown car at the circus, watching one clown after another emerge: how do all those clowns fit in that little car? How could all these big gloves fit into that little box? I think the show stopped when so many gloves had been pulled out that the next glove failed to emerge. By that point, over half of the contents of the box were scattered around the floor. I could almost imagine the raccoon’s disappointment as the game came to an abrupt end.

I set my trap on Wednesday evening at dusk, and sure enough, on Thursday morning I had caught a small raccoon weighing maybe ten or fifteen pounds. When I entered the barn, he lifted his sad and fearful eyes to mine, but he made no sound or movement. I honestly felt bad for him and hoped that one of the previous raccoons that we transplanted to the wildlife area had been its mother — maybe they could still find each other since I release all of the raccoons in the same area.

Catching this little one made me wonder whether the problems I had in releasing the most recent raccoon (#4) could have happened because it was this one’s mother. After I had opened the trap, it had lumbered out and turned on me, standing on its rear legs and spreading its front legs like a grizzly bear. It let out what can only be described as a raccoon roar and began  to come at me as I backed slowly away from the trap. I hopped onto the tailgate, but the raccoon didn’t stop; it continued to come after me as I debated how safe I was in the bed of the truck if it hopped up to get in with me.

With little thought about where I would go next, I climbed onto the roof of the truck cab, but the raccoon kept snarling and coming. With nowhere to go, I suddenly thought about the cab below me — if I could get inside, I could lock the creature out! I hung over the side to open the door (good thing I have very long arms!), then I lowered my legs into the open doorway and slithered in, slamming the door behind me. At least I was safe in the truck – but my trap was still on the ground behind me!

The raccoon jumped down when I started the engine, and I drove forward, away from the raccoon and trap. The raccoon backed off to the edge of the mowed area where I had originally released it. I turned the truck around and drove toward the angry raccoon, which climbed the nearest tree — unfortunately onto a branch that hung directly over my trap. I finally drove up next to the trap and slowly opened the passenger side door, grabbing the trap, slamming the door, and driving away — problem solved!

In hindsight, I can’t help but wonder whether that fifty pound raccoon was this little one’s mother. If someone had relocated me years ago without my young, I certainly would have put up a fight! I carefully loaded this fifth little raccoon into the truck and took it out to where I had relocated the others in the wildlife area. Perhaps there was a chance for a reunion.

There was no excitement in this release: I opened the trap and it ran off into the brush. It did stop to look back once it was a safe distance away. No longer afraid, and obviously more comfortable in a more familiar environment, it turned and left me standing and watching as it retreated into the brush. I hope — really hope — that this is the last of the raccoons in our barn for this year. Faced with the little guy, I realize I’m becoming a softie — I have to keep thinking of my chicks’ safety to keep me strong!

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