Okay, this is getting to be a bit overwhelming. I walked into the barn on Wednesday morning to find our third masked bandit unhappily awaiting my arrival. And this one was big — nearly filling the live trap. It really made me wonder how many raccoons were marauding through our barns at night. There’s no way to know until our trap has NOT caught a raccoon for a week or more, so I continued to bait and set the trap.
It’s interesting that each of the captured raccoons has had a different way of interacting with the world. The first one was a whirling dervish, much like the Tasmanian devil of the old Loony Tunes cartoons: all fur, teeth, and claws whenever we approached the trap. The second was more stoic, but quite the acrobat! Every time I checked on it in the barn, it was hanging from a different part of the trap: first settled in the back on the floor facing the door, next hanging from one side and facing the back, then hanging from the top of the trap and again facing the door. When I finally released it, it had tipped the trap on its side, most likely once again having clung to the side wall.
The third raccoon was even calmer than the second. I was afraid that as I approached, it would explode in a frenzy like the first one had, but it slouched in melancholy as I loaded the trap into the bed of the truck. It never moved or made a noise until I poked a stick into the trap to move the cat food can out of the door mechanism — then it gave a warning growl, but even that was low and quiet. This raccoon actually scared me the most since the calm made me nervous, never knowing when it might suddenly switch to hostility.
I thought that my trapping days were finished after that third raccoon, but I continued to set the trap on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There were no takers; the trap was empty at the check each morning, the can of cat food untouched. I had just decided to discontinue my trapping yesterday morning and gave the newest can of cat food to the barn cats when I heard my three dogs begin barking in the yard. When I went to investigate, I found them all running up and down the stairway next to the chicken yard, sniffing, barking, and generally too excited and boisterous for my liking. They had been interested in this area for days, often insisting that there was something under the stairs — a cat, I thought, but now I wondered if perhaps it was something more. Lisa was nowhere to be seen, but I could clearly hear her barking and snarling somewhere out of sight.
As I approached the stairway, I realized that she had crawled underneath the boards, between the chicken yard fence and the stairs, and as I peered into the gloom under the stairs, I could see a big raccoon looking back at me. Its left eye had been injured in a long-ago fight, and it was obviously older and experienced. I suspected this was why it hadn’t yet been captured — after so many years on its own, it was smart enough to outwit traps and get what it needed to survive. This raccoon had hunkered down right next to the chicken yard — with its prey in clear sight 24/7 — with currant bushes on the back side and lots of productive raspberry canes right next to the chickens. It was like fast-food central for a raccoon!
Eventually I got Lisa out from under the stairs and set the live trap again. There were only two ways for the raccoon to get out from its hiding place, and I set the trap against one of them, in hopes that the scent of fresh canned cat food would be too enticing to resist. Sure enough, number four was in the trap this morning. It sat quietly as I approached but exploded into an all-out attack as soon as I picked up the trap. I was happy to finally get him loaded up and then released.
All four of the raccoons have been released at wooded riverside areas far from our farm, where they should be able to make a safe and happy home. Unfortunately, from what I have read online, it seems that removing one raccoon only creates a vacuum that draws others in. This has me concerned that I might be raccoon trapping for the rest of my life — although I certainly hope not! I’m hoping it will take time for a new raccoon family to figure out we have a vacancy and that my chicks can grow into adulthood in the interim. After all, at this stage they aren’t much more than a big bite or two for a big, hungry raccoon.
My little four-week-old chicks are protected by a chicken yard surrounded with cyclone fencing topped by two electrified wires. With all of the raccoons we’ve been catching, I’m assuming that the gulag that Rick set up for the chicks will be enough to keep them safe. Otherwise I think they would already be gone, having joined the previous flock in the bellies of the resident raccoons. For now, we wait and trap any masked marauders — and apprehensively visit the chicken coop every day, hoping that the chicks will still be there, alive and well, happily exploring their new world.