It is always fairly obvious when we have a resident raccoon. They make a heck of a mess in the barns and leave some very specific droppings in our yard, and the barn cats become scarce, knowing they could well become a meal if the raccoon is hungry enough. At the end of last week, I knew we had another raccoon in residence, and for the sake of our now three-week-old chicks in the chicken coop, I knew the intruder had to go.
If it comes to a choice between my chickens, sheep, dogs, and llamas or some wild creature, I will defend our animals and kill the predator. Yet most of the time I find that we can resolve our differences fairly peaceably. After all, the predator is simply doing what comes naturally, and it needs to eat. But once it’s settled into our farm, it eventually chooses to eat the wrong thing. The most humane answer is to relocate the animal to an area where it can make better choices for its meals, and we can go back to a more normal state here on the farm. At least, that’s the usual plan.
So when I realized that we had yet another raccoon here, eating the dry cat food and leaving droppings in our lawn, we once again set the live trap, baited with canned cat food. The raccoons are nocturnal but we aren’t, so even though we set the trap late in the day, we still had a chance of catching one of our cats during what was left of the daylight hours. And on Saturday evening, that is precisely what happened. Our barn cat Frank found his way into the trap for the cat food. Rick released him Sunday morning and then reset the trap that evening. We checked the trap just before dark and it was empty — no cats. I told Rick then, “If there isn’t a cat in it at dusk, we’ll have a raccoon in the morning.” Sure enough, when I stopped into the barn on Monday morning, there was one very angry raccoon staring back at me from the trap!
The problem is that trapping raccoons isn’t really my thing; Rick has always done it for me. Unfortunately, Rick had an important meeting on Monday and couldn’t come home to empty the trap! I was on my own. I tried to ignore the raccoon and go about my morning chores, but by the time I finished, I found myself worrying. It was warm out. Did he/she need water? Would it die in the trap without water by the time Rick would get home? Overnight, it had made a huge mess; there was raccoon scat combined with urine in about a four-foot puddle around the trap, and the raccoon looked a mess — it certainly couldn’t be happy in there! For that reason, and for my peace of mind, I decided to relocate it myself. I knew I would feel better about the whole thing.
I donned heavy-duty gloves and grabbed the trap by the handle on top. Thankfully there was a metal guard between the handle and the wire mesh of the trap, because that raccoon was very angry with me. All I could see as I moved the trap to the bed of the truck were fur, claws, and big yellow teeth, all in motion — and there was a lot of noise! I was so happy when the trap was in the truck and I could step away from my captive. Being so close to something so wild had made me very nervous — and that wasn’t a good indicator for what was to come!
Rick told me to take the ice chipper with me to help open the trap, so once that was loaded into the bed of the truck, I took off for the river. I wanted to release the raccoon in a place that would be safe and would provide a good food supply so that it wouldn’t have to wander to neighboring farms. According to the DNR office, it is best to release any trapped raccoons in a designated wildlife area rather than a park, since wildlife areas have fewer visitors and would give the raccoon the best chance at a “reformed” life away from people.
The best place seemed to be the Matsell Bridge Natural Area in Central City, about 17 miles northeast of our farm. From what I saw on the map, it had a river, lots of trees and rough areas — perfect for a raccoon looking for a new home! I printed the map and headed out to release this very unhappy raccoon into a hopefully much happier environment!
It wasn’t long before we arrived — and it was perfect! It took me a while to figure out how to open the trap, and the raccoon was anything but patient. Eventually I pushed the door open with the ice chipper and my little buddy scrambled out. I was a bit worried when it stopped only a few feet in front of the trap, turned around, and continued its unpleasant noises. I stood my ground, however, and told the angry creature to go on, that I was sure it would be great there! The raccoon turned and disappeared into the undergrowth.
Honestly, I’m just happy it went without any injury to my chicks, my cats, or me. Now I’m off to set the trap again to see if there is a raccoon family member or friend still hanging around, perhaps occasionally glancing longingly at my chicks!