Saturday, May 28, 2016

raccoon sleeping


raccoon sleeping
battered legs stretched out of the cage
after a long night

It's the third raccoon we've caught in the past couple of weeks. The masked bandits have been marauding the bird feeders. Jumping from the bench, they hang on to a feeder until their weight brings it crashing to the ground, seeds spilling out. I've started bringing the feeders in at night, but sometimes I wait too long past dark. Then we hear the bang bang of the big green feeder against the window. As soon as we open the door, a striped form drops to the ground and streaks away. One time John got out so quickly that he kicked the coon as it ran past him!

So John started setting the humane trap, baiting it with nut butter. When the animal goes into the cage to eat the bait, it trips a spring and the door shuts, locking it in. At first John put a glob of the stuff in the trap, but the small chipmunks easily carried it off without springing the door. So now he just smears some in the cage. It works.

This morning when I went out to replace the feeders, I found a raccoon in the trap. It was lying on its side, tucked under the angle of the door, front legs stretched out through holes in the cage. Its legs were bloody from trying to escape. At first I thought the coon was dead. It didn't stir with all the noise I was making. But then I saw its side rising and falling, still breathing, so it must have been asleep, exhausted from its struggles. Soon afterwards I saw it sit up and begin licking its wounds. 

I urged John to take it to Turkey Run as soon as possible. This is a public wildlife area some miles south across the river. I always worry about the animals not having water. When we went out to collect the cage, the raccoon sat up from another nap and looked anxiously up at these two huge humans. As soon as John picked up the cage, the coon started pacing back and forth, trying to get out again. John said when he got to the river and opened the door, the coon jumped out and dashed away. The second one we caught got turned the wrong way in the cage and took longer to leave. John tried banging on the cage, but the coon just growled and tried to bite through the bars. Finally, it got turned the right way and jumped out. 

When we caught the first coon, it had been raining all night. The poor critter had rolled the cage over from the plywood to the dirt, which was now mud. It kept trying to dig its way out and managed to pull a pile of mud into the cage and cover its fur with mud. In the morning John took the cage over to the outdoor spigot and hosed the raccoon off. It opened its mouth and drank some of the water, holding one paw up, as if begging for deliverance. 

I really don't like these so-called humane traps. It's true, it doesn't kill the animal (unless it's left in it too long), but the creature certainly goes through a lot of suffering before it's released. And then I always worry that it may be a mother with babies left behind. It's hard to live in the country and not come into conflict with the animals who naturally live in the woods and meadows around us. But if it were up to me, I would just be more vigilant about taking the feeders in before dark and not set any traps.

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