Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Our  dairy farmer/huntsman neighbor Mark lent us a live trap to catch the raccoon that has been devouring our chickens. He recommended baiting it with marshmallows and I had some of those giant fruity marshmallows on hand  so I put in a raspberry, a banana and an orange flavored one, hoping he would  find one of them irresistible.
I set it just inside the door of the barn, where the cow cookies and chicken feed are stored, because he has feasted there before.

Yesterday, I made Rog come out and check with me before he left for work, because I wasn't sure what kind of welcome to expect if we caught him. But no raccoon. This morning, I wasn't even thinking of it and opened the door, dogs along with me, and they surged in growling and snarling. The raccoon was in the trap, also growling and snarling!  There was an adrenalin moment while I got the dogs out of there and closed the barn back up. Then I called Mark, who said he would like the coon if we caught it.
The raccoon  obligingly showed us that he was a young male, so at least I don't have to feel guilty about orphaned babies somewhere.  He  looked a bit  scruffy because it is shedding season, but otherwise  seemed pretty healthy.  When I took the dogs and cats in for rabies boosters last week, the vet said that several cases of rabies have been found in the region already this year; it  looks like a peak year  for rabies (it tends to cycle.)   Raccoons can also carry distemper. Two more reasons I don't really want this raccoon  living in the barn.
Being careful not to get bit by the raccoon, Mark carried the cage to his truck.   He will put it in a cool, shady spot today, then tonight take it a few miles away and release it. He has a new young coonhound that he is training to track it and tree it.  He will only shoot it if the dog performs perfectly.  Mark said that since it is the dog's first time, odds are that the raccoon will get away.

I have mixed feelings about the fate of this raccoon. I  know his alternative fate is to be killed - there really is no good place to release him where he will not become somebody else's problem. At least this way he has a chance, and I am secretly kind of rooting for him, as long as he doesn't return to eat my poultry.
Last year,  Mark and his fellow hunters shot almost 100 raccoons in a ten mile radius of his farm.  He said you would think there wouldn't be many left in our neighborhood, but they are all over.

Mark's family has been avid coon hunters for at least three generations (not to mention, deer hunters, turkey hunters, duck hunters, pheasant hunters, bow hunters...)  Coon hunting season is in the fall, when the raccoons have finished raising their families and have grown luxurious winter coats. The hunters take a flashlight, a backpack with a bottle of water and a little sustenance, and track on foot, following the sound of the dogs.  It can be a long hunt - once they ended up near Oxbow Park, about eight miles away, and it's unlikely the hunt was traveling as the crow flies.  Mark said often he and his brother, sister, dad or uncle will have worked all day, go coon hunting all night, return in time to do the morning milking, and just skip sleeping that day.

Mark invited me to join them on a hunt next fall and I just might take him up on the offer.  I would go along for the adventure of traipsing through the woods and fields in the dark by flashlight, not to shoot a raccoon myself.   It seems like a cultural aspect of being a farmer that I should experience. 


CrazyChicken said...

Thanks for the info about the rabies being up.
I am sorry to hear you lost some of your feathered friends. If you need replacements, let me know. I might even let a Marans pullet go if you need one.
I always feel bad when we have to dispose of any animal, but the fact is, wild animals can cause devastating problems on a farm, and we have to be prepared to deal with those without passing the problems off to someone else.
I am glad you caught the little fellow.

Jocelyn said...

That is so interesting. I had no idea about raccoon hunting.

I'm glad you caught the little bugger. He caused many losses for you. I'm sorry about his fate as well, but I agree with Crazy Chicken. It's more responsible of us to "man up" and do what needs to be done than to turn a blind eye. Good for you!

Marcia said...

Good that that taken care of for you and your chicks. But if there's one isn't there likely to be another?

marilynn said...

1firoviReleasing is not as kind as you might think as a large percentage of the raccoons die. They also can find their way home over many miles. We had such a problem with raccoons savaging our deck (i had to take all plants and feeders in every evening and out the next morning. We finally solved the problem with an electric wire around the deck and stairs. They are nasty critters. We had a very sick one here this winter with probable distemper. Apparently any time you see a raccoon out in the day it likely has distemper because they are totally disoriented. Marilynn olney