Wrangling Wildlife


I thought we’d weathered the storm of bad luck. The deer-car collisions, the lice infestation, failing household appliances and leaky pipes.

We’re done, I thought.

Then a raccoon waddled into the mudroom.

It was last Friday morning. I’d just returned from dropping the kids at camp when I saw the raccoon at the mudroom threshold. He stumbled in like a drunk — taking a stutter-step and falling against the door frame — before lurching forward.

Oh, shit, I thought.

A raccoon in the daytime is certainly sick. And this one? Rabid and in the “furious” stage: disoriented, uncoordinated, and biting everything in sight. He approached the first pair of shoes — my sneakers — and sunk his teeth into the spongey fabric, tearing away the heel.

I watched from a distance, feeling vulnerable in flip flops and bare legs. When he moved to the next pair — Hadley’s rain boots — I snapped to action, and sprinted for Martin’s office.



Those are done, let’s try these…


Martin was on a business call; I scrawled a note: rabid raccoon in mudroom, EATING shoes!

“Oh crap,” Martin said, surveying the scene. “No, no! Not my good hiking boots!” he shouted, clapping his hands and pounding on the window. The raccoon was unresponsive.

I called Animal Control and then phoned our gun-owning neighbors. But they weren’t home. I ran through options; Martin nixed them.

Open the kitchen door and shove him out with a barn pitchfork? Too risky, he might attack the pitchfork and run inside the house.

String the garden hose through the window and spray him? Likely to soak all of our shoes and miss the mark.

Eventually Martin retrieved a thick, yellow rope we use for tubing. “I’m going to lasso him,” Martin announced, “and pull him out of the mudroom.”

That sounded like a terrible idea — inconceivable, impossible to execute — but Martin was determined. While he fashioned a loop, I monitored the animal’s chewing choices. When the raccoon sunk his teeth into expensive footwear, I’d hurl something at him from the porch — an empty milk crate, a citronella candle, a tube of sun block. The raccoon would pause, mildly dazed, then growl before sinking his teeth into something else.


…like Maisie’s empty dog dish.


Much to my surprise, Martin’s wrangling worked. He had to stand dangerously close to the raccoon and the rope slipped off several times. But finally, he hooked the raccoon’s leg and dragged him, hissing and spitting, out of the room. (Note: The raccoon retreated under a boxwood and we lost sight of him while pulling a curious cat from the scene.)


Raccoon removal


Eventually Animal Control arrived. Apparently, an emergency call reporting “a rabid raccoon in the house,” elicits a 90-minute response rate. 

The animal control guy admonished us for having barn cats — “as long as you’re feeding them outside, you’re gonna have critters.” 

Then he told us to get a gun.

Actually, he said, “I strongly urge you to purchase a firearm. A 20-gauge will do you fine. And right now, they’re on sale at Walmart.”

Well, great, I thought. Let’s add that to the shopping list: orange juice, butter, bananas and a 20-gauge shotgun.

Hopefully Walmart’s got shoes on sale, too.

A few pairs were mortally wounded in action.