Animals

Wrangling Wildlife

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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.

 

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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.

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…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.)

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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.

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Onward, Bugsy

 

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A few weeks ago one of our equine residents quietly slipped away.

Not in an end-of-life kind of way. No, Bugsy stepped aboard a horse trailer and moved onward.

Or rather, “backward” — back to his old home. His real home.

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Hadley, age 3; Bugsy, 20-something

The kids always thought that Bugsy was our pony, when actually, he was a longterm loan. When the kids outgrew him, or out-paced his capabilities, the plan was to return him to his owner. And the time is right; his owner has a grandchild who’s nearly lead-line ready.

And that’s Bugsy’s area of expertise: lead-line pony; living, breathing teddy bear; babysitter of diaper-clad, horse-crazy toddlers. His talents shouldn’t be wasted or shelved. A little kid should be crawling under his belly or hugging his head off.

So a few weeks ago, Bugsy left as quietly as when he arrived, 3 1/2 years ago.

Hadley was tearful when I announced Bugsy’s impending departure. But she recovered quickly.

She’s moved onward, too.

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O.P. Update

 

My recent Irish trip bumped the following news update about our tenant/wannabe-barncat, Oh Possum. But I’m happy to report:

Oh Possum has been evicted.

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After several unsuccessful attempts to catch O.P., Martin camouflaged the trap with bits of lumber — an act that I endlessly mocked. (“Really, that’s going to lure him in? A few pieces of wood? Ha!”)

But it worked.

The night of the snow storm (not the last snow, but the one before that), we discovered Oh Possum, trapped like a rat.

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I was elated, but our chief trapper? Less so. Martin was reluctant to locate the marsupial, in lieu of the weather. “I feel bad, taking him out of his environment to somewhere new in a snow storm,” he said.

“Okay…” I said warily.

“Maybe we should keep him in the cage, and — you know — feed him for a few days.”

“Not a chance,” I flatly replied. “He ships out. Tonight.”

“Well, then maybe we should let him go. And then we’ll catch him again when it’s not snowing.”

“Are you crazy? Catch him again? Do you really think he’ll fall for the lumber covered trap-trick again?” I asked. “Listen, the snow’s not that deep. He has plenty of time to meet his new, charming woodland neighbors and learn the lay of the land.” 

After that, there was a debate about who would handle transportation (“I’m not taking that thing,” I said.) And a discussion over the transport vehicle (“No way, Martin! You are NOT putting Oh Possum in Flash!!”)

Finally, around midnight, Martin and Cayden loaded the hissing beast into Big Rig’s flatbed and drove off into the dark.

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You’re taking me where?”

 

Oh Possum is now a resident of the great state of Virginia (should he wish to return, he’ll have to cross the Potomac River). I don’t think that we’ll see him again. However, Martin has detected more scratching in the crawlspace above his office.

Perhaps an O.P. sibling or cousin?