Thursday, August 4, 2011

Third Time's the Charm

My first two attempts to catch the Three Amigos - the three little raccoon littermates living in my back yard - were foiled by their ability to get into the traps, eat the the food, and then exit the traps without triggering the trap door.  So, not discouraged, I came up with a solution.  Apparently these three little guys are not heavy enough to spring the trap door.  They are juveniles and littermates, and aren't very big.   I needed to find a way to get them to sit on the trigger plate in a way that all of their weight is centralized in one spot. 

I came up with the idea of putting pieces of cut-up peach into stocking feet, sacrificing an old pair of pantyhose for this job.  I was able to easily push the stocking sacks down through the grate of the cage roofs and tie them in place, directly over the trigger plates.  They hung down about 6", enough that the raccoons could sit on their haunches and work and "worry" the fruit juices and pieces of fruit out of the stocking mesh material.  I also sprinkled a liberal amount of dry cat food on the ground inside of the traps.

Traps baited, I went back inside and went about my business.  At around 9:30 PM, my curiosity got the better of me, so I grabbed a flashlight and went outside to the back yard to check the traps.  Bingo!  Two of the three little guys were securely locked inside one of the traps.  The third little guy was on the outside of the other trap, trying to get at the fruit sack through the grating.  He walked into the trap, towards the rear, discovered the cat food, and busily grabbed and munched away, but then turned and exited the cage again, intent on getting at that fruit sack from the outside.  But as I stood there, he gave up and headed back into the trap and toward the rear where that sack hung.  And the door was sprung!  He was now safely caught!

But oh, my!  The adorable little trills coming from those cages out there!  It was heart-breaking!  I slept very poorly last night, worrying about those raccoons out there.  I didn't want to do them harm or to injure them, or to cause them undue suffering or distress.  At 4:45 AM this morning I woke up again, and could not get back to sleep.  So I got up, got into my running clothes and then went outside to check on the three amigos.  The two that were trapped together in one of the cages were lying in a pile, their arms around each other, peering out at me. 

The third little guy, in his own trap, was clearly distressed and desperate.  He was trilling and clicking away, busily digging a trench along the outside edges of the trap.   This was killing me!

I headed out in the dark to get a short run in and, when I returned, started my coffee pot and made breakfast, killing time until I thought the management office would be open so that I could call to arrange having the little guys picked up and transported away.  There was no answer, so I left a message.  An hour later, at 8:00 AM I hopped on my bicycle and rode over to the office, thinking they should be open by now.  But the lights were turned off and no one was there.  I really had no idea when our property manager arrives each day. 

So I went back to the house and, because the sun was starting to get higher in the  sky, I tried to rig up a way of giving the little raccoons some water.  They had now been in those traps for almost 12 hours.  I tried sliding plastic picnic plates under one corner of the cages and filling them to brimming with water.  They would be able to drink the water, since the screening of the floor of the cages is a very open caging.  A little while later, when I checked on them, the duo in one cage had filled the plate with grass, in their attempt to build a nest inside their cage.  The other raccoon, by its digging around the perimeter of the cage, had quickly filled the plate under his cage with dirt.  Well, that's not going to work. 

What to do...what to do.  Then I had another idea.  Ice cubes!  I went back inside and filled a couple of containers with ice from my ice maker.  The crescent-shaped cubes just barely fit through the screening of the cages, but I managed to get a couple of dozen cubes into each of the cages and then filled the containers with water and placed them up against the cages.  I dragged the cages closer to the base of two trees, both to ensure they stayed in the shade as the sun got higher, and to get them off the lawn and onto the mulch under the trees.  These guys were really making a mess of the grass under their cages and along the perimeter.  Then I sprinkled some more cat food into both of the cages, which the little guys promptly started to eat.

I spent a good amount of time with these cute little guys this morning, as I fussed over them, fed them, tried to give them water, and made sure they were in the shade and not getting too hot or too stressed.  In that time, I could clearly discern three very different personalities among the three of them.  The raccoon in the cage by himself was clearly the aggressive one, and I imagine that he's the one who "faux boxed" with me a couple of months ago.  You can read that blog entry here:  Three Amigos .  He is definitely the "fighter" of the three, never giving up, determined to dig himself out of that cage, and also the most vocal of the three.  Of the two raccoons who were in the other trap together, one was very shy, usually hiding under or behind the other one, often curled up, hiding his face behind his paws, and sleeping (or feigning sleep).   It was definitely beneficial that these two got trapped together.  They kept each other calm, and held each other or huddled together for much of the time. 

Then there's the third little guy, the one sharing the cage with the shy one.  Clearly the most clever of the three, and the most outgoing.  He was never afraid of me, always let me approach the cage and get very close with the camera or to put food and water in the cage.  He would look at me with those really sweet eyes as if to say, "Hi!"   When I placed the bowl of water up against the outside of the cage, this clever little guy immediately reached out and dipped both paws into the water, splaying his toes out into two adorable little fans, and swishing his paws in the water.  He'd pull his paws back into the cage and then lick them.  He tried to reach his tongue out to the bowl to lap the water.  Physically this was clearly possible as his little tongue was long enough, but he just never got it lined up correctly relative to the bowl.  Then he turned his attention to the ice cubes.  He reached out for one, rolling it toward him and then licking it.  Smart little raccoon!!

As cute as these Three Amigos are, I know that they don't belong in our neighborhood, and would be better off relocated out to a more country-like setting.  I did finally talk to the property manager to let her know that I had successfully trapped three raccoons.  About two hours later - around noontime - one of the maintenance workers arrived in the security pickup truck to take them away.  The property manager had called Animal Control and they would be coming shortly to take possession. 

I was actually saddened to see these cute guys be taken away.  I hope they are treated well and find a new home where they'll be safe and happy.

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