Thursday, September 14, 2006

Those rascally raccoons

It is the job--nay, the very duty--of housecats Tux and Pye to patrol the perimeter and keep us safe at all times from misdirected crickets, moths, and their ilk. Outside noises do not normally bother either of them, so when Pye started growling from the safety of the foot of the bed last night, I peeked above the covers. His ears were canted forward and his whiskers twitching. I knew the noise I had tossed off as irrelevant, was not.

The motion light was on in the backyard and I cautioned the boys to keep the bedroom safe--no, no need to follow and protect me--and I would creep down the stairs and check out the disturbance. I got more than I bargained for.

Separating the blinds at the back door, I was amazed to see not one, but two, young raccoons playfully eating the outdoor cat's vituals and cavorting in her spilled water bowl. I knocked on the window. No response. I might as well not have existed. I opened the window and talked to them. Perhaps they were deaf. I beat on the window sill and finally got the response I was seeking: they scattered to a nearby tree and raced up to the fork of it.

Keep in mind, I LIVE DOWNTOWN. This is not the country. This isn't even the edge of town. This is a neighborhood lined with houses dating, as does mine, to almost 100 years ago. We are entrenched. And so, it would seem, is the wild life.

This is not my first rodeo where the raccoon population is concerned. Eleven years ago, I began a year-long mission of trapping one very nimble and smart raccoon. His little raccoon paws could open our magnetic cat door and he could toss such door halfway across the backyard while he waltzed into my kitchen and helped himself to the catfood. When I figured out what was causing all the ruckus with the food and water, I trapped him immediately. And he just as promptly escaped from it. Ten months later (but who's counting?) he became so bold as to come into the kitchen while I was eating breakfast.

It took three nights, and some contortions on my part, to tie a pork rib to both the top and bottom of a live trap before I outsmarted him. (The first night he got the rib without tripping the trap. The second night, when I was so clever I tied it in, he pulled the rib through the mesh and ate it, leaving the bone neatly on top.) We released him in the country, no doubt bolstering that population's clever raccoon quotient.

Within months of this, I also trapped three others, a mother and two babies. The latter really were too easy, but then, they had no business marauding around the charcoal grill when I was cooking!

It has since been raccoon-silent in my backyard until this summer. About a month ago, at dusk, I watched a very large fellow walk the perimeter of my fence and pass me by. Sometimes in the mornings, the cat's water bowl is dirt-filled or spilled. I knew they were back.

'Tis time they had a country home. I'll keep you up-to-date on how long it takes me to outsmart them.

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