Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘raccoons

Opening Night

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After an afternoon of monkeying around to install a new replacement storm door over our front door –of which I only got halfway– we hustled to feed animals early and get cleaned up for a night out on the town with our friends Barb and Mike Wilkus. First stop, we met in Northeast Minneapolis for some Southeast Asian food at Hai Hai restaurant, a culinary departure for all of us. It was great!

From there, we drove downtown for the local opening night performance of “Ain’t Too Proud,” the story of the Temptations, at the Orpheum Theater.

Quite a performance that tells the story of ups and downs the group went through in their somewhat complicated history.

It made for a very late night. Driving for an hour to get home after the show brought us in long after our usual bedtime. We are not usually on the road when it starts to get foggy and young raccoons might be trying to make their way across the pavement.

I fear there is one less raccoon alive this morning because I chose not to make any evasive maneuvers that might put ourselves and our vehicle at risk.



Nighttime Screeching

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Two nights in a row now. High pitched snarling, screeching growls in the darkness. We are grateful to be sleeping indoors, even if the sound leaks through our windows and doors enough to be audible. In the cold darkness, it must sound magnitudes more unsettling.

It wasn’t originally obvious what was going on, since we have heard the cries of rabbits being preyed upon, intense yelping from packs of coyotes, and rare screeches from owls in our woods on various occasions. This seemed to hold elements from any and all of those.

When there was no evidence of any carnivore activity to be found on the morning after the first night of terrorizing sounds and the screaming resumed the following night as darkness settled over the land, my suspicions about the source coalesced.

For reasons that completely evade my understanding, both Delilah and Pequenita showed no hint of reaction to the angry creature sounds happening just beyond our walls. They both seem to react to a myriad of other triggering sounds occurring beyond my range of hearing, but this drama that was catching my attention mysteriously meant nothing to them.

I pressed my ear to the glass of the back door to gauge the distance and direction to the source of the creepy screams as I attempted to silently work the latch. As soon as the door cracked open, the sounds stopped. There was no echo, no winding down of conflict, no sounds of movement. Only silence. Instant silence.

Standing motionless outside the door, holding it closed but not latched to avoid making a single sound myself, I hoped to outlast whatever creature it was that was smart enough to respond to my appearance with such immediate disappearance. Was it holding its breath?

I was, mine.

It would have to eventually move. Whatever the screaming was all about couldn’t have just totally ended. If it was some fracas between two animals, the animosity couldn’t have just vanished because I showed up.

They, or it, won. I gave up after a few minutes and went back inside. Undaunted, I headed right to our high beam spotlight flashlight to follow up on my hunch. At the back door again, I switched it on and pointed it toward the high branches of the nearest big tree.

Suspicion confirmed. Two beady raccoon eyes glowed in the light beam.

We had thought the masked bandits weren’t active in the coldest months but research reveals mating can be happening in February and March. Yippy! Up to seven new babies possible in April and May. [sarcasm]

That screaming could be males competing for a single female. Beats me why I only saw one set of eyes in the tree limb when the noise definitely sounded like conflict between two parties.

Time to practice our trapping skills again to see if we can improve on the modest effectiveness we had last summer.



Written by johnwhays

February 6, 2022 at 11:48 am

Beyond Control

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The lesson I am being given the opportunity to absorb this week involves the concept of accepting things that are beyond my control. I can lure a raccoon to my trap but I can’t force it to step inside.

That’s one version. There is another that is having a much greater impact on my sensibilities. We just learned that the 20-acre plot adjacent to ours along the northern length was sold by foreclosure this month.

So many questions. How come we failed to discover anything about the situation in advance?

I have subsequently stumbled onto a document that reveals the judgment of foreclosure was entered in early April. The notice of foreclosure sale was drafted in May. The public auction sale at the front entrance of the Pierce County Courthouse was scheduled for July 6th at 9:00 a.m.

Did the property sell?

Who might the new owner(s) be?

Might they plan to build a home on the otherwise forested and cultivated acres?

Could we be at risk of losing our precious natural forest boundary that provides a priceless level of privacy?

I have half-seriously pondered many times how special it would be to purchase the forested acres that surround our rectangle of land on two sides, but never imagined it would be feasible.

To find out now that there was an opportunity I failed to notice is something of a gut punch.

If it was purchased successfully, what happens next is largely out of my control.

I’ll imagine that the new owners will strive to drive off the fox that we think lives in those woods and will be prudent about controlling the raccoon population that probably includes the smart one who seems to know all too well to not fall for my baiting tricks.

If they decide to build a house, I will visualize it being located up on the high ground where I’m sure the cultivated fields offer many prime options. That would be well out of sight from our house so that we wouldn’t be a bother to them, you know.

I plan to do more sleuthing to learn if the sale was recorded, and when/where details were, or will be, made public.

I have no idea what the lag time might be for land record details to be posted online, but nothing new is currently showing at the online land records portal on the county web site.

Meanwhile, a third thing that is now painfully obvious for being out of my control is wild predation on our attempts to free range chickens. I do believe, certainly based on our opinions as of last night, we are done trying. Around dinner time, we lost 22 of our 25 birds.

Sorry, David.

Since Cyndie said this time she has had it for good, I suggested we give you the three survivors.

She said, “They won’t last that long.”

I can’t argue with that assessment.

She did say that you can take our bags of chicken feed, variety of feeders, and multiple waterers.

I’ve seen her change her mind before, but this time I am ready to lobby strongly that she not start over another time.

However, history reveals this as another thing that is beyond my control: Countering her amazing ability to recover enough to regain her glimmer of hope after the immediate pain of the loss eventually eases.

For now, it feels like neither of us wants to repeat this highly unsettling routine one more time.



Trapping Failures

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I thought it would be easy. We watched for a couple of weeks while a pest company trapped eleven raccoons just beyond the net fencing around our chicken coop. I monitored the location with my trail camera and was present to witness how they baited their traps. We provided our trap for their use to increase the chances and it snagged at least one of the eleven, so I know it works.

Since that time, there have been more occasions when it didn’t trip than when it did. One time, a wandering cat cleaned up all the bait without pulling the trigger on the hatch.

Two nights in a row, we overlooked turning the camera back on, losing the chance to see who has been stopping by. Well, one of those nights this cat did trip the latch and got itself trapped, but I didn’t get to see when, or how, or whether any other critters came along before or after.

On Sunday night there wasn’t a single overnight event to trigger the camera. Seems strange to me, except that it successfully captured two pictures of me closing the coop just after I turned it on for the night. After that, nothing.

Yesterday morning, Cyndie reported evidence of lots of shenanigans around the coop overnight. When I got home from work and checked the memory card, there were 83 images throughout the night. The adult and juvenile raccoon were back after days of not seeing them.

Unfortunately, I had not set out the trap for them. It had been relocated to the hay shed where a woodchuck/groundhog has been making daily appearances.

It’s a lot like a game of Whack-a-Mole.

But if I didn’t have any trapping failures, it wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding when we finally do enjoy a little random success.

Meanwhile, we heard a lone coyote howling just after sunset the other night.

Aahhh, country life.



Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2021 at 6:00 am

Endless Critters

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Get a gun, they said. You should have a gun. But I like not having a gun. We made it for nine years on our rural property without owning a gun. Then the great raccoon boom of 2021 happened. We enlisted the services of a pest control company that happily started collecting the masked bandits in cages for us.

Sometimes, two at a time in a single cage.

Each time I would check our trail camera, there were always more roaming around after the captured ones were trapped. When the count reached ten and Cyndie told me we were paying a hefty fee for each animal removed, my aversion to spending money like there was a leak in our financial pipes put a dent in my resistance to owning a tool that can kill.

Researching humane ways to euthanize raccoons brings repeated pleas about NOT drowning them. Number one choice is a CO2 chamber. I’m not likely to build such a contraption. There is also the injection method that a veterinarian can provide, but that doesn’t solve the problem of dollars flying out of our pockets.

Shooting them is an accepted method that would involve a more controlled initial expense.

My dream of shooing away the raccoons with miscellaneous aversion tactics was far inferior to the draw of our chicken coop and all the messes of spilled chicken feed and captive birds within.

If there hadn’t been such a prolific baby boom of raccoons this year, we might have gotten along like we always did before. Meanwhile, a few nights ago the packs of coyotes were making a heck of a lot of howling racket in our woods. Our plan to open the courtyards of the coop up to allow the first days of free-ranging next week is driving a new perspective about weapon ownership.

Maybe I need to do a better job of befriending the local guys who like to hunt coyotes. I suppose if I knew how to shoot a gun it would give me some cred.

I’ve got another day to ponder the situation. Today is the 4th-of-July game day for the association of families at our Wildwood lake place. There are water balloons to be filled, watermelon to cut, Bats vs. Mice T-Shirts to distribute, water sports to be played, sunscreen to be applied, a feast of foods to be prepared, and endless frivolity and laughter to unleash.

Dealing with critters will have to wait another day.



Written by johnwhays

July 4, 2021 at 8:28 am

Shelter Choices

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Around dinner time yesterday, we experienced a brief but oh-so-welcome rain shower that provided a glimpse of the choices our horses make. I had finished my mowing and manure management chores and was headed back up to the house when it started to sprinkle. The two chestnuts, Mia and Light, were happily grazing in the middle of the big paddock.

Cyndie had left the two split pieces of poop board out on the grass to be cleaned now that we can resume using the one-piece board again after removing the divider in the coop. When I came upon her tending to the vegetable garden, I mentioned they aren’t waterproof. As the rain intensified, I decided to go back down right away and put them in the barn.

When I arrived, I noticed the chestnuts had disappeared. I looked toward the back pasture but didn’t see them. I was curious whether they would stand out in the rain or seek shelter.

From inside the barn, I looked out to find Swings and Mix under the overhang, but not Mia or Light. Where did they go?

I stepped out under the overhang and found my answer:

They’re not so dumb. Even in its gradually dying condition, the fading willow tree provides shelter from the rain.

In comparison, Mix was standing half under the overhang, leaving her butt out to get wet and Swings chose to stay completely dry, standing all the way under the roof while munching on some hay.









For some unexpected reason, there was no raccoon activity evident overnight Monday. I’m wondering if they caught on that the traps lead to disappearances and are staying away for the time being, but that must take some strong willpower given the sweet marshmallow bait being offered up.

In their first night together in the undivided coop, the Rockettes and Buffalo birds appeared to get along just fine. Our timing to merge them seems good. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to tell the difference of who’s who between the two groups, as the difference in their sizes is much less obvious.

Here’s hoping their relationships continue to develop smoothly and they all get along as well as the horses have been, at least until the cockerels’ testosterone kicks into gear and the roosters all try to fulfill their desires of becoming the big man on campus.

At that point, Cyndie and I will likely be the ones choosing the best places to seek shelter.



Written by johnwhays

June 30, 2021 at 6:00 am

Several Things

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First of all, while I was on the bike trip, Cyndie contacted pest removal professionals to get rid of the raccoons that have made themselves so at home around here lately. Thus far, three have been captured and two remain at large.

Traps are set and baited in hope of getting the last of them.

Yesterday morning, while Cyndie was tending to the chicks, one of the Rockettes got outside of the fencing. In its tizzy to get back on the safe side of the netting, it found an opening that the raccoons had made the night before. The thing was, though, the opening was to the Buffalo gals/guy side of our divider.

Cyndie decided that was enough excuse to open the barrier and merge the two broods a little sooner than we had planned.









It ended up being a kerfuffle-free mixer-upper. The older Buffalo brood had already scoured their courtyard free of any green growth but the Rockettes hadn’t, so the big draw was grass. There were some occasional knowing rearrangements and relocations of proximity by each group that showed they are keenly aware of who is or isn’t a member of each brood, but just as many moments when they behaved with obliviousness about each other.

Later in the day, I was trying to get the grass cut before predicted afternoon rain showers showed up. Just as I was nearing the usual point where I stop and refuel, there was a new gust of wind that ushered in much cooler air. Dark clouds were rolling in and some sprinkles started to fall.

I needed to park the lawn tractor in the shop garage with haste so I could hustle over to the deck on the backside of the house to fetch my tent before it got soaked by real raindrops. I had set it up there to sweep it clean and let it dry in the sun.

This is what I found when I arrived:

Oops. That gust I felt had picked up the tent and tossed it over the grill and dropped it upside down into the landscape pond. So much for drying it out.

Now the tent is airing out in the garage at the house.



Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2021 at 6:00 am

Wandering Around

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There are days when I step outside in the morning to walk Delilah without having any idea what will command my attention for the rest of the day, but something always does. There are just as many times, maybe even more, when I set out to write something without having any idea what point I hope to make. Of course, here’s a good idea. Have a point.

“He’s got a point there!”

That is a mashup of Steve Martin’s character, Neal Page, ranting at Del Griffith the shower curtain ring salesman in “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles” combined with a line from Harry Nilsson’s animated movie, “The Point.” Both tremendously worthy works of film entertainment.

I would say that my great affection for those two movies reveals something about the way my mind works.

It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say it works when mostly my mind tends to just wander around. It’s like a sticky sponge that gladly picks up whatever happens to reach my eyes and ears.

Last weekend I melodically vocalized that I was getting silverware and it came out sounding like I was singing “Silver Bells.” By the end of the meal, as I was picking up placemats from the table on the deck, I caught myself humming some other Christmas song. I’ve since forgotten which one but at the time it was startling for being such an odd thing to be contemplating.

It would seem likely that the first song could have triggered the second, but still… What the heck?

Cyndie was out overnight last night, on the road for a consulting gig, leaving Delilah and me on our own to keep each other occupied. Delilah did her share by alerting to a raccoon climbing down a tree off the backyard well before yesterday even started to seem dusky outside. I grabbed my newest toy, a slingshot, and hustled out onto the deck to take potshots at the critter. I hope to make it feel completely unwelcome living so close to our house.

It made a hasty return to its apartment high in the upper limbs.

I am encouraged in my harassment efforts by apparent success on the other side of the house. Two days of flinging stones and steelies toward a young raccoon in a tree out our front door have resulted in zero sightings since. That doesn’t necessarily mean it left entirely, but at least it stopped coming out before dark.

The masked bandit would pop its head out and watch the world for a while before climbing out on the big branch to take a tongue-bath in preparation for its night of adventures. I think it didn’t like suddenly becoming the target of my aiming practice.

That was totally the point. I’m hoping he or she received the message I was sending.

It will be very satisfying if they are now off wandering around the woods looking for a quieter neighborhood with friendlier neighbors.



Stinky Year

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Look at it this way, today it is the fifteenth day of July, so we are halfway through the month that comes after the midpoint of the year 2020. All this whining about 2020 being so problematic will be over before you know it. We can stop wondering about what the next calamity could possibly be and start marveling over how we got this far without throwing in the towel.

Unless you happen to have school-age children, that is, and have no idea how to cope with more distance learning in the fall. Or if you got sick with the coronavirus. Or you are out of work due to the pandemic. Or lost your medical insurance because you no longer have a job. Or you can’t pay your bills because you didn’t qualify for financial assistance.

In the wee hours before waking yesterday, I experienced the most vivid dream where I found myself in the midst of my high school classmates in something of a reunion gathering. I am curious about what threw my mind into that reconnection with my school days. In classic dream fashion, by daylight, I lost the gist of what I was thinking and feeling about the situation while the dream was underway, but was left with the vague pleasure of having been among peers I haven’t seen lately.

Maybe it’s a mental defense mechanism for escaping the shelter-in-place mindset of the pandemic.

Cyndie has been up at the lake for the last two days and she took Delilah with her. It has been refreshingly calm at home on my own after the day-job. The cat and the chickens don’t ask for much from me, so it has felt like a little vacation.

Of course, the pesky wildlife hasn’t taken any time off. For two nights in a row, I found our kitchen compost bin had been abused and separate access panels forced open so they could ravage the rotting goods. Last night, I wrapped it with a ratcheted tie-down strap to secure the doors from opening.

Let’s see the little raccoon claws loosen a ratchet mechanism.

Yesterday morning on the drive to work, a young-looking fox trotted across the road just around the corner from our property. Luckily for us, that enemy-of-hens was headed in the direction of a neighboring property where egg-layers roam freely.

Later, as my car approached a fresh road-kill, I centered my tires to miss the mess and held my breath. Before I even started to resume breathing, I felt the acrid fumes in my nostrils. I was afraid to inhale, but I had to.

Fresh skunk. Reeeally fresh. Ow.

At least 2020 is over halfway to the history books. The whole year seems to have a general stink to it.



Written by johnwhays

July 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

This Happened

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In the realm of pictures being worth a thousand words, I can provide two pictures that clearly depict two things that happened yesterday afternoon.

We had a couple of visitors. One welcome, the other, not so much.

The hay fields were cut and a couple of young raccoons were out and about on a daytime explore that brought them into close proximity to Cyndie and her dog down by the labyrinth.

All sorts of activity around us in the midst of sheltering in place from rising numbers of cases of COVID-19 being reported.



Written by johnwhays

June 14, 2020 at 9:42 am