Tag Archives: Raccoons

Raccoon Road

Our neighbor stops in his bumpersticker’d Ford pickup truck.  He’s coming home after planting signs for his local political candidate.  He’s in his late 60s, he laughs a lot, he likes to talk about critters, and he is a Minuteman, guarding the border.  “Howdy, Neighbor,” he says.

“How’s it goin’?” the Bearded One says.

“Oh, you know,” says Minuteman, looking wistfully down our dirt road — itself once the subject of politics and majority rule (pavers vs. non-pavers). “Politics these days is a Rat Race.”

“I completely agree,” I say.  Minuteman and I are in opposite political camps, but we often agree, and when it comes to local issues, we’re both non-pavers.  A dirt road is good for the rural soul.

There are no cars coming, so Ruby, aka Elder Dog, decides once again that she is retired from commands.  She’s well into her 70s in human years.  She stands up out of the required sit (a transition to going mobile…) and the Bearded One makes her sit again.

Talk turns to the raccoon invasion.  “I got that newspaper article you emailed me,” I say, referring to the raccoon story of the week where a local woman was attacked by a pack of raccoons as she walked her dog.  She was hospitalized briefly.  A crazy, rare occurrence.  Scary.

Minuteman shakes his head.  “We’ve trapped and released 6 or 7 of them,” he says.  “They’re after the hens’ eggs.”

The Bearded One and I both picture our flock of 5-week-old meat birds, which any raccoon would love to eat.  We’ve lost just one this week, to the standard mystery sickness.  All the rest — 26 — are still spry.  They are big and heavy like grown egg layers already.

5-week-old Cornish Rock meat chickens.

I say,”I saw the picture on your Facebook wall,” and Minuteman laughs, “Yeah, last night we trapped somebody’s cat.”

A car is coming, so he waves good-bye.  Then we talk to the neighbor in the oncoming car about her 5 feral cats and how she fears that she is feeding the raccoons more than the cats these days.  This local raccoon story has caught everyone’s eye.  Soon we are walking again.  Ruby has just about had it with all the road talk.

I want to talk about politics and the voting coming up.

“The goats vote,” the Bearded One says, “and LaLa always loses.”  It’s true.  In their herd of three, Pearl might be the only female and thus the technical boss according to goat lore, even though she has had no babies, but it appears to us that she has power because she teams up with a her sibling, Sage, who is the biggest.  They are definitely all for democracy.

We head home and the Bearded One goes straight to the tool shed area where he has been splitting wood and making winter kindling packets all week.  Bumble bees have taken over the nearby woodpile he’s been working on.  The Bearded One has been trying to convince them to leave, raking out their piles of moss, cussing at them.  He’s not having any luck.

Tractor trail and the covered woodpile where the bees live.

“I think their queen died when I tore up the colony,” he says.  “The drones and workers don’t have a clue without her.  They refuse to leave.”

I scan the area.  “I don’t see any bees,” I say.

The Bearded One is stunned and walks over.  Before my very eyes, he points and speaks in bee language.  “CDB?” he says, and sure enough, there is a bee, then another, and another.  They’re everywhere, just at ground level.

Later that afternoon, I’m at the computer when the Bearded One comes in rubbing a hurt spot on his leg.  “Four raccoons just walked up on me bold as you please,” he says.  “A mama and 3 babies.  I yelled at them, but they just kept coming.  Right down the middle of the tractor trail.  No particular fear at all.”

“Are you okay?”  I look for blood.

He nods and continues.  “I had to act super aggressive just to get them to stop and climb a tree.  I ran up on them hissing and yelling and waving a rake.  I stood there reading them the riot act, trying to imprint on the babies to fear people.  Until suddenly I realized their strategy in one hell of a hurry.”

“Strategy?”

“I was standing right in the middle of the bees.”

*   *  *  *  *

NEWS FLASH:  Here’s a new west coast review on one of my recent books, a novella called A BEAR TALE. http://brianrushwriter.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/a-bear-tale/

Raccoon Saloon

The immense 8-week-old chicks still sleep with Kimber, wings shuffled like cards, the red heat bulb turning the cold coop into a chicken nightclub.

It’s not really cold enough yet for the chicks or their water to freeze, but it’s close and the light will help get Kimber laying eggs again when she weans these chicks.  Which she seems just about ready to do.  Shoot, I would.

All tucked in and sayin' good night.

Raccoons like the red light, too.  Or maybe it’s the dog’s water that lures them in, mysteriously disappearing overnight, leaving a ton of dirt in the bottom of the bowl.

Farmers learn to read the signs, and we guess right, because every night this week, even after we take the water bowls inside, three big raccoons hang out on the decks for about 45 minutes.  We are now on their routine midnight loop.  They are undeterred by any lingering scent of Ruby’s territorial urine, which is supposed to deter them, by flashlights or taps on the window.  Garfield hisses at them from the cat condo.  They make a series of return visits during the night.  A mom and two big juveniles.  It’s wrestle-mania, a raccoon rodeo.

Two young raccoons on the back balcony deck -- their new play pen. Their mom -- not in this picture -- is much larger.

When they corner Garfield in the cat condo early one night, before we have locked the screen, our hearts harden a bit — they are just expressing their Raccoonness after all — but we decide to buy a trap.  Old-timers around here always laugh at “missing cat” posters.  They explain — “There’s no such thing as a missing cat, only an ex-cat.  People think the coyotes get ’em, but it’s mainly the raccoons.”  We bait the trap with cat food, put it on the deck, and disguise it with cedar branches.  The plan is to release them up the road in a big chunk of forest.

The cold is bringing out the wild critters, and our job is to nurture and protect the domesticated ones, at least with regard to the chickens, until we eat them.  The more I am around the chickens, I have to say, the more comfortable I am with harvesting the cockerels after the New Year.  Tux and Dusty, but particularly Tux, have been pecking viciously on Steve all week.  They grab onto the side of his neck and hang on for dear life as he runs in panic-stricken circles trying to escape the attacks.

Tux is at the top, the Other Steve on the bottom of the plank -- Blackie in between them. From left to right on the roost are Marilyn, Spot, Dusty, and the picked-upon Steve.

One evening when the Bearded One was closing up the coop, Steve just fell out of the nest.  He stood up, looked around and then marched back up the plank.  But a few days later, after witnessing the daytime pecking Steve was enduring, we knew the truth.  He was pushed.

“Cut that out!” I shout.  This business of establishing the peck order is disturbing to me.  It’s so violent, it freaks me out.  I run after them with our son’s old toy hockey stick and try to get Tux to quit harassing and hanging onto poor Steve’s neck.  I remind myself that this is their way.  That this is not cannibalism, which I’ve read happens when chickens are raised in tiny cages.  This is Chickenness, oblivious to human behavioral constructs like saloons and spas and courts of law.  I don’t care — I will whack Tux a good one next time he chomps down on Steve.

We fill Ruby’s water bowl for the day, and as we head up to the chickens before our walk, the Bearded One spots bear tracks on our driveway.

The bear's feet are bigger than the Bearded One's.

Maybe they’re from the same bear recorded on our neighbor’s critter cam, although our tracks appear to be a mama and baby.  There’s more than one bear in these woods.

Our neighbor's critter cam shot this photo on Tuesday, October 11 at about 9 a.m. The Bearded One is now officially dying to get a critter cam.

The chickens flock to us.  We’ve quit trying to grab them, and now they’ll eat cracked corn straight out of my hand.  It’s very rewarding.  I give them a piece of toast and some oatmeal leftover from breakfast, a slug-infested cabbage plant, and yet another handful of cracked corn.

The Bearded One sets up their new bathtub with wood ashes and Diatomaceous Earth to help prevent lice and other parasites.  They have a good chicken life, and will have a good (quick and unexpected) chicken death.  If Steve can make it that far, anyway.