Attitudes toward raccoons hereabouts are at two ends of the spectrum. There are no attitudes in the middle.
One school loves them as cute little bear-like animals that are so smart they deserve the kind of treatment we reserve for dogs. A raccoon has thumbs and has survived in spite of the ways we have eliminated its habitat. Sure, they might eat the cat food and get into the garbage but that’s only because they are so clever. If I were a raccoon I would do the same thing to survive. Why go hunting if there is free food to be had all around the place? Plus, that special little mask gives them the license to be devilish.
The other school of thought is not so generous when it comes to raccoons. This is the group that does not consider the word “cute” at all when it comes to raccoons. Instead, what they see are scavengers that chew through drip lines and ruin gardens. This is the group that rejoices when driving by raccoon road kill. When reading the book “Rascal,” these people were happy at the ending. To this group raccoons are aggressive and dangerous fighters who can kill all the pets around the house and might steal the family jewels. To this group, there is no question what to do when a raccoon is spotted, and it involves a gun.
Bats eat mosquitoes. Rattlesnakes eat gophers. Turkey vultures eat carrion. Bees help the garden. Mountain lions keep the deer population down. A positive case can be made for lots of the animals around – even the ones we may not want to see around. Raccoons?
We have our own predicament when it comes to our fine furry raccoon friends. They have always been around, we can tell by their footprints on the hood of the car and other telltale signs full of berries and bugs. And on the rare occasions that we see one, we just scoot them away. Like with so many other things, the drought has changed that.
The major lawn that we love so much is brown from lack of water. But I need my fix of at least a little bit of green lawn. Maybe I just need a little bit of lawn to justify the new mower and all the equipment. So we laid down a little patch of sod. The sodded lawn is nothing big, nothing wasteful, just a small patch of new green grass that requires water. The water that we use is all recycled from showers and other sources. Nothing is wasted. The raccoons have noticed.
Every morning each square of sod is peeled back like a blanket on a new-made bed. The raccoons are looking for grubs, worms and other critters where it’s cool, wet and dark. What a good activity for them with plenty of rewards. For them, it must be like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. What fun for the raccoons, not for me. This means the battle has begun.
Hanging from the racks in the garage is a vintage Havahart trap. Like the name implies, the trap catches the raccoon with no harm to the animal. It’s the equivalent of fishing’s “catch and release.” Sure enough, baiting and setting the trap on the sod for the night nabbed a very large, very unhappy raccoon. Now what?
I could release it in the neighbor’s yard but it knows where the wet sod is located and will surely be right back. What if I open the trap door and it decides to kill me instead of rambling away? Lots of what-ifs while the raccoon calmly looks at me. Wine country is complicated.
Rich Moran is a city slicker wrestling with the constant barrage of wine country decisions.