Sunday, March 09, 2008

Oh, Who Are The Varmints In Your Neighborhood? You Might Be Surprised.

By now I have a long and storied history of being plagued by raccoons. I kind of hate them. They raid my feed stores, increase my horses' risk of Equine Protozoal Myelitis (for which there is no cure or vaccine), poop copiously in the back of Alex's truck, and even mount suicide missions to deprive us of electricity and scare me to death.

Since we are getting chickens in a couple of weeks (Did I mention we're getting chickens again? We're getting chickens again! 25 Buff Orpington and 3 Araucana hatchlings! Yaaay!), I'm obsessing just a weeeee bit over keeping them safe, especially during the night. We have a pretty secure henhouse, but extra measures will be taken to shore it up even more. Raccoons, though, are like furry little Terminators of vermin. They just DO NOT STOP. Where some pests will tentatively approach your home and livestock and make opportunistic attacks if they deem it safe, a raccoon will walk right up to you, stare you down, roll you, take your wallet, and THEN eat your chickens.

We've tried, previously, setting Havahart traps (live traps) for the raccoons and the feral cats (whom I also HATE) that run roughshod all over us, to no avail. So last week, during the 4 days of bizarre weather (alternating snow, t-shirt weather, snow, t-shirt weather), Alex had the clever idea of baiting an area next to our fenceline, and setting up a motion-sensor gamecam that he normally uses to monitor his hunting spots. The hope was that we'd be able to detect a pattern in raccoon activity, in order to facilitate the trapping and relocating of the main raccoon "family" that is plaguing us the most. Over those 4 days, we got over 400 pictures. And yes, we got plenty of shots of our raccoon nemeses. (Click any pictures to embiggen them and get more info.)

Freaking Raccoons

What we didn't expect was the huge variety of critters who showed up over and over during that short span of time. I'm both fascinated and annoyed.

Fascinating: This fox! We had no idea we had a fox around! Isn't he gorgeous?
fox1

foxy

Foxy-Loxy

Annoyed: Feral cats and 'possum, which have apparently formed an unholy alliance and are running TOGETHER now. GREAT.
The Odd Feral Cat/'Possum Alliance

Fascinating: Enormous quantities of squirrels and crows. Squirrels and crows are OUT IN FORCE.
Poe, Party of Two

squirrel1

SUPER ANNOYING: Loose dogs. I'm sure you all know my feelings about people who let their dogs just roam the neighborhood. This is especially stupid in areas where people keep livestock, because Arkansas law lets you claim SEVEN TIMES the value of the livestock animal if someone's loose dog kills one of your animals on your property. And don't think I won't be taking folks to small-claims court if this happens, because I will. Your dogs DO NOT BELONG on my property. My dogs aren't on YOUR property, and I bet I have more dogs Than you do. The one in the foreground here is the Hated Yellow Dog I've spoken of so UN-fondly here before. That pair of Weimeraners are strangers to me, but I'm grateful to be aware of them now, and will try to find out where they belong.
dogs

Fun: The whitetail deer family, which we already knew about, having spotted them around the area since we moved in. They appeared like clockwork, at the same times each day and night, and in one frame, we were even treated to dinner and a SHOW! See if you can spot the deer pr0n.
deer1

deer2

Scout

HELLO!  Dinner and a Show

Whitetail, Party of Four

Don't say this blog never offers anything titillating. Heh.

Anyway, so far, as a result of his in-depth reconnaissance efforts, Alex has already trapped one raccoon and relocated it two counties away. I'm not sure what we'll do with the cats if we can trap them--obviously we don't want them re-released in our area, even if they're neutered/spayed/inoculated, because they have become quite aggressive and brazen in hanging out right around our back doors, so I have no doubts they'll be some of the first ones trying to get into the henhouse at night. I don't know what they do with feral cats at the shelter, though I suspect that these aren't truly feral, but someone's "barn cats" who have taken to wandering farther and farther afield in search of meals. (Just a note, people--that old saw about not feeding barn cats because it decreases their drive for mousing? It's a bunch of bunk. Actually, you DO want to feed them, so that they'll stick close to the place where you want them to hunt. If not, then they just begin hunting farther away, and that's doing you no good in controlling your rodent population.)

Yep, it's an exciting life we lead out here in the boonies. To see more of this group of pictures, start here on flickr, and click through them.

19 comments:

  1. LOVE the fox. I saw one on our street one night, and followed it for blocks in my car.

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  2. OK, I know that this is a huge pain in the ass, and I sympathize, I really do... but this post cracked me up.

    You'd think the fox would discourage the cats? Or is that why the cats & raccoons have formed a violence gang?

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  3. Hey, I'm in the boonies too! :) We have all the same animals, and a few others thrown in for fun. We also HAD chickens... lets just say the local wildlife ate well last year. Hubby even tried stabbing a raccoon with a sword (not kidding.) The little sneaks are our biggest problem. And the skunks, they eat chickens too. we're going to get more in about a month or two. joy.

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  4. Oh, no! What will you be doing differently this time to ensure their protection? Were they only being attacked at night? I'm wondering how safely my chooks may "free range" during the day, as long as I lock 'em up tightly at night. The Buff Orps are a good-size chicken once full grown, and we'll be filling the freezer with a good 2/3 of them at 5 months of age or so.

    My last flock roamed the property (before we lived here), and had only to fear the poodles, who did pick off quite a few.

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  5. Awesome assortment of critters you have running around. It's too bad so many are a nuisance.

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  6. Um, WOW! You have loads of wildlife!!!

    And congratulations on the baby Buffs and the Araucanas! We had 25 straight-run Black Australorps and 1 Araucana named Sunny who laid green eggs. No ham.

    But buffs are the drop-dead-gorgeousness of the chicken world, IMO. I am envious. We moved and can no longer have chickens. :^(

    We had an enclosed chicken yard that was pretty safe because it was near huge live oak trees and nothing could dig for more than 2" without hitting roots. We also put chicken wire on the top of our coop because we have owls and chicken hawks. And our coop had both a front door and a back door. My husband is a FANCY chicken coop maker. :^D

    Please share baby chick pictures so I can oooh and ahhh. I love baby chicks. And big chickens. But I'm afraid of all other birds. Go figure.

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  7. Oh - and didn't you mention something about a new Standard Poodle puppy? It does appear to me that there has been a drastic lack of Poodle (and Bella) pictures lately. More Bella. More Poodles. (Said in a chanting voice while banging my fork handle on the desk.)

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  8. here is idea . STOP FEEDING THEM IF YOU DON'T WANT THEM.

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  9. Mark--If you'd read the post, you'd have understood that we're baiting the area and setting the gamecam in order to establish patterns to help us to trap and relocate the raccoons. We don't "FEED THEM." We've already trapped two, so it's obviously working. But hey, THANKS FOR YOUR ALL-CAPS CONCERN, MARK!

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  10. That spycam ROCKS! And the fox is beautiful.

    We've had our share of wildlife in my suburban backyard. Rabbits, opossums, and last night...THE SKUNK IS BACK! Augh!

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  11. oooh the motion cam ROCKS! The fox is gorgeous... but I can see how he and chickens might not make such good neighbors.

    Call me a city girl here, but, if you're in the boonies with all those amazing animals, can you really trap and dispose of all the coons? Won't more just come?

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  12. Since we've lived here, we've only been aware of this one raccoon "posse." There used to be five, but one of them met an untimely demise in the story I linked to (the one about cutting our power), and then there were four...hopefully, if we can just get rid of the ones who are frequently trespassing, we can discourage any new ones from coming around. *fingers crossed*

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  13. "embiggen"
    DUDE. You totally used a Simpsons word in your post.
    I <3 you more than ever.

    oh, also
    HI MARK!!!!!!!!!!

    cause sometimes a girl just needs all caps.

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  14. Note to self: To bring Mandy out of lurkdom, quote Jebediah Springfield.

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  15. You could SELL those fox photos. Or use them for your Christmas cards next year! Beautiful.

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  16. BELINDA, HEY! JUST WANTED YOU TO KNOW THAT YOU SHOULDN'T FEED THEM IF YOU DON'T WANT THEM. DON'T KNOW IF YOU KNOW THAT FEEDING ANIMALS MAKES THEM WANT TO STAY AROUND. JUST CHECKING!

    Heehee, poor Mark. People should get over the all caps thing though, it's just text people, can't we all just get along?

    Hmmm, thoughts, why is the Fox not of concern? I think he's your first chicken eater because he'll likely tell your raccoons to step off. The raccoons will be your most wiley though, they don't have burglar masks on for nothing. I'll do some research, we used to live in Barney which makes your boonies look like a loft in the Rivermarket.

    Relocating will help, but there are other raccoons out there, finding a way to repel the local ones where they learn that is not a viable food stuff is the way to go, then they are around and telling new raccoons, "yo, dudes, the chicken coop, not a good idea, trust me, been there, done that, it's a no go. There's a compost pile over here though, it's pretty swank."

    Whenever I see raccoons, I think of the ones in The Great Outdoors, hysterical.

    Good luck, I'll let you know if I come up with any backwoods witchery for those critters.

    Ummm, and who buys two Weimeraners, or however that is spelled, and then lets them run around, those dogs are too stupid to be left to their own devices, thus how they were easily suckered into being the yellow dog's toadies...

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  17. Comrade Belinda, I wish to commend you on investigation of animal alliance. Spy cam of top quality, my supplier send inferior quality as seen in blowing up frequently. Possum and cat alliance obviously attempting interference in your plan for global domination through chicken breeding so must eliminate. Raccoons also great worry to me! Suicide mission of raccoon clan obviously gone wrong as no harm done to family. You see arch-nemisis Moose & Squirrel on modern spy cam please notify immediately.

    Boris

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  18. Those are some foxy bucks naked, fur shure.

    Sorry. Couldn't help it.

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  19. I had chickens once ... on the farm. Only had raccoons in the city. Go figure.

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