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.)
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?
Annoyed: Feral cats and 'possum, which have apparently formed an unholy alliance and are running TOGETHER now. GREAT.
Fascinating: Enormous quantities of squirrels and crows. Squirrels and crows are OUT IN FORCE.
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.
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.
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.