LAST HURRAH: The Raccoon Wars

I am fighting the axis of evil in my own backyard.

The first thing I tried was fox urine, procured from a woman named Dodie at the Mesquite Feed & General Store. This was a number of years back. We’d just moved into our house in Old Lake Highlands, and it had a small, 75-gallon pond in the backyard. I stocked it with three koi, each about the size of a forefinger. If memory serves, my son named them Speedy, Stripey, and Megatron. They lived contentedly in our pond, shaded by an immense live oak, for about two months. Then a raccoon ate them (or raccoons). And I went to see Dodie. She turned me on to the fox urine.

Now, before we continue, a word to the PETA types: I adore animals. Raccoons, fish, dogs, bunnies—love ’em all. I’m especially fond of animals, like lobsters, that you can eat. And as for the domestically raised foxes who must live in cages so that their urine can be collected, I empathize with them. Or maybe “empathize” isn’t the right word. I’ve never had to live in a cage so that someone could get my urine. On the occasions that someone has wanted my urine—almost always a medical professional—all he’s had to do is ask for it politely. But, you know, good luck asking a fox for his urine.

Anyway, the idea is that in the wild, or even in my backyard, raccoons don’t want to tangle with foxes. The urine of the latter, strategically sprinkled, wards off the former.

So I went out to the pond and made like an incontinent fox. And it worked. I restocked the pond with koi. Everything seemed fine for a few weeks. But then one morning I found scales and fins littering the patio and no fish in the pond. I should have realized then that I was beat and called it quits. Instead, I allowed myself to be drawn into an ever-escalating, unwinnable conflict—if you will, a quagmire—that would last the better part of five years.
 
First, I learned that fox urine is a gateway urine. The label on the bottle indicated it had come from a place in Maine called Leg Up Enterprises. I got on the horn, and they hooked me up with stronger stuff: coyote urine, bobcat urine, wolf urine, mountain lion urine. Soon my backyard smelled, to my nose, like a truck stop bathroom.

Yet the carnage continued. The raccoons would strike at night, thundering across our roof, scampering down the live oak, filling their bellies with fish. I would restock and urinate. They would strike again.

I tried laying a screen over the pond. The raccoons figured out how to use it like a net to trap the fish. I went through more than a dozen fish this way.

Then I went to Home Depot and bought a Havahart trap and used tuna as bait. Oh, the joy of seeing their little bandit faces when they were caught! Before work in the morning, I would load the hissing, scratching creatures into the trunk of my car and drive them down to White Rock Lake, where I’d release them, frazzled but unharmed, into the woods.

You know what else I learned? There are a lot of raccoons in my neighborhood. Like, an inexhaustible supply. Or there are a handful of really persistent, GPS-equipped raccoons that know how to find their way home. Either way, I eventually grew wary of the exercise. I was not only feeding the raccoons a variety of fish, both koi and tuna, but I was taking them for rides in my car to visit the park.

The end to it all came just the other night. I heard the trap snap shut, and I climbed out of bed with the flashlight to reconnoiter. There sat a cowering baby raccoon, while its (presumed) parents stood guard in the live oak, refusing to abandon the little one. They screaked and bitched all night. Come sunup, it was off to the lake with the little one.

That next night, the parents returned, looking to settle the score. Our bedroom has a sliding glass door overlooking the backyard, and we awoke to find a raccoon beating on it. He stood on his hind legs, his front paws gripping the screen door. On a stone wall behind the lead raccoon, there were backup raccoons. They were all yelling at us. My wife and I were terribly frightend. I swear this happened.

So that’s it. I’m out of the raccoon-fighting business. Consider this my official surrender. I’ve given up trying to keep koi. Instead, I’ve installed a couple of birdfeeders on the live oak. Thus far, the squirrels don’t seem as well-organized. I predict victory inside of six months.

 

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