(Warning: this is a loooooong story. But I didn't want to break into into several parts. Because I'm lazy. Deal with it.)
The only time most people see a raccoon is in a movie or scripted documentary where they are doing something funny like washing their food or romping over a meadow of wildflowers with plucky banjo music playing in the background.
That ain't real life.
In real life, raccoons are large, hairy, mean thugs who terrorize your cat, steal the cat food, dump out all your flower pots, dig holes in your lawn, are full of ticks and pull up your vegetable garden. They are a nuisance! And their poop is dangerous. Thaaaaaaat's right, I said it, their poop is very dangerous.
At first, I tried a little old fashioned 'coon stakeout late at night with a big bowlful of food. But those sneaky raccoons were hiding in the shadows watching me, mocking me. By the time the hired gun (my uncle) arrived to the stakeout the food dish had already been ransacked. It was time to get serious. I needed a method that was a little more fool-proof that didn't require myself and other family members to sit out in the dark for hours on end with a loaded gun.
I called the local US Wildlife trapper and he dropped off a humane cage/trap. If you've never seen one before it's pretty simple: you put the "bait" in the back of the long, narrow cage. There is a metal plate just before the bait that you set in the "up" position. Once the weight of the animal pushes the metal plate down, the trap door slams shut. No way out. After you have caught a raccoon you call the trapper back, he takes the vermin for a long ride up the mountain and releases them back into the cat-food-free-wild.
I loaded up the cage with cat food and eggs (they love eggs) and waited. When I woke up the next morning I ran out to look at the cage, certain that there would be a furry pest in the cage. What I found was this:
Nothin. And strangely, the trap door had been triggered. For the next several nights I set the trap and through a comedy of errors, the raccoons would steal the food right out of the trap, push the trap around the yard and generally make a fool out of me.
Finally I tried moving the trap out to a more remote part of the yard, under the cover of the hedges. I painstakingly pulled a cattail apart and lined the bottom of the cage with fluffiness because the trapper told me they don't like the feel of the wires underneath, it could deter them from getting inside the cage. I loaded a Gladware dish with lots of eggs and cat food, their favorite snack. And guess what happened...
... the trap door got caught on a branch from the hedge! Once the raccoons figured out that the door wasn't going to shut on them they dragged the whole Gladware dish of food out onto the lawn, ate all the cat food, scattered the eggshells all over the lawn and stole the Gladware! Arrrrrggghh!!!
But what those raccoons didn't realize is this: I... DON'T.... GIVE... UP!!!
The next night I did it all over again. I loaded the trap with food. I lined the bottom with cattails. I trimmed the branches off the hedge. I even set a heavy log on top of the cage so that they couldn't shuffle & shimmy the cage like they had done before. Evening came and after a couple of hours I just couldn't stand the anticipation. I took a flashlight and went out to look at the cage:
I'm not going to lie, it was very satisfying to finally catch one of the terrorists. It was a baby one, probably less than a year old. I did feel a tiny bit sorry for the little guy. The next day I took some cat food out to him, just a little snack before the trapper picked him up later in the day.
Over the next couple of weeks I caught 2 more:
The month of May has been raccoon-free so I think I got the whole family.
Now if I could just keep the flock of turkeys out of the yard... and the deer... and the bobcats... and the squirrels... and the snakes....
...Jesus help me.