RaccoonWar 2012 – Omnibus Edition

A few months ago, I engaged in a struggle against the wiliest of foes: Procyon Lotor aka Raccoon who was invading my house at night and emptying the cat food bowl. Over a roughly two week period, we engaged in a game of cat and also cat.

FAQs:

  • Q: “Why don’t you just lock your cat door like a normal person?” you may ask.
    A: “If I do that, the Raccoon Terrorists win” I respond.
  • Q: “Why not shoot/poison/stab the animal?” some others of you ask.
    A: “Because killing is easy, and plus I don’t want to create some sort of raccoon martyr”, I answer.
  • Q: “???” you ask, a confused look on your face, and “just read the damn posts” I sigh in return.
    A: Just read the damn posts.

I have taken the posts comprising the entirety of my experience and combined them into a single page for your edutainment.  The RaccoonWar logo is repeated but that’s because these are the original posts presented inline.

I stand before you a human, annealed in the forges of struggle against a dark, smart menace.  Here, friend, is my struggle:

UPDATE 6/24/2013: A new menace?

Historical Record of the Raccoon War of 2012

The beginning of the struggle.

Last modified on 2012-06-20 16:29:22 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I’ve been documenting a struggle between man and beast on my bookface.  A few friends who have moved out of the Zuckerbergverse have asked that I post them elsewhere, so I shall copy the progress here.

“Does anyone nearby have a live-trap I can use to get the raccoon that’s coming into my house? He needs to be somewhere else.” I initially asked.  My friends helpfully explained that while they didn’t, the fact that I had a raccoon problem was hilarious.

I responded:

My friends suggested I do this to the raccoon.

“Up until now, I wanted to capture and sedate it, then put a cape on it. I’d planned it all out; the cape would fasten securely in back and his thieving little arms would go through holes in it so it wouldn’t create a choking hazard and it’d be locked in the proper orientation. Then I would release it into downtown Eugene and monitor craigslist and letters-to-the-editor asking if anyone else had seen the same odd sight they had in their backyard.

Surreality would have gone up, I would have been grimly satisfied that the raccoon was elsewhere and humiliated, and the problem would have been solved.

What changed things is KayDee and I both independently began to suspect he was responsible for our most recent lost cat. Finally, the camel that broke the straw’s back last night was when Alexander woke up downstairs face-to-face with the raccoon (who we thought had stopped coming in) and scared the bejeebers out of him.

Nope, I’m ready to relocate this guy. He’s a raccoon doing raccoon stuff so I see no need to kill him (the cat stuff is circumstantial at best) but he needs to do his thing elsewhere.”

In which I purchase a trap.

Last modified on 2012-06-20 16:44:46 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Our world, their war.

Raccoonwars update: I bought a trap yesterday and emplaced it in front of the cat door last night. To prevent our own cats from being suddenly captured, we locked them all in our bedroom. “They won’t mind, right?” KayDee and I rhetorically asked each other while avoiding eye contact (as we knew our words rang false).

The cats, as it turned out, did in fact mind. Quite a bit. Last night’s sleep was punctuated with occasional bouts of plaintive meowing, hissing (they did not appreciate being stuck next to the new kittens which they see as interlopers), and a steady monotonous scratching at the locked bedroom catdoor which had betrayed them by cutting off their easy escape.

Meanwhile, the raccoon chose last night to skip our house. Whether he stuck his head in and recognized the baited trap for what it was or reads Facebook and knew what was in the works, he/she was not in the case at 3AM when I finally relented and let the cats free.

Tonight, we will try a modified strategy that involves NOT trying to prevent our cats from being dumb and getting caught in the cage. We’ll just leave the cage out and hope the Raccoon goes for it while our obnoxious ‘cannot-let-Ben-sleep’ cats skip it. After last night, I can’t really build up a huge head of concern at the thought that one or both of the cats might end up trapped for a few hours in the cage, so it’s potentially one of those ‘win win’ situations.

We shall see.

The raccoon strikes back

Last modified on 2012-06-20 16:45:19 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Nature's hamburglar except without the hamburgers

Per my previous post, I set the trap up inside with adequate spacing for the cats to go in and out of the house. Holding off on Tyler’s ‘put an egg on it’ advice for now, I placed a small container of cat food in the cage and set it for action. KayDee and Alex were out late attending the baseball fight so I went to sleep and where visions of trapped raccoons danced through my head.

A half hour or so later downstairs there arose such a clatter, I wearily woke up just enough to ask the returning KayDee what was the matter.

The raccoon was apparently in our house when they had come in the front door. Standing on his hind legs next to the cage, he challenged my wife and child for ownership of the house. Alex, flux with territorial pride after watching the Ems handily beat the visiting ‘Bears’ (which are basically large raccoons, right?) apparently lunged at the invading critter with his hands over his head roaring “Noooooo!” Reconsidering the risk/rewards of remaining, the animal turned and ran out the cat door.

The trap, I note, had somehow been set off already but sat empty.

KayDee reset it, but when I checked this morning I found it open and containing an empty container of cat food.

The raccoon had, apparently, come back in the middle of the night once things had gotten quiet and eaten the food in the trap. Somehow avoiding the trigger plate and with the delicate precision of a surgeon removing a live bomb from someone’s chest cavity, he apparently extracted every single little piece of cat food then strolled out the door.

For comparison sake, one of our tiny kittens was trapped in this a couple days ago when he set off the feather-light trigger, so this raccoon is an expert.

Tonight… I shall attempt again but with the food secured at the back. Hopefully, the awkwardly precarious posture needed to reach it will be his undoing.

(ed: at this point, my friends suggested I try baiting the trap with eggs.  “Ok”, I thought.  I’ll try that.  Tonight.)

Looking for victory in all the wrong places

Last modified on 2012-06-20 16:44:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The enemy is crafty. He is clever.

Before going to bed, I set the trap. Last night’s bait: one uncooked chicken egg. I tried to use peanut butter to bind it to the trigger plate, but my foolish decision to purchase creamy instead of chunky once again came back to punish me. Oh hubris, thou art merciless with thy lessons!

I retired to the Raccoon Operations Monitoring Strategy center (aka bed) and slept.

At 3:30, chaos visited my home.

I woke to clattering and thumping downstairs, punctuated by animal noises. “Aha!” I thought, “the game is afoo-AARRGH!” and tripped on a box on the floor of my unlit room. I banged into things in the noisiest way possible while trying to avoid faceplanting into something sharp and succeeded, but at the cost of stealth.

Dazed, I turned to apologize to my wife for waking her and was met instead by an uninterrupted snore. The two kittens that had set up camp atop her blanket-covered form woke long enough to meow a complaint at me then went back to sleep as well.

I walked downstairs, my phone in flashlight mode held out before me protectively. From the noises, there could be a swarm of raccoons trying to trap their freed buddy as far as I knew. The thumping had stopped, but there was now an ominous crunching noise. Crunch. Crunch. (pause) Crunch.

At the bottom of the stairs, I turned to our family room and checked the cage. Empty. Then movement caught my eye and I realized that the grey shape I had seen was in fact the raccoon. He was… leaning on the cage. Casually. And in his hand, he had cat food.

Staring at me, he swallowed then slowly and deliberately put another piece of catfood into his mouth. Crunch. The noises I had heard earlier? Possibly related to our catbear ‘Bender’, a giant house lion (killer of birds, scourge of mice). When I get downstairs, he’s sitting on the couch watching the raccoon. I don’t know if they’ve been battling or if there’s some sort of professional courtesy thing going, but the chaos noises have stopped.

I’d like to take a moment to unexpectedly talk about my son Marcus and some of the social challenges he faces in school. It’s a brief side-story, I promise. Marcus (10) likes cats (he’s the 10 year old male version of the ‘Can’t Hug Every Cat’ song, check YouTube if you’ve not seen it) and this is usually fine except for when it intercepts social interaction with non-cats (specifically, humans). Speaking with him a few weeks ago, I discovered that Marcus had decided that when he wanted to be left alone at recess, it was a hassle to _tell_ people who were coming to talk to him because it took valuable time to explain that no, they were still friends but yes, he just wanted to chill for a little. “Instead”, he told me, “now I just hiss at them.” This was distressing for any number of reasons, and I told him that taking a page from the Cat Book is not always the best answer. We talked about how important it is to use our words (even when it’s a hassle), and how we as humans have options cats don’t when it comes to asking folks to back off.

Moriarty to my Holmes? Or Mr. Krab to my Plankton?

Back to 3:30 this morning, I’m facing the raccoon. We’re in one of these standoffs. The egg is sitting unmolested within the cage, I now realize that the thumping I heard was him trying to open the catfood bin in the next room, and even though I keep looking at the cage, he just won’t go into it. We stand there, then Raccoon takes the next step.

I mean literally, he takes a step towards me. Oh HELL no. So I, calling on millions of years of evolution that has led to the species of man which can harness the atom, fly to other planets, look into the depths of creation itself, respond instinctively. I HISSSSSS at him.

“Nope”, the raccoon says with his body language, “I don’t have time for this flavor of crazy.” He turns and heads out the cat door.

I secure the cat food behind a door and trudge wearilly upstairs. Last night’s battle wasn’t a draw, it wasn’t a stalemate. It was a loss. The image of that cocky son of a sow leaning on the cage and casually popping Whiskas like they were popcorn, that’s the image that’ll stay with me for today.

To be continued.

Computermifying the trap

Last modified on 2012-06-21 17:36:08 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Clearly, I have underestimated my foe in the past, but no longer.  I have tried to meet him on his battlefield: creature versus creature.  This is foolish for he is clearly a better creature than I, a human, who because of civilization am separated somewhat from the mad scrabble of wilderness and the required base cunning it engenders.

This was a mistake.  To win, I must use skills he presumably does not have but I possess: Skills of technology and science.

I have modified the animal trap so that it no longer matters how delicate his touch is when reaching over the pressure plate to grab the food.  It no longer matters whether or not he can use some sort of raccoon magic to float through the air to secure the prize without triggering the door, because I am now using COMPUTERS.

I’ve attached a camera that looks down into the cage and am monitoring it with Yawcam, a program that can perform actions when motion is detected within a specific area.

When the raccoon enters the cage, the motion will cause it to execute a program that uses a electromechanical servo to trigger the pressure plate manually, trapping this furred bandit so I can take him elsewhere.

I also now have a camera set up to capture the grand event, recording with my Microsoft LifeCam.  The end of his revolution, friends, WILL be televised.  View the attached video to see the setup if any of this is unclear.

I set the trap last night, but when I woke up, it looks to have been triggered by one of my goddamn cats walking past the lamp and changing the light level JUST ENOUGH to set it off.  I’ll play around with the lights to avoid a recurrence of this tonight, but I anticipate success in the near future, barring other interference from my GODDAMN CATS.

This raccoon has become my furry white whale, I know, but from hells heart I promise I _will_ catch it.

An Unexpected Development

Last modified on 2012-06-22 00:53:03 GMT. 5 comments. Top.

Watching the logs this morning from the first night’s attempt with the computer-enhanced trap, I thought cat shadows had set off the motion detector.  The computer that was supposed to record ‘the big picture’ had helpfully shut down for Windows Updates an hour before the event, so I could only refer to a collection of snapshots from the detector itself.

On further review this afternoon, I discovered unmistakable evidence that what I thought happened had not happened and realized I would need to change my trap.  A lot.

RaccoonWar Intermission

Last modified on 2012-06-22 14:42:36 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

Humanity’s challenger. Who will survive?

The group I’m in was just picked to participate in the Red Bull Creation challenge so I was out quite late last night. By the time I staggered into home, I was too tired to set the traps and cameras, so we barricaded the cat door for the night.

Tonight, I hope to try out the new trap. I’ll have video eyes on it and hope to have footage of the monster in its new cage-shaped home soon.

The trap is waiting

Last modified on 2012-06-23 16:36:32 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The trap is set. Follow this delicious trail, Mr Raccoon. Follow it to more wonderful cat food!

I’ve put a light over the food to remove the shadow problem.  A beckoning light.  Come closer, my dear.

Disaster!

Last modified on 2012-06-23 16:39:57 GMT. 5 comments. Top.

The raccoon may or may not know how to use computers.  He entered the house, the trap was set off without him in it.  I need to review the tapes and figure out how it went off without him in the cage.  WHAT.

This is terrible!

WHAT IS HAPPENING?!

Disaster! followup and video

Last modified on 2012-06-24 16:04:44 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

A followup to this morning’s image. I was at the shop most of today and didn’t have a chance to check it out until later today. I finally discovered the actual cause of the premature traptulation. When wandering past the computer, he stumbled on the cable that handled the motion-detection.

The software compares video frames for changes and activates if there’s a difference. It turns out that if frame 1 has an image of the food bowl and frame 2 has a ‘picture’ of ‘CAMERA DISCONNECTED’, they do not match and the logic to fire the trap is run.

Some footage of the raccoon itself in motion. Damn his furry soul…

I needed more power, Scotty…

Last modified on 2012-06-25 13:59:29 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

Interim update

Last modified on 2012-06-26 13:22:23 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

It’s been a very busy last few days at the shop working on the Redbull Challenge thing, so I haven’t been able to devote any time to the Raccoon Menace. I set the trap last night covering the entire cat door again and locked the cats in with my 10 year-old so they wouldn’t wake ME up, but there was no sign of my foe last night.

The food was uneaten, my computer untouched, and the barricades I emplaced to prevent him from getting into the house proper were still intact this morning.

Once we can get a critical pneumatic lift system functioning reliably for the project, I’ll have more time to improve the trap. While I’m loathe to place it outside (because I’ll start catching neighborhood cats), it may be worth it for the ‘who knows?’ factor. Also, if I catch another squirrel like I did a few days ago, the humor potential is pretty high. After all, how exactly WOULD General Growth Properties handle a loose squirrel inside Gateway Mall, hypothetically speaking?

We got him!

Last modified on 2012-06-27 17:34:39 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

And finally:

An unsettling coincidence

Last modified on 2012-07-02 19:52:12 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Something unsettling happened last night.  You may read this and think ‘Oh you, now you’re being silly’, but this really happened.

I left the shop around midnight after a long day working on our contest entry and turned from McKinley onto 7th/99 to head east towards home.  For anyone outside of town, this is the far west side of Eugene and I live in the far east side of Springfield.  There are two towns between where I was and where I live.

Due to massive road construction, the four lane road is currently a single lane with a one foot drop-off (~1/3 meter for my civilized friends) into rock on one side and a sidewalk on the other.  The street lights for this stretch were out, so this stretch was very dark.

As I accelerated, I noticed a dark shape on the road ahead of me.  I began to slow and as I did so, I picked up three more shapes next to it.  I rolled to a stop about 20 feet away from a group of four…   raccoons.  They had stopped in the road and were staring at me.

Raccoons.

After a moment, they backed off the road as if to say ‘move along, buddy’ so I took my foot off the brake and began inching forward.  As I neared them (watching from the sidewalk), I carefully reached out and locked the door.

“Thunderscreech”, I thought to myself, “you’re being silly.”  Then I looked over to my left as I passed the group and saw that the biggest one was standing up and facing directly at me.

I don’t know what I thought it could do, but…  I punched it.  I hit the gas and took off.

It’s a coincidence, right?  I mean, a hamburglar of raccoons (I assume that’s the proper collective noun for these animals) standing in the middle of a darkened construction zone that just happens to be a natural constriction point I’d travel through is something that happens to other people, right?

Epilogue:

PLAYER 3 HAS JOINED THE GAME: RaccoonWar Update

Last modified on 2013-06-24 16:21:50 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

It’s been a year since the events surrounding what I think of as the Raccoon Wars of 2012 and there has been a change.  If you are new to ‘As The Ben Turns’, you may not know of the epic struggle in which I was embroiled: Inhuman foes, elaborate traps, puzzles, and coming face to face with snarling enemies are all parts of a series of escalations I’ve documented here.

For the past few weeks, there have occasionally been mysteriously clean dry-food plates in the Catfeteria.  As we all know, a dish that is 50% or below full of catfood = empty as the soul of an MPAA executive in the eyes of a cat, so finding the occasional catfood bowl that’s picked clean has been…  concerning.

Fast forward to 4:30 this morning.  Coming down the stairs, I heard a deliberate mechanical crunching.  Our cats are very casual eaters, so the chomping machine I was hearing was not normal.  CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH it went with the subtlety of a woodchipper being fed Federal witnesses.  CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH.

Turning on my flashlight, I crept around the corner to see a bag of dry food jerking and wiggling as it was methodically disemboweled by some sort of furred monster.  “It can’t be him…  I defeated the raccoon” I told myself, but the evidence of a non-cat invader couldn’t be ignored.  ‘Maybe it’s a stray’, I told myself unconvincingly.

I snuck closer, then shined the line directly at it.  “Ah HA!” I yelled.  “!!!!” it snarled and then, in a panic, disappeared _into_ the large bag.  I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I knew a few things:

1. It was not a cat.
2. It was not a raccoon.
3. It was angry and uncoordinated.

The bag spun around and danced as the mystery creature struggled to, well, literally fight its way out of a paper bag.  After an embarassing 5-10 seconds it finally succeeded and tore out of the house through the open sliding glass door.  Crud, I’d forgotten to reset that last night, at least now I had a theory on how it had gotten in.

During its sprint, it looked over at me and for a moment, time slowed down and I got a clear look at what I was facing.  I could see every greasy hair on its pointy head as it turned to glance at me before majestically plowing into the corner of the slider and bouncing out the door.  Time returned to normal, but now I knew the name of my enemy.

Possum.

The small, land equivalent of a Great White Shark, the possum has approximately one billion teeth in its mouth.  I’ve been able to see a couple examples of this over the past few weeks when my mighty cats have brought in living possum yutes for us to presumably adopt.  Their mouths, when they’re hissing at me, appear to be lined with inward facing teeth like some sort of furry Sarlacc Pit and their beady little eyes contain only hate for a world that does not respect possums.

The yutes I’d carefully taken outside had been maybe 8-10 inches but the thing that erupted out of that innocent bag of Kitty Kibble must have had a torso that was more than a foot long, uneasily attached to an overly muscular tail of the sort you’d expect to be found on display in the Snake House at a zoo.

This ‘possum battleship’ blasted out of my house at a fearsome clip and I quickly closed the screendoor behind it, but now I’m left wondering: has this creature been coming in through the cat door before now?

Have the Raccoon Wars re-opened with a new ‘End Boss’?

Do I need to buy more catfood?

3 thoughts on “RaccoonWar 2012 – Omnibus Edition”

  1. Nice reddit post. In same position. Feeding, hoping to trap, S/N/R, caring for strays (lost their homes, not true feral but learning to survive). They are getting hammered by one 50 pound raccoon female with 2 kits. Who invaded my outside cat feeding area back of my carport. A licked clean bowl is my constant dread. Caught 2 prehistoric ratosaurs aka possums last week. The raccoon kits walk on top of the food, through the bowl of cream- are messy eaters. They pee and crap right there. The cats don’t do that. Trying to catch (1) a tuxedo male cat who is madly in love with (2) a bengal female, protects her, got her in the family way when she was 6 months old, had 4 kittens, finally caught one, and got him taken care off and to good home within the hour, gorgeous they all are. One was killed by the raccoon two houses away. We’re trying for the other 2 kittens. Mom and Pop cat are amazing parents. All the cats are cage wary. I caught her last night because in trying to outfox the raccoon I set up an elaborate camouflage around and in the cage using tons of clippings. I use paper towels under their food bowls, so I lined the cage with paper towels, covering the spring-thing. Instead I caught cage-wary Mom cat. Dad cat was out of his mind trying to comfort her . Had to let her go darn it she’s still nursing. Plus they were yowling for each other. All caught on surv. camera. I used to do wildlife rescue, they teach you to clean the food bowls always with a bleach solution so viruses don’t jump between wildlife and cats, saliva and fluids etc. Also clean the cages with bleach between catches. It’s cold outside here too, so I am going to build the shelter you described. You have amazing determination.

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