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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
“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.”