Uninvited Critters Can Keep You on Your Toes

By Dennis Smith

Years ago, a big boar raccoon took up residence under our toolshed and decided to stay for a while. He dug holes in the lawn at night hunting for worms, ripped the electric pump out of our frog pond, continually knocked over the birdbath, shredded the squirrel feeder and created a nasty coon toilet under the shrubs. Lovely. One night, for reasons I can’t imagine, he chewed up the nozzle end of a brand-new $65 garden hose. It’s funny now, but it certainly wasn’t then.

Normally I think raccoons are cool; they’re cute, clever and downright entertaining. However, they can also be incredibly destructive and surprisingly vicious if aggravated. One night when I tried to chase him out of the frog pond, he defiantly stood his ground, bared his teeth and let out a hair-raising growl. That was the last straw. He had to go. We decided to trap him and release him in the boonies somewhere. I set a live trap near the frog pond just off the patio, baited it with marshmallows and went to bed.

The next morning, we were horrified to find a big skunk sound asleep in the cage. My wife, Pat, shrieked, and quickly pulled the patio blinds shut so it wouldn’t see us if it woke up. “Now what?” she asked, a bit hysterically. “How are you going to get that thing out of here? What if it sprays? It’s right next to the house.”

“Not to worry,” I said. “I know what to do. I read all about this on the internet. All we have to do is toss a blanket over the cage while it’s sleeping, quietly open the cage door and let it out. They won’t spray something they can’t see.”

“What do you mean WE?” she snarled. Then she said a few other things I can’t repeat here.

“Look, we just cut up some black plastic garbage bags, duct-tape them into a big tarp, then weight the top and bottom edges with rocks so I can toss it over the cage. I’ll sneak up on the cage, hiding behind the blanket so the skunk can’t see me. But since I won’t be able to see where I’m going, you can watch from that open window, direct me to the cage and tell me when to toss the blanket. If the skunk wakes and acts like it’s getting ready to spray, just holler loudly: run, run! OK?”

“OK, but how do I know if it’s getting ready to spray?” she asked.

“Well, if you see it turn its butt toward me, raise its tail and stomp its feet, it’s getting ready to spray. That’s your cue to scream, ‘run, run.’ Got it?”

“Got it.”

I snuck quietly out the back door, holding the tarp spread before me like a great black shield and slowly inched toward the cage when I thought I heard Pat whisper quietly, “Retreat, retreat.”

“Huh? Retreat?”

In the fraction of a second it took me to figure out what that meant, I heard the window slam shut and became aware of an evil-looking yellow mist rising from the vicinity of the cage 3 feet away. Uh-oh.

Unfortunately, I ran out of space so we’ll have to pick this up in next month’s column.