Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.
—John Muir (1838-1914)
The evening began like any other in late summer, warm and humid, until a push of cool marine air made its way inland. Eagerly, I opened all the doors and windows and welcomed the sweet relief. I don’t like closed windows. Even in the dead of winter I leave at least one open, if only just a crack.
In my study, I lit sandalwood incense, and put Zen Garden on the CD player, selecting No. 7, “Home Now”; a soft and gentle orchestra. I sat down to write. As the music played, and my fingers danced across the keyboard, I heard a strange sound. It wasn’t coming from the CD, but from the other side of the house. It was the sound of metal, like dog tags rattling. I ignored it. I figured it was Chris sorting lures since we were going fishing in a few days.
I turned back to my writing, but again, I heard it; and again, tried to ignore it. But the sound continued. It was starting to annoy me, so I went to see what it was. Chris was at his desk with headphones on. “What on earth are you doing?” I asked. “Listening to music and Facebooking,” he said. “Then what’s that sound?” I wanted to know. “What sound?” he asked. “Never mind,” I said, and walked away.
Back at my computer, no sooner had my fingers touched the keyboard than I heard it again! It was louder this time. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to know where that sound was coming from. I closed my laptop, and went to investigate. As I entered the dining room, I heard crunching. It was the raccoons eating dried kibble; not the sound I was expecting. But wait . . . there it was again. It was coming from outside. I flipped on the porch light. That’s when my heart sank. One of the baby raccoons had a 6-inch long treble hook and lure hanging from the left side of his face!
🌿 🌿 🌿
One of the first questions people ask when I tell them about our raccoons is, “How do you tell them apart?” Truth is, I can’t always. It’s tough knowing who’s-who. Mostly I rely on the little differences, a scar, or a torn ear; irregular markings on the face and/or tail, or even a missing claw. Knowing their personalities also helps, and raccoons have a lot of that. That night, in my distress, I thought it was one of Little Ann’s cubs. Only later did I learn it was Misha’s cub.
For more than ten years, I’ve been interacting with raccoons. A friendship that began at the bird feeders where I soon learned that the way to a raccoon’s heart is definitely through its stomach. Like bottomless pits, they seldom reach the full mark. When we had our Newfoundland, she sometimes shared her pan of dry food with them. That’s when I started talking to the raccoons as if they were a dog or cat. I came to know and understand them, and respected their habits. And It’s been a lasting friendship ever since.
🌿 🌿 🌿
With that awful treble hook hanging from his mouth, I had to do something, anything to help him. I remembered the live trap hanging on a nail in our shop. We used it to trap and rescue feral cats some years ago. I would set the trap tonight!
It worked like a charm. I caught two baby raccoons, well, three, if you count the second one twice. Unfortunately, none were Treble. The baby raccoons didn’t put up a fuss; even their mother didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she seemed relieved that they’d found a new game to play, Catch and Release. This we played a few more times.
I set the trap between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. each night; and each night came and went without a sign or sound of Treble. I didn’t sleep well, and imagined all sorts of things that might have happened to him.
On the third evening, just before 10:00 p.m., I heard the sound of metal. It was Treble. He could be heard long before he could be seen. He sounded like a wind chime when he walked. Wasting no time, I hurried outside with cookies, and baited the trap. Despite the hook hanging from his face, he looked ok. He ate some kibble, and even took a long drink from the basin. I couldn’t let another night go by. I had to catch him and free him of that awful hook. He entered the cage twice, but not far enough to spring the trap door. Darn!
At 10:20 p.m., I flipped on the porch light. Now that he could see the trap better, maybe he’d get more curious. And he did. But instead of going in the cage, he climbed over it. I then had an awful thought. What if the hook gets snagged on the cage? And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. Treble thrashed his head wildly from side to side, but didn’t cry out. He didn’t make a sound. And believe me when I tell you, raccoons have a gamut of sounds from grunts, growls, snorts, and huffs, to shrieks, squeals and trills. Even when they eat, they make pitiful whines. I hurried to help him. As I stepped out the door, Treble threw his head back, and out popped the hook! For a split second, he had a look of surprise and relief, we both did! The hook and lure hung from the cage. He was free at last!
🌿Wild Notes: The raccoons that visit our place are not pets. They have never been handled. It’s better for them, and better for us. I’ll admit when they look at me with an expression that melts my heart, it takes every ounce of willpower not to handle them. But despite their cute, friendly, often pushy ways, I remind myself they are wild creatures with wild ways, and wild they will be forever.
Thank you for reading Nature Chronicles!
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.