Monday, January 2, 2017

Big Game Hunting, La Jolla-style

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Jan. 4, 2017] ©2017
Given how frequently I have written about our rat problems, never mind the possum that maliciously died under my kitchen the day before Thanksgiving in 2015, it is not surprising that friends contact me when creatures of the rodential persuasion take up residence on their property.  My neighbor Karen recently discovered that a colony of raccoons, entering through a broken screen on one of the foundation vents, was living under her house. Would that they just wanted shelter. In a true horror movie scenario, they appeared to be trying to claw their way through the floor into the house at night, scaring the bejeezus out of the entire family. Alas, my marsupial and rat guy doesn’t do raccoons, but he gave her the name of Raider Ron from Raccoon-Be-Gone.  I herewith share Karen’s report with you:
Dear Inga,
How I wish you had been here when Raider Ron came over to facilitate the raccoon diaspora.  First, he was just what you would expect– a little more than rough around the edges, middle-aged with a two day growth of beard that would look good on Ben Affleck but not on him.  Good sense of humor, though, but one would probably need it in this line of work. 
The business of raccoon eradication is quite specialized.  A license is required and I can only imagine what a continuing education convention would look like.  When we got down to business there were two options, one being trapping, and the other using what could only be called “behavior modification”.  The second was cheaper ($200) and was more humane, with 90-95 % success rate which sounded good to me. 

The first was trapping, with almost 100% success.  That was a little pricier at $300 but only for two raccoons.  More than two of the disagreeable critters go for $100 a pop extra and I had no idea how many there were.  Also, the traps would be set up in the side yard as apparently traps cannot be seen from the street.  This would mean not only leaving the side gate slightly open but also running the risk of trapping other unwanted visitors (i.e. possums) and the neighbors’ cats.  The traps are baited with Kentucky Fried Chicken (seriously!?!) so I am sure there would be a lot of interest from local furry denizens (and maybe my two-year-old grandson). 
Another downside to trapping, and this is really a downer for the raccoon, is that though they are “humanely” (Raider Ron’s word) captured, they are rather summarily dispatched (hopefully not right in my back yard) to raccoon heaven. After a nanosecond of thought we opted for plan B. 
With Plan B, the idea was to encourage the raccoons to see Casa Hermosa as a no longer welcoming community.  To do this required putting various deterrents at their place of entrance. These deterrents, to put it mildly, are comprised of various concentrations of urine from raccoon predators, for example wolf and mountain lion.  One whiff of this and it would knock you dead ten feet away. Raider Ron’s van was filled with bottles of gelatinous concoctions of really (like really!) foul smelling goop. This stuff made Hermione’s polyjuice potion look like lemonade. 
Ron proceeded to fill a dozen or so little plastic cups with a sampler of this stuff, some of which, he informed us, cost more than $200 a bottle.  Yikes!  That would buy a good bottle of Scotch (although a whiff of some of those smoky single malts would probably knock you dead at ten feet, too).  These were then strategically strewn just inside the opening to the crawl space under the window.  We were instructed to check out the entrance the next morning for evidence of animal activity and then to put down a piece of plywood or cardboard and dust it with flour (Wondra is the recommended product), and check for footprints or indications that animals were coming or going.  We were to monitor this for three days and if no activity was observed then there was a strong likelihood the raccoons had packed their bags and gone looking for someone else’s crawlspace.  We could then – and only then - repair the screen to prevent future invasions. Dead creatures under the house would bring a whole new – and worse – set of problems as you know only too well. 
To further encourage them to move on, Ron suggested positioning a lamp at the entrance since bright light is somewhat off-putting to nocturnal animals (well, duh).  Also, they apparently don’t like the sound of radios.  If I had an old radio laying around, which unbelievably I did, he recommended I use that, too.  I found the thought of blasting the raccoons with mariachi music highly amusing but was informed it was the sound of humans speaking that they didn’t like.  So we rigged up a light, stuck my ancient radio next to the crawl space, set it all on a dusk to dawn timer and hoped for the best. 
Three days out and no tracks! 

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