Monday, October 08, 2007

Just call me trapper...

Just call me Trapper.

Who would have thought I would need to move into a city to become a successful trapper of wild animals. I had grown up in a family of hunters, trappers and fishers: I’m the type of person that carries a fishing rod and reel in the back of my car wherever I go.

But I usually left trapping to my father and brothers.

However, welcome to Salem. Who would have imagined there would be so many wild animals around? We have deer bringing their fawns into our backyard to nibble on any freshly-planting bulb plants and nestle in for the night under a large evergreen tree.

Raccoons have made us part of their weekly visiting tours of the neighborhood. Nutria occasionally wandered into the area. Opossums have really started to hang out in our yard, several of them taking turns to climb over our deck furniture to see if there is any leftover cat food goodies spilled around from other critters. Squirrels love running along our fences, up the trees, and scamper over our house roof several times a day … before they leap several feet to tree branches.

Needless to say, this wildlife party needed to be stopped. The midnight snacks for them were starting to get expensive. When I would adjust the times of when our cat’s food was outside, the animals changed their habits of finding the food. Nocturnal animals switched their wanderings faster than humans adapt to the fall time change. At times, it seemed like a revolving door at our place, where I would chase away one animal in time to see another waddling, hopping, crawling or simply meandering curiously into the yard. I swear they had a code they shared among each other: one would divert my attention, another would dash to the food bowl.

Borrowing a cage trap from a neighbor, I became … the Trapper. I learned how to set the trap, what was the best bait, and when to set it.

We promptly caught one of our cats twice, and another of our cats once. The first time the younger cat was caught — while he still a young kitten — our horrified neighbors that the cat was dead. There it was, an orange furball with its eyes closed, and all four legs stuck in the air.

As she hurried to what she thought was its corpse, she heard … snoring. Yes, the kitten, tired of playing within it trap, had simply tuckered itself out and fell asleep in that position. It wasn’t until Rusty yawned that my neighbor realized all was well and it was safe to tell me she had caught the cat.

It took a few months, but eventually we managed to keep the cats out and started to catch the wild animals.

To date, four opossums have been kindly relocated to new homes. I have had a chance to study them closely, including their rat-like tales, their long claws, their strange ears and noses and how they like to open their mouths to hiss at enemies. And that was before I trapped them. I discovered they really needed to be trapped, because gentle persuasion such as yelling “shoo”, spraying water at them and poking them with a long broom handle does nothing to make them move. They just open their mouths, hiss, and cling even tighter to the furniture they’re clinging on to that evening with those claws.

I figured at least with the trap, I offered them a decent last meal or two before we carted them away.

About 6 a.m. this morning, I discovered a new visitor in the trap. In the dark of morning, I carried a flashlight and noticed the trap door was shut. I was just about to round the corner of the house to take a better look at what was in the cage when I saw the flash of black fur with a white stripe. The tail was raised toward me, warning me not to come closer.

I hastily backed up. My family — and especially our farm dogs — had enough experiences with skunks in the past that I didn’t need a second warning.

So now I had a new challenge.

What does one do with a skunk after catching it? I admit it. I hadn’t thought through that part as well as I probably should have when I first began trapping the animals.

I soon discovered with a bit of quick research in the phone book and online that the days of the city or county helping get rid of wildlife pests is long gone. Instead, private pest control people exist and warn people on their websites about how they’re very expensive, but they deserve to be paid as high as electricians and plumbers for their specialty skills they need to get rid of your pests. That is never a good sign to see people warn you they’re going to be very expensive prior to even doing an estimate to shock you with their high prices.

I also researched the animals we’ve had as visitors, and how often and how numerous are their litters of offspring. Add a couple hundred dollars or more for each critter captured if it is helped by pest control … and this could cost more than the monthly mortgage. My three cats and I might become the new scavengers to survive.

Meanwhile, at work I chatted with some people about how does one get rid of skunks. Of course, it led to the next topic of conversation: how does one get rid of the skunk odor after you accidentally get sprayed from trying to get rid of skunks. Seems one problem usually follows the other.

Consensus seems to be that you can forget whatever you heard about tomato juice getting the odor out of your clothes or off you or even to help your pets. Burn the clothes, shave the pets, and become a hermit for a couple of months seemed to be the collective opinion of wise people here.

Fortunately, I have great neighbors. When they heard about my recent trapping success, they offered to escort the skunk to a new home. Last I heard, they covered up the cage ith a blanket and carried off the skunk to their truck…

Tonight, I think I better go thank them gratefully for their brave help. I might carry over some tomato juice and matches, too, just in case.

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threecollie said...

Those sound like the best neighbors ever created. Ours are pretty nice folks and will stop the heifers if they see them headed down the driveway, but I suspect that they would draw the line at skunk removal.

Elaine Shein said...

They said the secret was throwing plastic over the cage, then an old blanket, then pulling the cage on top of a piece of plywood on the back of a very old half ton truck ...

Within a few hours of getting the cage back into our yard, I caught another ... possum.

They're starting to look cute to me...

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