- Cute, Dangerous, Carries Many Diseases
- #1 Eater of Ground Nesting Birds (Turkey, etc.)
- Consider Calling a Licensed Professional
By Jill J Easton
Don’t let that cute mask, button eyes and cute stripped tail fool you. Far too often, having raccoons for neighbors can become a terrible nuisance. These animals are smart and they use their paws, teeth and innate ingenuity to break into any food source that isn’t locked up or chained down. They destroy attics, scream intensely while mating (often under a house) and carry enough diseases to fill a hospital.
Raccoons Consume Ground Bird Eggs
In the wild they are the #1 eater of ground nesting bird eggs. As a turkey hunter, I find this particular behavior a terrible character flaw. The worst part of the whole coon problem is that right now they have almost no value as fur, so trappers and coon hunters aren’t willing to do the work it takes to put coon hides in their fur sheds.
Here is a quick biology lesson: the raccoon population in many locations is in the early stages of what some environmentalists call a “trophic cascade.” This is the third consecutive year of rock-bottom coon prices, so very few trappers will spend any time catching coons. As a result, these animals are multiplying faster than their food sources. Over the next few years, coon populations will reach epidemic proportions and therefore there will be many more coons raiding garbage cans, eating bird eggs and pilfering around your property. Finally, there will be a massive raccoon die-off.
Raccoons Carry Many Diseases
Hungry, over-populated coons will come down with a variety of diseases. Rabies and distemper are two diseases that are most dangerous for domestic animals and people.
The good news is, it isn’t that hard to solve your coon problem, at least on a local basis. There is a recently-designed trap that makes catching these masked bandits quite simple. These traps go under the general name of dog proof traps, or DPs, and there are dozens of brands. The best part is they are 99% safe around domestic animals.
The Duke DP is the one my husband Jim and I use, so we’ll use it as the example here. As mentioned, though, there are many other brands and they all do the same job. Each design has differences, but they all are designed to catch raccoons by a front foot.
The Duke DP is made of a piece of pipe about the size of the smallest Red Bull can with one end closed off. The coon sticks a front paw into the pipe, which is baited with fish, hot dog, dog food, marshmallows, or anything else that smells like food to a coon, which is almost everything. When the raccoon pulls on a bar inside the trap, it releases a spring which pins the animal’s foot inside the trap. Because the coon can’t reach its paw, there is no chance for it to chew off its foot and escape.
These traps are small, simple to use, easy to set and they catch coons very efficiently. One important caveat, though: what we are talking about here is a lethal solution. These traps will catch your problem coons, but they’re alive and they must, repeat MUST, be killed. So you might want to leave this job to a professional. It is biologically unsound to relocate coons because of the strong possibility of spreading disease. It is, in fact, illegal in many states to transport and release captured animals.
Also, if coons are carried off and released, two other undesirable things may happen. Since coon populations are high elsewhere and not just in your back yard, you’ll be dumping them into already occupied and overcrowded territory. In addition, catching coons in a DP trap educates them to avoid such traps in the future, and if you release them away from your property, they’ll likely become a nuisance to someone else – and they’ll be harder to capture a second time. And if you release them too close to your own property, they’ll be back on your bird feeder in very short order. So remember, it’s not a catch-and-release operation.
Setting a Dog Proof Trap (DP)
The first step in setting a dog proof trap is to put bait in the bottom of the pipe, or use a piece of hot dog and stick it on the trigger. Many types of bait will attract raccoons, but something with a fishy smell works best. The cheapest cans of Jack Mackerel or sardines will draw coons from great distances. If you are setting a lot of traps it is more economical to soak cheap dog food with fish oil and use that. Since there is a good possibility that a cat may be attracted by the fishy smell, marshmallows are preferable when felines are nearby. The long pliers in the picture are handy for locating the bait below the trap bar and for setting the trap as well.
Next, put the barrel of the trap across your leg and use the pliers to push down the bar as shown, then push the latch over the bar, set it into the trigger notch, and your trap is set. The trap base is shoved into the ground to stabilize the trap, and you’re all set. The final step is to either drive a stake into the ground to anchor the trap chain, or wire it to a tree or log. Be careful where you set your traps, though, because a coon with a foot in a DP becomes a furry engine of destruction and will scar, mangle or completely destroy anything within reach. In other words, catch them in the yard, not on the patio.
The best way to kill a trapped raccoon is with a small-caliber rifle or pistol, such as a .22 caliber round. Draw an imaginary X between the ears and eyes. Shoot a .22 bullet into that spot and you should have a dead raccoon with little fur damage. To get the animal out of the trap, push down on the bar like you did to set it and upend the trap. The coon’s paw should slide out and you are ready to make a reset. `
This is a simple, elegant solution for those ring-tailed raiders. All it takes is equipment, bait and patience. Not only will you be taking over an important job in the wild food chain, you will be helping to prevent raccoons from dying a slow miserable death from starvation or disease.
Remember to check your state trapping laws for proper licensing and firearm discharge.