I committed coonicide last week.
A month earlier, I had caught a raccoon by using a Havahart live trap near our chickens’ roosting space in our old barn.
I hauled it over the hill and across the creek, and then I released it.
The first raccoon had been trapped after two of our chickens had gone missing. As is true of raccoons generally, it looked cute with its black-masked eyes, its pleading facial expression and its curled-up tiny black hands (with opposable thumbs that allow raccoons to get into chicken houses quite easily).
I looked at it after I had taken the wire-cage trap off the back of my four-wheeler and placed it on the ground.
I looked at my rifle. I looked at the raccoon again, curled against the end of the trap, gazing up at me.
“Naah,” I said to myself. I unloaded the rifle, placed it back into the gun rack on the ATV and then lifted the release lever and the door on the trap. I was a good mile away from home, perhaps further. The coon scooted.
“Goodbye, fella,” I mused. “Don’t come back.”
Two weeks later, two of our chickens were not just missing. They were violently dead inside the chicken house portion of our old barn.
My wife tended to the carcasses.
I took a flashlight to use as a pointer and began to look around the perimeter of the chicken house. It is framed with 2x4 rough-cut lumber, faced with chicken wire on one side and with the barn’s walls on three sides. The coop-like structure is topped with chicken wire hung about seven feet off the ground. The bottom of the chicken house is reinforced with sturdy two-foot-high welded steel wire called, oddly, “hardware cloth.”
Google took me to Answersdrive. It enlightened me: “The hardware term is from the steel and the fact that hardware cloth is sold in hardware stores.
“The cloth term derived from the method by which it is manufactured.” It is sturdy stuff.
That hardware cloth is sunk below ground level and held in place by deck screws threaded through quarter-sized fender washers.
That is pretty secure — I thought.
Remember those opposable raccoon thumbs? The chicken-killer had cleverly pried a small chunk of the chicken wire ceiling away from the barn siding where I had stapled it.
I patched it (with hardware cloth), then set the wire cage live trap again.
In it, a few days later, was a raccoon.
Was it the same raccoon that had killed our chickens weeks earlier?
I neither knew nor cared. My earlier soft-heartedness was not repeated.
I did check the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website.
There, I found guidance.
Raccoons, the site says, are rabies vector species. In plain language, they can carry the deadly rabies virus.
Raccoons “should not be relocated like other wildlife,” the Game Commission advises.
The Game Commission information is sobering. “Homeowners who set traps and catch these species face the choice of killing the animal or releasing it.
“Releasing a skunk or a raccoon can be a risky situation. There’s a chance that you could be sprayed by the skunk, or bitten or scratched. What follows promises to be unpleasant. You’ll either have to be deodorized or anxiously await test results on the trapped animal’s brain tissue to determine if it’s rabid.”
No, thank you.
The muzzle of my .22 fits nicely within a grid square of the live trap, and that allows precise placement, which in this instance produced instant death.
I emptied the trap without remorse.
I am nowhere near as willing to kill animals as I was in my younger years. Even back then, I mostly killed what we hunted, and we ate what I killed. Today, I would be disposed to kill a feral hog if I saw one in a safe-killing situation. They wreak havoc on land, crops and dogs. Happily, I have not even heard of them being in our area, much less seen them.
But I have a “live and let live” attitude toward other wildlife, even the predatory foxes, bobcats and possums — up to a point.
That point can be found just inside our barn, where our poultry roosts, our cats roam and (when we have them), our dogs sleep.
My version of the “Castle Doctrine” that permits us to use deadly force to defend ourselves inside our homes also extends to the animals under my protection.
Is that legal? As I said, I consult the Game Commission’s website regularly. My response to “Is that legal?” is “Mostly.”
Would I break the law (and admit to it in print)?
Pish. Tush. Res ipsa loquitur. Ipse dixit. And whatever other enigmatic phrases I can think of.
I will defend my chickens. I do not love my chickens as I have loved my dogs. But they do produce things of value to me, and thereby deserve my protection.
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