A couple in their eighties had found there was an unwelcome guest and a big nuisance living in their attic. A raccoon decided to make it its new home. Its nocturnal meandering, noise and the destruction of telephone cables caused dramatic upset in their lives. They had an all too frequent problem in Boynton Beach, Florida: development has taken over natural environment where wild animals once roamed freely.
Raccoons, opossums, rats even alligators often encroach on living space in adult communities enjoying the benefit of protection from hunting and laws that govern the way they can be dealt with. Licensed trappers respond to animal pest complaints but they are an expensive option. When the older couple called a trapper listed in the Yellow Pages, the price quoted to come and trap the raccoon was $250. An additional fee of $80 for each raccoon pup would be added. It seemed that the raccoon pest in the attic was a mother that moved in with her brood.
My friends called me. They live on fixed incomes. It was a lot of money to spend to remove the offending raccoons. I called animal control and was informed about regulations entailed in trapping the raccoon. I got a Tomahawk Live Trap. My friends insisted that the raccoon and her pups be treated humanely. They didn’t want the animals harmed in any way, just removed from their attic.
The Tomahawk Live Trap I used measured 32” x 10” x 12” in size, made with 12-gauge wire mesh that has one-inch square spaces. It has a spring-loaded trap door and a release door. Pretty simple concept. The trap has a large pedal. Once it is set after lifting up the trap door and securing a hook attached to the pedal, it is strategically placed and baited. I used a small can of cat food. Tomahawk sells non-meat bait to help insure neighborhood cats do not get caught by mistake. Since my friends did not think there were any feral cats or neighbor’s cats around, cat food sufficed.
The idea was to place the trap in the area beneath a drain-pipe the raccoons used to get to and from the attic. My strategy was to trap them, hold them in the shade and provide water if necessary, then to place a wire grille over the attic vent they used to gain access to the house.
It worked overnight. Mama raccoon went hunting, she smelled the cat food, entered the trap and was humanely caught. Early in the morning the trap was placed in the shade. My friends passed food inside the trap, which the raccoon devoured, poked water inside in a narrow plastic tray, then called me. I screwed wire mesh over the attic vent after making sure there were no other raccoons inside. I used a powerful flashlight in the attic crawl space to double check no raccoon pups were left in a nest somewhere. They were old enough to get away and were not seen again.
When the attic vent grille was securely in place I released the raccoon from the escape door of the Tomahawk trap. The raccoon ran away and decided to make its new nest in the woods.
The Tomahawk trap I used cost $75 ordered from the company plus another $12 shipping. A lot less than the professional trapper wanted to charge to do the job. Repairs to the vent using heavy duty wire screen would have cost a great deal more if the trapper did it.
In cities and towns, where the discharge of firearms is prohibited and would be dangerous, trapping is the only viable alternative to get rid of animal pests. In these highly developed areas, leg hold traps cannot be used. Leg hold traps have steel jaws that snap shut on an animal’s leg. The trap is baited with food and the result is not only cruel, it is often fatal. Often unintended victims, such as domestic dogs and cats, fall victim to leg hold traps. Vet bills to repair resulting injury are exorbitant with liability for such costs borne by the trapper. Leg hold traps are also illegal to use in many urban and suburban communities.
Rural pests present other problems. Raccoons and rats often invade domestic animal spaces, attack fowl, raid nests, eat eggs and chicks and create damage in feed storage areas. Woodchucks, foxes, feral cats, skunks and other wildlife often become nuisances that must be dealt with. Land owners in rural areas sometimes resort to shooting offending animal pests. Even where permitted by law, the very nature of where and how animal pests invade buildings near foundations, near livestock and inside barns and sheds often makes shooting impractical and dangerous.
In one area a woodchuck made its home under a building. The powerful creature actually broke and removed large chunks of the concrete foundation. Its excavation was immense. Mounds of rock and earth were thrown up outside its burrow. All manner of suggestions were made to get rid of it. A propane line ran right through the woodchuck’s burrow underneath an inhabited building. The critter lived there so long its pups, born every year, increased the woodchuck problem.
There were suggestions made that made no sense at all. One person advised mixing the laundry bleach Clorox with ammonia and pouring the mixture into the hole to create poisonous gas. Another was to hook a hose to a vehicle’s exhaust pipe, push the hose into the woodchuck hole and let the vehicle run to kill it with carbon monoxide. Some suggested various forms of poison. One even said put bubble gum in the burrow. I was sure I’d later see the woodchuck blowing bubbles at me. I didn’t try any of those well meaning but unsuitable suggestions.
I wanted to trap the woodchucks humanely then transport them elsewhere where they wouldn’t come back. Killing the critter in its burrow would produce a terrible smell in the house that would last more than a year. Poison was out since caution was required to protect domestic animals and even wild animals that we didn’t want harmed. The use of poison gas and exhaust fumes seemed eccentric and would kill the woodchuck under the building where it would putrefy. The dangerous fumes would penetrate into the inhabited building. Shooting was dangerous so close to the building and the propane line. Tomahawk’s Live Trap came to the rescue.
The company is committed to humane trapping and has a handy Website at www.livetrap.com and You Tube account where information can be obtained. I called the company’s headquarters in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. They have a toll-free number (1-800-272-8727). I was connected to the owner, Greg Smith. He was generous with his time and gave me suggestions that would help trap the woodchuck.
They make a bait that is specific to woodchucks as well as sweet baits that contain apples, cinnamon, golden maize sweetcorn, persimmon and fruit extracts. Shellfish baits are also available which will attract cats. The woodchuck bait contains fruit extracts. It will also attract skunks but is not likely to bring carnivores in.
I chose not to bait the trap at all. I set it up as Greg suggested with a kind of alley made from discarded mesh grapefruit bags and stakes leading from the woodchuck’s favorite burrow entrance to the trap. Greg suggested I put grass over the bottom of the trap as a disguise but not to let it interfere with closing of the trap once triggered by the woodchuck.
One major and important precaution Greg stresses is handling trapped animals. They are wild and if cornered can defend themselves using teeth and claws. Various loops and holding devices are available but may not be necessary. One must is to wear long sleeve leather gloves. The top of Tomahawk traps have a handle over the wire mesh surrounded by a metal plate to protect a carrier’s hands since animals can reach through the trap.
As I carried the trap containing the raccoon it came at the sides of the trap defensively snapping its teeth. It was afraid. Caution in handling was necessary. When I released it I made sure to open the trap at a steep tilt standing on a chair so that the raccoon would drop out and have plenty of room to run away and not be in contact with me in any way.
Where there are children nearby extra precautions must be taken since kids are curious and might poke their fingers into a trap to pet the wild animal only to be bitten or scratched. This might entail killing the wild animal to check for rabies and even a precautionary rabies injection series for the victim. Precautions must always be taken and, as with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I’ve had good success using my Tomahawk Live Trap to get rid of pesky critters that decided to move in with us. We sometimes invade natural areas with development that deprives animals of their habitat. The price for progress is that raccoons will knock over garbage cans and poke into dwellings. Burrowing animals may live in proximity to buildings and in fields where their holes pose a danger to livestock. Farmers and ranchers despair when prairie dogs and woodchucks create holes where cattle and horses can easily trip and break legs. There is an inexpensive, humane solution at hand easy enough for most to employ. Instructions and critter-specific advice is readily available on the web or by phone.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.