Wednesday, March 4, 2015

With whom we share this land

Erika and I have been telling you about the animals with whom we share, or have shared, these 27 acres -- dogs, geese, chickens, turkeys; the animals Erika and Christian have brought to the farm.  But we haven't said quite as much about the other animals we know or suspect live here, too.  The ones we haven't brought -- feral cats, coyotes, deer, squirrels, groundhogs, black snakes and raccoons.

Today, I want to talk about raccoons.  If you're squeamish you should skip the next paragraph.

I always liked raccoons until last year when we found several of Erika's and Christian's chickens dead.  Decapitated.  Beautiful, healthy chicken bodies with only their heads missing.  It seemed somehow particularly gruesome and also such a terrible waste.  We were told, although we don't know this for sure, that raccoons are often guilty of killing chickens and eating only the heads.

After that incident, we hadn't seen any other evidence of raccoons until the snow came.  Then, we started seeing small, weirdly human handprints around the chicken coop.  Raccoons for sure.

One afternoon after a big snow, we wandered around the property looking for tracks and found a veritable freeway covered with little handprints between the back of the old stanchion barn and the woods a few hundred feet away.

We guessed the raccoons were holing up in the rafters of the barn, but our friend and long-time resident of this area, Dot, suggested they were probably living under the barn.  Turns out she was exactly right.

Christian set a have-a-heart trap loaded with a full can of tuna near what we suspected was the raccoon freeway, and sure enough the next day, this is what we found:

He or she was curled in a tight ball, keeping warm and escaping the bright sunshine, we think.  We've been told raccoons can be very mean, but this one just seemed mildly curious.

Erika opened the trap -- restraining herself from trying to pet the animal, she says!

And, the cute little, chicken-killing, creepy-human-handed creature scampered off toward the barn, and dove into a large hole at the base of the structure, just where Dot said it would stay.

We're hoping we'll be able to continue to share this land with the raccoons, but if any more of our free-ranging chickens turn up dead with their heads missing, the raccoons just may have to go.


  1. Those are creepy hand prints! What a deceiving face that chicken decapitator has! Great photos!