By Jill J Easton
Are there more raccoons in your trash cans? Do coyotes howl just up the road from your property? Is there a skunk tunneling under your house? It’s all Russia, China and Korea’s fault.
Right now, you are thinking, this writer is crazy, but I’m not. International affairs are affecting predators and other animal pests around the United States. For the last ten years, Russia and China have opened their countries to personal capitalism. Average citizens in these cold countries could finally afford something more than food and housing. They may not be able to buy a car, but the warmth and luxury of fur coats was within Boris-Q-Public’s grasp.
Until five years ago coat makers in these two countries bought most of the wild fur caught in the United States and for big bucks. Today both are in internal crisis and tariffs from our government are making American exports even more expensive for average citizens.
“International problems have made American raccoons, coyotes and skunks much less valuable than they were four years ago,” Mike Wilhite, fur market analyst. “An XXL prime, skinned, fleshed and stretched raccoon hide that would have sold for $22-25 four years ago brought trappers $1-3 this year in many markets.”
A sad little dollar won’t even pay for gas to check traps, much less the hours it takes to work the fur. Fur prices are down and trappers are quitting in huge numbers. The result is predators are increasing and moving into areas they’ve never been before.
What can you do?
If you have land or leased acreage and want to have turkeys and other game animals next spring you need to become a trapper or pay a nuisance trapper to do the job. Either way, it’s going to take an investment of money. If you decide to become a trapper, it will also take time, a visit to your state’s game regulation agency and possibly a license.
This story isn’t about nuisance trappers, you will have to get that information locally. But if you decide to trap, this article can help.
The biggest ‘problem’ animal and one of the easiest to control is the raccoon. If you are trapping only on your own property and primarily want to control these ring-tailed marauders of eggs and baby birds the solution is simple – Dog Proof Traps.
There are actually three ways to catch coons: cage traps, dog proof traps and leg hold, steel traps.
Dog Proof Coon Traps are a metal tube with a trigger mechanism inside. These must be wired to a tree or stake or the coon will leave with your trap on its foot. Food is placed at the bottom of the tube, then the trap is set (there are many different varieties of DP triggering devices and each is set differently, so I can’t explain how to do it. Email me at [email protected] if you have problems) and the trapping mechanism is triggered by a bar that runs across the tube.
Coons are curious and always hungry, they stick a front paw into the tube, feel the bar and think it is something to eat. When they pull or push on the bar, the trap (think big rat trap) springs out and keeps them from removing the paw. They are held in place until someone comes to dispatch them.
Almost any food can be used. We generally soak dog food in fish oil mixed with a spoon full of canned mackerel, but almost any food that smells will attract a hungry coon.
The tubes are too small for a dog paw to get inside. The only animals that get caught are coons, possums, skunks, possibly cats and mice.
Once the raccoon is caught it will need to be killed. In almost every state it is illegal to catch a coon and free it on someone else’s property. There are three problems with freeing a caught coon: coons already in the new location will kill the strange coon, it will spread diseases like rabies that are not already in that area, and if ‘your’ coon doesn’t have to cross water it will probably return to your location in a few days.
Cage traps are easy to use, but they are bulky and it is hard to dispatch a coon in a cage. Fasten the trap to the ground or larger coons may roll it over and escape. If the traps will be placed in areas where there may be dogs, cats or chickens try baits like marshmallows or peanut butter mixed with jelly. If your traps are away from civilization use sardines or jack mackerel. Fish smells will attract raccoons from a much longer distance.
The best way to kill a coon is to draw an imaginary X across the coon’s head from its ear to the eye, then shoot where the X crosses. Once the coon is dead remove the animal and return it to nature.
Someday economic health will return to the Communist countries and wild-caught fur will again be valuable. Until that happens if you want more turkeys, quail and other animals you need to solve the problem yourself and remove raccoons.