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Port Aransas Wild Life

November 17, 2015

In light of last night’s visit by an entire family of raccoons, I thought I’d share this post from the archives …


 

If you have a pet cat you may have wondered why she does seem to sleep soundly most of the night, curious behavior for a creature that’s supposed to be nocturnal. Well, cats are not nocturnal, they are crepuscular. That means they’re active during dawn and dusk. It’s a pattern of behavior learned in the wild. Many predators do hunt intensely at nights. Cats learned to do their hunting in the hours when they could avoid becoming prey themselves.

cat napThus, although old and somewhat domesticated, my cat still responds to those instincts and jumps on the bed at 5:00 a.m. in an effort to rouse the Opener of Cans. After she has been served breakfast, she creeps off for a nap while I, fully awake in the predawn dark, shuffle off to the home office, boot up the computer and check my email while I wait for sunup.

So OK, if Sago is asleep, what is that noise? Is it coming from the garage? Nope. From the deck? Nope. Sounds like it’s coming from under the house. There’s a portion of the house that’s up on short pilings, with lattice skirting enclosing the crawl space. As soon as it’s light, I get under there to see what can be seen. Sure enough, I spot some animal tracks. Cats? Could be stray cats. There are stray cats in the neighborhood and I have seen them hanging around the house. Looks like this time they’re trying to get INTO the house as tufts of insulation dot the ground.

If there is a way for animals to get into the house from the underside, I’ll just have to do something about that before I end up with a whole litter of cats. I ask Chris Sayre of Sayre Builders to come have a look. Chris outlines a plan for sealing off the access, but first, he tells me, I have to make sure that there aren’t already animals inside the walls.

“And they’re not cats,” he says.

“Not cats?”

“No.”

“Mice? Rats?”

Chris shakes his head. “Raccoons.”

OMG. I have to admit, last year I did spot a raccoon across the yard. And yes, raccoons are also crepuscular, thus the predawn racket. Now what? I do have live animal traps but they are rodent sized, not nearly big enough for a raccoon. I know Port Aransas Animal Control handles stray dogs and cats but would they take on a raccoon?

Port Aransas Animal ControlIndeed they would, Officer Jim Williams informs me, and before long he arrives in his white truck supplied with a suitable live animal trap. We stow it under the house and bait it with dry cat food kibbles. And wait.

raccoonWe don’t have to wait long. By the next morning, I find the trap occupied with one fine specimen of Procyon lotor. What a relief. That problem’s solved.

Not so fast, cautions Officer Jim as he extricates the trap. First we have to ascertain if we have a male or female raccoon. If it’s a female and she’s had babies, we can’t remove her or the “kits” will die. This would present a major problem for me as kits stay with the mother for months and are not dispersed until late Fall. Talk about houseguests who overstay their welcome!

Fortunately, for me at least, this raccoon is a male. Not happy about having been trapped, he’s gnawed at his forepaws in frustration and is snarling, snapping and displaying his sharp claws and teeth. Officer Jim hauls him away with plans to release him in some more suitable wilderness area removed from human habitations. He promises to return with the trap later in the day because as we both suspect, this isn’t over yet.

And it’s not. On Day 3 of the Great Raccoon Rout of 2011 we have trapped another one. This time, says Jim, it’s a female. I hold my breath while I wait for him to decide if it’s safe to move her. He determines that she has not had babies and takes her off to rejoin her mate where they can resume their family planning in a more appropriate setting.Officer Jim Williams

I have to say, I am somewhat sorry to see them go. They are handsome animals. However, raccoons can carry rabies. They can also be destructive, causing several thousands of dollars in expense to repair the damage caused when they build their dens in walls and attics. They will enter tents, so campers are cautioned to keep food outside in locked containers. Non-rabid raccoons don’t usually prey on domestic dogs or cats or attack humans but it has been known to happen.

Officer Jim says that we don’t actually have many raccoons in Port Aransas which is somewhat surprising as our environment does hold sufficient attractions. Raccoons are omnivorous, so they will eat birds, fish and toads as well as plants. They also like to douse their foods and there are plenty of watering holes around to support this activity. Officer Jim thinks the raccoons may be falling prey to coyotes.

Visit www. http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=10718&stateId=43&stateName=Texas for information about city animal control ordinances and check the site at http://www.cityofportaransas.org for information about pet license and impound fees. If you have a problem with stray dogs, cats, rats, bats, snakes, raccoons or other wildlife that pose a danger and you need help from Port Aransas Animal Control, call 361-749-5941. Leave a message if you don’t get an answer and one of the officers will return your call. Or, call the nonemergency phone number at the Port Aransas Police Department, 361-749-6241. Animal Control is located at 409 W. Cotter Ave., behind the Chamber of Commerce and is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. I’ll see you there.

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