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Justin vs. the raccoon

March 3, 2013
By SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER - Lifestyles Editor ( , Times Leader

Living in a wooded section of town, Justin and I have had our share of critter issues. Deer are the glaring offenders, eating our tomatoes one year and our flowers the next. And of course we have our own pets who get into daily hijinx. But perhaps the most memorable critter that decided to make himself comfortable in our home was a little masked bandit.

Justin and I had just returned home from a trip to Las Vegas (yup, the same trip when he proposed). One evening, I heard Justin outside talking to our neighbor. When he came in, he told me the neighbor said that he'd seen possums running across the top of our roof.

I didn't think much of it until later that night. We were sitting on the couch watching TV and heard the pitter patter of tiny feet scurrying above our heads.

We exchanged a look. "What was that?" I wondered aloud. "Was that on the roof?"

Justin frowned. "I think it's in our attic."

Immediately, I imagined one of those mean possums making itself a nice little bed right above my head.

For some reason, we chose to ignore it, thinking maybe it really was something on the roof. A few nights later, around the same time, we were in the living room and heard the little feet again. OK, that was DEFINITELY coming from the attic.

"Do you think it's a possum?" I asked.

"I don't know," Justin answered. He paused. "Do you think I should check it out?" He looked uncertain.

Better him than me. He herded me and the animals into the bedroom and closed the door, because he wanted to prevent the cat from rushing up into the attic or the creature from rushing down into the house. I sat down on the bed and petted the dog as I listened to Justin creep slowly up the steps. Silence followed for a few seconds, and the next thing I heard was a rapid "Thump, thump, thump, thump!" of Justin's feet pounding down the steps.

He opened the bedroom door. "It's a raccoon."

"Are you sure?" I wasn't sure if he took a flashlight, a baseball bat, or what, so I wondered how he could identify what he saw.

"I looked it right in the face," he replied, looking and sounding slightly unnerved. He went on to explain that he made his way up the steps slowly and started peering over the top edge of the floor. He thought he saw movement in the corner and the next thing he knew, he's looking the raccoon right in the face.

Justin shuddered and shook out his arms and legs like he was convulsing. "Ewwwww...." he whined. "I don't like that raccoon. It looked pretty big."

Oddly, I was relieved to hear that it was a raccoon and not a possum. When I lived with my mom and dad, we lived in the country and always had raccoons coming around. I wasn't afraid of them - although I certainly didn't want to get close to one, nor did I want one reclining in our attic.

The next morning, on the recommendation of someone at the Marshall County Animal Shelter, we called a young man who could help us capture the animal. He came by later that day and set up a trap in the attic. The door of the trap was propped open, and the inside of the trap was baited with some food. Supposedly, once the raccoon wandered inside the cage to get the food, the trap door would snap shut and lock him inside. The man gave us his number and told us to listen for the trap closing. Once we heard it, we were to call him, and he'd come retrieve the animal.

That evening, Justin pretty much sat on the edge of the couch asking every hour, "Was that the trap?" or fidgeting and saying, "I think I heard the trap."

I didn't hear anything. "I think raccoons are cute with those little fuzzy masked faces and those tiny hands," I volunteered.

Justin shuddered again. "Ew! It's those tiny hands that I hate. They're creepy!"

In the morning, Justin checked the attic before we left for work, and he reported sadly that there was no raccoon, but the food was gone from the trap. So we had the crafty raccoon living rent-free in our attic.

The trapper man came back around lunchtime and reset and re-baited the cage, and that evening was spent much like the one before. "Was that the trap? I think I heard the trap."

"I think you're hearing things," I suggested.

"No, I really think that was the trap," Justin said as he stood up. He once again shooed me and the pets into the bedroom while he went upstairs to check.

I waited patiently, and found it odd that Justin was so quiet. However, about a minute later, I heard him coming down the attic steps and talking on the phone, presumably to the trapper man, telling him the trap worked. I did overhear, however, Justin saying that the raccoon was quite large and he wasn't fully inside the cage. Evidently, the man assured him that the animal would stay put, because when Justin hung up, he entered the bedroom with a large smile on his face.

He threw his arms over his head, waved them around and started swinging his hips side to side while singing, "I caught the rac-ca-coon! I caught the rac-ca-coon!" I had no idea why he felt the need to add that extra syllable in raccoon, but it was his victory song. "I win!" he proclaimed triumphantly.

Unfortunately, it seemed his celebration was a wee bit premature, because when the man arrived to check the trap, somehow, between the time Justin called and the 20 minutes it took for the man to get there, the crafty raccoon had escaped. Apparently it was big enough to wiggle its way out of the cage - which is probably how it managed to get the food out the first time too.

Justin was devastated. I couldn't help but laugh, especially after watching that dance. "Raccoon two, Justin zero?" I said.

He made a face and accused me somewhat hilariously, "You're taking the raccoon's side!"

No, I wasn't taking the raccoon's side. I really wanted it gone too, especially because Justin was making himself crazy trying to catch that thing.

The man returned the next morning with a much bigger cage, and overnight, Justin heard the magic spring snap shut on the cage. He called the man, who said he'd be out in the morning. Justin, sans victory dance, waited patiently at home that morning for the man to arrive while I left for work. A while later, he texted me to tell me the raccoon was gone. When I asked him if he was sure, he texted me back in all caps, "I WATCHED HIM CARRY IT OUT."

"Too bad I can't watch your victory dance again," I texted back, thankful that ordeal was over. I though he was going to lose his mind if that raccoon got away again.

Later that night, Justin boarded, wired, foamed, insulated and tossed pretty much everything else inside the hole under the roof overhang where we determined the masked foe had gained entry. He wasn't leaving anything to chance this time.

In the end, I suppose it doesn't matter who wins each individual fight. It's who wins the overall battle that counts.

Raccoon two, Justin one.



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