Sweet Corn, Raccoons, and Dead Goldfish
In a Beatles’ song from the sixties, Rocky Raccoon loses a fight and fades away. Now that sweet corn season has arrived, plenty of farmers wish the same fate would befall the raccoons that raid their corn patches.
Old timers claim raccoons have a sixth sense about sweet corn. They raid patches the night before the farmer plans to harvest the ears. It’s safe to say that raccoons cause thousands of dollars worth of damage each year, but the saddest fact comes from the scene left behind: raccoons often take a few bites from a perfectly ripened ear, discard it, then grab another one. The patch ends up looking like one of those unexplained crop formations done by a bad artist with anger management issues.
The battles against raccoons fall into several categories:
· Frightening them: Lights, scarecrows, dogs, and noise are key methods, but many report that after a day or two, the animals just ignore the irritant. One farmer claims that he set a radio to play hard rock music after dark, but on the second morning, he found empty beer cans, cigarette butts, a multitude of raccoon tracks, and ravaged corn.
· Exclusion: I’ve heard mothballs or ammonia might help, but most sweet corn patches are large, and scented repellents don’t seem to work. Electric fences can help, but my brother swears that he had a raiding party that used a volunteer raccoon to sacrifice itself by lying over the wire, and the rest leapfrogged over to do their damage.
· Trapping: Raccoons are curious, and it doesn’t take much to lure them into a live trap. The problem is this: what do you do with an irritated 25-pound ball of fur rattling in a cage? The recommendations I’ve heard include calling the authorities (especially if the animal might be diseased), taking them for a long ride and releasing them (passing on the problem), or taking them for a “Goodfellas drive” (the don’t ask, don’t tell solution). Other types of traps are available, but it’s best to find out about local laws and humane treatment issues.
Sweet corn season is a religious experience in the Midwest, so the struggle with raccoons will continue in earnest on that stage. My recent personal battle involved the small fish pond in our back yard and the nine large goldfish that became raccoon sushi. In one week, I caught six of them in a live trap. No need to go into details, but I will say: no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. If the raids in my yard continue, I’m not sure I can guarantee that will continue to be the case. Dan Gogerty, CAST Communications Editor