Thieving bastards

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It’s a banner year for chipmunks. And no wonder. The boneheads who own the property they live on seem finally to have figured out how to create a chipmunk-friendly environment. They scatter cracked corn on the ground for their chickens. They’ve actually managed to grow a few nice tomatoes, just at ground level. And they leave big galvanized containers full of food in not just one, but two places – the chicken coop and the turkey pen.

To top it all off, they’re letting their geriatric cat live out her days alternating between sleeping on the bed and whining for the only kind of food she’s willing to eat – which isn’t chipmunk.

It makes for a chipmunk free-for-all, and we are positively overrun. Luckily, unlike some other varmints around here, they’re not a threat to the livestock, they don’t compromise the foundation of the house, and they’re not even very noisy, most of the time. The worst you can say about them is that they’re a nuisance.

At least, that’s what I thought until I did the math.

We have six turkeys. At this point in their lives, they’re probably eating between two and three pounds of food per week. Which means that a fifty pound bag of feed should last two and a half weeks, minimum. When the last bag was empty in seven days, I upgraded chipmunks from “nuisance” to “menace.” Stripey little bastards.

I marveled at how much food a band of tiny rodents could make off with. I’d seen them going back and forth to the feeder, but it never occurred to me that the amount of food they could take was significant. Is it a zillion little chipmunks, taking a few pellets at a time, or one Chipzilla, making off with a pound at a go?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to chipmunk-proof a turkey feeder. If the turkeys can get the feed, so can the chipmunks. I had no immediate idea how to solve the problem, but I thought I’d get a better handle on it by putting out the Varmintcam to see just what was going on.

This morning, I went through the photos.

Picture after picture of chipmunks cavorting in the turkey feeder. They go in the little tray, they go up over the top, they pick up what falls on the ground.

They’re not even bothered by the presence of a turkey. While I see the appeal of cross-species harmony, I want my chipmunks to be afraid of my turkeys. Very afraid.

Bold as brass, all day long, chipmunk after chipmunk. Or maybe it was the same two, over and over. Don’t know, don’t care. Stripey little bastards.

When night fell, there was a brief lull in the activity. I scrolled through a few photos with no chipmunks at all. And then, at 8:28 PM, I hit on the surprise.

A raccoon. How the hell a raccoon got in the turkey pen, I don’t know, but there he was. Or she. Don’t know, don’t care. Ring-tailed little bastards.

But wait, there’s more! Two minutes later, the raccoon brought a friend. Two raccoons!

I scrolled through pictures. If anyone needs a photograph of two raccoons eating from a turkey feeder, I have 479 of them. Literally. The two raccoons partied all night long at our turkey feeder.

Okay, maybe not quite all night long. At around 2:00 AM they took a break. To let the opossums have a turn.

I’m not quite sure how they’re getting in, but I have my suspicions. There’s a spot where they can go over the fence but under the netting, and that may be what they’re doing. We’ll close that off, but we’ll take the added precaution of taking the feed out at night and putting it back in the morning.

Fortunately, the turkeys are too big, and roost too high up, for a raccoon to tackle, but I don’t want varmints to get in the habit of breaking and entering. Next year, we’ll have poults in there again, and it’ll be important to keep predators out.

Paula, at Weeding for Godot, bears a very particular and vehement antipathy for raccoons, and I’m beginning to come around to her point of view. They make the chipmunks look positively harmless. Thieving little bastards.

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Comments

  1. haha..yes I know what you mean! We elimiated all the squirrels in the spring but now we have chipmunks too..not THAT much of a problem though!..yet..they do go in and out of the coop at any time of the day.but you have bigger problems. Time for some live trap and a relocation programme..I think the raccoons need a trip! Also, I really like the temp. display on your trail camera..neat feature.

  2. Hi Tamar! The chipmunks really enjoy the feeder in our chicken coop. Sam is not amused. When he reads about the raccoons, he’ll realize that things could be worse. He’s tried putting out a trap, but the chipmunks are wiley little creatures and they manage to get the bait and leave pretty much unscathed. If you come up with a solution to the chipmunk problem, let us know. On another note, we’re anxiously awaiting the first egg from the new chickens. Nothing yet, how about you?

  3. Myrna Bowman says:

    Love it! Know what you are going through except we dont have ‘possums. When I have more time I will recount some of our squirrel and skunk? adventures

  4. Dang! And none of them are even particularly good eating… If I have to blow something’s head off for economic reasons, or to protect the livestock, I’d at least like to have a meal as compensation. Seems only fair.

  5. I’m laughing with you not at you, but I’m laughing. A lot. Thieving bastards indeed.

    If you want to deter the bigger bastards: a strand of electric wire appx 5″ off the ground, around the base of the pen. Sadly, it probably won’t deter chipmunks.

    Can you eat raccoon?

  6. I’m glad Jen gave you a way to get rid of racoons, because they just ripped the crud out of our wire designed to keep them out. BTW, a friend of ours front sidewalk just collapsed from…you guessed it…years of chipmunk tunnels! Neither she nor I have ever had much luck with our hav-a-hearts and it’s illegal to trap or kill them here.

  7. Many years ago, my father ended up in a reluctant vendetta with raccoons. They came not for poultry feed, but for the chickens themselves.

    Yes, Jen, you can eat raccoon, if you want. I’ve eaten woodchuck: a nutritional reclamation of garden veggies.

    • What a great phrase: ‘reluctant vendetta’.

      Obvious question – assuming it doesn’t taste like chicken – what does raccoon meat resemble in taste/texture?

      I’m told that until badgers were protected by law in the UK, they were regularly eaten – badger ham being a popular, cheap meat.

      Apologies for derailing the thread a bit.

  8. I see Paula isn’t the only one who isn’t fond of raccoons.

    EGB, I’m not optimistic about the trapping solution. We know people who have tried it, without much success. And, Karen, I’ll add you to that list (and sorry about your neighbor’s sidewal).

    Ellen, I don’t anticipate that we’ll solve the chipmunk problem. They’re so damn small, they fit through one-inch chicken wire. It’s not possible to keep them out. (And I’m expecting eggs in about a month, maybe 3 weeks …)

    Myrna — Count yourself lucky in not having raccoons, but a varmint is a varmint is a varmint, and I’d love to hear your varmint stories.

    Kate, Jen, and Tovar — Do you suppose eating them might be the answer? Tovar, thanks for that link. I’m seriously considering a coon hunt. The problem is that we’re not allowed to discharge a firearm on the property, and I’m not sure whether a pellet gun would get the job done.

    So — APB: Anyone ever killed a raccoon with an air rifle?

  9. Yes, we killed a rabid raccoon with an air rifle, as well as a few clubs on the head with a bat. They are tough sons of bitches, raccoons, no joke. It took one shot to the skull and one through the heart, and even then it took the ‘coon longer to die than you could have believed. Our air rifle shoots .22 caliber and (purportedly) packs as much punch as a normal .22. The brand is Diana. Very quiet compared with a firearm. Didn’t eat that rabid raccoon, needless to say. But I’d certainly try eating one that wasn’t rabid, if only for the bragging rights.

    • Kate, I’m not sure it’s a “yes” to the question of whether you can kill a raccoon with an air rifle, if you have to finish the job with a bat. I suspect, if you’re close enough and the shot is good enough, you can make it work. Wish I had more confidence in my skills …

      If I get one, I will most definitely eat it. If only for the bragging rights.

      • Well, I wouldn’t say it was the bat that finished it off. It was a tag team effort between me with the bat and my husband with the air rifle. We brought both just in case it started moving and we didn’t have a good shot at it with the air rifle. As it happened we were able to walk right up to it while it slept by the chicken coop in broad daylight. (The coop had been moved at 7am.) He got a shot in the head, and when that obviously didn’t kill it outright, I gave it a solid whack thinking I could break its neck and end its suffering. That didn’t work either, so the second shot was directly into the solar plexus at point blank range. Maybe the rest after that was just autonomic writhing, but it didn’t look dead for more minutes than I care to admit. I’ve heard tales of coons surviving things you wouldn’t believe from game wardens and exterminators. Seriously incredible stuff, but from reliable sources. So perhaps this is all to say, that yes, you can kill a raccoon with an air rifle, but maybe you wouldn’t want to. We were doing the best we were able at the time to put down a dangerously ill animal. I probably wouldn’t want to do it that way with a healthy animal.

  10. Accidental Mick says:

    Great post Tamar.

    How about a dog – a small terrier. If you give him free range of your garden, he’ll think he is in heaven and your chipmunk problem will disapear.

    • I have limited experience with terriers except to know that, along with the chipmunks, all their chickens, turkeys, and possibly the cat would also disappear.

      I know terriermen that have to dunk their dogs in troughs when they can’t get the dogs to let go of something. The terrier nearly drowns before giving up its prize. They are a hardened breed (the dogs and the men who work them).

      Tamar – there are people who have ‘coon hounds which will work as a pack to tree your ‘coons. I suspect they have legal and humane methods of despatching the treed varmints. You could ask around.

      • Mick, I love the idea of a terrier. I’ve always like dogs who have an agenda. Jen, though, points out the central problem. We’ve thought about a Scottish deerhound, but you just can’t have animals that chase things when you have free-roaming poultry.

        Jen, I don’t think coon hounds are popular here on Cape Cod. I’ve never met anyone who has one. But if you’re out there, coon hound person on the Cape, I want to hear from you.

        • Accidental Mick says:

          Perhaps terriers are bigger your side of the pond. Ours are usually smaller than chickens and don’t tackle them.

          • Our terriers are the same size but have been bred to be fearless, and very assertive! They are great for tackling rat problems.

        • I’ve never met a terrier of any breed that thought size mattered. Whether it be prey or an “object of love,” terriers always think they are up to the job.

  11. Tamar, there’s a raccoon story in this podcast that you should listen to:

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/319/and-the-call-was-coming-from-the-basement

    Or maybe you shouldn’t- it might make it hard to be in your yard without a shotgun and shovel on hand at all times.

  12. I hates raccoons.

    Actually, I’m delighted to hear that they make good eating, but am somewhat discouraged to hear that they’re hard to kill. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, though. I hate the little bastards enough to not particularly care whether they die a humane death or not…I just want them dead. All of them.

    Tamar- have you guys thought about taking up bowhunting? From what I understand, hunting with a bow is increasing in popularity faster than hunting with a gun. And the compound bows make it a little easier to accomplish. A young man I work with in Idaho brought down a nine point mule buck with one a weekend ago…he was very excited because it was his best buck so far and even sent me a picture of it (after ascertaining that a picture of a dead, slightly bloody animal wouldn’t offend me). The nice thing about bowhunting is that it’s vewy vewy qwiet….so who would know if you discharged an arrow on your property?

    I’ve been contemplating buying Steve a bow for Christmas (possibly a long bow) for the workout it would give him. He likes to work out, and I figure he may as well learn how to fetch dinner.

    Like maybe a raccoon dinner….

    • I’ve thought about bowhunting, but I’m reluctant because it seems to take a great deal of skill — something in short supply around here. The advantage is that you can practice on your property (and can legally shoot on your property as well — the prohibition is for firearms — but we have no deer).

      A compound bow is a beautiful thing, but right now I’m concentrating on improving my shotgun skills. I’ll think about it again next year. But I love your idea of a bow for Steve. All you’ll need is a good raccoon recipe …

  13. All I can offer is a chipmunk drowning trap. My neighbor picks off rabbits with an air gun, but we don’t seem to have many raccoons.

  14. With the exception of certain specialized air rifles, most are indeed underpowered for raccoons. So I think you’ve been getting some good advice about that. They are, however, great for chipmunks. From one of your tweets I just spotted, you appear to have already discovered this. Good for you!

    Excellent target practice, and you’ll be getting ready for bigger game. If anyone questions your shooting those cute little creatures, remind them that chipmunks are indeed thieving little bastards.

    The stripes might be protective coloration, but they almost seem evolved specifically to make chipmunks appear cute, disneyfied, and fwubsy to anthropomorphizing humans. If chipmunks had no stripes and were just plain gray, we’d quickly see them as the thieving, disease-carrying rats they are.

    (When I once told this to a neighbor whose wife loves to feed the cute little chipmunks, he told me “Yeah, well, if you looked like Meg Ryan, then everyone would think you’re cute, too.” While this analogy seemed flawed, it did reveal that he apparently has a secret movie thing for Meg Ryan.)

    Chipmunks are high in nitrogen, and will make great fertilizer for your tomatoes. Good luck, and happy hunting!