There we were one night about 10 o’clock, rain pouring down and a raccoon in the back of the family car, headed down the highway.
Every now and then, it would rattle the cage, trying to get out.
I kept looking in my rear view mirror into the darkened compartment, paranoid that the raccoon was coming over the seat to jump on my head.
Then it would get real quiet back there, and I was convinced that it was loose.
Several times, I had to pull over, and get out to check, to just to make sure the raccoon was still in the cage.
It all started several weeks ago.
If you live in Florida long enough, and you’re not on the eighth floor of a condo, you’ll probably eventually have a critter problem.
Snakes, possums, raccoons, armadillos and coyotes are some that make themselves right at home in our neighborhoods.
Our problem was a raccoon, attracted by ripening fruit on several trees in the yard. It would just swagger right through the yard in broad daylight, and make a big mess with all the stuff it shook loose from the tree. We were concerned because sometimes it was just feet away from the back door. Such sharp teeth and claws.
Animal services referred us to the state wildlife office, which gave us the phone number for a trapper.
So there we were, all on our own. It seemed like what was needed was at least a trial separation. And the most humane way to do that was to catch the raccoon and relocate it in the country.
We bought a trap from a local store, and put a can of sardines in there as bait.
The raccoon got to eat lots of sardines over a three-day period. It would eat the sardines and then leave. Sometimes we would find the trap door shut, sometimes open. Either way, the sardines were gone.
Had the raccoon figured out how to get in and out of a trap? After all, several cats that we’ve had over the years seemed to have figured out how to open locked doors. Maybe the raccoon had experience with the same kind of trap elsewhere and had solved the puzzle.
Finally, one night the raccoon got itself trapped in the cage. Cute little guy, he seemed quite calm. And heavier than you might think, too.
We loaded him up, drove him into the country and dropped him off in the woods. As soon as the trap door opened, the masked bandit scooted right into some bushes. Was I smarter than a raccoon?
Not so sure about that.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.