Cumberland Critters and Unwanted Guests

27 Nov

First the bad: Raccoons in the Greyfield Garden! The danged banded bandits came for the persimmons and stayed for the palm berries…the compost pile…elusive grubs and whatnot to be dug from the side of our furrows. (Good luck with that; there are no bugs in our sandy soil). They pose grave danger to my precious tomatoes, which I have been doting on for most of the year (example below but more on that story later).

Since the raccoons have outfoxed and out-toughed our electric fence, we’ve resorted to extreme measures.  Razor wire, a high-powered rifle, a rain-catchment tank turned guard tower with a .223 rifle and night scope….  Sometimes I wish. How about a have-a-heart trap, instead, baited with persimmons, pears, or winter squash?

Pictured above are captives three, four, and five (plus one possum). As you can see, two were caught at one time, which was quite a surprise and a thing of pride. All were removed to distant parts of the island to make new homes or slowly wend their way back to Greyfield.

Placing, setting, and baiting the traps has been a real test of cunning.  The trap has to be accessible but not too obvious, the edge of the trigger-latch holding the door open by a near defiance of physics, the persimmon located strategically close to the release but not so close that the raccoon might dexterously pluck it out. Then there’s the matter of proper camouflage for both the entire trap and the release. To this point, dead palmetto fronds and Spanish moss have worked well. That is, of course, as long as you scotch each side of the cage because the raccoons would just as soon roll the cage over as go in it.

Each new intruder seems to be more clever than the last. If it weren’t so preposterous, I’d almost believe that the raccoons were sharing intelligence–as if they were huddling together in a war room, poring over maps of the garden fence and reporting on their most recent sorties. These suckers are smart. They quickly wise up to all my tricks. Although my respect for their wiliness has increased significantly, that feeling in no way lessens my desire to see them exterminated. In a garden they are the embodiment of destruction, and I knew there would be no easy detente between us when I saw their tracks running over the crest of one of the vegetable rows, each footprint smashing in a tiny seedling.

As someone famous once said, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.

Now for the good, which is much less detailed. The garden has become the home of a darling little toad, which might also be the savory reason for the raccoons’ incursions. I know nothing about this creature, except that it prefers to be covered in the cool, dark soil. And each time I’ve happened upon it, while weeding or cutting down spent marigolds, the toad just as soon begins to bury itself and throw dirt over its shoulder, looking rather inconvenienced and bored.

Without further delay or slim facts to prattle over, I give you said toad in all of his cute, stoic glory:

Look at that warty back:

2 Responses to “Cumberland Critters and Unwanted Guests”


  1. The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of Tomatoes: Catfacing « Cumberland Island Journal - January 10, 2011

    […] in temperatures that remain above 58 degrees and planting more cold-resistant varieties. We had large heirlooms in the ground, and like most heirlooms, they were highly susceptible to problems of this sort. In […]

  2. Auf Wiedersehen, My Friends « Cumberland Island Journal - November 15, 2011

    […] struggling to find organic answers to the huge mineral deficiencies of marsh-side sand, and fighting every last raccoon on the island: if I can grow veggies well on Cumberland, I grow them darn near […]

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