Sunday, May 29, 2016

Charlie Chases a Coon

Jennifer snapped this photo of the raccoon on our front porch yesterday. 

I have spotted three raccoons on my property this year.  That is a rare thing.  I can count on one hand the number of raccoons (hither called coons) Jennifer and I have seen at all on our land and it has been several years since I saw the last one. Earlier this spring I caught a glimpse of one scurrying into the privet hedge.  I wasn't sure it was a coon, it could have been a opossum or maybe a large cat.  We have plenty of those.

A couple of weeks ago I came face to face with another coon. I was walking the path down from the upper field, being quiet as usual on my walks, when a good-sized adult coon came running across our back yard near the woods and up the path toward me.  The coon was occupied with something and did not see me immediately.  I froze and watch it for maybe two seconds before it saw me.  It stooped, looked at me for a moment, then quickly returned the way it came as I stood motionless.  We were maybe 15 feet apart before he bolted. That is as a close as I have ever come to that animal on my property. 

Until yesterday.  It was during the heat of the afternoon, about 88 degrees with low humidity, and I was standing in my living room, just happening to look out through the wooden blinds on our front porch windows when I saw a rather scrawny coon come up the steps to our front door.  

The coon cautiously crept around our porch being very curious.  Jennifer got her phone for a photo.  I tried to lift the blinds but the coon stopped at the motion of them and stared directly at the window, but it was lighter outside than in and we were behind the blinds so it could not see us.  Jennifer was forced to snap a photo through the blinds for fear of scaring the critter off if I continued to lift them.  That is the photo above.

After a few moments of observing the coon, I decided I had to make some sort of statement in order to keep it from being so casual about our house.  When I opened the front door the coon leaped off the edge of our porch and run away.  I waited a minute or so and then let Charlie, our English setter, out to sniff the situation.  

Charlie was crazy all over the woods, probably smelling the scent of the coon, or searching very hard very fast for it.  I came back inside.  After a couple of minutes I heard Charlie aggressively barking and I figured he may have treed the coon, or possibly one of the neighbors cats.  The cat treeing happens regularly resulting in the same barking enthusiasm.  Jennifer started yelling at Charlie.

I slipped on my shoes and went out our back door to walk into the woods near our hot tub where Charlie was barking.  I figured I'd have to pick him up and carry him inside until whatever it was had sufficient time of make its escape. What I did not know was that the coon had gone under our hot tub deck to escape Charlie and Charlie was going crazy trying to fit under the deck. Before Jennifer could grab the dog, the coon ran out from under the deck around the back of our house.  

It was running for its life with Charlie close behind when I turned the corner to head down toward the hot tub.  It slowed down since we had surprised each other.  Charlie was almost upon it.  Thinking as quickly as I could I ran forward onto our terrace to get out of the coon's path.  The animal shot by me with Charlie literally inches behind it.  The coon ran directly into our carport under both of our vehicles, forcing Charlie to swing around each of them. I was yelling at Charlie but he did know i existed in that moment.

By that time Jennifer had made it from the hot tub to where I was standing.  She made the plan that we should go around the house in opposite directions.  She was terrified that Charlie was going to get the crap torn out of him if that cornered coon decided to lash out.  I went to the right across the carport, Jennifer to the left back toward the hot tub deck.

I could see the chase at that point but the coon and the dog ended up back around the hot tub and Jennifer was yelling at Charlie again.  He wasn't listening to anyone and as soon as I rounded my side of the house the two animals were running wide open along our front foundation shrubbery.  

I ran after Charlie who was following the coon but I could not possibly keep up.  There was an absurd moment when the three of us ran around the shrubbery line twice before the coon shot into the interior of the shrubs and Charlie gave out. I quickly grabbed him just as Jennifer was getting there from the hot tub and I carried him inside. The coon was in the shrubbery and needed time to escape.

After about a half hour we let Charlie out again and, of course, he went wild sniffing the ground for coon scent.  But all his searches turned up in vain. The coon had survived the ordeal and was likely further in our woods by then.  Calm was restored.

Jennifer felt I made a mistake in allowing Charlie out so soon after the coon ran off the porch. Perhaps so.  But, on the other hand, everyone survived the fanatical animal encounter and I feel fairly certain the coon has been taught a valuable lesson.  I hope we don't see it around the house again. Charlie, on the other hand, was so pumped up he couldn't even eat his dinner last night.  He was restless doubtlessly thinking about how close he came to biting that coon, without realizing, of course, that the coon could have very well gotten the best of that exchange.

Oh, life in the country!  Sometimes nature reveals itself as an untamed wonder, as with a hawk snatching up a rabbit or a long "chicken snake" crawling across our driveway.  We have seen two snakes near our carport this year as well.  I am reminded we live more closely on edge of the wild than the usual natural tranquility of my property routinely reveals.  

Later: After I posted this Jennifer was greeted by either the same chicken snake we have already seen twice or a third snake just like the other two.  The snake looked like it had just eaten a vole or a field mouse.  Jennifer was forced to reschedule her potting bench activities for the afternoon.
Just hanging out on the potting bench in our carport after a good feeding on a hot afternoon.  Notice the bulge in the snake's body just behind the small glass jar.

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