Put up those dukes you feral cats and raccoons

By Steve Estes

Strictly Drivel

It was kind of funny even to me to see our cartoonist Dan Schwab bring his strip by one morning like he always did in the past, and the subject be wild raccoons versus feral cats.

I guess it just goes to show that truly warped minds do really think alike, because I had already started this outrageously funny column about exactly that issue.

I was going to talk about clandestine meetings in the wilds of Big Pine between wild raccoons and feral cats and the conversations they must have since both are now targets of the trapping program.

Something like this:

I was out walking through the remote wilds of Big Pine last week, just trying to get a little exercise (which I don’t get enough of) and get away from the telephone for a few minutes (ours rings constantly with extended family, family, friends, telemarketers and wrong numbers speaking Spanish) when I came across some tracks.

It was obvious that the first set was a cat. It wasn’t our wandering kitty because for a change he was in the house. So it had to be one of those-those-those feral cats. The second set could have been either a raccoon or an opossum, but my guess was a raccoon since it was the day before trash pick up and they had been making their twice-weekly raids on trash cans in the neighborhood with their actual friends, the ever-hungry Key Deer.

Now there’s a symbiotic relationship I have yet to understand. The deer, as all we who live in the refuge know, will eat just about anything any other animal or human will eat, regardless of what we’re told. They eat lawns, trees, plants, dog food, vegetables, fruits, cat food, old Wendy’s hamburgers, and they love to wash it down with the last dregs of the soda bottle they can dig out of your trash can.

But I digress.

So I spot these parallel tracks, and I decide to follow them for a ways to see what gives.

I came upon a relatively cleared out area in the thicket (there are a lot more of these since the thinning projects a few months back) and was nearly floored (or dirted in this case) by what met my eyes.

In the middle of the clearing was a trap. I don’t know if it was a refuge trap or just one that had been placed by a cat-hater, coon-hater or opossum-hater, and it doesn’t really matter.

Just outside the entrance to the trap were three raccoons and a couple of cats. The bait was still inside.

It looked like a free-for-all on a Saturday night in old Harlem.

One coon and one cat were wrestling in the dust. I thought they were playing at first, but I realized they were serious when the coon got behind the cat and started pushing it into the trap.

The cat got loose, did a back flip and landed behind the coon whereupon it began pushing the coon toward the trap.

Unable to watch his buddy get bested by a cat, the second coon joined the fray, snatched the cat, and whipped it toward the trap. The second cat threw its body in front of the trap door, preventing cat number one from being tossed inside. Coon three jumped into the melee and attempted to push cat two into the trap. The cat, a monster who probably had just been turned out from a well-fed home, was having no part of that and swatted the coon off into the dust.

So the light began to dawn on me.

Quicker and more adept at infighting than its feline brethren, the cats were stacking the rapping program against the raccoons.

They are engaged in an all-out attempt to make sure that the trapping program, rather than remove them from their hunting grounds, turns toward the wily raccoon as a target.

If they can toss enough unsuspecting raccoons into the traps, perhaps folks will forget about the quite populous feral cat (which stays close to human food sources in most cases) and start going after the coons instead.

This, I thinks to myself, is insidious.

Here we have the raccoon, which feeds on anything it runs across and is mostly nocturnal like the marsh rabbit, having a hard time defending itself against the natural-born predator cats.

And all of this is to give the cat a numbers advantage in the Big Pine wilds. If they can deplete the raccoon population by tossing them in the traps and then letting humans take them from the equation by euthanization, the cat will have the hunting ground to itself.

Just think of all the trash cans, dumpsters and outdoor food bowls the cats can raid, a total that increases exponentially if the raccoons aren’t getting there first.

Neither species, if it emerges victorious in this epic battle, would ever have to try and hunt down a slow-moving, fatty marsh rabbit again for a good meal. It could feast off the human leftovers to its stomach’s content, growing fat and happy in areas where trapping isn’t contemplated.

And don’t believe for a minute that these fur balls of separate subspecies don’t know where those areas are. And then my thunder was stolen by this visual recreation of my mind’s eye. Where to from here?

Back to the keyboard.

Again.

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