Your Unconscious Trash Habits Need To Change
Raccoon Jughead's Message To Humans
One hot summer day I saw a very strange creature roaming around on the property. It looked somewhat like an anteater from a distance, but they don't live in this part of the world. I grabbed my binoculars to get a better look. It was a raccoon with a jar stuck on its head. I initially laughed and thought this "Jughead" would work it out.
That night my family of raccoons showed up. I was stunned to see Jughead among them. She kept her distance from the others. This was not normal, but the jar on her head may have caused the others to be uneasy around her. As a general rule, male raccoons usually serve one purpose. After he impregnates a female, she is left to handle the details of giving birth and raising the kits on her own. Some raccoon families stay together for extended periods of time. Females can have one or several kits, and interbreeding is not uncommon but there was only one mother within this family. Therefore, I thought the two females traveling with her were probably sisters and Aunties related to these three adolescent kits.
The kits were born on the property. I felt honored to be able to watch and support their growth. The females delivered them pretty much every night for a helping of fresh fruit and assortment of foods I knew they liked. They loved water - I loved watching them wash their hands. In my mind, this was a win for both sides. After the kits had finished, the females would move in to eat the remainders of their food.
It saddened me to see Jughead separated from the others. I slowly approached to try to assess her circumstances, but it was too dark for me to see anything. I did hear her chewing. It did not sound like glass which was a good thing. I did not have to worry about her cutting her mouth or swallowing small shards that could cause internal harm. We were in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures hovering around 90 degrees at night. At the very least, she needed to drink water to stay hydrated. However, I did not know how she would be able to manage this. I felt helpless - there was nothing I could do.
I kept an eye out for the raccoon family. They arrived a bit earlier the following day. Contrary to my hopes and prayers, Jughead had not managed to free herself. She was still keeping her distance from the others and they from her. I slowly approached her. She could not see very well. I startled her which had me speaking softly to her as I backed away to observe from a distance. I noticed a small hole at the bottom of what appeared to be mayonnaise or peanut butter jar. I wondered if she would be able to get some blueberries through this small opening. Fruit would help to keep her hydrated. It was worth a try. I came back to my house and grabbed some from the refrigerator and saturated them with water. I left a small bowl on the ground and then backed off to watch. She approached the bowl to try to inspect the contents. The jar on her head presented some problems. It was quite a stretch for her arm to reach the bowl. It took a few attempts before she managed to pick up a blueberry. I watched as she shoved it into the small hole. Some made it through, but many fell to the ground. This jar had to come off, but how was the question.
My daily feedings of dry cat food kibble and fresh fruit were not enough to sustain her. She was getting thinner - her strength had already declined within one short week. My mind was thinking of ways to get close enough to try to give that jar a yank. I knew she could not see very well which meant I could sneak up on her. I tried several times for several days and failed. Time for plan two.
Rather than a trash can, I thought a large Tupperware type of container might work. Wrong! I sat quietly outside waiting for the family to arrive. Jughead stopped and remained in an area behind my house. I sprinted from my hiding spot like a football player with the Tupperware container in one hand and lid in the other. I managed to tackle and trap her but getting the lid under to secure her was another story. This little critter was strong. I had to use all my body weight just to keep her under this thing. I also realized she already had more than enough plastic covering her head and restricting her breathing. I released her.
Plan number three involved a large animal crate. She liked blueberries which might be a way to lure her into it. This was easier said than done. She might not be able to see, but there was nothing wrong with her hearing. I tried to trap her several times, but she was onto me. I watched as she would cock her head to listen before entering the crate. The slightest sound had her right back out in a flash.
In the interim, I reached out to an animal control center to try to elicit help. The officer on the other end of the phone played by the rules and was not at all sympathetic. He informed me she would be killed and removed from the property. This was not an option. The officer showed up with a gun and a wire snagger the following day. He was a bit early, and I prayed that Jughead would stay away from the property until he was gone. She did.
I continued to try to trap her while searching for anyone that might be willing to help her. After several days of placing phone calls, I did finally locate a woman at another animal control center that agreed to help for a fee. However, capturing Jughead was becoming a real challenge. I spent hours watching and waiting for the perfect time that never happened. She was not a dumb animal.
Jughead wore that jar over her head for a little over two weeks in unbearable heat before I finally caught her, and no time was wasted after securing her. I used my old heavily padded ski gloves to protect my hands that were just a bit too bulky for the job. Unfortunately, this jar was glued onto her head. I tried everything my mind could think of to try. I did not want to injure her and followed her lead as to how much force to apply. She pulled away while I maintained a firm grip which did not work. I even tried a little vegetable oil as a last resort.
I reached out to the woman at the animal control office to let her know the raccoon had been captured. Before giving her my address, I had her reconfirm our initial conversation. She assured me that she would not be coming to kill Jughead. She understood this raccoon was not a threat and had been living here with her family which is where she should remain. The woman showed up with a man at around 11 PM that night. It took two of them to cut that jar off and set Jughead free. It warmed my heart to watch her take off like a rocket. Although, she did not plan her exit route very well. She went flying off the side of my brick patio which is about a 3-foot drop to the ground that she hit very hard before she flew up out of the ferns and disappeared into the night.
Hopefully, she has learned a valuable lesson, and she will never ever put her head into anything again - no matter how tempting! I have always rinsed my jars and made sure the lids were firmly secured before recycling. But I have since taken a few additional steps thanks to Jughead. I now break all glass jars and crush or cut all plastic so that no other animal has to endure what she went through. She was one of the lucky ones that escaped an excruciating and unnecessary death.
In closing, I know there are no accidents. I believe Jughead got herself into this mess to inspire me to get her message out to as many people as I can. Therefore, I invite all that read this story to stop and think about what you are throwing into your trash. One person can make a difference in the life of another. It will only take a few extra minutes for you to do your part.
We must learn to take better care of our urban wildlife before we lose them. We have moved them out of their homes. We have forced them to live by our rules rather than respect and honor their ways. Our ignorance is the cause for most of their disease. Their immune systems have become weak because we have forced them to live on our trash rather than take care of them. At the very least, we can become more conscious and employ a few simple precautions.
I knew where Jughead found that jar. I have since relayed her story and shown these neighbors a picture of her. They cleaned up the section on their acreages of property used for trash. I no longer see jars without lids on the ground, and our shared raccoons are safer.